This is a rush transcript from "Your World With Neil Cavuto," August 25, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: No response.
As yet, not a single health insurance company has formally answered Washington demands for all sorts of information — either Henry Waxman's call for a salary and bonus breakdown of all top workers or Senator Jay Rockefeller's order for a similar break down of all premium money spent.
But if embattled private health insurance company CEOs are at a loss how to respond, Ken Langone has a few suggestions.
The billionaire co-founder of Home Depot says Washington is deflecting by doing a little scapegoating and the worst these guys can do is cower.
KEN LANGONE, CO-FOUNDER, HOME DEPOT: The insurance industry is about is regulated an industry as I can think of. I am sure all this information is on file, residing someplace.
I would suggest that these people who are hyping the whole thing, try and find it first and have to live with the same regulations we live with in understanding it and then go back and say we tried to find it, we could not it, or we did find it.
CAVUTO: But they know where it is, Ken.
LANGONE: Well, because...
CAVUTO: So, but — but they — all these insurance guys are running like with their tail between their legs. They are afraid to take them on. You would take them on?
LANGONE: The current bad boy in America are the health insurance companies. These are the bad guys.
I don't believe that. But politicians need to flog somebody every day. And this is their turn. This is the insurance companies' turn.
CAVUTO: Do you think, had any of them written a check, as the drug industry did, to either fund an ad campaign in support of health care reform or to promise savings, as the drug industry did, to support it, that any one of them would be getting a letter now?
LANGONE: Probably not, but I can't prove that.
Look, we are where we are in terms of health care and in terms of being governed. I — I happen to like what I see right now, which is, the American people — and I believe it's — this is not contrived; this is legitimate. I think the American people are saying, hey, wait a minute. Hey, wait a minute. Don't come too far into my life. I need you for — I need government for certain things, but I don't need government for everything.
So, whether or not these people bought peace, if you want to call it that, by running ads, whether — whether the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association made a deal with the devil, I don't know.
I'd like to think that, at the end of the day, reason and fact will prevail. But you never know.
CAVUTO: But none of these companies is accepting TARP money. None of them have accepted tax bailout money. This is, at best, a stretch, is it not, to start rifling through their books and rifling through their pay scales?
LANGONE: I can guarantee you this. Because of the sheer size of these health insurance companies, internal audits, external audits, state regulatory insurance requirements — everything is there. Everything — we're not going to find credit default swaps in here. We're not going to find all this toxic — OK?
CAVUTO: But these guys know it is there, all right? I mean, these guys know this stuff is readily available on the Internet. It's readily available at the SEC, right?
LANGONE: Yes, but this buys headlines for you.
CAVUTO: Right. I gotcha.
LANGONE: This buys headlines for you.
Look, I think — and I don't want to be partisan here — but I happen to think that they have got themselves in a hell of a fix with this health care plan.
CAVUTO: Where did they go wrong?
LANGONE: Number one, I think they made the assumption that the American people generally were dissatisfied.
That is not the case. Most people feel pretty good about their health insurance. I think, if you're going to a paradigm shift, then we ought to talk about guys like me losing some weight as part of — no, seriously.
LANGONE: My next-door neighbor watches his weight. He swims. He runs every day. He takes care of himself. I come home. I have four beers. I eat a big bowl of pasta. I have a nice big piece of strawberry shortcake. And then I go to bed.
I have got all kinds of weight problems. I'm an accident waiting to happen — diabetes, joint diseases, gout, you name it. This guy is healthy. This guy takes care of himself. Why — why should he subsidize my indifference to the things...
CAVUTO: Well, that is what the president is saying. That's what these proponents of health care are saying.
LANGONE: But they're not putting it in.
Smokers. You have a car. I have a car. You take your car in for checkups. You make sure you change the oil. I do nothing. I beat my car into the ground.
I come and say to you, give me money because my car needs to be fixed, and you should help me.
CAVUTO: That's a very good point.
LANGONE: How stupid...
CAVUTO: Do you think, though, that — that — you have mentioned before insurance companies are now the latest villains. It was not that long ago when this administration came to power, it was going after the Wall Street fat cats and all.
CAVUTO: When I lasted chatted with you, I kind of said, to a degree, it was open season on fat cats, on — on very successful guys, almost that you would feel guilty for being rich.
Do you feel guilty for being rich?
LANGONE: Well, first of all, I will leave it to others to decide whether I am rich or not. I go to work every day. I get up every morning.
CAVUTO: You're — you're rich.
Do I feel guilty? No, I feel good. And I will tell you why I feel good. I feel good about the things I can do for a lot of people, including my family. I think it is very important.
I think, also, I feel good about the fact that I can say I'm independent. I think there's travesties in this country. For example, a man of my means, to get Social — Social Security is an absolute disgrace, absolute, total disgrace. I shouldn't get...
CAVUTO: So, do you think of man of your means should, as this administration has been arguing and others saying, A, pay more in taxes, B, get less from the government?
LANGONE: Well, let's start with Social Security. Take it away from me. I won. I start out at 18. Another guy starts at 18. I do a lot better than him. I don't need the Social Security.
You and I both buy fire insurance on our house. My house burns down. I get the benefit of the insurance. Nothing happens to your house, thank God. You shouldn't say, give me my premium back because I didn't have a fire.
It's a form of insurance.
CAVUTO: But should you pay more than 35 percent of as a top income rate?
The argument is that, if you're over $250,000 in income, you should go back at 39.6 percent rate. If you are in that camp and you want to pay for health care, you should, with a million and — and over, pay an additional 5-plus percent on top of that.
What is an acceptable rate to Ken Langone?
LANGONE: An acceptable rate to me can only be determined when I'm sure the government is spending money wisely. Example: There is no means test for the $4,500 clunkers fee.
I can go buy a $1,000 junk, take it down to a car dealer. Give me $4,500 and I will buy a new car for $20,000. Is that what that was meant to do?
CAVUTO: And what's more, a guy like you is eligible for it.
LANGONE: Oh, absolutely. All I have to do is show up with the junk.
Now, let's do the math on that. The difference between what the car is worth and $4,500 have to be big enough to incent the person to turn the car in. Say it's a $20,000 purchase — be about right. So, you need $15,500. I either have to have cash or I have to have credit. Both.
We know the car is not going to last a year, because it's — it's probably — you will probably have to push it into the dealer. So, you know, in the next 12 months, I'm going to be buying a car, because my car is going to go — my car is going to break down. It's going to be unusable.
CAVUTO: So, you're arguing we're actually stealing sales from the future anyway?
LANGONE: We have — we have done that. You will see...
CAVUTO: Is there anything government does well that you like?
LANGONE: They protect me.
CAVUTO: And that is where you would leave it?
CAVUTO: You think this idea of a bigger, more involved government is a mistake?
LANGONE: Look, look — I think the minute we deprive people of the satisfaction of doing for themselves what they can do, we take away the will to win.
One of the things that I was always excited out as a poor kid from Roslyn — you're Westbury. I'm Roslyn. These weren't wealthy towns, always West — Westbury was a little better than Roslyn. But the point is...
CAVUTO: Not much.
LANGONE: You know, there was — there was the opportunity to do well.
And I think, the minute we take away that, that is what drove America. That is what made America great.
CAVUTO: And that is what made that fellow a billionaire.
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