Interviews

Home Depot Co-Founder: Stop the Regulations

Exclusive: Bernie Marcus on job creation, 'Occupy' protests

 

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Eighty thousand, that is how many jobs the American economy added last month. It's still not enough to get the jobless rate below 9 percent, which is exactly where it is, and reason enough for the president to once again push his jobs plan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: If we want to grow the economy right now, then we have to think bigger. We've got to do something bolder and more significant.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAVUTO: Bigger? Bolder? Translation, spend more.

Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus says he is just spent. He joins me now in this exclusive chat.

You're saying repeating the same old thing is not going to get any different result, right?

BERNIE MARCUS, CO-FOUNDER, HOME DEPOT: Neil, what we have to stop politicking and start doing something about it. I have a suggestion for the president. All he has to do is take a pen. He's lefty, OK? Take a pen and sign one order and let the Keystone XL pipeline go through. He will create 120,000 jobs, no money on the part of the taxpayers, it's private industry that will do it, why in God's name is he not doing that? Do you have a solution for it? Do you have an answer for that, Neil?

CAVUTO: What about just doing something bigger, though? He wants to follow up on the stimulus he has had, and you have been a known critic of it in the past. But if there was something that could beyond just, let's say, in the oil industry, would it be to, I don't know, cut tax rates? Would it be to bring that foreign money home that a lot of companies have? What would it be?

MARCUS: Neil, you don't want to say let's do the same thing. You hear it over and over again, and the truth of the matter is, that is exactly what you have to do. You have to make the environment available for businesspeople to survive and to grow. If you don't do it, you are not going to see anything. When government spends money -- now, we saw what happened with the energy companies that we invested in. We didn't make any money on that, we lost a ton of dough on that.

If the government would stay out of the businessman's way, I think that we could see jobs grow in the United States. Otherwise, we're not gonna see it. It's as simple as that. I mean, why can't the people in Washington understand that?

NowI understand the president. He has never been a job creator, man never had a job in his life, but we have people in Congress and they ought to know better. They have been there for a number of years and they know what can create jobs. They are just not willing to do it. It is lower taxes. It's take the regulations off. Stop killing the businessman with the regulations.

Look, we have today an NLRB that is running wild. An NLRB that is --

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: You're talking about the National Labor Relations Board. Go ahead.

MARCUS: Oh, sure. And you know that card check was knocked out by the Congress. Democrats and Republicans both didn't support it, didn't want it, but the NLRB is doing it anyway.

And you have the EPA doing the same thing. While you are talking out of one side of your mouth, you have to understand you are damaging the economy with the other side of your mouth, you gotta put them all together and start doing the right thing for America. And the right thing for America is to let businesses create jobs and keep the government out of the job creation business. That's not their business.

CAVUTO: So what do you say when Nancy Pelosi was saying yesterday -- I had a congresswoman on this very show yesterday, Bernie, who agreed with her -- that if not for that stimulus, say what you will, but unemployment would be markedly higher, at 15 percent, rather than 9 percent we're looking at? What do you make of that?

MARCUS: Neil, I don't know what they are drinking, but I think they ought to spread it around in America. We all need to have something good happen to us. It is only happening in Washington, D.C. It is not happening anywhere else.

To hear Nancy Pelosi come out, I don't know where she is getting these fables from. She believes her own garbage and I think that that is the problem. They are inside the Beltway. They are not outside the Beltway. They don't know what is happening in America. And small businesses in America today, which is the backbone of the economy, if the small businesses are not surviving, America is not going to survive, and small businesses today are not doing it, Neil. They are not hiring people.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: Well, what would it take? When you got Home Depot off the ground, and you know, robbed Peter to pay Paul, you scraped together dimes, whatever you could to get that doing, you and Ken Langone and some other buddies, you did it in a very iffy economic environment.

And many of the great ones, those who became billionaires and very successful stories like yourself, and Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, and Allen Bernstein, the restauranteur who died a couple of days ago, they all, you all started when times were tough, very, very tough. So, what's to say there aren't little mini-Bernie Marcuses running around right now, not listening to all this Washington kvetching and succeeding despite it, that maybe Washington has nothing to do with the entrepreneurial spirit and if you are really good at what you will do, you'll do well whatever Washington is doing?

MARCUS: You know what, Neil?

Let me tell you, America is a great place and I think the American people are wonderful. And entrepreneurs, you just can 't hold entrepreneurs down. But the truth is, it can't happen as easily, not as easily. It took 30 years for Home Depot to grow to a point where today Home Depot has 330,000 people working for it and millions of jobs that they have created in manufacturing and all over.

But you have to remember, back in 1978, up until the ‘80s and the middle of the ‘95s, we didn't have the regulations that we have today. We didn't have Sarbanes-Oxley, the way we have Sarbanes-Oxley. We didn't have a strong EPA, the way we have a strong EPA today. We didn't have the regulations coming out of Washington every single day.

CAVUTO: You are saying you could not have done today what you did then?

MARCUS: No I don't believe it. I really don't. I have tried to put myself back in those days, and I honest to God don't believe, Neil, that if we had -- if we had started the Home Depot today with the environment being the same, with no big stores, the way our stores were, we could not have gone past 10 or 15 stores. It is impossible.

If you just looked at the litigation today that businesses go through, not running a business, you cannot believe the amount of litigation on every single thing you are doing. My board was made up of people who are involved in our business. We had all investors in our business and I didn't have -- when we made a decision, Arthur, myself, and Kenny, we never counseled our lawyers. We never had to do that.

Today, a CEO cannot make a decision without having groups of lawyers helping him make the decision.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: But now you have got a view from this administration. There are all these Occupy Wall Street folks who don't trust guys like you, they don't like guys like you. And they say the disparity between the very wealthy and the average Joe has gotten so bad that something must be done and the government has to do something. And they seem to have, at least, the sympathy if not the outright support of the White House.

MARCUS: Well, look, the Occupy Wall Street group of kids, ya know, they started out -- I think they have a better target and I think they ought to go after Barney Frank by himself, just Barney Frank by himself, Chris Dodd.

I mean, the two of them have done more to the damage the United States and their economy than the banks will ever do.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: Isn't their bigger point -- I don't share that view. I was down there with a lot of them. They thought I was Sean Hannity. One of them said, boy, Hannity has gained some weight.

MARCUS: You're cuter. You're cuter. Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: And what I told them is -- I just cursed them out. They still think that was Hannity.

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: But my point is, is there anything to the perception that then becomes the reality, the media covers them ad nauseam, that it is business, and business is giving average folks the business, wants more breaks, wants more tax write-offs, and it is not fair, not right? What do you say?

MARCUS: Listen, Neil, first of all, this group in Wall Street and the groups around the country, the guys in Oakland that are breaking the windows and everything else, they're a small percentage of America.

American people -- I think that most independent voters, especially independent voters, are looking at this and saying, how sad, look where we have gotten. And look, if you think that this is going to change the policies of the United States, you are 100 percent totally wrong. It is not going to happen. That is why we formed the Job Creators Alliance. We have talked about it, Neil, you and I, before, the Job Creators Alliance, which is a group of businesspeople who are talking about the things that they need to have happen in the United States for business to grow. And I'm talking about small businesspeople.

I'm talking about people that don't have the lobbyists in Washington. This is the guy who owns, you know, three restaurants or a man that has 400 or 500 people working for him. These people don't have anyone representing them. They get bounced around. They are like a rowboat in the ocean just bouncing around. They don't know where to go.

The one thing that they know is certain -- and a lot of people talk about the uncertainty, that people are not investing because of uncertainty the truth is, it is certainty. They know their taxes are going to go up. They know with Obamacare coming down, they're gonna be faced with a tremendous decision on what to do with the health insurance for their employees.

They understand that the EPA is going to create problems for them. It's the certainty that is keeping people from investing in the jobs. And that is the problem.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: Real quickly, Warren Buffett says the rich should pay more, guys like you should pay more. What do you say?

MARCUS: Well, I think Warren Buffett should have given away a lot of money earlier than he did now.

I mean he could have been doing it for the last 15 or 20 years, which is what I advised him to do about 15 years ago. And I said, Warren Buffett, you could -- by yourself, you could honestly cure some form of cancer, because Warren Buffett is so held in high esteem by so many people, that if he invested a million dollars, he could have raised $50 million the same day.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: Well, he is aligned with the president. He seems to be aligned with the president. Do you have any political horses in the ring you are looking at or liking?

MARCUS: Yeah, I think that they all have a point.

I think the one thing that is coming out of this is really good, and I'm talking about the debates, because you know when you get away from the bickering that is going on among the candidates, I think the one thing that is coming out is that whoever gets in office, if it is going to be a Republican, they know they have to do something dramatic.

They understand that they can't keep it the way it is. I think the tax code needs a complete overhaul. And if you took all of those plans that they have together and you came up with one plan, I think a flat tax, it's time -- and, by the way, I was an opponent of flat tax, ya know, five years ago, seven years ago, when it first came on the scene. I'm beginning to like it more and more.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: What do you make of Herman Cain's plan? One of the lawyers of one of his accusers on this harassment thing is speaking to the media right now. We're not going to take that. We are just letting people know that he is taking questions from the media.

But leaving aside these charges and what lawyers are doing, what do you make of his 999 plan? A lot of people have been piling on that.

MARCUS: No, I don't like his 999 plan, I will tell you the truth, because I think that if you had a 9 percent tax on goods that you buy, every state has a tax on merchandise, also, and all of a sudden you are around 12, 14, or 15 percent, and the poorer people -- the lower-income people are not going to be able to afford that. It is not fair to them.

So I don't like that plan. I think that other parts of the plan make sense to me, lower corporate taxes. I think we have to bring some of the money back from overseas, I think that's important, at no cost to them.

CAVUTO: So a tax reprieve? A lot of Blue Dog Democrats are talking about a tax holiday for that money. Are you for that?

MARCUS: Yeah, I am. I am. I think if you bring that money back, it's gonna only help create jobs.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: What do you think of Mitt Romney, Bernie?

MARCUS: Well, Mitt Romney, I think has to get a little stronger in what he is talking about. I think he is playing the safe road.

By the way, I must tell you -- and I said this to Mitt Romney, I'm gonna say it to you right now -- if Mitt Romney had won the election last time, and he really was the most competent to do it, to get the nomination for the Republican Party, I don't think we would be in this kind of trouble today.

I think that we're in this trouble today because we have a group of economists that are all economists out of universities who really do not have a clue, not a single clue, on how to create jobs in America or solve this problem.

And the president has surrounded himself with these kind of people -- people like me -- I mean, somebody like me, why would he listen to me? I have only created several million jobs in my lifetime, and I'm the wrong kind of guy to talk to.

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: All right.

MARCUS: Why listen to me, a guy like me? I don't have a Ph.D. behind my name, OK?

CAVUTO: That's right.

MARCUS: I have a retailing experience. That's it. So, look, look...

CAVUTO: Boy, you really could have done something with your life then, Bernie. It is a pity you never did.

MARCUS: I could have been somebody, no question about it.

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: Bernie, a pleasure and an honor, as always, one of the legends in American corporate history, created so many jobs, Home Depot, and has done a lot of good in Atlanta, a big aquarium in Atlanta, so much more.

Thank you. Good seeing you again, sir.

MARCUS: Take care now. Bye-bye.

CAVUTO: Alright.