Interviews

Panera Bread founder urging Congress to work together

Ron Shaich on holding politicians accountable

 

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," January 24, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST OF "YOUR WORLD": All right, we have got Ron Shaich joining us right now. Ron is the founder of Panera Bread.

And while he might not advocate Apple taking over our United States budget process, he does have a lot of ideas for how Congress and the president can work together and solve some of this country’s more vexing problems.

And keep to mind this is a guy whose profits soared in the middle of that whole Atkins diet nonsense, which really worried me when that Atkins was thing taking off.

But, anyway, Ron, very good to have you. Thanks for coming.

RON SHAICH, CO-FOUNDER & CEO, PANERA BREAD: Good to see you, Neil.

Hey, Neil, I’m with you. We need innovation. We need those kinds of folks that come from where we come from that are prepared to innovate and come up with new solutions to the way we approach these problems. That’s what you are saying with Apple.

CAVUTO: And, by the way, they could charge more for a product and people will gladly pay. It’s debatable at this point whether the government can charge more for it product and expect anyone to happily pay.

Leaving that out of it, Ron, you say the time has come to stop the posturing on both sides. Explain.

SHAICH: Well, absolutely. It’s very simple.

We continually talk about what policy changes are needed. The reality is that policies come and go. The problem is the structural problems that exist. If we’re not prepared and we’re not able to reach agreement on the core problems, nothing moves forward.

And we have lived in an environment in which our politicians, our political leaders continue to blame each other. The reality is, as a businessperson, we’re accountable. We have to reach agreement, we have to get to an end, we have to deliver. And the truth is, our Congress, our president, they haven’t done it. And we need to hold them accountable to it. I’ve been part of a group called No Labels. We’ve been around about a year. And we have got a 12- step program to fix Congress.

Very simply -- you said it earlier when you were talking to Senator Lieberman -- no budget, no pay. Let’s demand from our political leaders what they’re being paid to do, which is deliver.

CAVUTO: Not a bad idea at all.

One of the things I also like is that you should give a president, any president, Democrat or Republican, the dignity of an up-or-down vote on any of his picks for anything.

SHAICH: Absolutely.

CAVUTO: A., you would avoid this whole fiasco that happened with the so-called recess appointments.

You also say that in a State of the Union address -- something I fund interesting -- and I advocated this earlier today -- sort of like Parliament, a question time for the president, where they interrupt the president or to get a debate going within the well of the House.

SHAICH: Absolutely.

CAVUTO: By the way, that is never going to happen, Ron.

But go ahead. Tell us why you think that is a good idea.

SHAICH: Neil, well, I just wanted to say something to you.

We often blame the politicians. The people we should be blaming is ourselves.

The reality is I travel the country.

CAVUTO: You’re right about that.

SHAICH: Oh, yes. I talk to managers that are working for a living every day.

And you know what I hear? I hear look it, we’ve got -- 80 percent of America agrees on the problems: debt reduction, energy independence, and education. And the reality is that we also understand the solution. It’s essentially Simpson-Bowles. Its two-thirds cost reduction, its one-third tax revenue. Let’s get on with it and solve these problems.

And let’s move away from a world where all we do is beat up on the other side and believe we’re scoring points from that. It doesn’t work. We’ve got the future of our children at stake. Let’s move on.

CAVUTO: The government right now is hogging, though, a lot of capital that private guys like you would love to and probably given the chance do a lot better spending. So, if this keeps up the way it’s going, what do you think happens?

SHAICH: Well, we live in a world of uncertainty.

The reality is we as businesspeople cannot move forward in this kind of environment. And the challenge is we have got to demand of our political leaders to solve it. No solution; is not a solution. Blaming the other side is not a solution.

This doesn’t work the way we are going. And we are going to leave our children in a much worse place, and we are not going to be able to compete in the international marketplaces if we don’t get our act together.

CAVUTO: That is very well put.

Ron Shaich, thank you very much. Good to see you again. Be well.

SHAICH: Thank you.

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