Do politicians think we are idiots?

Panera Bread founder Ron Shaich on Congress, economy


This is a rush transcript from "Your World," September 11, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST OF "YOUR WORLD": Panera Bread fonder Ron Shaich says all of the infighting has got to stop, because, true to his company, it's all our bread. And last time he checked, it's all of our country.

Good to have you back, Ron. Thank you very much.

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

CAVUTO: I do remember that vividly and remember we were holding hands across the aisle and singing together. The singing frankly I could have done without.

But in all seriousness, it was an unusually inspiring time. We addressed and quickly addressed a lot of our security breaches and tried to get moving on them fast. People can criticize how we got about them, but we moved fast. So, we have it in us to do that. We're not doing it today. What do you make of that?

SHAICH: I remember just this afternoon thinking back to 11 years ago to 9/11 and how we felt and how we came together as a country.

I think for so many of the citizens that I talk to, the folks I visit with across the country, they feel a deep frustration at the inability of the political class to solve problems. That's what they are there for and that's what we pay for them and they essentially avoid solving the problems and they blame each other.

That's an unacceptable situation for us as a country, particularly when we are competing with nation states like China who have strong and clear decisions.

CAVUTO: When you think about it, what we were dealing with then and quickly acting on then was making sure that something like this wouldn't be repeated. And in 11 years, knock on whatever, it hasn't because of the actions that were taken by both Republicans and Democrats moving swiftly on things like Homeland Security and a lot of other many critics will say administration stuff.

But bottom line, a very quick response to this horrific tragedy. Yet by comparison spending which seems like a minor comparison next to life and death matters, we can't get a handle on it.

SHAICH: Yes. In some ways, I think we put ourselves at such great risk.

We are so able to rise when there's a direct challenge when we have somebody attacking us, Al Qaeda did 11 years ago. But unfortunately we allow ourselves in the way in which we conduct our political affairs to essentially -- potentially do far more damage in an indirect way.

And it's us. It's what we allow. At some point you've got to imagine the folks of this country are going to stand up and say enough. We are paying you for solutions. Solve the problems.


CAVUTO: I'm sorry. But when I was out with you at the conventions you said a lot of wise thing through the din and the noise of the politicians.

But one that stuck to me was this idea that we have some big problems that both Republicans and Democrats caused, the blame game has gone, here's the reality and let's deal with this now. We've shown that singular fortitude when everything hits the fan, be it a depression, be it a war, be it even a terrorist threat that was made very obvious 11 years ago today.

But I think when it comes to sort of issues like the debt and whether we're going to get downgraded or whether we can afford the type of lifestyle we're living as a country, since it seems relatively by comparison intangible, no one gives a you know what. So, I think that is the danger.

SHAICH: But, Neil, you and I both know -- I think so many of your listeners know that America understands what its core problems are. It's debt, its energy and it's education.


CAVUTO: Then why do our politicians treat us like we are idiots?

SHAICH: Essentially because the system and the way it's built encourages that.

We have a system that encourages people to come from the extremes. You cannot solve the problem when you have Republicans who say we are never going to raise taxes and Democrats who say we're never going to cut any programs.

You have to come together in a way. That's what as businesspeople we're asked to do. Essentially, I would say solve the problems. You know, I think we all know in our hearts what the answers to it are. You look at the debt, the answer to it ultimately is somewhere near Simpson-Bowles. You look at energy; we have to stay committed to energy independence.

We cannot keep kicking the can down the road. And then you talk about education. You can't operate in a world in which we don't have the top work force.


CAVUTO: You're right. You're right.

I look at you, Ron, and I think you survived the whole Atkins craze. I think that alone is what says a lot, because everyone was going to leave carbohydrates. You stood strong and said, no, my muffins, bread is still fantastic. People galvanized.

You did not recognize so-called impossible headlines. I'm being facetious to make a point. You didn't hear the word no, can't, impossible, better not. You just didn't hear it.


CAVUTO: Go ahead. Finish that.

SHAICH: I'll say something. Neil, I have run a public company for over 20 years.

Over those 20 years I've seen increasingly in so many ways our whole society get more and more short term, nowhere more than in our political establishment. Essentially, everybody is focused on the next election and not focused on what our children and we are going to inherit, which are these terribly difficult problems that we refuse to solve.

CAVUTO: Very well put. Ron Shaich, thank you very, very much.

A lot of you e-mailing saying, why do you ask the head and founder of Panera Bread addressing our nation's ills? Because he's right, because he's accurate, and because he makes a lot of bread. Enough said.

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