Interviews

Home Depot co-founder: White House isn't business friendly

Bernie Marcus on economic crisis, job creation

 

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," October 22, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST OF "YOUR WORLD": This is pretty big.

This was also something pretty big today, earlier in USA Today, an open letter to the American people from some of the richest, most successful business investment interests on the planet, effectively making a call for a change in leadership in this country to change the tone in this country, saying, "Before you vote on Election Day, think carefully about the kind of country we are creating for ourselves and coming generations. Will it be a country that demeans job-creating business owners by saying you didn't build that, or will it be a country that protects free enterprise and allows everyone to pursue their highest aspirations?"

Among those signing, you have got Cliff Asness, Michael Ashner. You have got Jack Welch, John Whitehead, on and on and on we go, Ken Langone, the former co-founder of Home Depot.

The other co-founder of Home Depot was not signing on to this. I don't know why. Maybe he's -- he can't sign everything that passes his desk.

But, anyway, Bernie Marcus is joining us right now.

Bernie, were you asked to sign this?

BERNIE MARCUS, CO-FOUNDER, HOME DEPOT: The truth is, I was asked to sign it and I said yes and they didn't put my name down. I don't know. It may be a Jewish thing. I'm not sure.

CAVUTO: Well, you're not on here.

MARCUS: Either way, I'm not on there, but I should have been on there because business is not politics. It's not Republican. It's not Democrat. It's business.

And we have seen the last three-and-a-half years that this administration is not very friendly to business, which means it's not friendly to creating jobs. Look, you can read it any way you want.

I know that, in speaking to businessmen all over the country, and I do, I do speak to a lot of these people, they are terrified about the next four years. And they should be, rightfully so. They're worried about ObamaCare, which they're terrified of. When I use the word terrified, I mean it.

Most of them don't have a clue what they are going to do. They are worried about their banking. They know that with Dodd-Frank that many of the community banks are going to be out of business. And they will be remaining with just the big giants on Wall Street.

There are so many issues out there, Neil that the small business guy is worried about. And that's why we don't have jobs in America today. It's as simple as that. You do not have to be a rocket scientist, which some of these people obviously think you can. And rhetoric's don't do it. Great speeches don't do it.

You have to be able to change those regulations, get the ERA off people's backs, get the NLRB off people's backs, get the IRS off people's backs, and you'll see jobs created.

CAVUTO: You know you could look at the list, though, when I look through it, Bernie, and say that these are not small or medium size business guys, these are titans, these are guys like yourself who have a lot of bucks. A good many of them are billionaires.

We have quite Nelson Peltz. We have got Lauree Moffett. We have got Morris Mark, Dan Lufkin, Steve Luczo. Now, I can go on and on and tell and explain who these people are. Suffice it to say that most of them are the cream of the crop, right?

So, it's almost like an ad-- The cream of the crop loves Mitt Romney.

So that could cut both ways, right? You could say, all right, well, they've got their nose out of joint with the president who they say doesn't represent or fairly depict them. So it could boomerang, right, and then the president could say, well, if I had to pick anyone off, I am OK doing that with these guys because I'm looking out for you guys. How do you think Mitt Romney should respond to that?

MARCUS: Well, these are the only people that have the access to the media.

A small guy that owns three restaurants, you don't think in a million years he's going to get on your show or get into The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times or anywhere else. I mean he has no voice out there. That is why we started something called the Job Creators Alliance which really represents the small business people in America. They don't have a voice.

Therefore, someone has to speak to them. Neil, look, I remember when I was a small business guy. Back in 1978-1979, we started Home Depot and we went through all of these problems. I remember five or six years of living through worrying about paying the bills, worrying about paying the lights, cutting the air conditioning off in the middle of the day to save money so we could pay our bills.

I remember all of those things. And I haven't forgotten about it. And most of those people had the same kind of experience. So we're kind of representing what the small business guy is going through who right now as I said to you, who's he going to talk to? Nobody will listen to them. Nobody will be interested in them.

A man the works out there and has 150 people working for him, he doesn't have a lobbyist in Washington taking his case before the Congress. He doesn't have people who go to bat for him. He struggles every day to make his bills and keep the 150 people he's got working on his staff.

And he is concerned because let me tell you a couple of things they've told me. When ObamaCare comes down the pike, they will probably let go of people. If they become unionized, they're going to let go of people. Many of them have no plans whatever...

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: Then, Bernie, in this environment tonight, could do you what you did then? If you had to start Home Depot now in this environment -- you started Home Depot with Ken and others in a very tough environment then. Do you think you could do the same now?

MARCUS: No. There is no way.

I could give you details about it, but I can tell you there is no way that Home Depot could ever be what it is today.

CAVUTO: Interesting.

MARCUS: It has 300,000 employees. Look, I'm not with Home Depot anymore. I resigned, I retired back in 2002.

But I can tell you there are 300,000 people that would not be with jobs today if we had the same environment and tried to start the Home Depot today.

CAVUTO: Wow.

MARCUS: Isn't that a tragic thing to talk about? That is terrible.

CAVUTO: Amazing.

MARCUS: And this is what we are leaving for our children now. And if we have three more years, four more years of this administration with their philosophies...

CAVUTO: All right.

MARCUS: ... Home Depots will not be able to grow. I mean, it will happen on the Internet because...

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: I do want to take a little bit of attention out of -- but I do want to say, here is what is remarkable about the Home Depot phenomenon. You started this and you were not remotely handy. I never realized that. You had not a handy cell in your body, which I admire all the more that you did this and felt apparently there was a need for that.

(CROSSTALK)

MARCUS: Why do you have to tell people about that?

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: No, I just thought, if I started an Italian restaurant chain, people will say, well, that figures, we could see that.

But when you started Home Depot, you didn't know a Phillips from -- is it a non-Phillips?

MARCUS: From a flathead.

CAVUTO: Yes. All right, a flathead.

So, I admire that greatly, Bernie.

(CROSSTALK)

MARCUS: Actually, listen, you know, my father was a wonderful cabinet maker. He was from Russia. And he could make anything.

And he was too good for me. Whenever I tried to help him, he would say, please, I'll do it myself.

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: Bernie Marcus, a pleasure. Thank you.

Just ribbing you, my friend, Bernie Marcus, an American success story, one of the most successful this country has ever known in the world of business, and not a handy bone in his body.

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