Panera CEO: Americans can't live with this 'uncertainty'

Ron Shaich speaks out about bipartisanship, debt ceiling


This is a rush transcript from "Your World," January 14, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Well, as Washington continues fighting over our dough, my guest is trying to get both sides to break bread.

He should know, Panera Bread founder and CEO Ron Shaich. Ron, good to have you back.


CAVUTO: The great thing about talking to you all through the campaign year last year was that you had a pox on both parties' houses and the fact that they were just not moving, not meeting on these crucial issues. What do you want them to see them do right now?

SHAICH: Well, we at No Labels want to see them begin to have real solutions. The reality is...

CAVUTO: Now, the idea behind No Labels is, what? You should just...

SHAICH: Is to reduce the hyper-partisanship.

CAVUTO: Gotcha.

SHAICH: To demand of our leaders real solutions, as opposed to this hyper-partisanship, bickering, kick it down the can, blame each other.

CAVUTO: What if we take this debt ceiling thing to the brink? The president was arguing today, as you might have heard, Ron, it will be on Republicans for being so obstinate? What do you think?

SHAICH: Right.

Well, I think it's part of the problem, which is again blaming. And the reality is that Americans want this thing solved. And we at No Labels really have a proposal to try to move forward on it. It begins with organizing the citizens around that, secondly, creating blocs of congresspeople.

We were in New York today with Senator Joe Manchin, Jon Huntsman, dozens of congresspeople. And we really were kicking off this No Labels movement, saying let's come together. It's not about policy.

CAVUTO: I don't think they can. I don't think they're -- they're -- it's in their DNA to come together on anything.

SHAICH: Well, here is the deal.

It's about -- it's not about what we're going to do. It's about how we are doing it.

We have devolved to a system that is essentially not working. How can we operate in a world where we have not had a budget since 1997? We have a $3.7 trillion budget in the United States.

CAVUTO: What would happen to Panera if you operated that way?

SHAICH: I would be fired, Neil, just like you.

CAVUTO: Yeah. Yeah.

I always wonder in this whole debt ceiling debate, Ron, whether we're missing a bigger point. Everyone says rush, rush, rush to avoid broaching the whole ceiling issue, but the reason why I think we're on these various credit watch lists and the reason why we keep having the problems we do is because we have done this nearly 50 times since World War II.

That is the problem. Now, yeah, we will get through this ceiling thing probably scouring together some stupid deal.


CAVUTO: But there will be a 51st time and a 52nd time. And isn't that what's the most obnoxious?

SHAICH: Well, sure. And we as businesspeople, we can't live with this uncertainty. The American people can't live with this uncertainty. That world can't live...


CAVUTO: But how would you handle the debt ceiling? The president says this should essentially be like a once-a-year deal, whether the president has the power, so it's automatically done. It's like a credit line that is automatically increased, but that automatically codifies this waste, right?

SHAICH: Right. Right. Well, we're not dealing with the core issue. The core issue is what the Congress agrees to spend. All this debt ceiling is about is actually paying our bills. So, to me, the cow is out of barn already. Let's allow us, as the United States government, to at least do what any business would do, which is pay your bill.

CAVUTO: Now, why is Wall Street lollygagging about this or not apparently worried by this? We had another up day today. We're up a lot on the year, this young year thus far, good year last year.

Is all of this was of paramount concern and all your worries were trumpeted, as they have been, then why is the Street not worried?

SHAICH: Well, I think we have learned to live in this kind of environment.

And the reality is, we have accepted what appears to be a continual kick the can down the street kind of politics.

CAVUTO: Well, what would you and your fellow CEOs do if they have a credible budget accord, a credible debt fix?


CAVUTO: You would probably drop dead a heart attack, right, but what would you do?

SHAICH: Well, I think it would allow us all to feel a little bit more secure about where we're going. We have got to know the rules of the game. And that is really what we're asking for.

And I think that is what -- what basically the country is asking for. But I think we start as citizens, not businesspeople first. And the reality is we know the problems. They are debt, education, immigration and energy. And the reality is, as a nation, when we compete against nation-states, how are we ever going to compete if we can't solve these problems?

The issue is not the debt ceiling. The issue is the fundamental core problems in the country and the inability of our congressional leaders and our political class to actually solve them.

CAVUTO: Amazing.

How is it that you've stayed thin and fit when you are home to some of best breads, cakes, everything?


SHAICH: Well, good breads are good for you.

CAVUTO: Really?

SHAICH: Absolutely.

CAVUTO: I guess just not in the volume I eat them.


CAVUTO: Ron Shaich, Panera Bread, CEO, founder, so much more. Just a message from Wall Street.

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