Interviews

Home Depot co-founder talks ObamaCare, state of US economy

Ken Langone speaks out on 'Your World'

 

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," December 9, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Now time for one of my favorite guests of all time. Point, click, glitch, and now the federal ObamaCare is deeming some people ineligible for Medicaid -- or eligible, I should say -- when they're clearly not, now leaving those folks with little time to fix the situation or look anywhere else, everyone else with more fears that they're going to be paying for this, whether they're part of that Medicaid switch or not.

To Home Depot co-founder and chair of the board of trustees at the NYU Langone Medical Center, Ken Langone.

Kenneth, good to have you.

KEN LANGONE, CO-FOUNDER, HOME DEPOT: How are you, Neil?

COOPER: Good, but this health care thing, yikes.

LANGONE: It's a mess. It's a mess.

But there are other problems we have got to address. Who dares to ignore history is doomed to repeat it. Look at Detroit. There's a very ominous story there about pensions, about the affordability of pensions, about an exodus of people, two million down to 700,000 people in over 25 years, generational theft. This all ties into the same thing, entitlements and benefits.

CAVUTO: So, is the health care thing part and parcel to saying, government will give you whatever you want, but then you have to wake up and pay the costs?

LANGONE: Well, look, it's a simple equation.

The insurance companies have to get the money to pay out the benefits. They're banking on healthy people, young people to come in. And, by the way, Stan Druckenmiller and Geoff Canada are making a very focused effort to get young people to wake up to what is going to happen to them and their children 50 years from now, when the well will be dry.

This generational theft, the benefits...

CAVUTO: Well, the young are getting cynical, and maybe because they have been crunching the numbers themselves on this.

Where are they going to go? Politically, where does this group go?

LANGONE: Well, they want to go where there's accountability and where there's a reasonable understanding of the future.

CAVUTO: Do Republicans offer that?

LANGONE: Let me say -- let me be very forthright. I'm disappointed in Republican leadership in Washington, very disappointed, OK?

CAVUTO: Does that include Speaker Boehner?

LANGONE: It includes everybody, no exclusions.

For example, all these things we have heard about, Benghazi, the IRS, Fast and Furious, where is there a special prosecutor to investigate this? Now, understand something. Nixon's impeachment article said he tried to use the IRS, and the IRS would have no part of it. In this case, the IRS did it. They -- they targeted organizations based on their politics.

CAVUTO: But do you think this president gets a pass by the media?

LANGONE: Absolutely. They're afraid everybody is afraid of them.

CAVUTO: Well, do you think that is a little less so now?

LANGONE: No. The public -- the numbers are the public, not the media, not his opponents, not the Republican Party. He should be held to account.

But -- but, Neil, the big thing -- the thing I'm -- we're going to get there all right eventually, but with a lot of pain. But if we don't address generational theft, if we don't understand that we're taking and robbing from children that have not been even born yet, and guys like me, to get $4,000, my wife and I get $4,000 a month from the government, where is the logic?

CAVUTO: For Social Security, you're saying, or...

LANGONE: Yes. Yes.

CAVUTO: Do you take the Social Security?

LANGONE: I give it to -- we give it to charity.

CAVUTO: You do?

LANGONE: Yes, because you know what? If I tried to give it back, they'd spend it.

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: You like Chris Christie.

LANGONE: I love him.

CAVUTO: And behind the scenes, in front of the scenes, you were really pushing for him to run for president. He opted not to. Now you're really pushing.

LANGONE: Hard as I can.

CAVUTO: A lot of Republicans and a lot of conservative Republicans say he is a RINO, that he is not really speaking to their needs and wishes.

What do you say?

LANGONE: This past week, last week, my partner who runs our truck leasing company had a person on the phone with me from South Carolina, a conservative, telling me he wants to get in line to help Christie if he runs.

Why? Because Christie demonstrated he can reach across. He got 70 percent of the woman vote this past time. He got 70 percent of the Latino vote this past time. He tripled his votes among African-Americans.

CAVUTO: But Mitt Romney won in the Democratic state of Massachusetts as governor, so what does that mean?

LANGONE: No, he won as governor, but he lost as president.

CAVUTO: I understand.

LANGONE: He lost...

CAVUTO: But what does that mean if you do well in a blue state?

LANGONE: Because he -- the difference was Mitt Romney at that point in time reached across the aisle. He did it.

But he did it after he got elected. But this guy here is demonstrating he can work -- 29 Democratic mayors in New Jersey endorsed this man, 29 Democrat -- this guy can get it done.

And let me tell you something. What America -- what Washington needs now is one strong leader. Unfortunately...

CAVUTO: How do you know he is that guy?

LANGONE: Because I'm watching what he's done. When he tells...

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: So, you don't think it's a Ted Cruz or a Rand Paul?

LANGONE: Absolutely not.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: But if either of those guys got the nomination, you would still support them?

LANGONE: If we are not going to get the center, we can't win. If you don't...

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: So, you need a governor? You think a governor is the way to go?

LANGONE: Look, I -- I think, by definition and by experience, go back and think about it. FDR, governor. Ronald Reagan, governor. Go back and look and see...

CAVUTO: John Kennedy, senator.

LANGONE: Well, but I -- I wouldn't...

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: You were not a fan of his?

LANGONE: Well, I wasn't a fan, but I also am not sure that -- how things would have worked out. We know, for example, Vietnam turned out to be a nightmare for us. OK?

CAVUTO: Fair enough. Fair enough.

But do you buy this -- and it's something I get into with Dick Cheney tonight on FBN, which, if you don't get you should demand, Ken. And one of the things he was saying is that he just hopes the party can avoid fratricide, in other words, kill itself.

LANGONE: Let me tell you...

CAVUTO: Do you think it can?

LANGONE: Let me tell you what I'm really bothered by. I'm really bothered by these inheritances of political positions. I'm bothered by his daughter leaving Virginia and going to Wyoming and saying, my name is Cheney. And with all due respect, Sam Nunn, who is a good friend of mine, who I admire, his wife -- his daughter is running.

I think we have to get away from these legacies. This is not what democracy...

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: So, you would apply that to the Bushes, the Cheneys, anyone?

LANGONE: Look, George -- George Bush, the president's mother said, I think we have had enough Bushes for a while. That's his mother.

CAVUTO: Right.

LANGONE: We -- don't -- don't think...

CAVUTO: Talking about Jeb Bush at the time.

LANGONE: Genes don't mean necessarily that you have got a certain strand of gene that makes you particularly acceptable as a public official.

CAVUTO: I have known you for a good number of years, Ken.

LANGONE: Right.

CAVUTO: Very few people have worked you up or jazzed you to the degree that Chris Christie has, and I don't know what it is.

What is it?

LANGONE: He touches people. He connects.

For example, and he's not political like people -- remember the guy on the beach? He says to the guy on the beach, pardon me, if you don't get your ass off, I'm going to have you locked up. The guy got off the...

CAVUTO: How is that -- you were talking to your friend in South Carolina. How is that going to go in genteel -- in South Carolina?

LANGONE: This man said to me, please, when you're -- if he makes a decision to run, I want to be involved.

I'm getting calls from all over America, people saying to me, when can we get involved? How can we help? Look, look...

CAVUTO: What do you think of Tea Partiers?

LANGONE: I think they represented the frustration in America with both parties, both parties, not just the Democratic Party, with both parties.

Look, look, the thing that Tea Parties have to understand, you can't govern if you don't get elected. So we lost -- we lost a Senate seat in -- in Colorado. We lost a Senate seat in Missouri. We lost a Senate seat in Delaware. These were all winnable seats.

And the Tea Party, by virtue of the primaries, took it all out. What are we accomplishing? Reagan had it -- no, Nixon had it right. You get way to the right for the nomination and then move quick to the center. We don't have that luxury anymore because you're being labeled with what you say in the primary. And it's going to hang on you through the whole process.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: What do you think Republicans should stand for, though? Would they be the party of low taxes, low regulations, getting off people's back, what?

(CROSSTALK)

LANGONE: First thing should be the party of full employment. If we can get everybody working or as many as we can, you would be amazed at how many of our problems with disintegrate, go away.

CAVUTO: Well, how do you feel about a higher minimum wage then?

LANGONE: I have no trouble I had -- look, let me tell you how I feel.

Home Depot has never hired one human being for minimum wage, not one. We have always paid a premium over minimum wage. Why? Because we felt we could afford it and we wanted the best people we could get.

In the case of the fast-food industry, that model won't work, for one reason. They're very aggressive on pricing, and when you start taking the margins out of that business, a lot of sweat equity -- a guy that owns a franchise, he and his wife are working 60, 70 hours a week.

CAVUTO: But do you see that, Ken, a lot of people don't see that? Those in the mainstream media look at it, they see these conglomerates like McDonald's and Burger King that make billions in profits, and they don't see the franchise holders. They don't see how it goes. And so there's an ignorance of business that you really can't argue, because they -- to argue it, then...

LANGONE: But that doesn't mean their position is right, because...

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: I understand.

(CROSSTALK)

LANGONE: Because they can't see it.

CAVUTO: But then do Republicans look like they're elitist snobs or heartless? How would you challenge that? How would you tell them, if it's a Chris Christie or others, to argue that?

LANGONE: Look, look, let me back up.

One thing I think you have to be realistic about is what you are and what you can be. When we shut the government down, what did we accomplish? We accomplished one thing. We lost a gubernatorial race in Virginia. That's what we got. That was our just desserts for shutting the government.

Cruz took us there, but what was the game plan? What was the exit strategy? There was none. We got absolutely nothing for that effort, except we lost one of the gubernatorial -- look, I'm optimistic because a lot of people like myself are saying, hey, wait a minute, guys. You want our money, you think we're smart enough to make this money, and you want to get it from us, that's all well and good.

But, guys, guess what? We bring a lot more to the party than fat wallets.

CAVUTO: Do you think taxes invariably have to go up?

LANGONE: I wouldn't have any problem with higher taxes if it reflected itself in deficit reduction, if it reflected itself in debt reduction.

CAVUTO: But that wouldn't be your first point?

LANGONE: My first point would be to get a spirited leader elected.

CAVUTO: OK. LANGONE: But, Neil, the last thing is, look at Detroit. It can happen everyplace else.

CAVUTO: Gotcha.

Ken Langone, it's always a pleasure. Speak your mind. I never know where the heck you're coming from.

LANGONE: Good seeing you.

CAVUTO: Ken Langone. All right.

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