Former Heinz CEO Bill Johnson weighs in on recent wave anti-capitalism protests

Former Heinz CEO Bill Johnson weighs in on recent wave of anger


This is a rush transcript from "Your World," November 6, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST:  All right, so I`m watching these protests last night in London. They`re a familiar theme, because we saw them played out to a less violent extent in Chicago outside the CME.

And they`re mad at capitalists.  They`re very angry at the state of the world and feeling that jobs aren`t there, and that the 1 percent are screwing them.  You know the drill.  

And then I`m looking at an employment report that comes out today that was much stronger than expected, 271,000 jobs gained, an unemployment rate of 5.0 percent, almost every sector up, average hourly earnings up, and the people providing those jobs and those opportunities are the very 1 percent who those guys are railing against.  

So it makes me think either they have misplaced rage or they don`t appreciate the people who are at least trying to ease their rage, or maybe it isn`t about that rage.  Maybe that is a faux rage.  

Anyway, to the former CEO of Heinz Bill Johnson.

Bill, I`m not dismissing the rage and the palpable anger out there, but I`m beginning to think it`s starting to be misplaced.  What do you think?  


But, more importantly, Neil, if you ask most of those demonstrators what capitalism is, they can`t define it.  They have no idea.  They have just been told or read in the media or have been taught that capitalism is a bad thing.

And the reality is, it`s made everybody`s life a lot better over the years.  And I think they just don`t understand that or they just want to complain or they just want to demonstrate.  Again, I go back to school in this late `60s, when riot were the thing of the day.  And I`m sure we`re seeing a little bit of that also.

CAVUTO:  I`m wondering, though, how far this goes, because I`m not saying this is French Revolution-type anger, but it seems to be reflecting the way they`re getting away with it, we`re getting nothing, and you know that builds.  In certain countries, it gets out of hand.  

JOHNSON:  Well, it does get out of hand in certain countries, Neil.  

And that`s -- I`m always reminded of what I learned in school, that Nikita Khrushchev once made the statement that we will defeat you from within.  And this is exactly the kind of thing that is fomented, unfortunately, in some cases by the education system, in other cases by the media, that has tried to convince a large group of the population that the top 1 percent or the business community or the corporate lifestyle or whatever it is, is denying them the things they want.

But if you stop and ask them what it is they want, most can`t tell you.  The ones that can tell you probably already have it.  All this is fed, more important, by the social fabric that we have established in a lot of the Western countries that allow people to think from cradle to grave they should be taken care of and hard work is sort of put aside.

And these things worry me.  We talked several years ago about the riots in Seattle at the time, when the G7 was meeting there.  

CAVUTO:  Right.  

JOHNSON:  And I think we see these go in spurts.  Guy Fawkes Day tends to bring it up every year, although, again, I doubt if most of the people there can tell you who Guy Fawkes was.

CAVUTO:  But do some of your colleagues, not -- but sort of tempt that argument and give capitalism a bad name?  

I`m talking about drug producers who quintuple the price of drugs out of the blue, or those that deliberately gouge their customers and make a quick buck.  I`m not saying -- they`re hardly the norm.  But they remind people, certainly they get Hillary Clinton on their heinie, and other candidates who say, yes, there are abuses here, we got to rein them in, and we got to watch them, and we got to police them, because, left unfettered, they will fetter you.  

JOHNSON:  Well, I think there`s some truth to that, Neil.  

But I think, ultimately, you have to have a conscience in capitalism, and I think generally most do.  And, again, like every other endeavor in life, there are a few people that give everybody else a bad name.  

And in this case, there are drug companies that charge too much.  There are other companies that take advantage of the corporate welfare that seems to be rampant in the U.S., as politicians try to curry favor and to get funds for political campaigns.

And so it is something we have to watch.  The problem is that the people who tend to watch it make those excesses worse, and those who are complaining about the government we have typically will get more bad government, and those who are complaining about this typically will lose jobs and not get the benefits out of the society that are there for them to take with hard work and a focused attention to this.

And they can bring legitimate complaints and gripes about those that they believe are cheating the system.  But the sad thing, again, it`s a limited amount of people, businesses and so forth, and I think they take it to extremes and basically campaign or protest against everyone, which doesn`t get them or anybody else anywhere.  

CAVUTO:  Yes, it certainly doesn`t get you a job.  

Bill Johnson, thank you very much.  

JOHNSON:  It certainly doesn`t.

CAVUTO:  Very good seeing you.  All right.  


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