Interviews

Home Depot co-founder on 2018 budget, CBO score for AHCA

Ken Langone speaks out about abuse of programs, single-payer health care

 

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," May 24, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: When Democrats and -- and Republicans alike going to go back and say, we can't sustain this?

AUSTAN GOOLSBEE, FORMER CHAIRMAN, COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS: Neil, you're worked up -- you're worked up because you know that they have tried some accounting gimmicks and borderline fraud in this budget.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: There's no fraud to the numbers I mentioned to you. There's no fraud to the numbers I mentioned.

You know what is a fraud?

(CROSSTALK)

GOOLSBEE: I will give you a fraud. You want some fraud?

CAVUTO: No, no.

GOOLSBEE: Do you want to know? I will tell you exactly where it is.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: No, no, listen to me. I'm going to let you answer.

What is a fraud is telling the American people, pay no attention to those numbers. Pay no attention that they're growing out of whack with taxpayers' ability to afford them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAVUTO: I'm a nerd, and math upsets me sometimes. So, I apologize to those of you who were offended by my exchange with Austan Goolsbee, for whom I have great respect. I like him a lot personally.

But I don't like a lot what I'm hearing these days on containing the growth in a program, not cutting it, just containing its growth, and that being equivalent to once attorney general throwing granny off a cliff, which brings me to Home Depot's co-founder Ken Langone, who became a gazillionaire honoring things like math and how to proceed forth.

Very good to see you.

KEN LANGONE, CO-FOUNDER, HOME DEPOT: Nice seeing you.

CAVUTO: What do you make of this argument that the way Democrats have presented the Medicaid so-called cuts, which are not cuts, just off the growth?

And we have a chart here that shows it's balanced right now, what it was going to be in the next 10 years, vs. what it's going to be under this Trump budget plan. It just curtails the growth. But they're calling it heartless cuts and an attack, a cleaver on the middle class. You say what?

LANGONE: I say let's take a program that has grown dramatically in eight years, food stamps.

Well, food -- I don't think people don't die if they don't smoke. I don't think people die if they don't watch movies. How do we make sure that food stamps are being used for what they're called, food?

And this to me is part of the problem.

CAVUTO: Well, 44 million get food stamps up much more generous terms.

Now, I'm not saying some, as you have indicated in the past here, might genuinely deserve some help, but this has gone way beyond food.

LANGONE: No American should go to bed hungry. No American should starve to death. That's a given. That's part of our culture. That's part of our value system in America.

On the other hand, we know what goes on. Hell, people use food stamps to buy marijuana that is illegal or cocaine or whatever the hell else these people use to get high.

How do we make sure that we don't take a system that is well-intentioned that becomes badly abused? How do we take guys like me who outrageously get $40,000 a year from our government, after I have done as well as I have done?

CAVUTO: Forty thousand for what?

LANGONE: Social Security. Oh, yes. It's...

CAVUTO: But you don't -- so you would be saying to Republicans as well, you know...

LANGONE: I'm saying to the whole bunch of them.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: Right.

LANGONE: I'm saying to the whole bunch of them.

CAVUTO: You're sick of it.

LANGONE: Not that I'm sick of it. We have the technology today to be able to do a better job of administering these plans.

There's this notion that if somebody gets in an accident and they are taken to an emergency room, unless you show an insurance card, they say, well, you have got to die, you haven't got an insurance, that doesn't happen in America.

CAVUTO: Well, let me ask you this.

We have some numbers out from the CBO on the administration's -- or, more to the point, Republicans' American Health Care Act. And, of course, you have -- hospitals. You do a lot of good for folks and all.

LANGONE: Sometimes.

CAVUTO: But this calls -- this calls -- would reduce federal deficits by $119 billion over the coming decade, but increase the number of people who are not insured by 23 million in 2026, relative to the current law.

Now, I don't know how they came to those conclusion about well, 11, 12 million have ObamaCare now. So, how they came to the conclusion that 23 million by 2026 won't have it because of this, but what do you make of it?

LANGONE: Let me tell you something. Go back all the way to the creation of ObamaCare.

I think that they had one thing in mind when they created it, a single- payer. That's what they wanted. And they created a lure that guarantees, by its own failings, it will have to end up being a single-payer.

CAVUTO: Which would be the United States government.

LANGONE: Which would be the government. And guess what? That's not what I think America wants.

If I want to buy my own health insurance, as I should, and I want to pay for it, as I can, then I should be able to do it. I think this was all a scheme going all the way back to, how do we put a system in place that will collapse of its own weight? And that's what we have done.

CAVUTO: Well, let me ask you this. What is a cut to you? When I hear cuts and I hear people, liberals espousing this view that we're cutting to smithereens the social safety net, I'm thinking, well, they're wiping it out, when, in fact, I discover with Medicaid and some of these other programs, we're slowing the rate of growth.

But that's entered the vernacular, just like the argument that if you're anti-illegal immigration, it morphed into you're anti-immigrant.

Ken Langone, what is a cut to you?

LANGONE: A cut to me is if you're getting $4, and now you're getting $3.80, that's a cut. A cut is not, when I'm getting $4, and, next year, I was going to get $4.40. Instead, I'm only going to get $4.30.

That's not a cut.

CAVUTO: They call that cut.

LANGONE: Well, guess what? That's what politicians do. It's all about illusion.

CAVUTO: So, what would you do? What would you tell them to do? Because, in the past, you have said open everything to scrutiny and watch the budget. But we pick and choose what we want.

LANGONE: Look, there's enough blame to go around.

CAVUTO: Absolutely. Absolutely.

LANGONE: There's 900 bucks -- $900 for a toilet set that we're happy to sell you at Home Depot for $27?

(LAUGHTER)

LANGONE: The same toilet seat? And we make a nice buck on it at $27?

CAVUTO: Right, right.

But the common sense is out. And yet what worries me about all of this is, we're getting people who, this is all they here. They're cutting. We're going to leave people destitute. We're going to leave them starving. They're going to do this.

My point with let's say the food stamp, the SNAP program, if 44 million are getting something off of this program, whether it's for food or not, we have bigger problems than just a budget issue.

LANGONE: Absolutely.

Let me tell you something. The biggest single threat to life as we know it in America, in my opinion, is income inequality. You let that gap get wide enough, as it did in Cuba, as it did in Argentina, as it did in Venezuela, and people will go for the most likely root to give them what they want. OK?

We can't afford -- now, the gap is as much an effect as it is a cause of problems. The effect of it is, it is an effect a bad education in America, public education in America. We're depriving these kids of the chance to compete.

I had dinner last night with Dave Cote, the retired chairman of Honeywell.

CAVUTO: Sure.

LANGONE: Honeywell has got job openings all over. But the people have to have qualifications.

How can we hire you to work at Home Depot if you can't past a simple reading or math test? Customer comes in and says, well, how do I use it, and the kid looks at the directions, and he can't read the directions? It doesn't work.

CAVUTO: So, when you talk about this chasm, which you and I have talked about in the past, between the rich and the poor, if it has widened under Republican and Democratic administrations...

LANGONE: It's terrible.

CAVUTO: ... one of the typical ways they try to address that is have the government involved and forcibly, and forcibly adjust it.

LANGONE: And make a bigger mess.

CAVUTO: What do you think of that?

LANGONE: Yes. You can't do it. It won't work.

Look, any time you engage in something that is fundamentally unnatural, expect unnatural results, OK? A good for instance, frankly, is celibacy in the Catholic Church. We're going to have to come to grips, as Catholics, with the notion that we are going to have to think about letting priests get married.

By the way, 1,000 years ago, we had a pope that had a family.

CAVUTO: All right, I didn't know how we veered into celibacy.

(CROSSTALK)

LANGONE: What I mean is that's not...

CAVUTO: No, I understand.

LANGONE: Bad things happen because we are creating an environment.

CAVUTO: But how can we ever get serious about dealing with this stuff, Ken, and on the right and the left...

LANGONE: Well, you want to know something, Neil?

CAVUTO: ... when we trivialize it to the degree we do?

LANGONE: You know what has me concerned?

Election night, when Trump won, I said, here's our chance to drain the swamp. I still think we have that opportunity. But the media in America today, who was a loser last election night -- there was no doubt about where the media was -- the media, the Democrats...

CAVUTO: Right, well, where they still are.

LANGONE: The Republicans? Come on. Nobody -- Trump was not loved.

CAVUTO: So how do they answer this? Now, Mulvaney, how do you think he answered it? And some say he just didn't -- he wasn't able to be forceful enough.

LANGONE: Look, Trump is as good a negotiator as anybody.

To me, as I view this budget, OK, here's the opening bid, boys. Let's talk. It's a negotiation. Now, the bits and pieces, you have got to drill down. But the drama of it, we're going to make people starve, we're going to -- people aren't going to have health care...

CAVUTO: But that's coming from no less than the pope, that you can't forget the forgotten, you can't forget.

And, here, the president and the pope meet today.

LANGONE: Hold it. The pope is our spiritual leader. God bless him. OK?

And the pope certainly, in matters of faith, he's it. I don't think the pope has the qualifications to be discussing such arcane things as how governments spend money.

CAVUTO: You realize you're going to hell now?

LANGONE: I hope not. But I may.

CAVUTO: Yes. You may.

No, I'm glad to see you, my friend. I wanted to get the perspective of a guy who has had some success, helped a lot of people out, because something is morbidly wrong.

LANGONE: Neil, we're the greatest country on earth. And the next 25 years are ours, unless we work overtime to screw it up.

CAVUTO: Well said. Well said.

LANGONE: OK?

CAVUTO: You just gave, by the way, the best definition of a cut I have ever heard. Touche. You might have a future. Keep up with it. You're doing a very good job.

LANGONE: Keep it up. I'm trying to work. Hey, look, I'm only 82. I have got a chance to have a good career.

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: All right.

END

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