Neil Cavuto hosted The Home Depot co-founders on Fox Business’ “Cavuto: Coast to Coast” discussing the company’s forty years of success. Bernie Marcus and Ken Langone jovially reminisced on the struggles of starting the company and its subsequent growth, but expressed concerns about presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders’ continued call for socialism and America’s passivity toward it.
Marcus, author of “Built from Scratch“, said, “Home Depot is probably the poster child for capitalism. When I hear Bernie Sanders talking about [socialism]…this [The Home Depot] could never happen in a [socialized system].” Cavuto joined in, “But it happened in a pretty difficult economic period.” Marcus replied, “In the worst.”
The late 1970s were a particularly tumultuous time in American history, with 1978 being a particularly eventful and challenging year. Jimmy Carter was beginning his term as President backed by a Democrat-controlled House and Senate. Events starting the Iranian Revolution occurred, ushering in the rogue state we know today. Dallas, the hit television series, was broadcast for the first time into homes across the country. The American people were struggling under the weight of historical inflation.
In the midst of this turmoil, newly unemployed DIY enthusiast Bernie Marcus, and other co-founder Arthur Blank, thought up an idea that would revolutionize the hardware and building supply industry: The Home Depot. Marcus recalled,
“We couldn’t get a banker to give us a line of credit. We had no money.”
Forty years later, these men accomplished something no one thought they could. Why? Marcus attributed this to valuing their staff.
“Before we went public, I made a commitment to people that I hired. I said, ‘Look. If we’re successful and we have a public offering, every single person working here is going to get stock, in the company.’ And Arthur [Blank, co-founder], and I limited our salaries. We took no options…I could be as rich as Warren Buffett today, but I would rather have every assistant manager, every manager, secretaries…” Cavuto interrupted him to inquire about paying minimum wage. Langone replied,
“We never once paid the minimum wage.”
Someone should tell Bernie Sanders.
The socialist Senator routinely criticizes large companies and their executives for subjugating staff to wage levels which he equates with indentured servitude. Facts about companies, like The Home Depot, making charitable contributions and acting competitively to attract and retain qualified staff are not mentioned in Bernie’s 2016 campaign speeches, now reheated for his 2020 attempt.
Referencing Sanders, Marcus said,
“He is the enemy of every entrepreneur that’s ever going to be born in this country and has been born in the past.”
Marcus, an outspoken supporter of Trump in the last election cycle, warned, “Our kids today don’t learn Western civilization. They don’t learn history. History repeats itself.”
Craig Langone was quick to comment, “Believe it or not, Chavez, in Venezuela, came to power through a democratic process. If the people in America today, the fellows out here with the hard hats on, if they want to know what the future holds for them following Bernie Sanders, go to Cuba, go to Venezuela, go to Russia, go to eastern Europe. Guess what? It doesn’t work.”
After describing the deterioration of Venezuelan wealth and wellbeing after being “one of the wealthiest countries in the Southern Hemisphere,” Cavuto redirected Langone to address Trump’s claim that losing the 2020 election would result in a market crash.
“I hope to God, for the sake of all of us, that Trump is wrong. On the other hand, I think when you change the structure of what we are, as a nation, it’s a risky game and I think there’s a good shot that we’ll have a severe economic downturn if, in fact, the American people go in that direction. It’s what happened in Venezuela.”
In a time when business leaders increasingly lean toward progressivism, going so far to ask for a heavier tax burden on themselves and their peers, America would do well to heed the words of these two men who took on the burden of their own futures and made an idea into one of the largest private employers in this great nation.