Green Room

Blunt talk from Home Depot CEO about Obama and economy

posted at 12:18 pm on July 21, 2011 by

This has been a week for CEOs speaking out against the Obama administration. This time it’s someone I actually admire. Bernie Marcus, co-founder and CEO of Home Depot, has given an interview to Investors Business Daily and it is a pretty frank denunciation of the policies this administration has followed since coming into power. It’s one of the things I admire about Marcus – he pulls no punches:

IBD: What’s the single biggest impediment to job growth today?

Marcus: The U.S. government. Having built a small business into a big one, I can tell you that today the impediments that the government imposes are impossible to deal with. Home Depot would never have succeeded if we’d tried to start it today. Every day you see rules and regulations from a group of Washington bureaucrats who know nothing about running a business. And I mean every day. It’s become stifling.

If you’re a small businessman, the only way to deal with it is to work harder, put in more hours, and let people go. When you consider that something like 70% of the American people work for small businesses, you are talking about a big economic impact.

Remember that Home Depot was launched during the then worst recession in 40 years and Marcus took it public 3 years later. He’s built a business from the ground up and created thousands of jobs. He actually understands what it takes. He also clearly understands what will kill it.

Here is one of the key points one has to understand about this administration and Marcus is on it:

IBD: President Obama has promised to streamline and eliminate regulations. What’s your take?

Marcus: His speeches are wonderful. His output is absolutely, incredibly bad. As he speaks about cutting out regulations, they are now producing thousands of pages of new ones. With just ObamaCare by itself, you have a 2,000 page bill that’s probably going end up being 150,000 pages of regulations.

We’ve been warning you from the beginning to pay no attention to the man’s words and instead scrutinize his deeds. Often they are the opposite of what he has said he’d do. For example:

In January, however, he issued an executive order requiring federal agencies to review their regulations, looking for rules that are inefficient or outdated. His aim, he explained on The Wall Street Journal‘s op-ed page, was to “root out regulations that conflict, that are not worth the cost, or that are just plain dumb.”

But there’s a catch: All those new regulations Obama put in place will not be subject to review. Just days after the president issued his order, an anonymous administration official conceded to the Journal that “new regulations will not be priorities for the look back.” Meanwhile, more than a dozen federal bureaucracies—including the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Communications Commission, and the National Labor Relations Board—are exempt from the review because they are independent agencies.

That’s another in a long list of many examples of him saying one thing and doing something else. His speeches are politically driven and designed to give him political cover while his actions are ideologically driven and part of an agenda.

Marcus is then asked about the debt talks:

IBD: Washington has been consumed with debt talks. Is this the right focus now?

Marcus: They are all tied together. If we don’t lower spending and if we don’t deal with paying down the debt, we are going to have to raise taxes. Even brain-dead economists understand that when you raise taxes, you cost jobs.

With all the talk about tax increases it means we have a lot of zombie politicians who haven’t a clue, unfortunately. I mean how difficult is this? When you raise taxes in a recession, many businesses are going to have to make a decision aren’t they? Use the money to pay the tax or hire. Any guess which will win out? You can’t go to jail for not hiring.

Finally, and this one is devastating in its forthrightness, Marcus is asked what he’d tell Obama if he could sit down with him and talk about job creation. His answer is a classic:

IBD: If you could sit down with Obama and talk to him about job creation, what would you say?

Marcus: I’m not sure Obama would understand anything that I’d say, because he’s never really worked a day outside the political or legal area. He doesn’t know how to make a payroll, he doesn’t understand the problems businesses face. I would try to explain that the plight of the businessman is very reactive to Washington. As Washington piles on regulations and mandates, the impact is tremendous. I don’t think he’s a bad guy. I just think he has no knowledge of this.

One can only wish Contessa Brewer was around to ask about economic degrees. Marcus is right about Obama’s lack of knowledge. He’s surrounded by a lack of knowledge in this area if his policies are any indication. As has been pointed out repeatedly, a president who was really concerned about jobs would be green lighting oil and gas exploration as fast as he could make it happen. And he’s certainly made speeches about doing just that, but as usual, his actions betray his words.

Marcus has got a bead on this administration and this president. As long as they are in power and continue with the course of their regulatory policies, the economic malaise that has settled over this country will continue.

Bruce McQuain blogs at Questions and Observations (QandO), Blackfive, theWashington Examiner and the Green Room.  Follow him on Twitter: @McQandO


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I read a piece somewhere this morning that made the point that Steve Wynn is not alone in his discontent. The article cited three other CEOs who believe Obama is gumming up the works. Yours makes five.

Howard Portnoy on July 21, 2011 at 12:57 PM

Yes, the preference cascade has begun.

Bernie Marcus and Steve Wynn have probably created more jobs and wealth than any two people living in America right now. And they have created jobs for unskilled as well as skilled workers, entry level all the way up to corporate management.

The White House had better start listening to people like them.

rockmom on July 21, 2011 at 2:33 PM

Excellent piece, Bruce.

Vote the turkey out in 2012.

J.E. Dyer on July 21, 2011 at 2:49 PM

IRS audit in 3…2…1…

TeresainFortWorth on July 21, 2011 at 6:02 PM

The RNC needs to make some commercials with CEO’s talking about this… Bambi will be toast if they do.

Political Chef on July 21, 2011 at 6:05 PM

You can’t go to jail for not hiring.


Fabozz on July 21, 2011 at 6:08 PM

I saw this article earlier today. Click on the link and read it through to the end and you see this:

IBD: Why don’t more businesses speak out?

Marcus: They are frightened to death — frightened that they will have the IRS or SEC on them. In my 50 years in business, I have never seen executives of major companies who were more intimidated by an administration.

So a major business figure is saying — out loud — that the Obama Regime will abuse its power, break numerous federal laws, and bring phony IRS or SEC charges down on any business that criticizes it, Hugo Chavez style. There was a time when the media would have found that to be a helluva story. Now, just imagine, we have a “main stream” media that thinks that kind of government corruption is good, and actively helps the government officials involved cover it up.

Rational Thought on July 21, 2011 at 6:10 PM

Well these CEO’s need to let their voting employees know what is causing them to not get raises, have cuts in benefits, & possible suffer from lay offs.

portlandon on July 21, 2011 at 6:14 PM

Rational Thought on July 21, 2011 at 6:10 PM

Marcus said in that interview that he didn’t think Obama is “a bad guy” but that he’s woefully inexperienced. He then said exactly what you quoted. Sorry but a president who would use the IRS and SEC to go after critics is a bad guy!

Kim Priestap on July 21, 2011 at 6:28 PM

I know a CEO who was invited to be on Obama’s economic panel. I told a mutual friend, what’s the point of him wasting his time up there? It would be like me discussing algebra with my Weimaraner.

juliesa on July 21, 2011 at 6:31 PM

You can’t go to jail for not hiring.


Fabozz on July 21, 2011 at 6:08 PM

Very good point and something I’m sure the NLRB is looking into.

Rod on July 21, 2011 at 6:44 PM

It would be like me discussing algebra with my Weimaraner.

juliesa on July 21, 2011 at 6:31 PM

Hey! Don’t be disparaging dogs. My border collie has more sense than Obama.

Rod on July 21, 2011 at 6:46 PM

“You can’t go to jail for not hiring,” this week.

burt on July 21, 2011 at 7:09 PM

He’s surrounded by a lack of knowledge in this area

You are too restrictive: he is surrounded by a lack of knowledge in nearly every are other than politics and vapid speeches.

burt on July 21, 2011 at 7:19 PM

This is an excellent piece, but Mr. Marcus assumes that Ojesus wants America to thrive. It seems to me that the opposite is true.

hillbillyjim on July 21, 2011 at 7:24 PM

It would be like me discussing algebra with my Weimaraner.

I’ve known some Weimaraners who could grasp algebra before the NationalSocialists in the White House could grasp the concept of business.

oldleprechaun on July 21, 2011 at 7:34 PM

“Marcus: I’m not sure Obama would understand anything that I’d say, because he’s never really worked a day outside the political or legal area.”

Possible translations:

a) “Obama is an idiot regarding understanding common sense business.”,
b) “Obama is an ideologue who fully intends to destroy business.”,
c) “Obama is a communist bastard.”,
d) All of the above.

Danny on July 21, 2011 at 7:41 PM

I don’t think he’s a bad guy. I just think he has no knowledge of this.

Most people don’t understand that Obama taught Alinsky radical agitator tactics.

The key to radical social change, Alinsky thought, was to turn the wrath of America’s middle class against large corporations.”

In the Alinsky model, “organizing” is a euphemism for “r.evolution” — a wholesale r.evolution whose ultimate objective is the systematic acquisition of power by a purportedly oppressed segment of the population, and the radical transformation of America’s social and economic structure. The goal is to foment enough public discontent, moral confusion, and outright chaos to spark the social upheaval that Marx, Engels, and Lenin predicted — a r.evolution whose foot soldiers view the status quo as fatally flawed and wholly unworthy of salvation. Thus, the theory goes, the people will settle for nothing less than that status quo’s complete collapse

faraway on July 21, 2011 at 8:32 PM

This time it’s someone I actually admire.

I don’t.
Home Depot sponsors homosexual-pride parades & invites children to participate in the grotesqueness.

itsnotaboutme on July 21, 2011 at 9:00 PM

On the contrary, Obama knows exactly what kind of negative effects his policies will have. Hello, that’s kinda the object. He has already said that he doesn’t care if raising taxes hurts business, or reduces revenue, he’s doing it because it’s the fair thing to do. Wake up, Mr. Marcus.

xblade on July 21, 2011 at 9:57 PM

Here’s a solution. The GOP house should pass a bill making business experience a job requirement for head of certain agencies and many of the other top positions. One definition:

1> VP or above in a publicly traded corporation
2> VP in a privately held corporation with more than X employees or Y revenue in one tax year.
3> Sole proprietor or general partner in an sole proprietor/partnership/LLC with more than X employees or Y revenue in one tax year

kd6rxl on July 21, 2011 at 10:03 PM

This is really nothing new for him, He has been speaking out against the Federal Government for awhile, just it is now getting press

the_ancient on July 21, 2011 at 11:03 PM

I don’t think he’s a bad guy. I just think he has no knowledge of this.

Well, that’s your first mistake. I have no doubt he’s a bad guy, and is doing it on purpose, with full knowledge that he’s destroying everything in his path.

Oh, and I wouldn’t be surprised to soon hear that Home Depot and/or Bernie Marcus are the subject of an IRS audit, INS investigations, OSHA complaints, etc.

Midas on July 22, 2011 at 5:10 PM

Knowing Home Depot, I am guessing that they are mad that Obama is not moving fast enough implementing homosexual marriage, and the praise thereof, in every city and family.

Sterling Holobyte on July 23, 2011 at 1:30 AM

Oh, I think he’s a bad guy.

Merovign on July 23, 2011 at 8:45 PM

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