Neil Cavuto is the senior vice president of business news at FOX Business Network where he hosts his daily show “Cavuto” as well as his FOX News Channel show, “Your World with Neil Cavuto.”
Prior to joining FOX, he worked at CNBC, served as a contributor to NBC's “Today” show, and reported on PBS' “Nightly Business Report,” where he was the New York bureau chief.
As a former White House intern during the Carter administration, he brings an insider’s view to the crossroads of politics and small business. He tells BusinessNewsDaily what he thinks small business wants from Washington, why Americans will always be great entrepreneurs and why he loved watching Marine One take off from the White House lawn.
BusinessNewsDaily: What's the most important thing Washington could do for small business right now?
Neil Cavuto: I think, right now, leave them alone. Get off their backs. Cut their taxes, and since many are run as proprietorships taxed at the top marginal rate, cut that rate. This doesn’t hit just three percent of all small businesses , as we’re so often told. It hits close to half those businesses that truly are small businesses and that truly do matter – those employing ten or more workers. There is a difference between such operations and the stay-at-home mom or dad selling items on eBay or running a consulting operation out of his or her family room.
BND: What should small business owners be doing to help themselves through the recession?
N.C.: Continue what they’re doing – getting their costs under control and focusing on the service that makes them unique and potentially great. Remember that Microsoft began in the middle of a recession, and so did Apple. Bad times shouldn’t be used as an excuse to stifle good ideas. Too many businesses of all sizes use the economy as a crutch. The really great ones seize on it as an opportunity – to fill a void, and meet a niche. They deserve a government that fosters that creativity, or at the very least, doesn’t get in the way of it.
BND: What could small business have done to prepare for this economic downturn?
N.C.: Woulda, shoulda, coulda. Easy for me to say — and many to say — now. Bottom line, we tend to live in the moment. It’s human nature. It’s like those who got caught up in the internet boom and assumed earnings maybe really didn’t matter, and that “promise” to earnings, meant more than “profit” to earnings ratios. They didn’t then. They don’t now. I think it always gets down to basics. You focus on a vision that you think works, and a disciplined approach for implementing that vision that has a timeline to make it work. Some of the best visionaries I’ve known have adjusted along the way – Steve Jobs at Apple, for example, quickly leaped on devices and gadgets, over personal computers and mere operating software, to grow his brand and make a whole new market. The best business geniuses intuitively see that, sense that, and seize on that. It’s what makes them good. They question the world around them and never assume it will always be the same world around them.
BND: Why do you think it's so hard for change on the national level to filter down to Main Street?
N.C.: I think it’s the old “them-versus-us” mentality. There’s such a seismic shift, for example, getting from Washington, D.C., to Wallingford, Conn., that few appreciate that nothing “big” comes fast, or spreads remotely fast. From Washington , it rarely comes at all. That’s why there’s so much frustration and misgivings about healthcare, or stimulus, or bailouts that didn’t work out, or rescues that themselves needed rescuing. We expect things instantaneously, and on projects and fix-ups of this magnitude, they can’t. They don’t. It’s fiscal physics. Immovable forces trying to move us. Good luck. I think it proves we should always keep government expectations low, and hope for magic elixirs from Washington even lower. Our system’s just not built that way. Change starts from within, and “then” without. The best ideas haven’t come out of Washington, they’ve come out of someone’s garage or basement usually far from Washington. That’s where the bubbling up occurs. Not from the top-down, from the down-top. There is a difference, a very substantial difference.
BND: Has America lost its entrepreneurial edge ?
N.C.: No, not at all, although we are legislating, regulating, and taxing the hell out of it. We are still the country that makes the coolest devices and lands on the biggest trends. We are a most resilient people as well. Look how quickly we came back from 9-11, when most experts thought it would trigger a near-depression in this country, or after Pearl Harbor, when most thought it could mean the end of this country. Cynics continually are proven wrong, American fortitude continually proven right. So we have the inherent edge. It’s in our DNA. I just urge Washington to embrace it, not crush it. There’s a reason we are the country we are…the government, by and large, didn’t get too much in the way of what we could be. Now, I fear, it is. You don’t want to kill the proverbial golden goose by laying another government egg. Do that, and we’re all scrambled!
BND: What was the most exciting experience you had working in the White House?
N.C.: For me, during the Carter years, no less, it was just the excitement of working in the White House. I always was a political nerd, so perhaps I obsessed too much over the experience. But I wasn’t alone. Brian Williams was another Carter intern, and I remember him somewhere sharing the same awe. I distinctly recall wanting to be there every time the President departed from the White House on Marine One. One of the benefits of our lowly positions was that we could go out there and see him off, or catch him coming back. I don’t think I ever missed the chance. Just like I pestered a friend there to give me an Oval Office tour – one time when the President himself was just arriving back! These were heady days for an Italian-Irish middle-class kid about as far removed from anything approaching power as you could get. The office, the presidency, the White House, the (then) Old Executive Office Building, these were memorable, indelible, life-changing experiences that made me want to return to Washington, which I did, and later cover Washington, which in a way, I continue nonstop…today.
Neil Cavuto’s Election Night special will begin at 6 p.m. EST on November 2 on the FOX Business Network (FBN). His guests will include Doug Wilder, formergovernor (D-Va.); Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.); Fran Tarkenton, entrepreneur, NFL Hall of Famer, and CEO of Gosmallbiz.com; Gray Davis, former governor (D-Calif.); Steve Forbes, CEO, Forbes; Dick Grasso, former chairman and chief executive, NYSE; Mort Zuckerman, CEO, Boston Properties; and William Cohen, former secretary of defense.