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Carly Fiorina on the Republican Party, the business community and why she's supporting Biden

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Former Hewlett-Packard CEO and presidential candidate Carly Fiorina joins Yahoo Finance's All Markets Summit to discuss the Republican Party and why she is supporting Joe Biden.

Video Transcript

RICK NEWMAN: Hello, everybody. I'm Rick Newman with Yahoo Finance. Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett Packard and 2016 Republican presidential candidate, thank you for joining us.

CARLY FIORINA: Thank you for having me, Rick, and good afternoon.

RICK NEWMAN: Do you wish you were running for president again this year?

CARLY FIORINA: No. Definitely not.

RICK NEWMAN: Well, tell us a-- would you tell us a little bit what you learned from that experience, especially given that one of your-- your competitors, Donald Trump, obviously ended up being the president.

CARLY FIORINA: Well, you know, I got into politics because I'm a problem solver. And I think we have a lot of problems in this country that our political system hasn't addressed in quite a long time. And I actually think that's why Donald Trump won. I think people across the board thought you know what? The system just isn't really working. We keep arguing about the same issues. And so it's time to try an outsider.

I think we're still at a point where the political class fails us a lot. Witness that we do not have another stimulus package when we clearly desperately need one. But I also think that one of the reasons Joe Biden won the primary, and one of the reasons I endorsed him quite some time ago, is because he is seen as someone who has been willing to reach his hand across the aisle and work in a bipartisan fashion.

And in the end, the only way you solve problems in business or in politics is why actually working with other people, some of whom you may not agree with all the time, to get something done and make some progress.

RICK NEWMAN: Do you-- do you still consider yourself a Republican?

CARLY FIORINA: It's a great question. The honest answer is I don't know because I do not see myself in the current Republican Party. What I will tell you is what I believe and what I've always believed. I believe that everyone has enormous potential, usually more than each of us realize, and then in this country, everyone should have an equal opportunity to fulfill their potential.

I think people closest to the problem usually know best how to solve it. And so we need to give them the resources and the opportunity to solve the problems that impact them. And finally, I believe that power concentrated is power abused always whether that power is concentrated in Washington, DC, or whether that power is concentrated in a corporate headquarters. And so we need to disperse power and money and decision making.

RICK NEWMAN: So let's talk about Joe Biden's plan. Some CEOs are uncomfortable with some of his ideas. You know what those are. He would raise the corporate tax rate a little bit about-- he wants to raise it about half the way back to where it was before President Trump cut it. He probably would do more to regulate the financial industry. He has talked about this minimum tax or alternative minimum tax you might call it on corporations if their tax they pay to the IRS falls below a certain level.

I mean, these do not sound like business-friendly ideas. So what-- tell us your take on those ideas and what you think CEOs and other business people you know, what-- what they think about this Biden plan.

CARLY FIORINA: Well, first, I would say that not all taxation is bad taxation. That may sound ridiculous. But as long as a level of taxation is reasonable, we've demonstrated as your previous guest pointed out that economic growth is possible.

So for me, the issue is, is the level of taxation reasonable? And for what purpose are we taxing? And I think what Joe Biden has proposed is certainly a reasonable level of taxation on corporations and on those individuals making over $400,000 a year. And the purposes for which he proposes to use that money I think frankly are reasonable as well.

So for example, getting this pandemic under control is clearly impacting economic growth. Having the right kind of stimulus, particularly for our small businesses and working families and resources for schools and communities, is clearly an economic issue. Having such unequal access to education is an economic issue now. Having such unequal access to health care and infrastructure is an economic issue now.

One of the things that the pandemic has revealed is the fact that we actually all are connected. And for those who are really struggling-- and the pandemic has revealed how many people and businesses truly are-- that has an impact on economic growth. And so for all of those reasons, based on what Biden has put forward so far, I am satisfied that it is a reasonable plan both in terms of how to tax, as well as in terms of how to spend.

RICK NEWMAN: So how would you prioritize the things that need to be done? I mean, you've just ticked off a long list of things. Biden has way more on his website. He's been talking about way more. Some of them are social programs. Some of them are economic programs. If you had to list three things, let's say, let's say you were a presidential candidate again. And what do you think are the three most important things we need to do? And let's agree getting control of the coronavirus is number one. Beyond that, what do you think are three top priorities?

CARLY FIORINA: Well, first, I would say unifying the country. I know that sounds maybe too high in the sky, but the truth is this level of division and partisanship and rancor is not good for our nation. And it's not good for our economy. Witness the lack of a stimulus package in the last several months, which everyone agrees is necessary. So unifying the country is hugely important. I think it's one of the reasons why Joe Biden leads in the polls and won the primary because people see that.

Secondly, I think we do have to deal with the level of inequity. And I don't just mean economic inequity between families. For example, our frontline workers, our critical workers are in many cases not able to make a reasonable living. We have to deal with that. It does have an economic consequence.

But I also mean, for example, the disparity between how big businesses are surviving and thriving and how small businesses are surviving and thriving. Small business never has enough political clout in Washington. That's become very clear in the last nine months in particular. 100,000 small businesses are probably gone forever already in this pandemic. That's hugely important. And so dealing with some of these structural inequities over the long haul I think is critically important.

And then finally, of course, not throttling business. And that's why the level of taxation is important. It's why the level of regulation is important-- not throttling business so that when the pandemic is under control, a big if, I think, unless Joe Biden is in the White House, we need to make sure that those animal spirits are-- are running.

RICK NEWMAN: Just so the audience knows, you have not-- you're not working with the Biden campaign. You've just endorsed him on your own. Correct?

CARLY FIORINA: That is correct. I am not working with the campaign. I actually haven't been in touch with the campaign.

RICK NEWMAN: So you know, we hear from lots of business owners and business operators at Yahoo Finance. And it seems there are many who do not like Donald Trump personally, but they do think that his deregulatory agenda has been good for business in general and that his tax policy has been good for business for-- in general. And they're kind of reluctant to change, even though they-- they know he's-- he's trouble in a lot of other ways.

Is that your read on the business community? I mean, do you feel like the business community is just fed up with Donald Trump and ready for something else? Do you feel like the business community is split? Or are they all in for Joe Biden?

CARLY FIORINA: Well, you know, it's hard for me to speak for the entirety of the business community. So I won't try. But what I will ask you and the audience to reflect on is how many businesses are willing to associate themselves or their brands with Donald Trump. And it's not very many. You don't see a lot of business CEOs going to the White House. You don't see a lot of brands associating with this president in any way. And I think that's telling.

The other thing that I would say is, yes, I agree that generally speaking, fewer regulations are better than too many. Generally speaking, less taxation is better than more. But even in a time period when Donald Trump was lowering taxes and getting rid of regulations, economic growth in this country prior to COVID was not the best in history. It's not that 2.3% or so is bad, but it certainly isn't the best we've ever done.

And so I don't think that our economy has been performing at full throttle during Donald Trump's tenure. And I think part of the reason for that is because we have these longer-term structural issues that we just have not been willing to deal with so far.

RICK NEWMAN: I want to ask you about how different sectors and different companies have responded and reacted in the coronavirus pandemic. Obviously, lots of pressure on companies and workers and it may be hard to generalize in this regard. But do you like the way you see the business community responding to this? And it's very difficult if your cash flow is down by 40% or more to keep workers onboard.

But do you-- do you like the way the corporate world is responding? Or do you see things that trouble you? And if it's a mix of both, what do you like and what don't you like?

CARLY FIORINA: Well, first let me say-- and it relates both to companies and how I see them behaving as well as to politics-- leadership matters. And character counts. It always does. But it particularly does in a crisis. And so what I've seen-- look. I know how much companies contribute to better communities and a better nation every day. And they frequently don't get the credit they deserve for it.

But what I've been really pleased by is I think companies have really demonstrated, not everyone, but most of them, have really demonstrated leadership and character. And they've done so by declaring right from the beginning the safety and health of our employees really matter to us.

And they're the most important things. And the safety and the health of our customers really matters to us even when it hurts our bottom line. And I think there are a lot of employees who really appreciate that and will remember it. And I think there are a lot of customers who will do the same as well.

I do think that in general, the business community plays such a vital role in the quality of our nation, not just the growth of our nation. And so I would, as I always do, continue to encourage companies to make positive contributions not just to the health and safety of their employees and their customers as they are, but also to the health and the safety and the unity of the communities in which their people live and work.

This is a time actually now when I think business has gained credibility through this pandemic. And so I think business can continue to step up and play a really positive role in knitting the nation back together and helping to address some of these longstanding issues.

You know, the thing that distinguishes our country from so many others is the strength of our civil society. Alex de Tocqueville commented on that a long, long, long time ago. And it's still true. And businesses, of course, are the big players in civil society.

RICK NEWMAN: Carly, I asked you a few moments ago if you still consider yourself a Republican. And you said you're not sure. Where-- where is the home among the political parties at this point for what you might call the traditional-- sort of the pro-business Republican who favors limited government but not, you know, but also favors immigration and, you know, civil rights and things like that? Where do the-- where do those people reside at the moment? Or are they homeless?

CARLY FIORINA: Well, that's a-- well, that's a really good question. And I think a lot of people who believe as you just suggested-- and I certainly do-- right now are in the Biden camp. And you've seen long lists of those people come out. I think that question can't totally be answered until after this election. If Trump wins this election, he will win this election with an even more fervent base of people than he went into. I mean, it's very clear that Trump's political strategy has been to re-energize his base and to bring more like-minded people to his base.

And so if that's the future of the Republican Party, I don't know. I think there are a lot of us who are going to consider another option. On the other hand, if Trump were to lose, then I think there is perhaps an interesting conversation in the Republican Party by people who did not support Trump or his policies or his personality or character or leadership, what I would call it, and who will begin a conversation about the future of the Republican Party after Trump.

RICK NEWMAN: Well, I'm wondering, I mean, people are having these conversations now. I mean, it seems quite plausible Trump could lose. Although like everybody, I don't know if the polls are right. And I think we all are learned not to get ahead of ourselves from 2016.

I mean, what's the chatter you hear? I mean, you're a prominent Republican by virtue of having run for president and been on the stage in 2016. Are people saying we need to somehow, if-- if Trump loses, we need to somehow excommunicate the Trump wing and reclaim the Republican Party? Or is it more like start a new party or try to go back to some kind of big tent or what?

CARLY FIORINA: Well, you know, the conversations honestly are kind of all over the map. And every single one of the alternatives that you just laid out is being discussed by various people in the party. I also think, however, that that conversation hasn't really happened to the extent it needs to. Because in the Trump Republican Party, it's all about loyalty to Trump. That is the definition of a loyal Republican now is loyalty to Trump.

And in fact, one of the things that I have said publicly and said to many of my colleagues is we are not asked as citizens of this country to pledge allegiance to a party. And we're certainly not asked to pledge allegiance to a president, any president. We're asked instead as citizens to pledge allegiance to a flag one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all and to pledge loyalty to a Constitution.

And so I say all that to say this. One of the things that I think we would be well advised to get rid of a little bit is this feeling that we either have to be always loyal to one team or another. George Washington many, many years ago, 1789 to be exact, said the trouble with political parties is they will come to care only about winning. And I think we've seen that. And so I just start from the point of view that becoming a loyal party member is not necessarily our highest order objective as citizens or as business people in this country.

RICK NEWMAN: If Trump loses, maybe he will do the Republicans a favor and try to create his own party and sort of go off and do his own thing. He-- you know, there are rumors that he's going to create his own TV network. We'll see. But you said, at the beginning of our session here, you said before you got into politics or when you got into politics, so you did get into politics. Are you still in politics? Are there things you want to run for or some role you want to have in the political world?

CARLY FIORINA: Well, you know, the answer to that is I don't know. And the honest answer is I didn't have a plan to get into politics. I didn't have a plan to run for president. But I do want always to make a positive contribution. And I am not afraid to take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves.

And I thought there was an opportunity in 2016 for someone outside of the political world who understood how to solve problems. Many voters agreed with me. That's why I think as I said that Donald Trump was elected president in the end.

So we'll see. We'll see what the future holds. But in the meantime, in the meantime, we have an election in-- thank goodness-- only eight more days now. And I am fully occupied and fully satisfied, I must say, with the work that I do lifting up leaders, helping leaders become more effective, whether that's in the corporate world where I do a great deal of work or in the nonprofit world.

Because as I said earlier, I think civil society, whether it's for profit or not for profit, has to play a bigger role going forward. We can't just leave it to politicians and say, my job is to make money or serve the homeless. It's the politician's job to take care of everything else. I don't think that's worked very well.

RICK NEWMAN: So-- so in the last minute we have left, is there any advice you would give Joe Biden, if it were one single thing whether it's his manner of presenting or the way he delivers his message or who he's trying to deliver his message to, anything you would suggest he do better?

CARLY FIORINA: No, I would tell him to be who he is. He has said that he wants to be an American president. And that's what we need. So don't be the leader of the Democrat party. Don't listen to your political operatives. Don't listen to all the folks telling you about what your policies need to be. Be who you are.

And who he is I think is a collaborator. Who he is is a decent, humble man of character who's willing to listen to anybody and work with anyone and who's focused I think pretty singularly on unifying the nation. Who he is I think is actually what we need right now.

RICK NEWMAN: Carly Fiorina, thank you so much. Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard--

CARLY FIORINA: Thanks for having me.

RICK NEWMAN: --and Republican presidential candidate back in 2016. Thank you very much.

CARLY FIORINA: Thank you.