Former eBay CEO Shares Her Values In A New Book
ARI SHAPIRO, host:
Hollywood has helped launch the political careers of California Governors Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger. And now, Silicon Valley may start churning out Golden State politicians.
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Two wealthy Internet entrepreneurs are now running for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. Both have thrown millions of their own money into the campaign. One of them is Meg Whitman.
ARI SHAPIRO, host:
She made her reputation as the CEO of the auction Web site eBay. Whitman writes about her experiences in a new book called "The Power of Many: Values for Success in Business and in Life." With a state budget deficit projected to be nearly $20 billion, I asked Whitman if her book provides a roadmap out of California's fiscal turmoil.
Ms. MEG WHITMAN: (Former President and CEO, eBay): Well, I think it provides an underlying set of values and beliefs that will be very helpful to try to turn California around. It's about being authentic. It's about being frugal and conserving resources. So many of the values that I write about in this book I think are helpful as I think about running for governor of California.
SHAPIRO: So much of the ethos that comes through in the book focuses on the desire of people to basically do the right thing and work together to accomplish the same end...
Ms. WHITMAN: Exactly.
SHAPIRO: ...which really seems true of the eBay community. But I wonder, in an inherently adversarial system like our political structure, you know, when you look at gridlock, deadlock in Sacramento in the state legislature, how do you apply a philosophy like that to a situation like running the state of California?
Ms. WHITMAN: Well, it may be gridlock in Sacramento, but it's not what the citizens of California want. They want a leader who can fundamentally change the direction of the state. And I think there's a roadmap forward here. Weve got to focus on doing three things: Weve got to create and keep jobs in California. Weve got to get government spending under control so that we can be competitive to keep jobs in California and make sure over time we can reduces taxes on the highest-taxed businesses and people in the country. And then weve got to fix our kindergarten through 12th grade education system, which is ranked near the bottom of all 50 states.
SHAPIRO: Before we get to how to accomplish those specific priorities, we have heard the current governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, say to the legislature again and again and again: People are sick of gridlock, you got to get your heads together and accomplish something. So far it hasnt worked. So how do you change that?
Ms. WHITMAN: I think its a couple of things. First is if you go to Sacramento with too broad an agenda, you'll be stymied by the legislature, you'll be stymied by the special interest, you'll be stymied by the bureaucracy. The next thing that is very central - and learnt this in my business career - you are only as good as the people who work for you. Youve got to have the right people in the right job who share the agenda of the governor. And then, the governor has to work with the legislature - no question about it - but the legislature has to work with the governor because we have line-item veto in California.
SHAPIRO: What industries do you see as the future of job growth in California?
Ms. WHITMAN: One good thing about California is we have quite a broad-based economy. We provide more fruits and vegetables and produce to the United States than any other state. So we have actually the single largest agricultural sector in the country. Obviously, we are ahead in high tech, green tech, biotech, and all those sectors are under attack. So weve got to take out top 10 industries and weve got to have an ombudsman who really works to make California attractive to those companies.
SHAPIRO: In your book, you talk about the ethos of conservation that pervades your family and the company eBay, and you have also said that as governor, one of your first acts would be to suspend California's new climate change bill, which curbs greenhouse gas emissions. Explain that to me.
Ms. WHITMAN: Well, I care a lot about the environment, but we are also facing an economic crisis. And when AB 32 was introduced, which is the bill that is designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions back to 1990 levels, we had an unemployment rate of 4.5 percent. Today it's 12.5 percent. And the challenge around AB 32 is none of our neighboring states have anything like this regulation, and it will encourage company's jobs to move to neighboring states, and I have called for a one-year suspension on the implementation of AB 32 so we can get the economy back on its feet and really understand the long-term implication.
SHAPIRO: You talk a lot in the book about the importance of brand, and you say eBay's brand was trust, fun and opportunity. And you coined the phrase, country first for John McCain's presidential campaign. In the middle of this economic crisis, what do you see as California's brand?
Ms. WHITMAN: Well, California used to be in the dream-making business, and unfortunately what's happened I think we're now in the dream-breaking business. I think we can be the very best place to start a business, to grow a business, to invent a new technology, to change the world, to change the country. But weve got a lot of work to deliver a new California to the people of California.
SHAPIRO: Meg Whitman is the former CEO of eBay and she's currently running as a Republican gubernatorial candidate in California. Her Republican opponent, Steve Poizner, is also working on a book that will be out in April.
Thanks so much.
Ms. WHITMAN: Okay. Thank you.