I’ve long thought that Mark Cuban was a really bright guy. He’s not omniscient, by any means – every once in awhile he’ll wander down a blind alley of an idea and I’ll wonder if he’s finally run out of smart. But my experience is that he usually bounces right back with something that makes a lot of sense. In sports terminology, he never loses two in a row, and that’s a formula for success.
I certainly appreciate that in an era of pathological greed, here’s a gazillionaire with clearly articulated progressive tendencies. He’s a guy whose employees seem to love him. He’s generous, apparently, and willing to spend whatever it takes to succeed. When it comes to competing, he’s always struck me as a man who adheres to the “self-interest, rightly understood” principle that de Tocqueville talks about in Democracy in America. I have no idea whether he’s even heard of de Tocqueville, of course, but he seems to get the underlying values, regardless.
Yesterday, Cuban offered up another round of pro-Main Street thinking at BlogMaverick. This piece is entitled “My soapbox advice to the OWS movement and then some,” and it begins by going for the throat of one of the greatest lies of our time.
Great CEO White Lie = “We are acting in the best interests of shareholders.”
When a CEO utters this lie, everyone automatically forgives whatever they do. Add 10k jobless to the unemployment rolls ? Sorry, we did it in the BEST INTEREST OF SHAREHOLDERS. Merge or buy a company and cut back across the board ? We did it in the Best Interest of Shareholders.
The problem is that unless the company is losing money and it is the only way to keep the company alive, in this era of 9.1pct unemployment it NEVER is in the BEST INTEREST OF SHAREHOLDERS.
Shareholders , whether they own shares directly or through mutual funds or pensions do not live in a corporate vacuum. Their lives are impacted by far more than the share price of a stock. Every layoff in the name of more earnings per share puts a stress on the economy, on the federal, state and local governments which is in turn paid for through taxes or assumption of government debt by….wait for it.. the same shareholders CEOs say they want to benefit.
If OWS really wants to change corporate structure and impact the economy, talk to shareholders. Talk to your parents, uncles/aunts, cousins, friends who own shares of stocks either directly or indirectly and have them state loudly and clearly that they would rather have a higher Price to Earnings Ratio and even a lower stock price than have their TAXES increase in order to support all the people laid off from their jobs in the name of shareholders!
Cuban’s ideas here are, as is so often the case, provocative. For instance, he and I could probably quibble over piece of advice #3: “Limit the Size of Student Loans to $2,000 per year.” But – and this is key – he provides a thoughtful rationale for the proposal that actually makes some sense once you work your way past the initial resistance that any pro-education progressive is bound to react with. Even if I wind up disagreeing with him on the validity of the idea, it is nonetheless one that seeks to innovate solutions around the realities of the market and economy (and I don’t mean Randite faux-realities – I mean actual realities of how things actually work in actual markets and societies). And it is 100% good-faith. Cuban believes in the 99% and obviously feels a healthy loathing for the 1%. Even better, when he offers up proposals like these, he reframes the debate in terms that privilege genuine progressive values. If you engage the student loan idea straight-up, for instance, he wins automatically because you have accepted that quality education should be universally accessible and affordable. Clever, that.
His fourth piece of unsolicited advice? “Tax the Hell Out of Wall Street; Give it to Main Street.” What follows is a radical proposal with a coherent, pro-human justification.
If I haven’t convinced you to click over and read the entire post yet I give up. I’m also recommending that you add Cuban to your regular reading list. The man has a soul and no fear whatsoever. If you’re a sports fan you’ve been watching him stand up to the old boys who run the NBA, spitting in their eyes every chance he got, for years. You’ve also seen Major League Baseball allow franchises to run themselves into the ground rather than let him into the club (sweet hell, Congress should force the McCourts to sell him the Dodgers). You may not have always approved of his behavior, which can seem immature and bratty. But that was a member of the 99% who made it big but who never stopped hating the soullessness of the 1%. This is probably, at its core, the main reason the old boys don’t want him in the room: all that money didn’t change him and he still remembers who he was before the billions.
Mark Cuban is one of us, only with more money. In a week where I keep seeing Occupy the Boardroom notices every time I look at Facebook, it’s nice to see that one boardroom is already occupied and what do you know – it seems to be working just fine.