Mark Cuban on Occupy Wall Street

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.

28 replies »

  1. Well, his common sense seems to be in the right place. The sad irony is his ideas will get short shrift at policy-making levels — you outline perfectly why Cuban won’t be allowed into the rule-making club.

  2. I’m always suspect when the rich take up the cause of the masses. It’s an effort to protect their future positions. Businesses are not in business to create jobs. That’s a GOP talking point created by a politician who knows nothing about business. If OWS has a problem with that concept, move to Europe.

  3. Mark, I met you once at Kellum And Son. I didn’t know how to take you at that time but after watching the Mavericks this year and what I have heard you say about Occupy Wall Street on KLUV, I have to say I have fallen in love with you and your good soul.

  4. Mark Cuban “was a member of the 99% who made it big but who never stopped hating the soullessness of the 1%.”

    This statement belies your objectivity and proves 2 things: 1) you have found a member of the dreaded 1% who is not soulless, meaning that the 1% is in fact not a unified block of souless individuals, and 2) that the greedy motives of the 1%, although sometimes selfish, are not, in fact, always bad for the “99%.”

    Samuel smith’s article is misguided and simplistic.

    The 1% are no different from the 99%. There are good and bad people in both groups, but defining a whole class of people as soulless and evil makes this article nothing more than propaganda, and an intelligent person should dismiss this type of stereotyping. African Americans like myself have fought hard to overcome stereotypes that belittle good men. Sam Smith likes cutting down groups of people whole cloth. This is too bad.

    Sam, I wish you well, but you are misguided and childish in your thinking about the economy. I hate ripping you apart so easily, but someone had to put media types like you in their place. I’ve read too many articles like yours that espouse hate without reason, and I could not let you go without a little better understanding. Peace to you.

    • The fact that your name and e-mail address have nothing to do with one another make me wonder who you’re a sock puppet for. I can’t possibly be important enough to waste time and money on, can I?

      In any case, your “arguments” would work really well if I had said any of the things you pretend I said…..

      • In fact, the more I look at this, the more clearly this is boiler plate. You quote a bit of what I said and then customize a tad, but everything from “The 1% are no different” on is generic template.

        So whoever you are, you’re a paid whore and I’m guessing I can find this same comment in a lot of other places if I spend five minutes with the Google. S&R comment policy says I can remove stuff like this, but I’m going to leave it up because it proves how nervous certain people are getting over the Occupy movement.

        Thanks for the pick-me-up. I’m feeling better by the day…..

    • Sam, I did some poking around on Glenngraham’s comment and didn’t find anything that indicated it was something that either he or anyone else had posted repeatedly, boilerplate fashion. The only place I found significant chunks of that comment posted anywhere on the Web that Goggle can reach was here. So IMO, we can set aside that possibility until/unless more data becomes available.

      GG, Sam never claimed to be objective here. The fact that he labeled the wealthiest 1% of America as soulless instead of using less rude language for the same thing shows this. So you’re trying to tar Sam as lacking objectivity when he never claimed to be objective. However, Sam’s point that the to 1% are “soulless” is factual, if you define “soulless” as “lacking empathy for those on lower social rungs” and/or “preferring personal wealth to clean air and water” and/or “demanding ‘heads I win, tails you lose’ bailouts,” and the like. Because it is objectively true the wealthiest 1% of America tend toward those sociopathies as a group – that Cuban appears not to ascribe to such is an aberration that demonstrates just how “soulless” the rest of his peers actually are. That they would reject him as a peer because he actually earned his money instead of inherited or stole it further demonstrates Sam’s point.

      Put more simply, Cuban appears to be the exception that proves the rule in this case.

      I have to take exception to your description that Sam is espousing “hate” or that he called the top 1% “evil.” Sam writes a great deal about what Cuban thinks about the Occupy Wall Street movement, but very little about the 1% beyond calling them “soulless.” And as I pointed out, there are objectively true reasons why the wealthiest 1% of Americans are being targeted for protest.

      As an African American, I’m sure you’ve been on the receiving end of far more than your fair share of stereotypes. But there are two truths about stereotypes – they always have some basis in fact, and they are always wrong when applied to an individual. No-one matches every stereotype, and that’s as true about the wealthiest 1% as it is about African Americans (or nerds, or jocks, or stoners, or…). This point is well known to anyone with a high school education, and if you reread the original post, you’ll find that Sam acknowledges this fact directly. In fact, it’s central to Sam’s argument. Pointing it out as if Sam had forgotten to do so was either a failure in reading comprehension or an “own goal” that weakened your own argument.

      • You’re being kind. Whether you find copies or not, everything from the point I note on is generic template. Read it. I do marketing and communications for a living and nobody writes that generically for one comment.

        • I’m not the expert you are on this kind of stuff, but 5 minutes poking around on Google looking for key phrases in that generic paragraph didn’t turn up anything that closely matched it. Lack of evidence via Google doesn’t mean you’re wrong, just that there’s a lack of evidence.

        • That part is true. I’m not certain to what extent Google crawls comments, either.

          In any case, the text itself makes clear that whether this is paid or just the work of a working guy who’s desperately attempting to screw his own self-interests, those words were written to be, as we comm whores call it, “repurposed.”

  5. Occupy? Against corporations? Against business? If the 1 percent are evil, should Mark Cuban fire employees and give away money until he is no longer in the top 1 percent? With me owning a small corp. Should I fire my workers and look for a job? The entire occupation is ignorant and misguided. The time spent demonstrating could be spent starting a company and hiring your fellow man. This is the absolute problem. A complete lack of Entrepreneurship. They do not represent anywhere near a majority of the American public. If shareholders want to invest money in a corporation that over compensates its executives, What business is it of the occupiers? You absolutely cannot have it both ways. Mark Cuban is indeed part of the problem as you the occupiers describe it. A venture capitalist and owner of a professional sports team. I agree with Mark’s views. I have no problem with the way he earns his money. However, the occupiers if they have any integrity, or belief in the views they express, must dislike him. He is part of the 1 percent.

  6. The occupiers are against the greed of Wall Street. The money Wall Street earns is from the shareholders of the corporations. The shareholders are investors or groups of investors. Is the goal to reduce compensation for the CEO’s? The money is sent to them via a board of directors nominated in a vote by the shareholders typically. To accomplish the goal of the protesters is impossible. Absolutely, Totally Impossible to reduce the amount of money earned by the CEO of a publicly traded corporation. If the goal is raising taxes, as Mark says Tax them. The statistic used over and over is the 1% who control 99% of the wealth. If the goal is redistribution. The redistribution would start with Mark Cuban.

  7. Samuel Smith so missed the point and resorted to Ad Hominem responses and condescension. It appears that Glenngrahams response made him wiggle in his seat and stew and try to cover it up with mocking laughter.

    Yes Samuel, please leave his post up so others can see your very telling responses.

  8. Followed link to Blog Maverick. Never knew Cuban was any different from the usual no-regulations, no taxes crew. Rare treat to hear an executive speak like that.

  9. Hey arrdvarks, did you know that the US has the lowest rate of self-employment (i.e. entrepreneurship) in the developed world?

    If one wants to do what you propose, he’ll have to do without health insurance or by spending a huge percentage of his theoretical income to insure himself. He’ll have to compete in a market heavily distorted by major corporations that use their size and political influence to distort markets. He’ll have to find a way to start a business when the capital is mostly allocated to casino games rather than value-added productivity.

    But other than that, yeah, they should all get off their lazy asses and be productive.

  10. Everyone who is disagrees with you are not paid operatives. I am a conservative who is for obama. Against blowing tax dollars on foreign wars. The anger at the demonstrations and the rubber stamping of cuban is the lunacy of it all. Is the Author going to dictate executive pay? At what dollar point is it wrong for a corporation to exist and hire people? Is a pertinent ? As opposed to being. Unemployed. I am majority sharehoder and ceo of my corporation. My workers earn from 15$ to 27$ perhour based upon performance. Should we fire the workers if we earn to much? The demonstrations are absolute lunacy with no well defined accomplishable objective. Cuban’s post does try todefine it.why? Because it is in the very dna of the successful 1 percent business owner. The effects of the changes the demonstrators request will be applied to Mark first. A billionair with a sports team. I agree with Mark Cubans post, except for the us and them mentality of the piece.

    • Everyone who is disagrees with you are not paid operatives.

      No, not everyone. I don’t think we said anything like that. But some of what we have seen here is clear sock puppetry.

      I agree with Mark Cubans post, except for the us and them mentality of the piece.

      There is a decided us vs. them mentality these days. And I think I speak for a lot of people when I say that I wish it weren’t like that. Once upon a time it was a lot less this way. If you go back and look at the political economy of the Eisenhower years, for instance, you had a huge middle class and it was possible for most Americans to earn a living.

      But that changed, and it wasn’t the middle class or the working class that incited the change. It has been a persistent, calculated campaign on behalf of the “1%” (no, not each and every individual in that crowd – there are exceptions, like Buffett and Cuban and Soros and Ted Turner) and the think tanks they have established to grease those skids.

      If my post suggests an us vs. them mindset, it’s a simple matter of me acknowledging the fact of what others have created.

  11. Health INSURANCE SUCKS! HUGE. To a rent a clue to those that do not understand. If your corporation does not make much money to be taxed upon. They have programs to help get your medical bills paid. I negotiate on my own to have the orthopedist operate on my wife’s broken ankle. The cost is much less than paying monthly insurance costs to an insurance company. They deny the large bills anyway. An absolute shame with absolute lunacy. As far as soul less and the upper 1%. What are you talking about? They do not have religion? Believe in God? Rich man and the eye of a needle (Bible Based?). Absolute folly. When business grows to a certain point. If the system is strong enough. Money floods in. The money is spent on business assets that help more workers for the business. The very thing they demonstrate against, is the very thing that would offer them employment. The masters program for college (in my discipline (computers IS)) is sometimes paid for by the employer, if the candidate is strong enough to warrant the investment. Is the Corporation wrong to do this? The demonstrators want less college loans? Lunacy.

  12. The golden years? No way. GI track homes. The definition of Middle Class has changed. Mc Mansions financed by garbage loans to people without the means to pay for them. Trillions of dollars spent on inflating a market (Housing), fraudulently. Lessen learned. The money is has been cut off to that market. Of course the balloon (housing) will deflate. As it does, less jobs, less secondary businesses selling and growing. Look around. Drive threw neighborhoods and look at the size of the homes. There still is a middle class, it just is not recognized by classical economic measures. As a business owner I adjust to the market. In case your wandering our business is having a great year. When I run ads to hire people on craigslist. Few apply compared to previous years. This is my reality at 15$ per hour to start. They must be busy demonstrating. LOL

  13. This coming from a guy that sold a business that had $13.5 million dollars in revenue for $5.9 billion dollars. Oh yea, he’s a man of the people alright. Give me a break.

  14. The OWS folks I’ve seen all seem to feel they are owed something. Life isnt fair. They have a right to sleep outside and complain, but the scary reality is they represent the first generation that may not have it as good as their parents did.

  15. Please avoid generalities. This generation earned less than the one before. Some of us are doing better than the prior two generations. Stop occupying, start a business and hire the unemployed worker.