SiriusXM host Alex Marlow welcomed billionaire businessman Mark Cuban of ABC’s Shark Tank to Breitbart News Daily on Friday.
Marlow asked Cuban about his “Radical Transport” Kickstarter campaign to create hoverboards with two key features previous products lacked: they will be made in the U.S., and they will not explode.
“It’s made in the United States. We have a few parts we have to import, that we couldn’t make here. It’s going to be assembled in Dallas, so it’s going to be made with a lot more care,” Cuban explained.
“We’re UL-approved, which the previous boards out of China were not,” he noted. “Everything is redesigned. It’s all-new intellectual property. The previous hoverboards, they were designed to push the price down, be as inexpensive as possible, and appeal to as many kids as possible. We’ve taken a completely different approach: All-new intellectual property, a whole new design. It’s a lot more responsive. It’s a lot safer from a manufacturing perspective.”
“It’s a lot more oriented toward high-performance riders, if you will. Believe it or not, there’s a group of people who don’t just want to ride them around the house or the driveway. They want to do tricks and kind of be an alternative to skateboards. That’s the market we’re going after, so they’ll be a little bit more expensive, too,” he said.
Cuban said that in all of his companies, “we’re not allowed to buy anything overseas until we’ve priced it here in the United States first.”
“There are some products we just can’t get here, like with the Mavericks, I can’t get my T-shirts all made here. They’re twice as expensive. But anything else, all the tchotchkes, whatever we give away, it always has to be priced here in the United States, just in case something’s changed. If it’s even close, the tie goes to the U.S.A. company,” he said.
Marlow saluted Cuban, a supporter of Hillary Clinton in 2016 and critic of President Donald Trump, for appearing on Breitbart News Daily.
“I like facilitating dialogue between people who disagree,” said Marlow. “You’d be shocked at how hard it is to get Hillary supporters to come on a show like this and talk to me.”
Cuban in turn applauded Marlow and the Breitbart News Daily crew for welcoming such guests when they do appear.
“I agree with you. I take the same approach. I don’t need to go and talk to people who agree with me. We already agree,” he said. “I learn from people who disagree with me. I call it checking my hole card: you know what you have underneath there, but you’re always checking to make sure you’re still being consistent in your thoughts. I want people to challenge me. That’s how I get smarter. That’s how I learn.”
“I try not to be an ideologue about anything. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong, and I’m willing to evolve. Coming on a show like this is a great opportunity for me,” he added, stressing that he was not a partisan for the left or the Democratic Party, but an independent.
Cuban agreed with Marlow that the healthy exchange of ideas was vital, especially in a time when so many people are living in ideological bubbles or actively calling for the suppression of speech with which they disagree.
“I don’t know if there’s necessarily a ‘crackdown’ on free speech, but I do agree with you that we kind of insulate ourselves and tend to live in our own little bubbles,” he said. “We tend to see the news with which we agree. To me, that’s a real problem. It was a problem during the election, and it continues to be.”
“When we have two people that disagree or groups that disagree, if we can have an open dialogue, we both get a chance to get a little smarter, and that’s always a good thing,” he said.
Cuban said he could not divulge the details of his private meeting with White House strategist and former Breitbart News executive Steve Bannon months ago.
“The heart of the matter is, I’ve known Steve since the late 90s, early 2000s, when he was in the entertainment business, so it was just a chance to catch up,” he said. “He ran a company called The Firm, which did a lot of work in Hollywood, so I had occasion to meet with him. We have a good relationship. But again, like us, we don’t have to agree on everything, but we can certainly discuss it all.”
Marlow asked if President Trump’s success was inspirational as Cuban pursues his own political ambitions or if it “terrifies you that Trump is the president.”
“I would say it inspires me because we’re so different,” Cuban replied, after laughing at the phrasing of the question. “I think the commonality is that we’re both businesspeople, but we take a completely different approach to how we do business. If you’ve read anything I’ve said, I haven’t been a big fan of his approach. I have been a fan of some of his economic policies.”
“I’m trying to be open-minded and see what works and what doesn’t work,” he said. “A lot of my – I wouldn’t call them political aspirations, but more willingness to get out there and talk more about these things – is just from my desire to learn and my desire to do what’s best for the country.”
Cuban added that as an entrepreneur, he has “a desire to try to help create as many jobs as possible.”
“These days, more than ever, politics and entrepreneurship intersect,” he observed.
He thought it was not quite right to say that he and Trump are similar in background and personality but diametrically opposed politically because there are issues upon which they agree.
“I believe in lower taxes. I believe in more efficient government. I believe in reducing bureaucracy. I believe that we shouldn’t have lobbyists who can go in or former government workers who can come back and lobby. So in a lot of respects, we’re very much the same,” he said.
“I disagree with him on trade, but I think he’s evolving his trade position. You know, he’s backed off on NAFTA. He’s backed off on the border adjustment tax stuff, at least from initial appearances. He’s not been as aggressive on trying to not work with other countries,” Cuban said of Trump.
“I think there’s a lot of things that we’re on the same page about, but those are more conservative values, I think, than they are Donald Trump values. Where I disagree with him vehemently is that he doesn’t do a good job of communicating, and I don’t think he has great leadership skills. I say that based off of a long history in investing in companies and working with a lot of different corporate leaders. That’s where I really take issue with him,” he explained.
Cuban strove to make a distinction between President Trump’s ability to draw large crowds at his rallies and the kind of leadership skills to which he was referring.
“Going to a rally is part of an entertainment and part of a social gathering. More power to him, right? Whether there’s 15 or 50,000, more power to him for bringing them in, more power for getting them excited. He is a good marketer. He gets credit for that,” Cuban allowed.
“But once you get the job – this may not seem like a great analogy, but trying to get an investor, whether it’s from Shark Tank or me or anybody investing in your company, that’s an accomplishment. But once you get the investment, you have to run the company profitably,” he continued. “You have to be able to execute on the things that you’ve said the company is going to do.”
“Donald Trump going out there and holding rallies. That’s him bringing in the investors, the voters. Now that he’s been elected, it’s time for him to execute and be a leader and try to take the entire country – not just the people who voted for him – to a place that’s best for the United States. That’s the challenge for him right now, from my perspective,” he said.
Cuban observed that Trump “didn’t campaign as a politician, but he’s becoming a politician.”
“I think there’s a variety of business leaders, from Bill Gates to Warren Buffett to – not Mark Zuckerberg, but Sheryl Sandberg, people that I respect as businesspeople. Howard Schultz,” he added, offering some examples of the leadership style he believes Trump should emulate.
“Put aside their politics. They’ve taken companies that have tens of thousands – even Rex Tillerson, right? People have taken companies with tens of thousands of employees, and despite the varied political viewpoints of those employees, have put them working together towards a common goal that has led to significant accomplishments for the company and for the people at that company,” he said.
“That’s the position he’s in right now, that he’s got to achieve. That’s where a lot of people had hoped he would be able to deliver with business acumen and business skills as a leader. I don’t believe he has,” Cuban said of Trump.
Marlow asked if Cuban would agree Rex Tillerson was a “bold pick of the president, to put a CEO into the secretary of state position.”
“I have no problem with it. I thought it was a good pick, simply because Rex has managed 75,000 people,” Cuban said. “I had no problem with that pick at all. But now, look at whether Donald Trump, President Trump, is letting Rex Tillerson do his job. We haven’t seen Rex Tillerson stand up and say, ‘This is my vision for the State Department.’ We haven’t seen him stand up. Where he’s stood up and spoken has almost been a contradiction to what the president has said in terms of policy.”
“And so you’re starting to see that bifurcation, those challenges between the people that he’s picked for these cabinet positions and the positions they’re taking when they’re out there doing their jobs and the positions the president has taken when he’s tried to communicate with the people. That’s a problem. That’s a leadership issue,” he argued.
Turning to some specific issues, Marlow brought up health care, which he noted Cuban has referred to as a “right.” He asked Cuban to explore that logic by explaining why people don’t have an equivalent “right” to food and housing.
“Let’s take a step back,” Cuban began. “First of all, we all have to eat, we all need a place to live, and we all get sick. We all play that genetic lottery. No one dies healthy. You’re going to get sick. Everybody you know is going to get sick.”
“The decision we make as a country is, how much are we going to help people when they get sick? Because when someone gets sick and they don’t have the means to pay for their health care, we pay for it anyway,” he contended. “You pay for it. I pay for it. All taxpayers pay for it, one way or the other. There’s nobody who gets sick and we just let die. There’s nobody that gets sick and there’s no economic consequences.”
“So from my perspective, the question isn’t is it a right because it’s in the Constitution, or why not food, why not everything else. The question is, what’s the best economic course for the United States? What’s the best economic course for the American people?” he asked.
“The reality is, given we all have to pay for everybody’s health care – whether it’s directly or indirectly – I’d rather see us just take on this problem and say, ‘Let’s do it’ in the most cost-efficient manner.”
“And because health care, really, we all face the same genetic risk. We all face the same randomness of life risk, where you can be in an accident, et cetera, when you’re able to spread the cost among everybody for – not all healthcare issues; if you sprain your ankle, that’s on you. If you break your finger, that’s on you, right? But if you get a chronic illness, if you get a serious illness or life-threatening illness, that’s something I think we should all share the cost in because we all face the same unknowns and the same risks,” he said.
“And when we have people that fall through the cracks, and we don’t pay for them, we end up paying more indirectly. When someone has to go to the hospital because they don’t have insurance – and by the way, I think the insurance companies should be out of the mix altogether – but when someone needs health care and they don’t have the ability to pay for it, in our communities, we end up paying for it one way or the other. That means my property taxes go up. That means sales taxes go up in order to pay for a local hospital, local medical services, et cetera,” he said.
“I would rather just all of us recognize that these are shared risks and share in paying the costs – not for all healthcare issues, like I mentioned, but for chronic and serious injuries and healthcare problems. For everything else, just leave a free and open market. You’re taking the greatest cost away from the insurance companies,” Cuban said.
“Now, the insurance companies will hate it because they’re making twenty percent,” he added. “They make a twenty percent VIG off of all those costs. Their net income might only be about seven percent, but when insurance companies are doing $180 billion or $160 billion in revenue, that could fall to $30 billion. So they’re going to hate this idea.”
“But the reality is, we all pay for each others’ health care, directly or indirectly,” he stressed. “As a businessperson, as an entrepreneur, I’d rather just say, ‘What’s the best way to solve the problem of health care?’ rather than just putting it all into the government as, ‘Okay, you come up with Obamacare or an alternative.’ I don’t think that’s the right way to do it.”
Another issue Cuban has been involved with is student loan debt.
“We’ve got a problem, and I’ve been speaking about this for years,” he said. “I said the same thing to Obama when Secretary Clinton came out with her suggestion that all student loans should basically be dismissed and college should be free. I said that was a bad idea. I told her that was a bad idea.”
“Right now, I think the cost of tuition has increased dramatically over the past 20 years, simply because there’s too much easy money to be borrowed for tuition,” he explained. “Now, I have no problem with Pell grants. I have no problem with basic loans, up to $5700, I think it is. But what’s happening now is, private lenders are lending to families thirty, forty, fifty thousand dollars per year in some cases. And because that money is so easy to borrow, it’s really easy just for colleges to continue to increase their tuition.”
“I’m not suggesting that we dismiss all loans that students have, even though that’s what some people would like,” he emphasized. “But what I am suggesting is, if we’re going to arrest the increases and inflation in college tuition and living expenses, we’re going to have to end the easy money.”
“Whatever the number is, I’d like to see a cap on the amount of money that a family could borrow in any given year and in total,” he suggested. “If you do that, the easy money stops for colleges. They have to become more efficient.”
“Right now, particularly big public universities, they’ll have more administrators making over $200,000 a year than they have teachers or professors making over $200,000 a year,” Cuban pointed out. “The economics are just wrong in universities. They’ll have a sociology building, a psychology building, a business building – none of which has unique features that are required for their teaching purposes, but they’re there just because a donor paid for them. I think all that just creates tuition inflation, and that needs to change.”
Cuban disagreed with Marlow that too many university resources are devoted to liberal arts classes that have few applications in the working world.
“I think right now the argument could be made that liberal arts majors aren’t going to make as much, and it’s far more difficult to get a job,” he countered. “But we’re going to go through a complete change in the nature of work over the next five to ten years.”
“What’s happening with artificial intelligence and its derivatives and robotics, machine learning, deep learning, neural networks – if you work for software, or if you are in a position that you’re doing the same job, or it’s a repetitive job, over and over, or if you’re in a rules-based job – if this, then that – there’s a good chance your job’s going to be displaced over the next ten years,” he predicted.
“As we get more into a machine learning/deep learning environment, we’re going to need more free thinkers who know how to use data than we’ll need people who maybe were bookkeepers or accountants, even some lawyers. Those jobs, because they’re rules-based, there’s not going to be a need for those. We’re literally going to have machines more capable of doing that. It used to be that we told machines what to do. Now we’re asking machines what to do,” said Cuban.
Marlow clarified that he was concerned about students who incur enormous debt earning degrees that offer them no real prospect of repaying the debt through gainful employment. He cited someone he knows personally who incurred $200,000 in student loan debt to earn a Women’s and Gender Studies degree, realized it was of little use to her career ambitions, and started over as a medical student, studying alongside his wife.
“Two questions there,” Cuban responded. “One, she went to the wrong school. She went to a school that was too expensive. She didn’t go to a school she could afford. That was the first issue, and that was her choice. She’s obviously dealing with the consequences.”
“Two, it’s all going to change. We don’t know what the best jobs are going to be in ten years, for the reasons I mentioned earlier,” he continued. “Between robotics and deep learning/machine learning, not to get too technical, the nature of work is going to change. There’s going to be significant displacement. I don’t have a relationship with the administration, but the people I know that work in and around the White House that I have been able to talk to, that’s the overriding theme that I’ve been preaching to them.”
“This goes back to an issue I have with President Trump: he doesn’t have a curiosity to learn. He doesn’t a quest for knowledge,” Cuban charged. “Part of that has led to his excitement over creating factories and what he calls ‘bringing in jobs.’ The reality is – write this down – look at the companies that he is saying are opening up factories, and make a note for their total employment the day he makes an announcement – whether it’s Ford, GM, whoever it may be. And then two years from now, look at the total employments for those companies. I guarantee you, the total number of employees for those companies will be down because the factories that President Trump is so excited about will lead to fewer jobs, not more jobs.”
“Technology marches on,” he mused. “That’s not a bad thing. I’d rather have that technology be hosted in the United States, where we have some level of control over our own destiny, than those factores be created in China where they are being created, and they are changing the cost and the nature of work there already. The point being that unless you recognize the changes and disruption that are coming in the very short term, it’s going to be very difficult to say, ‘Okay, this is the type of classes you should take.’”
“And so I’ve said publicly, I don’t have a problem with a women’s studies major if they’re smart, if they’re inquisitive, if they’re willing to continue to learn. I tell this to all my friends and their kids, et cetera, and my own kids – my oldest is 13 – the greatest skill that you can have is a thirst for knowledge, loving and learning how to learn because things are going to be changing so dramatically over the next ten years in terms of technology that we don’t know what the best jobs are going to be. So we’re all going to have to continue to learn how to find new skills,” he said.
“Now, your wife and her friend, they’re in great shape. You talk about, going back a little bit to health care, if it was up to me, one of the programs I would start is a program that paid to have more doctors because if we’re going to push down the cost of health care, we should subsidize the cost of medical school – not to any amount that the school would charge us, but offer your wife $50,000 a year, and make it available not just to her, but so that instead of there being 90,000 med students in school in any given year, there are 180,000 med students in school in any given year. We spend the $900 million or $1 billion a year, whatever it may be, knowing that that increased competition, because we have more doctors, is going to push down the cost of medical care,” said Cuban.
“Those are the types of things that I think, if we start to anticipate what’s coming down the pike in the future, we can be smarter and have an impact on health care, on insurance costs, on medical costs. There’s just so many things that we can do. Again, I’ll go back to the president: these aren’t the types of conversations that are being held in the White House. They’re looking backwards to the way things used to be and trying to recreate those, as opposed to looking forward to the way things should be,” he said.
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