Bloomberg Businessweek

The Electorate: America Divided

  • The Data
  • Partisan Ohio
  • Middle Class
  • Job Lovers
  • Mark Cuban
  • Old People
  • American Frights
  • Gun-Rights
  • Counterculture
  • Modern Church
  • Drake Lessons
  • Childcare
  • Graduate Salaries
  • Rural American Dream
  • What’s at Stake?
  • Population Growth
  • Refugee Haven
  • American-Made*
  • Alt-Right
  • The Anger Won't End
  • America’s Divisions Are a Cause for Hope

Mark Cuban Changes His Mind

An e-mail conversation about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton with the billionaire NBA owner and Shark Tank star.

By Ira Boudway
September 15, 2016
Photographer: Mike Fuentes/Bloomberg 

After Donald Trump announced his candidacy in 2015, Mark Cuban—the billionaire NBA team owner and Shark Tank star—called him “probably the best thing to happen to politics in a long, long time.” A year later, Cuban endorsed Hillary Clinton at a rally, asking: “Is there any bigger jagoff in the world than Donald Trump?” In August, I exchanged e-mails with Cuban about why he switched sides.

BW (8/4/16): Why did you decide to endorse Clinton?
Cuban: When Trump first declared his candidacy, I was truly excited about the possibilities. I liked the idea that someone from outside the realm of traditional politics was making a run for the presidency. I liked the idea that he was unrehearsed and still think in the long run the country will learn quite a bit from his campaign. I also had a very strong dislike for Ted Cruz. I was an “anybody but Cruz” voter. Cruz is a smart demagogue. To me that is a very dangerous combination. So in my initial support for Trump, it was very much in a hope that it would prevent Cruz from being nominated.

My comments about Trump and my opposition to Cruz led to my being able to talk to Trump over the phone and via e-mail by way of one of his assistants. In those conversations, I was clear to Donald that I didn’t agree with most of what he said. I also got the chance to ask him some poignant questions along the way that I think were very telling. I asked him if he realized that the job would entail making decisions that could lead to the death of our service people. I asked him about going to small businesses so he could connect and show people his business skills. I’m not going to share his responses, but I learned more about him from those responses.

Featured in Bloomberg Businessweek, Sept. 19-25, 2016. Subscribe now.
Photographer: William Mebane for Bloomberg Businessweek

Once he won the Republican primary, I honestly expected that he would start to become more businesslike. That he would start to add details to his top-line proposals. That he would demonstrate that he was learning the issues that he could face as president. I didn’t see him making progress or even effort on any of those fronts. But that alone wasn’t enough for me to endorse Secretary Clinton. I have been in the public eye for a long time and have never actively supported any candidate. There were two things that finally led me to endorse Secretary Clinton: The first was that I did quite a bit of homework to understand all the allegations that were directed toward her and found almost all not based on fact and the remainder far from material. The tipping issues were Trump’s positions on NATO, our treaties, dealing with our allies, his comments on nuclear weapons, and his lack of understanding of the concept of deterrence. His ignorance of these issues scared the shit out of me.

“I don’t think he understands technology. And his suggestions that tax changes and repatriation opportunities will create jobs and GDP are ridiculous”

BW: What of yourself do you see in Trump?
Nothing. But I understand him. He cares about two things, how people perceive him and how much cash he has in the bank.

BW (8/9/16): Trump gave a major economic policy speech yesterday. Did it change anything for you as far as your judgment of him?
No. There was no there there, and the hyperbole was truly Trumpian. Trillions of dollars coming back to create millions of jobs? Factories don’t just show up. Someone has to build them. Who? How long? And if a new factory is going to be built, it’s not going to be a circa 1975 factory. It’s going to be as automated as possible. I don’t think he understands technology. And his suggestions that tax changes and repatriation opportunities will create jobs and GDP are ridiculous.

BW: I’m curious why you so admire the quality of saying what’s on your mind in someone running for office.
I liked Trump’s honesty because it was different and had a chance to change the business of politics. What I didn’t realize he was missing at the time was a complete and utter lack of preparation, knowledge, and common sense.

I made the mistake of assuming that he had to have some interest in learning and keeping up with world events. That he would make the effort to learn what he didn’t know. I obviously was wrong. I can’t say it enough that learning how to learn is one of the greatest skills anyone can have. It’s why I advocate that everyone go to college. I love being challenged and defending my positions and, when I’m wrong, learning from the exchange. It makes me smarter and better as a businessperson. That’s the key difference between us. Trump never takes on the intellectual challenge. He doesn’t even try. He just talks about having a good brain. :)

BW (8/11/16): You’ve said jobs are going to continue to disappear. Is there anything businesses or the government can do so the dividends of automation fall to workers as well as owners?
Going forward, we will be automating the creation of automation. The business process of iteration will be in many cases automated. That will lead to jobs that we value today as being advanced and technical, like programmers, engineers, drafts people, and others, being replaced by future iterations of today’s machine and deep learning.

The libertarian in me hopes that the future markets will figure out new jobs and careers for workers. The pragmatist in me thinks that it could take decades for this to work itself out, so we will need to come up with programs that provide jobs to the millions of workers that will be displaced here in the States and plan for the global disruption that will occur when robotics displace low-paying jobs around the world.

I have been a proponent of dramatically expanding the AmeriCorps program. By increasing the pay of participants to a living wage, it can act as a jobs program that, rather than trying to predict what will be technically viable jobs, will value social support and provide jobs that make communities stronger. It can provide valuable jobs to those displaced by automation.

BW (8/16/16): What would be your advice to President Clinton?
I have spoken to them about simplifying regulations and enabling automation to reduce friction for small businesses. They have been very receptive so far. I believe that starting any business should be as easy as a 10-year-old starting a lemonade stand. I’ve conveyed this to them, and they again have been very receptive.