Billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban is backing a boost to the minimum wage and guaranteed employment, citing a dramatic shift in his views on the role of government in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic that’s upended the global economy.
Last week, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks and investor on "Shark Tank" told Yahoo Finance that he was mulling a run for the presidency in November. Until recently, Cuban leaned libertarian in his thinking — citing Ayn Rand as an influence — but said the COVID-19 crisis, which has infected nearly 1 million Americans, shifted his beliefs.
"I thought government had a role, but smaller government was always better than bigger government. And that all changed," Cuban said in a wide-ranging interview.
The 61-year-old billionaire now argues that when we emerge from this crisis, "there's going to be a completely new dynamic," which will include the need to increase the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour.
He also called for the implementation of a federally-guaranteed jobs program to jumpstart a recovery from what is widely expected to be a deep and wrenching recession. Already, millions have been tossed out of work by statewide lockdowns that have closed businesses and pushed consumers into unemployment.
"If you were to ask me four months ago whether I thought we could lose 26 million jobs and potentially many more within the space of a month, I would have said, 'You're crazy. There's just no way that's going to happen,'“ Cuban said. “And so dogma's got to go out the window.”
Cuban, who was included on President Trump's "Great American Economic Revival Industry Groups” earlier this month to advise on reopening the economy, said the biggest challenge going forward will be demand.
“[Opening] up companies is great, but if nobody has any money to spend there, then that's a real challenge,” he told Yahoo Finance.
“So, I personally think this is a chance; this reset is an opportunity for us to do a couple of new things that four months ago, I would've been totally against,” Cuban said. “But now, in this new world, I think we need to increase the minimum wage to $15 because I think this is the time to do it.”
In a shift away from trickle-down economic policies of the past, the entrepreneur called a federal jobs program "critical" to sparking demand.
"Federally-guaranteed jobs will help put people back to work, which puts money back into the economy and stimulates demand. Because unless we lift up from the bottom, we're not going to have any consumer demand. And it doesn't matter how much liquidity is in the system. The risk hasn't left the system," Cuban said.
Specifically, Cuban's ideas for a federal jobs program include training people such as health care workers to track and trace the virus, and to train people to work in long-term care as the population ages.
"I would have been against that and federal minimum wage, I would have been against that. There's just so many things that I think we need to do now," Cuban said. However, "that's what entrepreneurs do. That's what leaders do. You face the circumstances you have, and you deal with it."
Julia La Roche is a Correspondent at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.