Kevin O’Leary, a wealthy investor nicknamed “Mr. Wonderful” on ABC’s Shark Tank, said Saturday that Congress should prioritize putting money into the pockets of the American people instead of funnelling taxpayer dollars into corporate bank accounts.
Almost eight whole months have passed since the federal government authorized financial aid for unemployed workers. The $600 per week supplemental Pandemic Unemployment Assistance expired in July, and the remaining benefits are scheduled to lapse at the end of the year. As well, Congress has failed to issue additional $1,200 stimulus checks since the first round were sent out last April.
Speaking with Yahoo! Finance, O’Leary, who considers himself to be a “conservative investor,” said that the priority needs to be getting cash to human beings, rather than businesses.
“I’m not worried about business in America, I’m worried about people in America,” O’Leary told Yahoo! Finance Live. “I’d much rather have a stimulus package that gives individual checks or extends unemployment benefits for the next 14 months. The idea that the government can pick winners and losers in business has clearly been demonstrated to be false.”
The government should “stop funding companies,” O’Leary continued. He added that the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) – loans that were provided to small businesses to keep their payrolls alive – saw too much money go to waste.
But O’Leary went even further, blasting the concept of propping up multi-billion-dollar companies who are beholden to shareholders. He suggested that industries such as the airlines should declare bankruptcy, as they so often do, and stop guzzling up public funds.
“Why do I want to bail out the shareholders of an airline when really it should go bankrupt? The middle name of airlines is bankruptcy. They do it well, every seven to 10 years. Let them do it again, to downsize because I don’t need them, the S&P doesn’t need them. We don’t need to fly everywhere anymore. We can do it on a Zoom call,” said O’Leary. “I want to take care of the flight attendants and the people that used to work at those airlines, but that’s just one sector of the economy.”
Retail businesses have taken a huge hit because of COVID-19, particularly due to social distancing guidelines and rules prohibiting large gatherings. O’Leary said that these enterprises should embrace the drop in overhead expenses and opt for conducting transactions digitally.
“We don’t fly to see buyers anymore in our retail locations. We do it digitally. We’re saving thousands of dollars in business travel. All of the tools we use like DocuSign, Crowdstrike, Shopify, these have made our businesses far more efficient. So there you have an opportunity, instead of making 15% pre-tax, you can make 18%,” he said.
The consumer markets, O’Leary stressed, will determine the future of the economy but only if actual people have money to spend in their local economies, which is the foundation of American capitalism.
“Do I want to buy into a movie theater chain? No, it’s going to zero, but that’s OK. They’re the buggy whips,” O’Leary said. “Those are the old economy. We have a new digital economy coming that’s going to be fantastic and that’s why the market is hitting new highs. Winners, losers — that’s capitalism, but people we got to care about.”
Forty-six days until the inauguration.
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Brandon is a political writer for the Hill Reporter specializing in current events, breaking news, and scientific discovery. Brandon holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Indiana University. He lives in New York City.