Mark Cuban's terrible idea

Mark Cuban has had a lot of good ideas. He's an entrepreneur who is smart, wealthy, owns a world champion basketball team, and has been making cameo's on HBO's hit show Entourage.

He's seems pretty awesome actually.

But they say that in order to have good ideas, you need to have a lot of bad ones, and this truth is reflected most recently in his blog post titled "An Idea for the Economy that will Freak Out a lot of People but could be Fun to Discuss."

In it, Mark makes the argument that what our economy needs is jobs, and that the way we should do that is to allow companies to self identify themselves as companies that could create jobs, and get loans directly from the government.  The idea being that a business could say "If I had X dollars, I could make Y jobs" and that this would be more efficient than the government trying to create jobs.

I like this idea.

It drives me nuts that the Federal Reserve prints money, gives it to banks with almost no interest, and then we pay the banks somewhere between 3% and 6% when we borrow money.  And this idea of directly injecting capital to people that could create jobs is great.

Where his idea goes terribly awry though is in who he thinks should get these loans.  Here's his criteria:

Of course you will have to set some minimum parameters in order to prevent the dreamers, crazies and who knows whats from clogging up the system. I would set those minimums including: The company must be in business for at least 10 years. They must be have at least 100 full time employees. They must do 100mm in revenues.  And of course they must be up to date on their taxes and Im sure there are other things to think of as well.

Before the commentary, let's just list a some companies that would be eligible for this program, and those that would not be:

Eligible

  • AIG - one of the root causes of our financial crisis
  • Citibank - Full of liars and crooks
  • Bank of America - Liars and crooks
  • General Motors - Maker of cars that still have the same gas mileage as 15-20 years ago.
  • Etc. Etc. Etc.

Not Eligible
  • 37signals - Creators of Ruby on Rails, catalyst for some of the biggest innovations our economy has seen in decades.
  • Chargify - the company he just invested in that has constant job openings.
  • Tesla - Makers of the worlds only electric engine that gets a range of over 300 miles.
  • My wife's new yoga studio - a new brick and mortar business in the neighborhood where we raise our kids.
  • Countless technology startups
  • Community banks that invest in local businesses.
The reality is that many companies that would be eligible under Mark's plan are the very companies that need to die.  And giving them loans would only keep them on life support longer.  Moreover, they are the less productive than smaller companies.

We'd be giving loans to companies so people could sit around conference room tables shuffling power points back and forth instead of giving the money to the doers that are actually getting things done right now.

In a rain forest, when an older tree dies, the younger trees literally race towards the sky in an attempt to become the tallest where their leaves get the sun.  Mark's plan is akin to bringing in bulldozers - trampling all over the small trees - and holding up the dead trees with hooks and chains.

It's paying $1,000,000 per year keeping your brain dead 110 year old grandmother on life support instead of putting money aside so your children can start their own businesses.

Mark's idea to allow businesses borrow money directly from the government at extremely low interest rates is a good one.

But he's horribly, horribly mistaken on who should actually get the money.