Shark Tank’s Kevin O’Leary on COVID-19 stimulus: Give American people checks, ‘stop funding companies’

Shark Tank's Kevin O'Leary

O’Leary said the government should “stop funding companies” and bail out Americans instead. UBI is the answer.

By: Alexis Christoforous

Time is running out for lawmakers to approve a second coronavirus relief package. A host of programs created to provide financial relief during the pandemic are set to expire December 31, and lawmakers are scheduled to begin their holiday recess December 18.

There are signs that a scaled-down deal might be in the works, but those popular $1,200 stimulus checks may not be part of another round of aid.

Shark Tank investor and entrepreneur Kevin O’Leary says that would be a mistake.

“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.”

O’Leary said the government should “stop funding companies” and bail out Americans instead. He said a third of the federal Payment Protection Program (PPP) loan money designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll during the pandemic was “wasted” to fraud and abuse.

“Why do I want to bail out the shareholders of an airline when really it should go bankrupt?” O’Leary asked. “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. 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.”

O’Leary said he’s slashed business travel at his various companies by 20% to 50% in Q1 and Q2.

“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.

“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.”

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