Is Howard Schultz the Answer to Our Prayers?
Last Sunday (January 27, 2019), during an interview on CBS News' 60 Minutes, Howard Schultz announced that he was considering running for president of the United States as an independent centrist. Some of you might ask, “who, the heck, is Howard Schultz?” Followed by, “why should I care if this guy wants to run for president?”
Well, he is another billionaire businessman with no experience in government similar to the bloke currently in the White House, although less well-known because he is somewhat less relentless in seeking publicity and self-aggrandizement. He is the former Chairman Starbucks where he was very successful in making Starbucks the legendary high-end coffee brand with stores on almost every corner from here to China. He is also well known for his generous personnel policies (such as health insurance, tuition assistance and stock incentives) for the baristas and other staff that worked for him.
Scott Pelley, the 60 Minutes interviewer, pointed out that Schultz is known to be a Democrat and asked why run as an independent. Schultz admitted to being a lifelong Democrat but pointed out that both parties are guilty of amassing $21.5 trillion in debt, which he called America’s greatest threat. Most of Schultz’s “centrist” policy positions that he discussed during the interview seemed to be on the liberal side of the center but he was nowhere near to democratic socialist position of many of people running for the Democratic nomination.
He was vague on specific policies but appears to favor a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, some sort of healthcare guarantee and felt that leaving the Paris Climate Agreement was a “tremendous mistake.” He appeared somewhat supportive of the Trump tax cut but felt that dropping the corporate rate from 37 percent to 21 percent was a “free ride” for business and that he would have preferred a modest cut (actually I agree with that, see Grading the GOP Tax Bill). But he continued that he would have focused tax relief on the people who have only $400 in the bank (who, by the way, probably pay very little tax). His biggest gripe was the $21.5 trillion in public debt but did not say what he was going to do about it.
He did say in the interview, “I wanna see America win,” which sounds a bit like “make America great again.” But he also said that he has great faith in “the goodness and kindness of the American people.” Where is all this goodness and kindness in the current political discourse? We will see how much goodness and kindness there is when, assuming he is elected, he tries to translate his political platform into legislation.
And that gets us to the crux of the problem, what is Mr. Schultz’s so-called centrist platform? What kind and good policies is he going to push for? What is he going to do about entitlement programs that are the primary driver of our enormous deficits? What is he going to do about Russia and China that are becoming more assertive and aggressive? What is he going to do about Iran that is spreading its influence in the Middle East?
Mr. Schultz is correct that a large portion of the country identifies as independent (as noted in previous blog posts) and this independent group is likely to increase as the traditional parties become ever more extreme, further alienating more and more people. But it is going to take more than one man to solve America’s problems and to get us back on the right course (if we can ever determine what that course is). No single person, not even a very good person, can solve all of America’s problems. That person needs an organization.
How is Mr. Schultz going to draft legislation? How is he going to get it passed? Presidents Trump and Obama could hardly get anything passed, even when their party controlled both houses of Congress, and almost nothing when they controlled only one. How is Mr. Schultz going to get anything done when he has no supporters in either house of Congress (not to mention in the ad
ministrative state or the courts)?
If Mr. Schultz wants his run for the presidency to be anything more than an exercise of his own vanity (of which we have already had a pretty big dose) he will need an organization of like-minded people to run for political office at the local, state and national level that can support his agenda. More than that, he needs a movement. A mass movement that can energize the entire population.
And while we’re at it:
And here’s the problem. Howard Schultz actually believes that he is a centrist. Granted he is more toward the center than the progressive/socialist left ideology where most of the Democratic Party is heading. But that leaves him a lot of wiggle room because the Dems have moved so far left that they sound like they are preaching from the review stand on Red Square while the ranks of the Red Army pass below.
Mr. Schultz strikes me as a typical “bleeding heart” liberal who, from his 60 Minutes interview, firmly believes in the power of government to cure the ills of society. How he plans solve the problems he raised in the interview such as food insecurity or the five and a half million kids not in school and not working (that are called ninis* in Latin America) and also address the mountain of government debt is beyond me.
But his off-center perspective is not the real problem. The real problem is that most people in the United States are beginning to believe the same thing. Social Security has long been the “third-rail” of politics (the third rail is electrified for those of you who were not raised in the urban centers of the left coast). But now Medicare, Medicaid, WIC, unemployment compensation and a host of other entitlements are also third rails that would result in the political death of any politician attempting to eliminate or even modify these programs.
Mr. Schultz may be exploring a presidential run but he is not doing much explaining how he will resolve this existential problem. The progressive left says it's easy, just tax the hell out of the wealthy like Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez’ 70% income tax or Senator Warren’s wealth tax. but how are they going to do that after they have slaughtered the golden goose with high taxes and regulatory straight-jackets? The only possible answer is to have government control the means of production (by the way that’s called socialism).
So Mr. Schultz has a lot of ‘splaining to do before he can be worthy of the centrist mantle. Let’s see how many people flock to his cause once he has given them a dose of these realities. But don’t delude yourself. Just because the Republicans and the Democrats ignore these realities does not make them go away.
* Ninis – ni escuela ni trabajando