Coffee Talk

Coffee Talk

Starbucks founder meets chamber for ‘dialogue’

By Wayne Schutsky

Starbucks founder and potential presidential candidate Howard Schultz made a stop in Scottsdale recently as part of a nationwide road trip as he considers whether or not to make a bid for the White House in 2020.

Schultz, a former Democrat who has stated he could now run as an independent, met with what was a relatively friendly crowd at the Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce for what Chamber President/CEO Mark Stanton called “a dialogue” and a “town hall” discussion.

“For the past 10 or 11 weeks, I have basically been in a different city or different place almost every other day,” Schultz says. “And the reason for that is simply trying to, without a filter, really understand with empathy and compassion what people are feeling in their community.”

The talk had much in common with previous engagements the Starbucks mogul has held in recent weeks in which he decried bipartisanship and a lack of civil discourse while providing broad policy views with few specifics on how he would actually implement them.

Schultz said that “without this 11 weeks, I’d have no understanding about what really is going on in parts of the country that I have not really been to or been familiar with.”

Schultz touched on a number of topics during his one-hour stop and did not shy away from ideas that may not be embraced by all business owners—including the need to provide more benefits for employees.

Citing the national debt and lack of access to affordable healthcare for many Americans, Schultz says business owners will to step in to provide what the government cannot for their employees.

“I’m not here to vilify businesses, but I think businesses can and should do more,” Schultz says.

Schultz also touched on the uncertain future entitlement programs, saying that the wealthy should carry more of a burden.

“One, I think the wealthy should be paying more in taxes and getting less,” Schultz says.

He says government officials need to begin having an honest conversation with the American people about raising the age for Social Security.

He spent much of the time decrying the bipartisan divide in Congress and painting himself as a candidate who, as an independent, would be free from the influence of special interests and act as a centrist choice.

While he has said he would like to see President Trump defeated in the next election, Schultz says he thinks the Democratic party has gone to too far to the left and, during the chamber town hall, criticized Democrats as much as Republicans.

He criticized a plan like Medicare for all, calling it socialist and saying it would cost the country too much money. He says it has only garnered support from younger voters due to inadequate education.

“One thing that really concerns me is that we don’t teach civics in school very much and it just shocked me to see how young people have rallied around this thought about socialism,” Schultz says.

Much of the potential candidate’s optimism lies in his belief that there is a silent majority of Americans—including independents and voters from both major parties that he believes are turned off by radical shifts to the right and left—that desire a centrist candidate who will return civility to the White House.

He blamed bipartisanship for lack of movement on comprehensive immigration reform, saying that Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama presented tenable solutions that were sunk because Congressional leadership in the other party did not want to give those presidents “a win.”

Part of the Schultz’s platform is a promise to not sign any legislation that does not have bipartisan support, according to the Miami Herald.

Schultz reiterated that promise in Scottsdale.

Still, the former Starbucks CEO was short on details on how exactly he would prompt Congress to act on that bipartisan legislation beyond just refusing to play ball with bills crafted along party lines.

Schultz has been criticized that his candidacy would do little more than siphon off votes from the Democratic candidate and deliver a second term to Trump.

Schultz brushed off the criticism.

“I think it’s a false narrative within 18 months out to think that if I run for president, I’m going to siphon Democratic votes away when I believe there are lifelong Republicans looking for an alternative on this issue of character alone,” Schultz says.

Schultz says his team has identified 40 states, including Arizona, that could be in play if he runs in the next election.

ASU Professor Samara Klar told NPR that “The misconception around his campaign is there’s this big proportion looking for a third candidate.”

Schultz, despite saying he was not there to denigrate the president, commented on President Trump’s lack of civility and blaming him for inciting bigotry and prejudice in the country.

He did not settle just for questioning Trump’s character, either. He also says he unequivocally disagrees with much of the president’s policies, including his failure to address climate change, efforts to remove environmental protections and threats to close down the southern border.

He also criticized other economic policies, such as the China tariffs, that Schultz said have hurt the very working-class people and farmers Trump had promised to help during the last election.

For Schultz, that record would be an asset if he ultimately runs against the sitting president in 2020.

“(Trump) is going to have a record to run on, and I am cautiously optimistic in the goodness and kindness of the American people and that they’ll look at this thing and say he wasn’t honest—he’s not honest,” Schultz says.