Is this a joke?
Billionaire Howard Schultz is considering running for president of the United States. The ex-Starbucks CEO and former owner of the Seattle SuperSonics, who has zero experience in government or politics, thinks Donald Trump is “not qualified” to be commander-in-chief.
To misquote Phoebe Buffay from “Friends”: “Hello, kettle? This is Howard. You’re black.”
If Trump is “not qualified,” then what the hell is Schultz? In all fairness to the pretend president, Trump is able to command crowds and attention like no other politician on the right. His name recognition was off the charts when he ran in the Republican primaries in 2016. The former Starbucks boss, on the other hand, is a charisma-free zone; the only crowds he seems to attract are his humiliating Twitter ratios.
The truth is that despite claiming to be “bored” by Trump, and voicing his opposition to the president’s “vitriolic display of bigotry and hate and divisiveness,” Schultz has far more in common with the reality star-turned-POTUS than he might like to admit. His Trumpian ego has made him — an old, rich white guy who got rich selling coffee! — think he can be Leader of the Free World™.
There’s also his Trumpian dishonesty. Schultz, the “lifelong Democrat,” has spent the past few days hurling a series of false accusations not against Trump, but against Democrats. He attacked Sen. Kamala Harris’s support for “Medicare for All” as “not American,” which is absurd given that Medicare itself has been around for more than 50 years, while “Medicare for All” is polling at 70 percent, with majority support even among Republicans.
He claimed that the “majority of Americans” are opposed to “a 70 percent income tax in America,” as suggested by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Another lie. A recent Hill-HarrisX survey found that 59 percent of voters support the Ocasio-Cortez tax proposal (which only applies to income over $10 million), including a clear majority of independents.
Schultz also said that “the greatest threat domestically to the country is this $21 trillion debt hanging over the cloud of America and future generations.” Again, false. A number of leading economists disagree with him on the debt. And, as HuffPost’s Zach Carter points out, “his $21.5 trillion debt monster is an exaggeration: It includes trillions of dollars the government owes to itself.” (Oh, and for the record, a whopping 2 percent of Americans cite the federal debt as “the most important problem facing the country today.”)
There’s the Trumpian stinginess too. According to an investigation by The Young Turks, in 2017, Schultz donated less than 1 percent of his $3.4 billion net worth to his own charity. “All told,” reported TYT, “Schultz has given an estimated two-and-a-half percent of his wealth to the family nonprofit, based on tax filings dating back to 1999.” Sound familiar?
The former Starbucks CEO doesn’t like paying higher taxes, either. Schultz, the self-styled deficit hawk, isn’t opposed to Trump’s deficit-busting tax cuts — only the size of them. He has lambasted Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s new proposal for a wealth tax as “ridiculous.” Should we be surprised? As a billionaire himself, he’d have to pay a 3 percent wealth tax, according to the Warren plan.
His beloved overpriced coffee chain doesn’t have a much better record on taxation. In 2017, Starbucks’s European division paid a mere $5.9 million in taxes, on U.K. profits of $213 million — or an effective tax rate of just 2.8 percent.
Then there’s the Trumpian ignorance. The self-deprecating Schultz, unlike the president, is willing to concede that he is not the “smartest person in the room.” That may be an understatement, though. For a start, why does he think he has any chance of winning the presidency in 2020? What’s his route to victory in a two-party system? Schultz, the political neophyte, does not even understand how presidential candidates get on the ballot. He thinks that polls showing that 4 in 10 Americans identify as “independents” means his own independent presidential campaign will attract widespread support — when reams of evidence suggest that self-styled independents are (closet) partisans. “Only about 7 percent of people who identify as independents truly don’t like either party,” reported NPR on Tuesday, citing research from political scientist Samara Klar, author of the book “Independent Politics.”
Schultz, it seems, is Trump without the tan, the bluster, or the border wall. And if he decides to run in 2020, his independent candidacy, to quote former Obama strategist David Axelrod, will be a “gift” to the Republican incumbent — potentially splitting the anti-Trump vote and giving this racist disaster of a president another four years in the Oval Office.
Guess who agrees?
Team Trump. Consider the president’s very deliberate tweet on Monday, goading the coffee mogul to enter the 2020 race as an independent:
Howard Schultz doesn’t have the “guts” to run for President! Watched him on @60Minutes last night and I agree with him that he is not the “smartest person.” Besides, America already has that! I only hope that Starbucks is still paying me their rent in Trump Tower!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 28, 2019
Is there a way, then, of dissuading the ill-informed, egomaniacal Schultz from burning through hundreds of millions of dollars on a pointless, Trump-boosting presidential campaign? Will op-eds like this work? How about a consumer boycott of Starbucks? Maybe more protests at his book-signing events? Kudos, in fact, to the protester who heckled Schultz at a Barnes & Noble in New York on Monday evening, summarizing the case against him in eight pithy words: “Don’t help elect Trump, you egotistical billionaire asshole.”