Sorry, Howard Schultz – America doesn't want another billionaire president | Luke Savage

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Howard Schultz, the former Starbucks CEO, has a bold plan to rescue America, and it involves putting another billionaire in the White House to put a stop to dangerous ideas like universal healthcare and higher taxes on the wealthy.

Schultz told CBS’s 60 Minutes on Sunday that he is “seriously thinking” about making a run for the Oval Office as a “centrist independent”. Why? Because, according to Schultz, “we see extremes on both sides … we are sitting with approximately $21.5tn of debt, which is a reckless example, not only of Republicans, but of Democrats. I don’t care if you’re a Democrat, independent, Libertarian, Republican. Bring me your ideas. And I will be an independent person, who will embrace those ideas. Because I am not, in any way, in bed with a party.”

As a remedy, the billionaire CEO is pitching an utterly unremarkable combination of middle-of-the-road policies and a language of moderation that would fall safely within the corporatist mainstream of the Democratic party. He believes popular, desperately-needed policies like Medicare For All are unaffordable and un-American, and is opposed to raising the top marginal rate of income tax lest people like him be taxed at levels unseen since that heyday of American communism otherwise known as the Nixon era.

He expresses concern that so many have so little money in the bank but doesn’t think low-earning workers deserve a raise, a union, free health insurance, or the opportunity to get an education without drowning in debt courtesy of sky-high tuition.

Whatever his superficial gestures towards moderation and inclusivity, Schultz is pledging to be a tribune for the billionaire class to which he himself belongs, over and against the growing current of popular, social democratic policies continuing to gather momentum within the Democratic party and among the wider US electorate. Given that the 2020 Democratic primaries are certain to include several Wall Street-friendly candidates, it’s unclear what exactly he hopes to accomplish beyond giving a voice to a handful of plutocrats who somehow find figures like Joe Biden and Cory Booker too extreme.

But perhaps that’s precisely the point.

As figures like Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez continue to popularize redistributive, egalitarian policies, America’s economic and financial elites seem increasingly worried that their interests will be pushed to the margins. Many, whatever their professed dislike of Donald Trump might be, would undoubtedly prefer his remaining in office to a Sanders or Warren presidency that would actually threaten their power by raising taxes, ending for-profit healthcare, or reforming the campaign finance system to end the tyranny of big money so that they can no longer buy elections or dominate the legislative process.

And were he somehow to become president, there’s every reason to believe Schultz would run the country much as he ran Starbucks: like a conscientious but business-minded corporate executive concerned not with reducing social hierarchies but ever so slightly softening them. During his tenure as a company executive, for example, Schultz’s name became synonymous with initiatives like tuition support for employees and plans for hiring refugees. There is nothing to indicate that his political vision extends beyond the mould of a benign CEO who sees inequality as an inalienable fact of life and prefers to throw the odd company picnic to giving workers a raise or allowing them to unionize.

But in a moment characterized by looming climate disaster, gilded age levels of inequality, and a political system dominated by plutocrats and big donors, American politics don’t need yet another centrist figure (inside or outside the Democratic party) preaching moderation – still less a more socially conscious kind of billionaire offering a vague, self-interested brand of class harmony as an alternative to meaningful reform.

Instead, the grip of billionaires on the American political system – be they conscientious or not – must be broken once and for all.

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