Published on: August 17, 2011
Lots of reaction to yesterday’s piece applauding the call by Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz for all American corporations to shut the door on any and all political contributions until President Barack Obama and the US Congress reach “a fair, bipartisan deal ... that sets our nation on stronger long-term fiscal footing.”
Schultz said that as of now, that is Starbucks’ policy. And in fairly short order, he said, 50 other CEOs contacted him and agreed to take the same position - no personal or corporate contributions until Washington gets its act together.
The Schultz proposal came as investment guru Warren Buffett wrote a New York Times
op-ed piece suggesting that the government needed to stop “coddling” the super-rich and raise taxes on millionaires and billionaires. “I would raise rates immediately on taxable income in excess of $1m,” Buffett wrote. “And for those who make $10m or more – there were 8,274 in 2009 – I would suggest an additional increase in rate.”
And I commented:If the theory is that money fuels politics, and politics is becoming increasingly poisonous, then perhaps one way to reduce the vitriol is to cut off the fuel supply.
It’ll be interesting to see if Schultz’s and Buffet’s positions gain any traction. I’m sure there will be plenty of other arguments against it, but here at MNB, the Schultz “a time for citizenship” call is persuasive.
Not that it counts for much - if anything - but MNB is right now pledging to not make any personal or corporate donations until both parties and both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue get their acts together.
So here’s my memo to Schultz: You now have 51 companies to put on your list.
MNB user Garry E. Adams wrote:Howard has a great point. My company will make it 52....
Another MNB user wrote:Okay, I may never actually become a coffee drinker. But, now that I’ve read this from Mr. Schultz, I am going to look a little deeper in to Starbuck’s lineup and see what I do like—and buy it. Honestly, I’ve probably entered a Starbuck’s less than a dozen times—usually because a friend wanted to meet at one or I was with co-workers. After reading this, I’ll be heading into our local shop and others on a regular basis. Thanks for sharing Mr. Schultz’s comments.
Another MNB user wrote:Schultz will forever be on my own personal bad list for what he did to the Seattle Supersonics, but I appreciate his frustration and his willingness to turn up the heat on our elected so-called leaders. It’s the only language that they understand and it’s clear that both sides of the aisle have made pandering to their base and trying to discredit the other side their number one objective. The President is no better. He talked a good game in 2008, but he’s as divisive as any President we’ve ever had. Class warfare may be good politics, but divide and conquer is a terrible governing strategy. Our politicians are all playing win-lose. They’re even willing to play lose-lose, as long as they thwart the other side. We need leaders who think win-win.
Which brings me to Buffet. What’s his game? Does he or the President really believe that raising taxes on those 8000+ people will solve anything? He’s one of those people, but isn’t he the one who said he pays more in taxes than his secretary? And why is that? Because unlike his secretary he has an army of lawyers whose job it is to shield him from paying taxes. Is that going to change is we raise taxes on the rich? If he wants to impress me, he can fire the lawyers and pay the taxes he already could and probably should be paying. Until then, Warren, shut the *(^%$@# up!
I think the big issue is tax reform - and Buffett is using his own example as an illustration for why it is needed.
As for me, I’m becoming more and more convinced that what we need is a progressive flat tax ... no loopholes, no deductions. Everybody has skin in the game, no matter how much or little you make ... though it seems fair that as you make more money you pay a higher percentage, though without deductions and loopholes, it would mean a dramatic rate reduction. I’m not an accountant, but I have to believe that reform would actually be better and maybe even politically palatable.
Then again, these days, who knows?
Another MNB user wrote:I certainly agree with Schultz that we need to starve them out until they see the light. My concern is that all we are doing is standing aside to allow the unions to have the playing/paying field to themselves, thus making their dollars more powerful and persuasive.
The one thing about Schultz’s proposal is that it will be the center that will take it seriously, while the fringes - on both ends of the political spectrum
- have no intention of shutting off the spigot.
From yet another MNB user:Aren’t political “contributions” just a nicer way of saying bribes? I’ve never understood how it’s legal to form PAC’s to funnel cash to select politicians.
While I think the “wealthy” pay enough in taxes, shouldn’t the conversation be about the 48-51% of the people who pay $0.00 in federal income tax? Everyone should have some skin in the game.
We have huge issues - What is $14,000,000,000,000? I think we all need to get used to paying a little bit more and getting a little bit less in return, and hopefully our elected officials will learn how to tighten their belts just a little bit.
Another MNB user chimed in:Gutsy move, I agree wholeheartedly with everything Howard Schultz said, and said so eloquently. It’s one of those things you wish you had said yourself, I certainly felt every word; so many of us share the same feelings & frustrations, but don’t have the words or the audience. I hope this thing has legs, I have just abused my work time to e-mail my reps in the Senate & House, and quoted Schultz to explain why I am personally no longer contributing to the party or my individual representatives. I have no idea whether this will do anything to move those yahoos in DC off their keisters, and start doing their jobs, but man I feel better! Maybe hopeful?
Another MNB user offered:At last we have men of influence talking publicly about the stupid, stubborn and selfish and "dis-productive" course we are on in our political sphere and who raise and praise the old fashioned concept of STATESMANSHIP! A rally against modern day policy non-makers who have lost sight of the people they govern while lining their pockets with the wallpaper of self interest! Kudos to Mr Buffet and To Mr Schultz. Those two are a thousand times more true leaders than the blindered ME generation saturated hacks in our current government.
Need more business leaders of conscience to speak up for interests other than their own.
And still another email:I mostly agree with Howard Shultz -- where we differ is the fact that now is not the time to raise taxes on anybody. My company could hire another six people this were it not for the fact that we are subject to a 35% corporate tax rate (the highest in the world, or close to it). Take that down by half, and there are at least three jobs. Multiply that by 50M small businesses, and maybe you have some additional private sector employment. Bump the tax rate and we're cutting back.
And I couldn't disagree more with Warren Buffet (gasp!). My counter suggestion is that anyone who recommends raising someone else's income taxes should instead be immediately subject to a 50% tax on their net worth and another 50% tax on capital gains. They can slide on the income tax. That should do a lot more to bring down the deficit or at least keep them quiet for a while.
Not everyone was impressed:Nice letter…but didn’t say anything…Warren Buffett laid out a plan…Schultz spun spin. It’s not about doing something…movement is not progress. It’s about doing the right thing, and that’s the nub of it! This country is split over the future vision for America. One person’s plan for progress is another person’s perception of the destruction of America? Who is right? Just out of curiosity, why has Starbucks waited so long to invest in America?
I’m not sure that it is fair to say that Starbucks has not been investing in America ... every time it opens a store, it hires people, pays them a fair wage and gives them benefits.
And another MNB user wrote:Mr. Schultz and these other CEO's might take a gander at the Federalists Papers. If they did they would understand that the government is acting just like the Framers of the Constitution intended.
What we need is a return to teaching Civics. When there is consensus the gov't will act. Let's see how things work out for China down the road.
I haven’t read the Federalist Papers lately, and I’ll assume you have, so I’ll bow to your greater knowledge.
And I certainly agree with what you say about teaching civics. (For a good website about this subject, check out this website
I do think this - that is hard to imagine consensus at a time when people on the fringes refuse to compromise. And that fuels the discontent and skepticism among many of us.