Starbucks billionaire Howard Schultz seems determined to torture us all with his own odd parody of our current American political condition. We can only hope that it will not last, and that once each of the consultants involved has cashed a few checks they will each duck out and attach themselves to some campaign not quite as likely to end in public humiliation.
But for now, Schultz continues to play the part of the Monopoly Man come to life to warn us that all this talk of taxes on billionaires is getting out of hand. If the choice before America is stark racism and corruption or taxing Howard Schultz at the same rate a man of his wealth would have been taxed back when the first Star Wars movie was released, Howard Schultz will condemn both sides and start his own political movement, thank you very much. We have nobody to blame but ourselves and our addiction to sub-par coffee.
The latest episode of Astonishingly Out Of Touch Theater came when CNBC host Andrew Ross Sorkin asked Schultz, during an interview, if he agreed with the premise that “billionaires have too much power” in American public life. Schultz took polite exception to the premise in the most Rich White Guy way a man possibly could: Must we call them “billionaires”?
The moniker ‘billionaire’ now has become the catchphrase. I would rephrase that and say that ‘people of means’ have been able to leverage their wealth and their interests in ways that are unfair, and I think that speaks to the inequality. But it also directly speaks to the special interests that are paid for people of wealth, and corporations who are looking for influence, and they have such unbelievable influence on the politicians who are steeped in the ideology of both parties.
Aside from the odd objection to calling billionaires billionaires, preferring instead the dodging unspecificities of people of means, the rest is so generic it could be squeezed from a tube. Schultz went on to emphasize that he, on the other hand, was “not in bed with any special interest,” despite a protocampaign devoted, so far, entirely to himself as his own special interest. He is quite literally in bed with the special interest group consisting of himself and his alarm at Democratic politicians muttering about tamping down on the great American greed-fest by undoing a few of his own tax breaks; he shares a pillow and a set of sheets with that uniquely narrow special interest.
It has been, so far, the only component of his campaign.
And this is fine, because each of us in this nation is allowed to obsess about our own needs as much as we like. It is the national pastime. It is not likely that the man is so dim that he does not understand the relation between “people of wealth” being able to have an influence on the political parties and his own ability, via enormous wealth, to elevate himself to presidential candidacy as means of thwarting every other political interest entirely. If we are outraged at the shocking influence of money in our political parties, Schultz’s unspoken argument stage-whispers, why not eliminate those problems by turning things over to “people of wealth” to begin with?
This is going to get tedious very quickly. The man seems both alarmed at the reaction to his single-issue, savior-themed candidacy but at a loss as to how to repair it. There is more than a glimmer of Trump in his broad presumption that despite being a political and structural know-nothing he could whip America into shape right quick merely because he is wealthy.
And that is a bad look, especially now. Read the room, please: The premise has been thoroughly demolished. The notion that billio—sorry, that people of wealth have the nation’s best interests at heart, if only we would free ourselves from partisanship and hand over the keys to each government building, has not been in vogue since those same wealth-havers nearly undid the entire world’s economy 10 years ago in their efforts to invent ever-sketchier versions of rich man’s blackjack.
We held off on the pitchforks, but returning tax rates to what they were when people like Howard Schultz got their start in life, thanks in no small part to the same government programs they insist are outdated now that it’s come time for they themselves to help pay for them? You may need to take that one for the team, old sport. Threatening to do away with the middlemen in order to simply buy the government outright is not a good look.