The Washington Post

Starbucks CEO’s misguided crusade

As Jonathan notes below, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has launched a crusade to get American business leaders to withhold political donations from all incumbents in Congress, to pressure them to produce a deficit reduction plan that deals with entitlements and revenues.

Unfortunately, the crusade seems completely misguided. One party has already said it’s open to such a deal. The other party is still ruling out such a deal. So it’s unclear what withholding contributions from both parties will accomplish.

Politico’s Jennifer Epstein reports today that more than 100 business leaders have signed an email from Schultz vowing to withhold the contributions, demanding that Congress “strike a bipartisan, balanced long-term debt deal that addresses both entitlements and revenues.”

I appreciate Schultz’s zeal, and I get that Dems may well dig in against deep entitlements cuts to a degree that he and other business leaders may find unacceptable. But as Kevin Drum explains, the plain fact is that one party — the GOP — is not willing to even consider a deal that involves both entitlements cuts and tax hikes, viewing its blanket opposition to tax hikes as a principled imperative:

Its presidential candidates unanimously agree that they’d oppose a deal that includes $10 in real spending cuts for every $1 in increased revenue. Its leader in the House walked away from several opportunities to strike an ambitious deal based on an 85-15 split of cuts vs. revenue increases ... And the rest of its congressional leaders have all sworn blood oaths not to compromise on their pledge to never ever raise taxes under any circumstances.

I’d add one other point. As it turns out, Schultz is a big donor to the Democratic Party who has maxed out to Dem Senator Maria Cantwell and has given thousands in previous cycles to Obama and other Democrats.

I don’t know what the other business leaders’ affiliations are, but Schultz, oddly, is going to withhold contributions that would go mostly or exclusively to Democrats, even though the leading obstacle to him getting what he wants is the GOP’s unshakable opposition to raising taxes. Republicans say tax hikes (except for the payroll tax cut extension) are a bad thing for the country’s fiscal health. They’ve already drawn a hard line against tax hikes as part of any deficit deal reached by the Congressional “super-committee.” Schultz, however, seems to think raising taxes would be a good thing for the country’s fiscal health. In other words, Schultz and the GOP disagree.

By contrast, Democrats are far more in agreement with Schultz. They are at least willing to consider and discuss the sort of mix of entitlements cuts and revenue increases Schultz wants. Unlike Republicans, Dems have drawn no hard lines on their priorities and have ruled out nothing in advance of the supercommittee’s work. Punishing both parties equally for their current positions isn’t likely to produce the outcome Schultz wants.

Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line blog, a reported opinion blog with a liberal slant -- what you might call “opinionated reporting” from the left.


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