Howard Schultz and the billionaire establishment’s preference for Trump over leftist Democrats

Schultz

Howard Schultz, 65, oversaw the expansion of Starbucks into a global brand and now feels qualified to run the United States.

Whether or not Howard Schultz, the billionaire former CEO of Starbucks, runs for president in 2020 hinges largely on what direction the Democratic Party goes. Schultz, who has no political experience, is concerned that the party has become too left-wing, pushed by prominent congresspeople like Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. In order to save the country from a choice between socialism and Donald Trump, Schultz may be compelled to run as a “centrist independent.”

In a media blitz late last month, Schultz slammed Trump, calling the president “despicable” and accusing him of doing “almost everything possible to discredit the dignity, the civility, the values, the respectfulness of the Oval Office with no degree of any sense of responsibility to the American people.” Schultz’s remarks were notably lacking in specifics. While his most sanctimonious denunciations were of Trump’s demeanor and vulgarity, his strongest policy critiques were directed at Democrats, particularly Ocasio-Cortez.

“I no longer feel affiliated [with the Democratic Party] because I don’t know their views represent the majority of Americans,” Schultz said in a CNBC interview. He added, “I don’t think we want a 70 percent income tax in America,” criticizing Ocasio-Cortez’s now-famous proposal. Schultz called universal healthcare “not American” and “unaffordable,” adding it was as “false as President Trump telling the American people when he was running for president that the Mexicans were going to pay for the wall.”

It is Schultz, rather than Ocasio-Cortez, who is out of touch with the American public. As New York Magazine put it, “raising taxes on the rich consistently ranks as one of the most popular ideas in American politics.” Even a recent FOX News poll showed a whopping 70 percent favorability for raising taxes on income over $10 million – much to the dismay of the network’s hosts and panelists. Similarly, some 70 percent of Americans support universal healthcare, including a majority of Republicans.

Centrists and right-wingers have worked hard to misinform about Ocasio-Cortez’s tax proposal. In a marginal tax system like the one used in the United States, the highest tax rates only apply to earnings over a certain amount. Under Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal, earnings in excess of $10 million would be taxed at 70 percent, but the first $10 million would be taxed at a lower rate. The overwhelming majority of Americans would be unaffected. Pundits who accuse Ocasio-Cortez of coming for 70 percent of everybody’s money are deliberately deceptive in defense of the super wealthy.

Ocasio-Cortez

Schultz has feuded publicly with New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez over her informal proposal to raise the top marginal tax rate to 70 percent.

Defense of the rich appears to be Schultz’s primary motivation for running. He’s cast himself as a civil rights icon for billionaires, arguing that the word “billionaire” itself is too divisive and should instead be “people of means.”

He’s not wrong to be concerned about his class’s perception. In 2017, 53 percent of Americans said they distrusted billionaires. More politicians are being elected on promises to tax the wealthy while publications like The New York Times publish op-eds called “Abolish Billionaires.”

To understand the anti-billionaire fever, it’s necessary to understand just what a billionaire is. Contrary to what Schultz says, “billionaire” isn’t a slur. It’s a mathematical designation, though one that can be difficult to fully grasp. At a rate of $1,000 a day, it would take more than 2,739 years to spend down just $1 billion. Just three billionaires, Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffet, and Bill Gates, control more wealth than the bottom 50 percent of Americans. Meanwhile, nearly 70 percent of Americans do not even have $1,000 in a savings account.

Ideas like universal healthcare, tuition-free college, and even a universal basic income are gaining popularity. Whether we can afford them all is a matter of debate. Simply taking every dollar from every billionaire would put a big dent in the cost, but not cover it completely. However, wealth is not created by billionaires hoarding assets. Economic activity will increase by taxing billionaires and putting their inactive wealth in the pockets of Americans who will spend it. We can do the seemingly impossible – we just have to raise taxes on Schultz and his fellow hoarders.

After his first few weeks of presidential flirtation largely busted, Schultz came out in favor of raising taxes on the wealthy, though he didn’t specify how high his taxes should be. He remains opposed to Ocasio-Cortez’s 70 percent proposal. It’s why he is comfortable weighing the “far-left and the far-right extremes” as about equally dangerous. One wants to raise his taxers higher than he’d like, and the other is the party of Donald Trump.

Public opinion is far more aligned with leftists than it is Trump’s GOP. There is little appetite for a President Howard Schultz. Polling puts Schultz at only around 7.7 percent, but he pulls twice as much support from would-be Democratic voters as he does Republicans. It’s probable a Schultz candidacy could spoil the election for Democrats. If he runs with poll numbers like that, Schultz is demonstrating his clear preference for President Donald Trump over a Democrat.

The American Dream used to be about working a steady job, finding a partner, buying a home, and filling it with children, cars and pets. For the modern right wing, it’s about amassing astronomical sums of wealth and hoarding it far away from the grabby hands of your lazy, greedy, no-good countrymen. Schultz may not like Trump, but his primary motivation for running is to defend himself from the leftist extremism of the American majority. He may cast himself as a centrist, but he’d sooner see a second Trump term than face the stiff taxation of him demanded by the American people.

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How high taxes and a mixed economy made America great

Progressives

Much like our own era, the turn of the 19th Century was dominated by wealthy interests and corruption. The progressive political movements that responded to it brought America into its greatest era of general prosperity.

Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again,” triggered an important conversation in American politics. On one hand, it was vague enough that Americans could write whatever fantasy they wished onto it. On the other hand, it forced us to ask: when was America great? Depending on your position in the social-economic-racial strata, the answer might be never. But there’s one era for which most Americans share a nostalgic sense of glory: the first few decades after World War II.

We were riding high then. The Greatest Generation had just won the planet’s deadliest and most far-reaching conflict to date. In the following decades of the 1950s and 60s, the American middle class boomed and prosperity was widely shared among the population. People of color made meaningful civil rights gains as the evils of white supremacy began to be more forcefully confronted. And all while the American dream was being realized, the country was the highest-taxed it has ever been. Continue reading

The socialist claim to liberty

fistBy Kyle Schmidlin and Eldon Katz

Everyone has friends or family members who define themselves as “socially liberal; but fiscally conservative.” The conservative libertarian views their ideology as a mature, pragmatic, and disciplined compromise, the best way to get as many people what they want and maximize everybody’s liberty and opportunity.

But this vision of liberty is perverted and one-sided in favor of the powerful. It grants people the freedom to exploit, but not freedom from exploitation, effectively treating the liberty of the powerful as absolute but anyone else’s liberty as flexible. As Bertrand Russell put it, “The fortunate must not be restrained in the exercise of tyranny over the unfortunate.” Continue reading

Trump’s stock market enthusiasm shows how out of touch he is

trump-wall-street

Trump’s unpredictability initially caused the market to worry, but since his election stock prices have soared.

President Trump held a pep rally for himself on Twitter earlier this week, touting his base as “bigger and stronger than ever before” despite all the “fake news” – into which category he put virtually every media source except his dedicated propaganda networks, Breitbart and FOX. Trump then listed some of his successes so far, including economic enthusiasm, the stock market, jobs, and deregulation. As usual with Trump, he is wrong in more ways than are easily counted. Continue reading

What if climate change is a hoax?

Australia blog about climate change science media coverage : Anti-carbon tax protesters in Canberra

Pro-oil protesters hold signs at a demonstration against taking action on climate change.

The most demanding issue of our time is environmental protection. Over hundreds of years of exploding populations, consumption-driven economies, and carving up the planet for resources, the human species has completely reshaped its humble home world. For decades now, scientists have warned that this behavior, unchecked, could have an ominous consequence. Science has given humanity a simple ultimatum: change our behavior or face nature’s wrath.

This has led to a deep schism. Those who are most heavily invested in the current system fight scientists’ claims aggressively. Corporate giants have spent untold millions on disinformation campaigns and disseminated their propaganda through far-right outlets. They have successfully transformed a scientific and moral issue into a political one.

But for the sake of argument, suppose the denialists are right. If we turn our resources to the fight against climate change and it turns out to be a hoax, what will we have done? Continue reading

Everything must go: how Trump is giving America away to corporations

trumpdevos

President-elect Donald Trump with future Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, a billionaire advocate for privatizing education.

Shortly after the election, Donald Trump released a video outlining his 100-day plan for the beginning of his presidency. It contained one of the most arbitrary items ever to exist in a presidential platform: a plan to, for every one new regulation introduced, remove two. The compromise Trump is brokering is clear. If citizens want something from corporate America, they’ve got to give corporate America two things in return. Continue reading

Exploited college faculty join Fight for $15

Students, faculty and low-wage workers march in solidarity in downtown Chicago.

Students, faculty and low-wage workers march in solidarity in downtown Chicago.

Students aren’t the only ones feeling the financial pinch of college. Faculty members are, too, particularly adjunct professors and recent hires. According to Service Employees International Union analysis, “31 percent of part-time faculty members and 14 percent of all faculty are living near or below the federal poverty level.”

But nationwide, a growing movement is attempting to change that. In solidarity with Fight for $15 and with the support of labor organizers like SEIU, faculty are calling attention to the crisis of poverty wages and demanding solutions. Continue reading

Martin Shkreli, America’s most prominent gangster

Don't feel too bad that your new prescription made you go broke. It went to a good cause: This guy, who's worth an estimated $100 million.

Don’t feel too bad that your new prescription made you go broke. It went to a good cause: This guy, who’s worth an estimated $100 million.

Martin Shkreli is on the fast track to becoming America’s public enemy number one. He’s a former hedge fund manager who made his front page debut in September for acquiring the patent to a drug used by AIDS and cancer patients and then raising its price more than 5,500 percent. Since then, he’s also been outed through published social media exchanges as a creep and a bully, perhaps even criminally so. Most recently he tried to buy his way into a meeting with Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

It’s to Sanders’s credit that his campaign gave the money away to a health clinic and called Shkreli the “poster boy for drug company greed.” What makes Shkreli’s donation extra distasteful is his statement on the controversy: “He’ll take my money, but he won’t engage with me for five minutes to understand this issue better.” It’s clear that Shkreli expected to receive an audience with the candidate in exchange for his donation.

Shkreli’s behavior is best characterized as mob-like. His attempt to exchange financial favors for political ones sounds an awful lot like bribery. Add to that his psychotic harassment of a former employee’s family over misappropriated funds – including a vow to see the man’s wife and children homeless on the street – and Shkreli really starts to fit the profile of unfiltered gangster villainy. Continue reading

Sanders vs. Trump could be just what the country needs

Billionaire real estate developer and reality show personality wants to be the most powerful man in the world.

Billionaire real estate developer and reality show personality wants to be the most powerful man in the world.

As soon as Donald Trump announced himself as a presidential candidate, the media labeled his candidacy a waste of time and dismissed him as a clown. Such characterizations are hard to argue with and, indeed, Trump repeatedly confirms them. But in the early stages of the 2016 campaign, amid a Republican lineup with no obvious standouts, this petulant personification of the right-wing lizard brain has emerged as the early GOP frontrunner. Continue reading

Greece has the right idea: Say no to debt

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, left, meets with European Central Bank President Mario Draghi.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, left, meets with European Central Bank President Mario Draghi.

Around 2,500 years ago, the Greek city of Athens developed a novel concept: dēmokratía, the rule of the people. Though their system was far from perfect, Athens laid important moral and philosophical groundwork that stood in contrast to the dynasties of pharaohs and emperors. Leave it to the Greeks, two and a half millennia since developing the concept, to remind the world of today what democracy is supposed to look like.

Greece’s ongoing debt predicament is not unlike the subprime mortgage crisis in America. Lenders issued bad loans which the debtors proved unable to pay back. In Greece, those lenders have been both private banks and fellow Eurozone nations. As in America, rather than allow the banks to eat the loss, what’s being demanded instead is taxpayer sacrifice. Continue reading