Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz on the Nation’s Biggest Issues

February 2, 2019, 7:37 PM UTC

Though Starbucks’ former CEO Howard Schultz hasn’t officially entered the 2020 presidential race, he’s giving people a taste of what a Schultz presidency might look like.

Schultz spoke at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco on Friday, promoting his new book, “From the Ground Up.” The book is described as part memoir and part blueprint for introducing positive change. Schultz, who earlier this week announced that he had aspirations to run for president as an Independent, took the opportunity in San Francisco to clarify his intentions and expand on how he would handle some of the nation’s toughest problems.

“Of all the things I’m going to say tonight, this is the most important takeaway,” he said. “Howard Schultz is not going to be [an election] spoiler, and I’m not going to do anything to re-elect Donald Trump.”

After vehemently denouncing Donald Trump with phrases like “no one wants to see Donald Trump fired more than me” and also blasting the Democrats for proposing financially irresponsible policies, he offered some of his own ideas.

Schultz said that similar to his company, he would lead the country with people as the priority. He expects to make his decision on whether to run for president in late spring or early summer.

Here’s a look at where Schultz stands on some of the nation’s biggest issues.

Health care

Schultz believes the Affordable Care Act, often referred to as “Obamacare,” was the right move by former President Barack Obama. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that rising premiums have clearly become a problem, he said.

To crack the code on premiums, Schultz suggested government take a closer look at one group that has flown under the radar: Big Pharma lobbyists.

“Both parties are complicit having made a deal with the devil,” he said. “The devil with regard to the health care crisis is the way in which the pharmaceutical companies have lobbied inside Washington with a level of self-interest that basically controls how people vote.”

Schultz believes the answer to this problem is strong leadership that keeps American people as the priority and puts pressure on pharmaceutical companies to remove the self-interest from the equation.

He took the opportunity to take a swipe at Trump’s corporate tax cuts as fuel for what he calls “a crisis of capitalism in the country.” He also took a jab at Democrats for championing free health care for all people. If that plan were executed, it would create a $32 trillion bill in 10 years, he said. “It’s a wonderful thing to say. It’s not a realistic thing to execute.”

He also recognized his lack of expertise in this field and said he wants to bring together health care professionals, pharmaceutical companies, and the government to solve the problem.

“This is a complex problem, but I am so confident if you remove the ideology and the self-interest out of the room, this is a problem that can be fixed,” he said.


While Schultz did not explore this topic in its entirety, he did suggest how he might be able to make progress on immigration reform.

During his San Francisco visit, he said he believes both parties have failed on immigration, mostly because of Congress. Both President George W. Bush and President Obama submitted comprehensive immigration reform bills. The opposition party in Congress denied both bills.

“So, if the majority of the country that is being represented by people in Wash are telling our elected officials we want comprehensive immigration reform, why aren’t we getting it?” he said. “The answer is because the two parties are steeped in their own ideology and their own self-interest and their own self-preservation and are unwilling to come together … parties on both extremes are leading the country in a way that’s not representative of the silent majority.”

While he recognizes that he, too, would have to deal with a divided Congress, Schultz believes he might have a better chance of influencing change as an Independent, given the current polarization of the two parties.

He believes the government was working properly was in 1986, during the leadership of President Ronald Reagan and House Speaker Tip O’Neill. While the two had stark differences in opinion, both always put the American people first and worked together to solve tough problems, Schultz said. And that’s what he hopes to restore.

Reagan signed an immigration reform bill into law that provided amnesty to 3 million undocumented immigrants. Schultz has previously said in interviews that he would support a path to citizenship for roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants.

Climate Change

For Schultz, the debate over climate change boils down to this: It’s real, and it’s imperative that the U.S. take responsibility to act on it.

“We have such evidence and such science suggesting the planet is burning up,” he said. “We must, as a responsible society, recognize that we must work with every other nation to do everything humanly possible to reverse what is happening.”

Schultz said President Trump’s decision to remove the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord “was a mistake,” and that it’s “irresponsible” for the current administration to ignore “just basic science.” He said the nation is currently on a “collision course,” and that time is the enemy.

He also called upon his personal knowledge, saying that climate change has negatively impacted the coffee industry. Coffee rust, a disease caused by fungus, has been spreading due to the lack of rain, he said.

Trade and Foreign Policy

When it comes to trade and foreign policy, Schultz spent much of his time criticizing the current administration. From President Trump’s decision to pull troops from Syria to threatening to pull out of NATO to how he’s handled trade agreements with China, it’s all been a mistake, Schultz said.

“President Trump played this all wrong,” he said.

Schultz called the decision to pull out of Syria a strategic mistake that was not in the interest of the country. First, Trump did not communicate with U.S. allies Jordan and Israel, he said. Second, he didn’t listen to military advisers like Secretary of Defense General Jim Mattis to fully understand the consequences related to leaving.

By leaving, Russia and Iran get a stronghold in the region, and the U.S. won’t discover the full effects of that for years to come, Schultz said.

The current handling of the trade war in China is not going to give the U.S. what it needs either, Schultz said calling on his 20 years of business experience in the East Asian country. The current negotiations have led to a consumer tax, which, among others, heavily impacts famers who are losing significant markets as a result.

China is not an enemy, he said. It’s a “fierce competitor” that wants to surpass the U.S. in economic power, and it’s on track to do so.

Schultz believes the U.S. needs to cooperate with China on two issues: dealing with North Korea and leading the world in climate change policies. However, given the current tensions, China has abdicated itself from dealing with North Korea.

Schultz also slammed Trump for removing the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. By doing that, China inserted itself as a major player, which will result in more economic growth for China and none for the U.S., he said. This will affect economic growth and the national debt.

“What this president has done, in less than two years, is fractured relationships with our allies that are longstanding and broken the trust and confidence that these countries have to have for America’s leadership in the world,” Schultz said.

Read More

Great ResignationDiversity and InclusionCompensationCEO DailyCFO DailyModern Board