Starbucks Doesn’t Get It

by Jason Stotts

I was surprised to find an e-mail from Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz this morning in my inbox.  I was even more surprised by it after I read the message:

September 2011

Dear Starbucks Friend and Fellow Citizen:

I love our country. And I am a beneficiary of the promise of America. But today, I am very concerned that at times I do not recognize the America that I love.

Like so many of you, I am deeply disappointed by the pervasive failure of leadership in Washington. And also like you, I am frustrated by our political leaders’ steadfast refusal to recognize that, for every day they perpetuate partisan conflict and put ideology over country, America and Americans suffer from the combined effects of paralysis and uncertainty. Americans can’t find jobs. Small businesses can’t get credit. And the fracturing of consumer confidence continues.

We are better than this.

Three weeks ago, I asked fellow business leaders to join me in urging the President and the Congress to put an end to partisan gridlock and, in its place, to set in motion an upward spiral of confidence. More than 100 business leaders representing American companies – large and small – joined me in signing a two-part pledge:

First, to withhold political campaign contributions until a transparent, comprehensive, bipartisan debt-and-deficit package is reached that honestly, and fairly, sets America on a path to long-term financial health and security. Second, to do all we can to break the cycle of economic uncertainty that grips our country by committing to accelerate investment in jobs and hiring.

In the weeks since then, I have been overwhelmed by the heartfelt stories of Americans from across the country, sharing their anguish over losing hope in the strongest and most galvanizing force of all – the American Dream. Some feel they have no voice. Others feel they no longer matter. And many feel they have been left behind.

We cannot let this stand.

Please join other concerned Americans and me on a national call-in conversation on Tuesday September 6th hosted by “No Labels,” a nonpartisan organization dedicated to fostering cooperative and more effective government. To learn more about the forum and the pledges, visit www.upwardspiral2011.org

America is at a fragile and critical moment in its history. We must restore hope in the American Dream. We must celebrate all that America stands for around the world. And while our Founding Fathers recognized the constructive value of political debate, we must send the message to today’s elected officials in a civil, respectful voice they hear and understand, that the time to put citizenship ahead of partisanship is now.

Yours is the voice that can help ignite the contagious upward spiral of confidence that our country desperately needs.

With great respect,

chief executive officer, Starbucks Coffee Company

This message conveys to me a shocking and even appalling lack of understanding of the current issues of the day by Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz.  He says “Like so many of you, I am deeply disappointed by… our political leaders’ steadfast refusal to recognize that, for every day they perpetuate partisan conflict and put ideology over country, America and Americans suffer from the combined effects of paralysis and uncertainty.”  Howard, there is not a clear answer here that both sides of the political spectrum are failing to acknowledge.  It’s that our country is in a time of change and the question is which way it should change.  The Democrats want to see egalitarian socialism enacted where there would be no rich or poor, but just the grey morass of those held down to the lowest common denominator, but at least your bedroom would be private!  The Republicans want to see an economically permissive theocracy, but want to chain up your thoughts and genitals to conform to their god’s will.  The Tea Party is laissez-faire and nobly wants freedom, but they lack any idea what that means.

The point is, though, Howard, that there is no clear answer here and it is precisely a battle over ideology!  To say that we should just end the debate means that you think you know the answer and that we should all agree with you.  Interestingly, this is not the case.

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