#centrism  #trump  #aoc  #politics  
Issue 14
February 10, 2019
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It is not obvious why (voters), sick of Mr Trump’s antics, would warm to a Democrat offering a different set of implausible promises. “If we try to out-crazy the policy announcements of a troubled president, we will do nothing to restore confidence,” warns Senator Chris Coons of Delaware. - The Economist

On January 27th, Howard Schultz, the founder and former CEO of Starbucks, announced his interest in running as an independent candidate in the 2020 election for President of The United States. TQC hopes he formally declares himself a candidate. From the due diligence we've done, Schultz appears to be center-left on social issues and fiscally to the center-right. In our view, this is exactly the prescription this great nation needs at this time.

At The Quintessential Centrist, we are transparent about our views. We pride ourselves on being malleable and open when new ideas, proposals, or policies merit serious consideration. We are open to respectful debate and welcome the prospect of having our minds changed. Indeed, if a counter-party offers a superior argument underpinned by facts and empirical evidence, we will (as we have done in the past) alter our views.

As most of our readers are aware, Howard Schultz is the man responsible for turning Starbucks into a international success story and, in the process, created a new coffee culture in America. In addition to paying better wages (before service industry wages became a political talking point) and offering affordable health care options, Schultz provided an opportunity to all his employees -- both part time and full time -- to advance their education tuition free via a partnership with Arizona State University's online program. In short, Schultz is a socially liberal, fiscally centrist self-made businessman who advocates both for his workers and for meaningful social causes. And unlike the current businessman currently occupying the Oval Office, Mr. Schultz was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth.

Schultz was born to a poor family in the Canarsie section of Brooklyn, NY. He grew up in a housing project with his two siblings, a homemaker mother and father who became a truck driver after serving in the US Army. Schultz learned the value of hard work at a young age and has since carried those values throughout his incredible life. When Schultz was a young boy, his father had an accident that left him unable to work. The family was left with no steady source of income, and no health care insurance. To help, Schultz worked a series of odd jobs. He attended Canarsie High School and was later awarded an athletic scholarship from Northern Michigan University. He was the first member of his family to attend college.

On the fiscal side, here are a few prudent and responsible positions Schultz takes:

*Supports a progressive tax code: people who earn more should pay a higher rate of income tax. We agree. That said, he also understands that excessive taxes and regulation thwart economic growth and stifle job creation. We also agree. He should know. He's created over 300,000 jobs, the majority of which are in the United States.

*Believes paying his employees a living wage is both ethically correct and good business practice: Schultz paid his baristas a living wage well before it was politically fashionable to do so. As a result, Starbucks' employees earn above average wages vs. their peers. Schultz has delivered on the notion that by treating his workers well via higher pay and benefits, they would be more productive and create a value-enhancing experience which would yield greater customer satisfaction and increased brand loyalty. In that, he has been proven correct.

*Opposes Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's (AOC's) proposal to raise the marginal tax rate on earnings in excess of $10 million to 70%. Ms. Cortez claims her plan will only affect the richest sliver of Americans. We vehemently disagree. In our view, Ms. Cortez seems blissfully ignorant of the fact that a disproportionate number of people who would bear the burden of her tax plan are responsible for creating a disproportionate number of jobs in America. Impose a 70% marginal tax on those families, and you take away their economic incentive to create employment opportunities for working Americans. Under AOC's tax plan, the richest sliver of Americans will certainly be worse off. And so will the 99%. Like Mr. Schultz, at TQC we believe that people who earn more should pay more, but a progressive tax code should be applied with a degree levelheadedness and proportionality.

*Schultz opposes Medicare for all. In general, we are aligned with this view. TQC does not believe in a government-run single payer system. While the depths of this issue are well beyond the scope of this article, in sum we think a revamped private sector with true price transparency will help alleviate many of the ills of our healthcare system. That said, we do think there must be a government backstop to provide basic healthcare for working Americans, particularly those who cannot afford private insurance; the disabled, mentally ill and children at the poverty level. This system already sort of exists. But Medicaid is a highly inefficient program riddled with gross incompetence and corruption. Schultz's view on this level of granularity remains unclear.

*Believes the national debt is the greatest national threat to America. TQC agrees that the national debt is a problem, but not the greatest threat to America within its borders.

*Supports reforming entitlements. Even daring to discuss meaningful entitlement reform has been political suicide for elected officials. We applaud Schultz for being willing to confront this issue. TQC agrees that entitlements need to be rationalized. If politicians continue to promise a party without detailing how they will pay to deliver the party favors, there won't be anything left for the younger generation of Americans to be entitled to. We aren't privy to Schultz's entitlement reform plan. That said, we support moving the retirement age up to 70 for everybody under 45 years old except in select industries where the job is so physically demanding that it is not realistic or safe to wait until 70. The reality is that people are living longer. Hence it is reasonable to ask them to work and continue to pay into the system for longer before retiring and drawing on Social Security. This is a common sense approach to help replenish the system without cutting current benefits to older Americans and assuring that benefits can be paid to the people currently paying into Social Security.

*Supports revamping the tax code.

Socially, Schultz supports the following positions:

*Equal rights and opportunity for LGBTQ persons. In 1999 Schultz was given an award for his work in combating the AIDS virus. This is noteworthy because the stigmatism around HIV/AIDS was a lot more acute before the new millennia. Schultz's belief in equality extends to all, and in 2017 the NAACP awarded him the National Equal Justice Award and he is a proponent of same-sex marriage.

*Supports immigration reform including greater border security but also a path to citizenship for people who are currently in the US illegally but brought here as children (DREAMERS). At TQC, we are strong proponents of legal immigration. This nation was founded on immigration and inter-state mobility of human capital. Though people who enter the United States illegally should not be rewarded, we must carve out an exception for Dreamers who are law abiding, tax-paying citizens. They were brought here as children and had no choice in the matter. As Schultz advocates, we must reform the immigration system. The reality is only then will we not have to deal with a Dreamers problem in the future.

*Supports preferred employment opportunities at Starbucks for veterans and military spouses, and unemployed youth not currently enrolled in school. In 1999 Arizona State University granted Schultz an honorary Doctor of Humane letters degree.

In many ways, Schultz is a Quintessential Centrist. Unfortunately, despite not even formally throwing his hat in the ring, he's already taken a lot of flack from fellow Democrats (Schultz is a Democrat but is considering running as an independent) especially from far-left law makers including Elizabeth Warren and Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez. Their criticism of Schultz is factually incorrect and senseless.

Senator Warren, in response to Schultz's exploratory bid for office tweeted: "What's 'ridiculous' is billionaires who think they can buy the presidency to keep the system rigged for themselves while opportunity slips away for everyone else. The top 0.1%, who'd pay my #UltraMillionaireTax, own about the same wealth as 90% of America. It's time for change."

Alexandra Ocazio-Cortez tweeted: "Why don’t people ever tell billionaires who want to run for President that they need to 'work their way up' or that maybe they should start with city council first?"

These off-base tweets depict just how little both Ms. Warren and Ms. Cortez know about Mr. Schultz -- his humble beginnings, and his contribution to business in a considerate, humane and socially conscious way. Bashing Howard Schultz for being privileged now is completely misguided and utterly absurd. As noted earlier, Schultz was raised in a housing project, worked dead-end jobs to help his family stay afloat, graduated university. He eventually bought Starbucks and built it into mutli-billion dollar international corporation, and, in the process went on to become a self-made billionaire. That is the very definition of someone "working their way up." While on his way up, Schultz labored as a bar tender, which ironically was Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's profession before she became a congresswoman. Unlike the businessman who currently occupies the Whitehouse and is representative of many of the worst elements of capitalism, Mr. Schultz was not born into either privilege or access. It is quite certain that Mr. Schultz has done materially more to aid Ms. Cortez and Ms. Warrens constituents than they have.

Other Democrats claim Schultz running as in independent would only help re-elect Trump by picking off votes from undecided Americans, but are united in their disapproval of Trump. At TQC we find it disappointing that a hardworking, self-made, generous, reasonable, respectful man with quality leadership skills is vilified by his fellow Democrats for being politically-centrist. Mr. Schultz is exactly the type of candidate the American people, while certainly not obligated to vote for, should seriously consider.

While we find it disturbing that our political parties can apparently only play politics with radicals, this game of political calculus is potentially self-defeating. In our view, Howard Schultz is the not the reason why Donald Trump would be re-elected. Ironically, it is ultra left wing personalities like Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and her outlandish "ideas' that will see Trump catapulted to a 2nd term. The Economist agrees: "It is not obvious why such voters, sick of Mr Trump’s antics, would warm to a Democrat offering a different set of implausible promises. “If we try to out-crazy the policy announcements of a troubled president, we will do nothing to restore confidence,” warns Senator Chris Coons of Delaware. Trying to improve on Mrs Clinton may be a better strategy—and her proposals were the least of her problems. Voters rejected her because they didn’t like or identify with her, not because her jobs plan was small-bore."

A recent Gallup poll put the number of independent voters at ~40%. Critics immediately denounced these findings claiming that while close to 40% of voters say they are independent, most are partisan aligned with one of the two major parties. We think the critics of this poll have some foundation to stand on; most voters tend to align with one of the two main parties, however we believe -- and it's one of the main reasons we started this platform -- that there is a sizable contingent of centrist-Americans who are interested in compromise, open to reasonable ideas, and whose main objective is facilitating legislation that will benefit the country. Keep in mind, some of the same media pundits who are discrediting the Gallup poll are the same critics who argued that, according to polls, Donald Trump essentially had a "zero %" chance at being elected.

Howard Schultz is exactly the type of thoughtful, centrist leader that this nation needs to help bridge its ideological differences. He is the epitome of the American dream. Regardless, voters should, and will be the final arbiters.