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What's 'Ridiculous,' Says Warren, Is Not Tax on Wealth But Billionaires Like Schultz 'Who Think They Can Buy the Presidency'

"At this moment in time where you have all these working class people of all backgrounds who have been hurt by the Trump administration—to put another white male billionaire who thinks the deficit is the biggest crisis in the country—that is ridiculous given where the electorate is at."

Former Starbucks CEO and billionaire Howard Schultz announced his potential 2020 presidential campaign this week. (Photo: @cnnbrk/Twitter)

"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."

That is how Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on Tuesday responded to Howard Schultz, the billionaire and former Starbucks CEO considering a 2020 presidential run, after he characterized her proposed wealth tax on the nation's ultra-rich as "ridiculous" earlier in the day.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on Tuesday swiftly rejected criticism of her plan to tax the wealthiest Americans from Howard Schultz, the billionaire and former Starbucks CEO who announced this week that he is exploring a potential presidential run in 2020.

On NPR's "Morning Edition," Schultz called Warren's Ultra-Millionaire Tax "ridiculous," and suggested that the plan—which would levy an annual two percent tax on households with more than $50 million and a three percent tax on those with more than $1 billion in assets—is unfair to the .1 percent of Americans whose vast wealth would be targeted.

The proposal "makes a good headline," Schultz said, adding, "You can't just attack these things in a punitive way by punishing people."

With his $3 billion net worth, Schultz would be among the few Americans rich enough to be subjected to the tax.

Since announcing his 2020 ambitions, Schultz has made clear his aversion to the kind of bold initiatives meant to improve the lives of working Americans that Warren and other progressives have championed. Instead, he has spent recent days borrowing from former President Richard Nixon by claiming to represent a so-called "silent majority" that he says is hungry for an "independent centrist" candidate.

"The question I think we all should be asking ourselves is at a time in America when there's so much evidence that our political system is broken, that both parties at the extreme are not representing the silent majority of the American people—isn't there a better choice, a better way?" Schultz said in a video addressing voters.

Despite Schultz's evidence-free claim that U.S. voters want some nebulous "centrist" candidate, numerous polls have shown that there is in fact a vocal majority demanding higher taxes for the rich as a way to correct wealth inequality, Medicare for All, government-funded college tuition, and the Green New Deal.

Ignoring these calls, Schultz appears ready to begin a campaign building on his belief, stated in an interview last summer, that "we have to go after entitlements" like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid as a way of balancing the federal budget.

On MSNBC, Justice Democrats communications director Waleed Shahid scoffed at the notion that Schultz's platform would energize voters.

Schultz's potential campaign, Shahid said, simply shows "what white male billionaires think about themselves—that they should be in charge."

"And I think at this moment in time where you have all these working class people of all backgrounds who have been hurt by the Trump administration—to put another white male billionaire who thinks the deficit is the biggest crisis in the country—that is ridiculous given where the electorate is at," he continued.

The national grassroots group Tax March also condemned Schultz's support for low taxes for the rich and his dismissal of the income inequality that's left 80 percent of Americans living paycheck to paycheck while billionaires including him and President Donald Trump attack the government programs aimed at easing the suffering of the nation's poor and working class.

"Howard Schultz's leadership on economic issues is as bland as his coffee, apparently," said Tax March spokesperson Ryan Thomas. "Confronting historic inequality means actually having a plan to address the widening gap between the very rich and everyone else—not supporting a watered-down version of the GOP's failed tax law."

"Every Democratic or Independent candidate for president should not only call for repealing the GOP's tax law, but supporting raising taxes on the wealthiest individuals and largest corporations to ensure our economy actually works for working people."

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