More than three years ago, I wrote a letter to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz about the disparity between the green image the company projects and the actual way their sourcing promotes deforestation. The letter followed my hearing a report from the Union of Concerned Scientists on sourcing of palm oil and other agricultural products.
What is, perhaps, most telling, is that Schultz never bothered to reply to the letter. This fits perfectly with his arrogance and narcissism, characteristics that we endure daily with the current occupant of the White House. Surely the answer to the United States’ political challenges is another egotistical, power-seeking billionaire with zero political experience!
Schultz’s trial balloon has, of course, evoked the nightmarish specter of 2000, when Ralph Nader’s narcissistic run as a third-party candidate for president helped defeat Al Gore and put George W. Bush in office, leading to the disastrous Iraq War and subsequent ramifications that have continued to disrupt international geopolitics.
This morning, I heard a brief interview with Schultz on NPR–and it was apparent that he has such a profound belief in his own superiority that—unlike billionaire Michael Bloomberg—he is incapable of seeing the risk that a bid as a third-party candidate could have in helping re-elect Donald Trump. He heaped scorn on Elizabeth Warren’s wealth tax proposal–which was reviewed by Bloomberg News and found to be a proposal, that if implemented, could result in a profound transformation of the U.S. (and global) economy in a way that would help mitigate inequality, eliminate ongoing deficits, and provide resources for progressive social policies such as expanded national health insurance and more robust environmental protection and lower carbon energy production.
The proposal of course received harsh criticism from conservatives–but compared to other proposals, such as Alexandria Octavio-Cortez’s proposal for a 70 percent marginal tax rate, the analysis in Bloomberg News found that it would be potentially far more effective in raising large sums and changing the game. While it would certainly face challenges in becoming law, Schultz’s contempt for the policy and his belief that he is the one to rescue the U.S. is reminiscent of Donald Trump. And even if the policy faces headwinds, or would require modification to become law, it is critical that bold proposals be put forth in order to focus the conversation.
Warren’s proposal, if implemented, would raise $2.75 trillion over a decade from about 75,000 families. Keep in mind that there are 325.7 million people in the United States. The proposal would reportedly cost Amazon’s Jeff Bezos $4.1 billion the first year it was implemented. Is it a stretch to think that there could be broad popular support for a tax plan that impacts 0.1 percent of the wealthiest people in the country?
Wealth and power do not, of course, gracefully concede their influence. But it may be that after the 2016 debacle and the ongoing economic rape of everyday Americans and the environment by Trump and his cronies, that a truly progressive politician with intelligently articulated policies could both be elected, and be effective. The attitude personified by Schultz–that we should timidly tweak here and there and not even consider bolder, more progressive policies, has contributed to the public cynicism over politics, and the despair of those caught in a paycheck-to-paycheck existence.