Like many Americans, Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, is disgusted with politics—the bickering, the astounding inability to get things done, the blatant self-interest in every carefully calculated decision. Now Schultz is trying to start a movement that’ll force politicians to stop putting “partisan agendas before the people’s agenda,” in his words. How might everyday Americans make politicians put the interests of the people and the nation first, rather than focusing on reelection bids and partisan politics? Schultz suggests that we all stop giving them money.
A week ago, Schultz sent out an email to Starbucks employees, as well as 50 business leaders. The message was titled “Leading Through Uncertain Times.” While most of the message was about company business, Schultz also voiced a sentiment undoubtedly shared by millions over the past few months:
I found myself growing more and more frustrated at the lack of cooperation and irresponsibility among elected officials as they have put partisan agendas before the people’s agenda. This is not the leadership we have come to expect, nor deserve.
Even before sending the message, Schultz had an idea for transforming the way politics works today. After receiving an overwhelmingly positive response to the political passages in his e-mail, Schultz made the idea public over the weekend with the help of New York Times’ columnist Joe Nocera. Because politicians seem to make nearly all of their decisions based on what’ll help their reelection campaigns, and because, as Schultz says, “the lifeblood of their reelection campaigns is political contributions,” his idea is to simply cut them off. As Nocera writes:
Schultz wants his countrymen — big donors and small; corporations and unions — to stop making political contributions in presidential and Congressional campaigns. Simple as that.
While Schultz leans Democratic, the boycott he’s suggesting would be completely bipartisan. The country as a whole would basically go on strike against all politicians, and the money flow would remain dammed up until our leaders “put their feet in the shoes of working Americans,” as Schultz says, and start coming up with bipartisan solutions to help those Americans—first and foremost, through job creation.
On the one hand, the boycott is brilliant: What better way to demonstrate the frustration being felt around the country? On the other, it seems naïve to think that corporations, lobbyists, and groups on the far right or left will simply stop writing checks to politicians. These organizations donate money mainly so that politicians will fight for and make decisions based on the interests of their groups, not necessarily what’s good for the nation as a whole.
In any event, most people will agree with Schultz when he has this to say about politicians: “It is a sad state of affairs that the only thing they’ll listen to is money.”
They sure seem to listen to the money that’s donated to them. Perhaps they’ll also listen when the donations dry up.