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Coffee CEO provides a jolt of common sense

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has taken out ads urging national leaders to begin to work together for the common good of the country in creating a fair, honest debt and deficit reduction package.

Associated Press

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has taken out ads urging national leaders to begin to work together for the common good of the country in creating a fair, honest debt and deficit reduction package.

It's not uncommon for well-heeled, deep-pocketed big-shots to occasionally take out full-page ads in newspapers to advocate a political agenda, be it promoting world peace, or opposing global warming, or calling upon President Barack Obama to release his Ho Chi Minh City birth certificate.

But now for something completely different.

In recent days pricey advertisements have been showing up in the New York Times featuring an open letter penned by Starbucks chief executive officer Howard Schultz urging members of Congress and the president to stop acting like the Three Stooges in a pie fight and grow up.

That's an awful lot of cinnamon dolce lattes.

Schultz's missive comes at a precipitous moment. After all, we were all witness to the recent debt ceiling caterwauling in which the nation's economic fortunes teetered while the White House and Capitol Hill bickered as if they were arguing over a $2 Nassau golf bet.

"We are better than this," Schultz wrote. If only someone would remind Washington.

The Schultz Manifesto resonates even more strongly in light of Obama's speech Thursday night before a joint session of Congress, which was greeted by Republicans with all the enthusiasm of Teamsters president James Hoffa Jr. finding himself in the middle of a tea party witch burning.

Sadly, the views expressed by Schultz will probably go unheeded by the denizens of Washington since they are couched in the incomprehensible language of common sense, a commodity rarer along the banks of the Potomac than that black plague of treason — bipartisanship.

Schultz urges our national leaders to begin to work together for the common good of the country in creating a fair, honest debt and deficit reduction package that sets "America on a path to long-term financial health and security."

Schultz expects a cabal of lobbyist sedan chair carriers who don't think beyond the next episode of Rush Limbaugh's daily mouth-foaming harrumph to think long term? Mister Rogers wasn't this naive.

In short, Schultz's letter merely asks Congress and the White House to act like real, honest-to-goodness (dare it be uttered?) adults.

Good God, what is this man thinking?

But wait, the heresy goes even further. Schultz implored both government and the business community to "break the cycle of economic uncertainty that grips our country by committing to accelerate investment in jobs and hiring."

Isn't that precious? Doesn't Schultz, who obviously has been too busy reading Dr. Seuss, realize we are in a presidential election cycle? What Republican is going to lift a finger to make Obama look good by hiring so much as a cabana boy if it will lower the unemployment rate?

Obama could agree to adopt every Republican economic proposal and the likes of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who makes Mr. Dithers look like Gandhi, would still accuse the White House of attempting to carry out a George Soros/Socialist/United Nations plot to turn the nation over to Dr. No.

So sure, the open letter is very nice. But if Schultz gets any more schmaltzy about America's future, we're all going to go into a collective diabetic coma.

That probably explains why Schultz also included a touch of extortion in his letter, calling upon the public and especially affluent political rainmakers to withhold their campaign contributions to both parties until Republicans and Democrats start acting less like Jack Nicholson in The Shining and more like mature stewards of the nation's affairs.

How can you not love this chap?

So far, Schultz has collected nearly 19,000 pledges from people promising to close up their checkbooks, including more than 100 top corporate executives for companies such as AOL, J. Crew, Nasdaq, Pinkberry, Zipcar, Hasbro, BBDO, the New York Stock Exchange, Whole Foods, Steinmart, JC Penney and PepsiCo.

Schultz also has received more than 2,600 promises from companies to begin hiring people. In a few short weeks, he has accomplished what Washington should have been doing the past three years.

Schultz may be on to something. While our elected representatives may view annoyed constituents as irritating peasants to be humored, once you start threatening pols with a loss of cash, it is possible to focus their attention.

The coffee mogul bemoaned the sense that Americans feel they are not being listened to, that they no longer matter and have been left behind in a morass of political gamesmanship.

"We cannot let this stand," Schultz writes.

It may not have the same emotional cachet as "Give me liberty or give me death." But Howard Schultz captured the pulse of the public — if only the Marx Brothers of the Beltway would bother to notice.

Coffee CEO provides a jolt of common sense 09/08/11 [Last modified: Thursday, September 8, 2011 7:39pm]
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