Stephen Reader covers politics for It's a Free Country, WNYC's interactive politics site. He joined the station in 2010 and has also worked for Studio 360, WNYC's Peabody Award-winning show about art, culture, and creativity.
Why Starbucks' CEO Wants to Freeze Campaign Contributions
Tuesday, October 04, 2011
Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country, we bring you the unmissable quotes from the morning's political conversations on WNYC. Today on the Brian Lehrer Show, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz urged other corporate execs to stop making campaign donations until Washington starts working together to repair the economy.
Why dry up donations?
Howard Schultz is asking CEOs to take the money they would donate to political campaigns and instead donate it to his Upward Spiral campaign. Upward Spiral would create a fund that provides credit and loans to small businesses hoping to get off the ground, Schultz said.
The idea works on two fronts, the first of which is that withholding from politicians might engender more cooperation in Washington. Schultz said recent events have made it clear that the current state of partisan politics is untenable and destructive.
Most Americans watched with profound disappointment when congress was uanble to reach a bipartisan debt ceiling deal about a month ago. That resulted in a crisis of leadership and a crisis of confidence in America, and as a result of that I just thought, this is a moment in time where we can't rely on government and wait for government; but business leaders and corporations should in some way come together to send a signal to washington that we no longer want to embrace the status quo.
'The lifeblood of small business'
In addition to affecting political change, Schultz's idea is also supposed to work on the job creation front. Instead of contributions to bickering, how about contributions to business? Schultz said the Upward Spiral program would give something to small businesses and start-ups that big banks and the government itself aren't willing or able to provide.
The lifeblood of small businesses is access to credit, and we know that small business is the driving force of employment in this country. With 9.1 percent unemployment and no access to credit, we've got to make a change.
Balancing profits with conscience
Schultz stressed that business could play the kind of humanitarian role that many people want the government to fill. He was optimistic that an economic recovery was possible, but also that a new breed of benevolent corporations could come with it.
The gap between the haves and have-nots is widening. The amount of revenue that state and local municipalities have is going to cut social services in America, and this is why it's so vitally important for corporations to recognize that their pursuit of profitability as a singular goal is quite shallow. It needs to be balanced with a social conscience.