Howard Schultz slams the 'vilification' of successful people in business as 'left-leaning' Democratic presidential hopefuls enter the 2020 race

Skye Gould/Hollis Johnson/Business InsiderHoward Schultz is ‘seriously considering’ running for president.
  • Howard Schultz criticised the rise of what he called the “vilification” of business success and capitalism as presidential hopefuls vie for the Democratic nomination.
  • “I’m equally concerned about both a socialist democratic president as well as reelecting Donald Trump,” Schultz told Business Insider on Friday.
  • Of the potential Democratic presidential nominees, Schultz said he “admires” former Vice President Joe Biden, who has not yet announced whether he plans to run for president in 2020.
  • Schultz, who made a fortune as the longtime CEO of Starbucks, said that capitalism is crucial to solving economic inequality in the United States and called for higher taxes on businesses and wealthy Americans.

DENVER, Colorado – Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is doubling down on his centrist viewpoint as more 2020 presidential hopefuls throw their hat in the ring for the Democratic nomination.

“In the last few months, there’s been a level of vilification on business, business success, and specifically, capitalism,” Schultz told Business Insider on Friday. “I have been a capitalist my whole life, but I demonstrated that you can be a performance-driven business through the lens of humanity.”

Schultz turned Starbucks into a coffee giant over his more than three decades of company leadership, emphasising progressive policies and growing his net worth to an estimated $US3.6 billion. In an interview with Business Insider on Friday, Schultz criticised both the right and the left, as he has done many times since announcing that he was “seriously considering” running for president as a centrist independent in January.

“I’m as concerned with the current left-leaning tilt of the Democratic party towards socialism and the leading Democratic nominees at this point … as I am about reelecting Donald Trump,” Schultz told Business Insider. “Both these solutions, in my view, would be a terrible choice to the American people in 2020.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders, who identifies as a democratic socialist, is one of the most popular candidates for the Democratic nomination as the party increasingly embraces policies such as Medicare for All.

When asked which potential Democratic candidates he admires, Schultz pointed to former Vice President Joe Biden, who has not yet announced whether he plans to run for president in 2020.

“I know him, I’ve travelled with him. How can I not admire him?” Schultz said. “He served the country for 40-plus years. He’s a great man.”

When asked whether Biden being nominated would impact his decision to run as a centrist independent, Schultz said it was too early to determine.

“I think it’s instructive that Mayor Bloomberg did not run as a moderate Democrat, could not find a path,” Schultz said. “Whether Vice President Biden runs or not, it will be interesting to see whether he can find the path.”

Schultz is ‘equally concerned’ with having a democratic socialist president and reelecting Trump

Howard Schultz(AP Photo/Michael Conroy)Schultz speaks at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, on February 7.

The longtime Starbucks leader has emphasised his humble beginnings in recent months. The child of two high-school dropouts, Schultz grew up in a public-housing project in Brooklyn, New York.

“I still have the scars, the vulnerability, the shame, the insecurity of growing up in a family where my parents couldn’t afford the $US96-a-month rent for the apartment in the projects,” Schultz said. “That has never left me.”

Read more:
How Howard Schultz went from living in Brooklyn public housing to ending his decades of Starbucks leadership as a billionaire with rumoured political aspirations

Schultz has faced backlash regarding his wealth since announcing his interest in running for president, with some critics portraying him as out of touch. In January, for example, Schultz was criticised for taking issue with the word “billionaire,” swapping out the word for the term “people of means.”

Schultz said his immense wealth has not hurt his appeal to the American people, pointing to his humble beginnings and balance of “profit and responsibility” as CEO of Starbucks.

He said that the odds of his rags-to-riches story happening were “virtually impossible,” but that it could only work in America. Schultz described businesses taking action as crucial to addressing economic equality in the US.

“The government itself is not going to be able to solve those problems, not sitting with $US22 trillion of debt,” Schultz said.

Schultz said that wealthy Americans should be paying higher taxes and that corporate tax rates should be raised, with incentives built in to “do more” for employees.

However, he argues that capitalism is crucial to reducing economic inequality.

“I’m equally concerned about both a socialist democratic president as well as reelecting Donald Trump,” Schultz said.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.