Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz kicked off a potential 2020 presidential run on Sunday by ripping his former party, depicting the Democrats’ health care proposals as unrealistic and financially unfeasible.
“Every American deserves the right to have access to quality health care,” Schultz told “60 Minutes” correspondent Scott Pelley. “But what the Democrats are proposing is something that is as false as the wall ― and that is free health care for all, which the country cannot afford.”
During the interview, Schultz said he is “seriously” considering running for president “as a centrist independent, outside of the two-party system.” Asked why he wouldn’t run as a Democrat, the self-described “lifelong Democrat” said both parties are “consistently not doing what’s necessary on behalf of the American people” and are instead engaging in “revenge politics.”
“I look at both parties, we see extremes on both sides,” he said. “We are sitting today with approximately $21.5 trillion of debt, which is a reckless example ― not only of Republicans, but of Democrats as well ― as a reckless failure of their constitutional responsibility.”
Schultz has long expressed concern about the national debt. In 2011, he asked business leaders around the country to “forgo political contributions” until Washington “deliver[ed] a fiscally disciplined long-term debt and deficit plan to the American people.” Last year, he called the national debt the “greatest threat domestically to this country.”
That concern may explain Schultz’s comments on health care ― that Democrats believe in “free health care for all” and that “the country cannot afford it.” Presumably he is thinking of proposals to create a “Medicare for all” system in which a new government insurance program would cover everybody, with no premiums or out-of-pocket costs. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has proposed such a plan, and many Democrats have endorsed it.
But not all Democrats support the Sanders plan, and whether the plan would actually lead to higher spending would depend on a number of variables, like how successful it was at holding down payments to doctors and hospitals. (A proposal like Sanders’ could actually result in less overall spending.) And while the federal government would end up spending more ― because it would be taking over spending from employers and private individuals ― federal debt would rise only if the government didn’t offset that spending with new taxes, such as on the very rich, or with cuts elsewhere.
During the interview, Schultz aligned himself with many Democrats in other ways. He said he believed there should be “a fair and equitable way” for undocumented immigrants to become U.S. citizens, that leaving the Paris climate accord was a “tremendous mistake,” and that the Republican tax bill went too far.
Schultz stepped away from Starbucks last summer after more than three decades with the company, saying he had become “deeply concerned” about “growing division” in the U.S. and wanted to figure out what he could do to help his country.
The possibility that Schultz may run as an independent candidate has already rankled Democrats. Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, who has announced he plans to run for president as a Democrat, said Schultz running “would provide Donald Trump with his best hope of getting re-elected.”
When asked if he was worried his own presidential run could help Trump win another four years in the White House, Schultz made it clear he didn’t buy that line of thinking.
“I want to see the American people win. I want to see America win. I don’t care if you’re a Democrat, independent, libertarian, Republican. Bring me your ideas. And I will be an independent person who will embrace those ideas,” he said. “Because I am not, in any way, in bed with a party.”
He begins a promotional tour for his new book, From the Ground Up, on Monday in New York City. Described as “part candid memoir, part uplifting blueprint of mutual responsibility,” Schultz’s book delves into his experience growing up in a public housing project in Brooklyn, New York, and how it shaped the rest of his life.
Schultz had a net worth of $3 billion as of 2017.
This story has been updated to mention Schultz’s book tour.