WASHINGTON -- Starbucks founder and CEO Howard Schultz is launching a petition drive calling on leaders in Washington to quickly reopen the federal government, enact a long-term borrowing bill and reach a bipartisan “comprehensive” budget deal by the end of the year.
In an interview with The Huffington Post, the studiously nonpartisan Schultz said it was “correct” that the Republican Party deserves more blame for the current impasse, but that it was now up to both parties -- and the president -- to compromise.
“The parties are unequal in how the problem has been created,” he said, “but both are equally responsible for trying to come up with a solution.”
One of the most vocal and best connected of America’s business leaders, Schultz was scornful of a stopgap proposal that has recently gained currency in the gridlocked capital: a lifting of the federal borrowing limit that would carry the government for six weeks.
He said that such a measure would solve none of the underlying issues and would hurt the U.S. economy by pushing the peak of the crisis into the midst of the lucrative holiday shopping season.
“It’s ridiculous and, in my mind, fool’s gold. It’s a Band-Aid,” Schultz said. “And what it will do is put it back into the middle of the holiday season, which is so irresponsible. It’s shameful. There is no question that no business, small or large, will be immune from the burden that will be placed on the American consumer by this."
Starting Friday morning, Schultz and his aides said, paper petitions will be available at roughly 8,000 to 10,000 Starbucks locations in the U.S. The petition can be signed online at ComeTogetherPetition.com or liked on Facebook. People can print out a blank petition at the website and bring signed copies to the stores. And the petition will be printed in multiple national newspapers so that readers can tear it out, sign it and bring to Starbucks.
Starbucks says it serves about 45 million customers per week in the U.S.
According to Schultz, he decided to launch the petition drive after discussing the idea with one of President Barack Obama’s top advisers, Valerie Jarrett, as well as with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray (D-Wash.).
He also talked with more than a dozen CEOs who run “Dow 30” companies -- some of the largest companies in the world -- and they were supportive.
“They are 100 percent concerned and as outraged as I am,” Schultz said. “No one will be immune from the catastrophic events that could occur as a result of the road we are headed down right now.”
The fundamental issue, Schultz said, is the “balance between revenues and entitlements,” and it is this bland actuarial, but explosive social, problem that the political system seems unable to confront.
“Civil discourse is more necessary than ever,” he said.
The root causes of Washington's gridlock are lawmakers' twin obsessions with raising money and staying in office, he said. “They have trumped the legislative process and inverted their core responsibilities.”
Schultz’s aides noted that another reason for the Starbucks petition is that government-run means of expressing public sentiment -- the White House “petition” line and even the congressional switchboard -- are currently either closed or overloaded because of the government shutdown.
“It’s almost perverse,” said Schultz. “In the midst of a government shutdown, the means of complaining about it are shut down.”
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story suggested that Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett, Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray were all supportive of Starbucks' launching an anti-shutdown petition. In fact, the idea was simply discussed with all three.