My 2011 Letter to Howard Schultz & His Response to Me

The following is a reprint of my letter to Mr. Howard Schultz, former Starbucks CEO, sent on September 2, 2011. I took issue with his “A pox on both houses” view of our politics. He was kind enough to send me a personally signed response. Given his “60 Minutes” announcement on yesterday, 1.27.19, I feel it is imperative to reprint my original letter and his personal response. – Read complete thread at:

The email letter from Mr. Schultz is reprinted below my response.

My Response to his public comments about politics:

Mr. Schultz,

I am a daily Starbucks customer. I fully empathize with, and share, your concern regarding the partisan gridlock in Washington, D.C. What I take issue with is the “pox on both your houses” conclusion you have reached. Let’s be clear, there is an inherent partisan angle to most political debates, but a false equivalency is being suggested by inferring that both sides are at fault. Such is not the case. 

Let’s be brutally honest: 1. only one party threatened to take the country into default; 2. only one—caused the first-ever downgrading of the U.S.’s credit rating (explicitly-stated by Standard & Poors in their report), 3. only one party insists on the failed notion that even more tax breaks for the top 1-2% will create more jobs. If so, why did that not happen during the Bush years?

  • Taxes, as percentage of GDP, are the lowest they have been since the Eisenhower years.
  • Many Republicans slammed the stimulus (inaptly named) while taking the checks.
  • More than 40% of the so-called ‘stimulus’ bill (I would have preferred it had been called the “Put America Back to Work’ bill) was tax cuts.
  • Never in our country’s history, before now, did we engage in massive, unfunded war (two of them) expenditures, while at the same time, cutting taxes.
  • President Obama honestly placed the “off the budget” war costs on the budget, thus ballooning it, and getting blamed for his honesty.
  • We recently learned that economic mess President Obama inherited was worse than earlier stated.
  • Republicans (and Tea-Partiers—one in the same, just ultra-conservative Republicans from the past, now re-branded) complain of increased spending.
  • Of course there was increased spending. As an analogy: if one suffers a great economic loss or tragedy, does one then rush to start a savings account, or does one borrow money to rebuild?

 Well-respected Republicans, many of whom once worked for the “sainted” Ronald Reagan, agree that what we are witnessing, on the part of House Republicans, and filibuster-intoxicated Senate Republicans, is transparent and terrible for the country.

Warren Buffet has spoken eloquently, and honestly, on the subject of taxes, and tax policy in this country.

No less “liberal-thinkers” than David Stockman, and Bruce Bartlett (both Republicans) —among others—have spoken out in very clear terms, regarding failed and dumbfounding Republican economic policies.

  • There has not been a single piece of legislation from the new House Majority, aimed at growing jobs.
  • Instead, they attack NPR and Planned Parenthood; name post offices.
  • They attack the FAA, FEMA, block vital appointments, etc. I could go on.
  • They are like the arsonists who stand on the fire hose while complaining the firemen are not putting out the fire quickly enough.
  • Stated goals, voiced by Senator McConnell, Senator Demint, and others, are to see that President Obama fails. And if, in the process, America fails, then so be it.

So, Mr. Schultz, if you really want to have a positive impact, be specific in your assessment of the state of political malpractice in this country. Because of your stature, and the voice you have, you have an obligation to call it like it is. A scatter-gun, ‘all are to blame’ approach does a disservice, regardless of any political affiliation.

I understand you cannot, for certain reasons, be as candid and outspoken as can I.  In that sense, despite your financial clout, I, arguably,  have more freedom.

In conclusion, this right-wing agenda, as presently practiced, goes beyond politics; it goes to the success or failure of this country—the country that has made your hard-earned success possible. I call upon you to—even at the risk of being labeled a partisan by those who are allergic to truth—to call out wrong where you see it, and call it out, pointedly. To do otherwise is less than fully honest. Instead of zipping your purse, use the power of your purse to aid those who are trying to do the right things, in the face of enormous odds, thanks to ‘Citizens United’ (what a contradiction in terms that is).  If you have reached this last sentence, thanks for reading.


Gene Cartwright, author


September 2011

Dear Starbucks Friend and Fellow Citizen:

I love our country. And I am a beneficiary of the promise of America. But today, I am very concerned that at times I do not recognize the America that I love.

Like so many of you, I am deeply disappointed by the pervasive failure of leadership in Washington. And also like you, I am frustrated by our political leaders’ steadfast refusal to recognize that, for every day they perpetuate partisan conflict and put ideology over country, America and Americans suffer from the combined effects of paralysis and uncertainty. Americans can’t find jobs. Small businesses can’t get credit. And the fracturing of consumer confidence continues.

We are better than this.

Three weeks ago, I asked fellow business leaders to join me in urging the President and the Congress to put an end to partisan gridlock and, in its place, to set in motion an upward spiral of confidence. More than 100 business leaders representing American companies – large and small – joined me in signing a two-part pledge:

First, to withhold political campaign contributions until a transparent, comprehensive, bipartisan debt-and-deficit package is reached that honestly, and fairly, sets America on a path to long-term financial health and security. Second, to do all we can to break the cycle of economic uncertainty that grips our country by committing to accelerate investment in jobs and hiring.

In the weeks since then, I have been overwhelmed by the heartfelt stories of Americans from across the country, sharing their anguish over losing hope in the strongest and most galvanizing force of all – the American Dream. Some feel they have no voice. Others feel they no longer matter. And many feel they have been left behind.

We cannot let this stand.

Please join other concerned Americans and me on a national call-in conversation on Tuesday September 6th hosted by “No Labels,” a nonpartisan organization dedicated to fostering cooperative and more effective government. To learn more about the forum and the pledges, visit

America is at a fragile and critical moment in its history. We must restore hope in the American Dream. We must celebrate all that America stands for around the world. And while our Founding Fathers recognized the constructive value of political debate, we must send the message to today’s elected officials in a civil, respectful voice they hear and understand, that the time to put citizenship ahead of partisanship is now.

Yours is the voice that can help ignite the contagious upward spiral of confidence that our country desperately needs.

With great respect,

chief executive officer, Starbucks Coffee Company

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