Coffee, Tea, and Labor Day

I was taken aback yesterday after I read an email that I received from Mr. Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks.  I was certainly not expecting it, for I am accustomed to receiving coupons and promotions from the typical newsletter, but never a letter from its CEO.  Based on Starbucks stance on different issues, I have always been under the impression that politically, Mr. Schultz leans towards the left, and for someone like him to send out a politically charged letter to his fellow citizens, I could clearly discern that even business owners who have been staunch supporters of the current administration have arrived to a tipping point — and they can no longer afford to stay quiet.

I liked his pledge of calling on Americans “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.”   This is very telling.  American companies – large and small – can not longer afford this administration’s anti-business and anti-job-creation policies.  America can no longer afford this president.

He refers to the American Dream on his letter; the same American Dream that I have been “living” for the past 20 years, but I am afraid that I’m now waking up to a reality that has been slowly eroding America’s exceptionalism.  I just can’t fathom the thought of the U.S. resembling a system that has never worked (long term) in other countries, including the one that I chose to move away from in my younger years.

If you asked me to describe the America that I have always loved, I would mention a place where those who want to excel, work hard, and prosper get a chance at doing so without being judged or vilified for it — not an America whose leaders encourage laziness and dependance in order to garner more power and get a few additional votes at the ballot box.

The same America whose principles and heroic actions saved the world from communism and fascism is being denigrated today for wanting to hold and implement those same principles.  But what has changed?  The core hasn’t changed, but leaders have — and the new generation who has put them in power seems to have different goals from the ones of our founding fathers, grandparents, and old immigrants.  Today’s generation hasn’t “suffered” enough to appreciate the hardships that this country has gone through.  The true history on our history books is either being overlooked by many in our education system, or simply changed and politicized for ideology sake.

Ideology has become the driving force of our future, and history and facts have become irrelevant in a world a bit too dangerous to play with people’s feelings.  Everything has become so complex and politically correct that anyone with a brain and the willingness to learn the facts and do something about it gets condemned for doing so.  The so called Tea Party movement, which last I checked is comprised of simple, hard working, middle class America, intends to get our country back on track politically and financially, but gets blasted by the main stream media and Washington political machine in such a way that doesn’t leave more discourse to the imagination.  The right doesn’t get much better than that.  The word civility must have gone down the drain along with the truthful words from our history books and our children’s classrooms.

Entitlement has become the “in” word in our country with a young generation that is accustomed to getting everything it wants with no merit.  To top that, today’s leaders exacerbate the problem by providing a plethora of entitlement programs that are wrecking any motivation whatsoever for people to go out and make it happen on their own.  The list goes on…health insurance “‘till you are 26”, healthcare for all at the expense of tax payers, the never-ending extensions of unemployment benefits, food stamps (which our country has recently hit an unprecedented record high of 45.8 million participants, accounting for 15% of Americans), and so on.

There’s nothing wrong with temporarily helping citizens get their situation back in order while the country goes through such a difficult time; however, if there’s interest in grabbing the bull by its horns, why not start by letting the young fall (or fail) a few times, and let them figure out how to get their lives back in order?  Why not let their feelings get hurt every once in a while, so they can strengthen their character and learn to deal with the typical life challenges on their own?

On a different level, why not let the “to-big-to-fail” companies in the private sector fail, for the market to adjust itself the way it’s supposed to in a healthy capitalistic system? Why not incentivize corporations to jump start their re-hiring stream by offering better tax rates, fewer entitlement mandates, and less government intervention?  You don’t set aside free market principles to save the free market!

Supposedly we are “celebrating” labor day this weekend — while we all heard this last Friday how the current labor market added ZERO net jobs this month.  How in the world is America going to get out of the current situation if it’s still unable to produce jobs?  How in the world are we supposed to produce jobs if the ones who are doing the hiring have no motivation to get the ball rolling?  How in the world will the ones who are in power today realize that the decisions they are making today are leading our country on the wrong path to prosperity?

Howard Shultz has a point – we can choose to rest on our laurels, obtain our knowledge from our “preferred” sources (Main Stream Media, New York Times, Huffington Post, et all, if you are on the left side of the political divide, or Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Hannity, or Levin — if you are located on the right side) and continue watching our politicians and media sources incinerate each other with their expected rhetoric, or we can choose to amicably do something about our circumstances without compromising our principles of course…

…I believe that the left and the right have genuine differences of perspective, problem solving theories, and lifestyles; however, regardless of ideology, we can all choose to come together as Americans (as we did post 9/11 for a very short amount of time) and agree that we all have a country that we love very dearly that needs a little help — to say the least.  I can’t see it getting any better unless we decide to regroup, understand the challenge ahead, agree on the major issues that we need to fix, and choose a leader that can represent the majority with not only the vision to recover what we have lost, but most importantly, to offer a clear plan outlining exactly how we are going to resolve this mess.

It is up to us Americans to choose right this time – ideology aside, we know deep in our hearts what has made America exceptional.  We just need to look back and not ignore our history.  It’s all been written for us out there, and we could easily recognize the consequences of wrong decisions (hint: look at Europe today — and a little closer: California, Nevada, and New York).  Let’s roll our sleeves and get to work – It’s time to choose a new leader.

****   ****   ****

Below you will find Mr. Schultz’s letter:

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 www.upwardspiral2011.org

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