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Howard Schultz And The Lie Of The Reasonable Center

By Emily Cutler | Late Night TV | February 1, 2019 |

By Emily Cutler | Late Night TV | February 1, 2019 |


We’ve covered before why Howard Schultz running for president is a supremely bad idea and shows that he’s a self-centered asshole. What somehow managed to surprise me is that he’s also, apparently, a total dumbass. Here’s Seth Meyers inadvertently outing the “self-made” billionaire (“self-made” in quotes because no one in this country becomes successful without the assistance and support of the society in which they live, and “billionaires” aren’t made without the explicit consent of an increasingly immoral capitalist system that allows the exploitation of the working-class and poor for the benefit of the ultra-wealthy) as an idiot.

Did you catch it? Right around the 2:25 mark, Schultz argues the following:

I don’t think their views represent the majority of Americans. I don’t think we want a 70 percent income tax in America.

Well, why do you think that, Howard? Because a quick google search tells me what you think isn’t true. A majority of Americans do support a seventy-percent tax rate on the wealthy, and an even larger majority supports increasing taxes to at least a significant extent. Which means that either Howard Schultz, the genius billionaire who built an empire by convincing people to buy outrageously expensive dessert and coffee drinks, doesn’t understand about finding out what people want and then giving it to them, or Schultz believes that he can use the above (objectively untrue) statement to appeal to the middle-of-the-road crowd. Which belies the inherent bullshit nature of the current “moderate” position: being in the middle of things doesn’t automatically make you reasonable. Let’s say on one hand, you’ve got a guy who believes that the LGBTQ+ community is deserving of equal protection under the law including marriage rights, and on the other hand, you’ve got a guy who says gay people need to be put to death. Taking the centrist position of “maybe we can just jail the gays instead of killing them?” isn’t reasonable or moderate. It’s bullshit that needs to be called out as such.

It’s fairly easy to argue that point when you’re discussing a position as wildly unreasonable and unpopular as “death to gays,” but the underlying reasoning (that merely holding a position between two extremes doesn’t equate to moderation) holds even when applied to most positions. Should we open Medicare to all citizens in order to ensure that they have affordable access to quality healthcare, or should we allow people to go into crippling debt and/or die because they can’t afford their premiums? Arguing, “well, maybe we’ll keep the debt, but not let them die” is not a good stance to take. While we’re at it, the Medicare for all debate is one of the best examples of how the increasing tendency to label any position on the far ends of the spectrum as “extreme” is equally bullshit. Democrats and Progressives have been labeled as extremist for holding a belief that as the most prosperous nation on Earth, we should join literally every other industrialized country in the world in offering government funded healthcare to all of our citizens. That’s the position that earns Elizabeth Warren and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez the same label as politicians who think “white nationalism? BFD!”

Schultz is using the same tactic as far too many media members in framing the “reasonableness” argument solely in the distance and relationship of the opposing members. It disregards any historical or international context (and, you know, the overwhelming will of the people) in order to reduce complex policies into “He thinks one thing, she thinks the opposite, I’ll be your fucking Goldilocks.” Only not only is Goldilocks not the arbiter of reasonableness, she often isn’t even the right response for the job. Dumping hundreds of gallons of water onto your house is usually an extreme thing to do. Unless your house is burning to the ground. At which point it becomes both reasonable and necessary.

If we’re being honest, this isn’t exclusively about Schultz. After the shitshow that was his roll-out (not to mention the fact that he hasn’t even actually announced yet) his campaign seems to have lost all momentum, and he’s been mostly reduced to a laughing stock. Unfortunately, the assumption that “center” means “moderate” didn’t start and isn’t going away with Schultz. Meaning, as voters and citizens we’ll need to begin considering not just the positioning of the position, but the reasonableness of the total argument and the goals of the policy. It will take more time and more resources to stay up on the policy arguments, but it should ideally help reverse the social and political conditions that have led to our current political nightmare. And when in doubt, just remember: Goldilocks was a thieving bitch.

Header Image Source: NBC