Howard Schultz: 'We Can't Wait for Washington' and CEOs Need to Show Confidence in the Economy

VIDEO: Howard Schultz outlines his plan to help get America back on its feet.
Share
Copy

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, who recently made a call to action for his "fellow concerned Americans" to boycott campaign contributions, said it is up to U.S. business leaders to help get the country out of its "crisis of confidence."

"We can't wait for Washington," he said. "Business leaders are going to have to galvanize their own constituencies and do everything they can to demonstrate confidence in the economy, and I think that can be contagious."

In an interview with "Nightline" anchor Terry Moran, Schultz talked about his loathing of Congress and the administration in, what he called, the "tragic conclusion" of the debt ceiling deal.

"I don't recognize what's coming out of Washington," he said. "I'm just asking in the most respectful way. You took an oath of office, all of you, to represent America, not ideology, not one constituency over another. We have serious problems right now."

He added it was U.S. business leaders' "responsibility" to help increase consumer confidence, especially though job creation. For his own company, Schultz said, he plans to remodel 1,700 Starbucks stores in the next year, and try to open up 200 new stores.

But the lack of a long-term agreement on the debt ceiling deal -- Congress and the administration still need to agree on $1.5 trillion more in budget savings by the end of the year -- is a direct link, he says, to the faltering economy.

"Most business people today are not going to invest in the uncertainty that exists in America," he said. "That uncertainly is directly linked to the debt ceiling."

A registered Democrat, Schultz wouldn't openly criticize President Obama or any specific member of Congress, but said there was a disconnect between Washington and the needs of the U.S. people.

"My biggest concern is that America is drifting towards mediocrity and that people don't recognize -- and by people I'm meaning Washington -- don't recognize the sense of urgency and the fact that I don't think this is a crisis anymore. I think it's an emergency," he said.

The Starbucks CEO said his campaign started with a call-to-action memo to his 200,000 employees and 50 other CEOs, which, he said, sparked encouragement for him to keep going.

He then officially launched his campaign in August with full-page ads and his website, Upwardspiral2011.org, calling upon people to boycott any further political contributions until the national deficit is reduced, as first reported by the New York Times. Schultz held a teleconference Tuesday night, where he said 130,000 people participated in a discussion about issues with the economy.

"I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't think our voice would make a difference," he said. "I could no longer sit idly by and be a bystander. ... I couldn't continue to be quiet anymore. I'm just trying to be respectful. I want to be civil, but I want to make a difference."

Schultz said 140 CEOS have now joined his pledge. They include CEOs from the NASDAQ, AOL, J.C. Penny and the New York Stock Exchange.

"It's not easy for a public CEO to sign a public document and say, 'I'm not going to contribute any money,"' he told "Nightline's" Terry Moran. "I think it's more than symbolic and I think that thousands of people who have signed up is emblematic of the concern."

But it's worth noting that Schultz and his wife have personally donated thousands in political contributions since 1994, with the vast majority going to the Democratic National Committee -- and only $1,000 going to a Republican, Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics' website, OpenSecrets.org.

The website also noted that Schultz's most recent political contribution was a $2,500 donation to Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., March 31.

ABC News' Katie Walmsey contributed to this report.

Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...