Howard Schultz demonstrated on Tuesday that he is aware of the issues facing the United States. And the former Starbucks CEO had many critiques of the policy proposals put forward by Democrats and Republicans.
But Schultz’s plans for fixing those problems were few and far between.
The former Starbucks CEO used CNN’s town hall to talk about what separates himself from Democrats and Republicans and repeatedly knocked what he called “extreme” left and right proposals on issues ranging from tax policy to climate change to fixing the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. But Schultz provided few specific proposals of his own and, at multiple times, admitted he didn’t know how to fix the problems or suggested he would address them by breaking up government bureaucracy.
But that was the extent of Schultz’s depth on policy.
It’s not uncommon for potential candidates to avoid discussing policy specific at length, particularly in the early stages of a campaign. But Schultz inability to answer specific questions about his policy proposals could continue to fuel concerns over his potential candidacy and raise questions about why he is averse to taking a stand on policies after he uses other people’s proposals to attack Democrats and Republicans.
For Schultz, though, the lack of policy specifics was the plan.
“He won’t be proposing any changes to current policy – but will weigh in the big topics like gun control, healthcare, and immigration,” said a Schultz spokeswoman. “He’ll try to explain to the audience how well he has a grasp on these issues.”
Schultz unleashed on Democrats supporting the Green New Deal, a sweeping climate change and economic overhaul plan proposed by Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey.
He called it “not realistic” and suggested it was “immoral” to suggest such expensive plans.
“Let’s be sensible about what we are suggesting,” he said. “Let’s not just throw things against the wall because it’s a good slogan or a good press release.”
At no point, however, did Schultz outline his own proposal to address climate change.
The same was true on taxes, where Schultz was pressed by CNN’s Poppy Harlow to disclose how much he will raise taxes on the wealthy.
“Give me a sense, are you talking about you pay 2% higher, 10% higher, 20% higher federal income tax,” Harlow asked.
Schultz responded: “I don’t know what the number is. I think what I am saying is, we need comprehensive tax reform.”
Schultz later said that proposals that raise taxes on the wealthy to 70% was “punitive,” but declined to provide a number that wasn’t punishing.
“I don’t know what the number is,” he said, “but what I am suggesting is I should be paying higher taxes.”
Even when Schultz began to provide some level of detail on his plans on health care and reforming the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, he avoided going into any depth and said he would listen to more experienced policy experts.
“Mr. Schultz, you have diagnosed a problem,” Harlow said after an audience member asked about the VA. “It’s a problem we all know exists and it’s a tragedy and a travesty. What would you do to fix it?”
Schultz said, “First off, diagnose the program and diagnosing a problem is that we have layers and layers and layers of government bureaucracy.”
“I will fix the VA because it is about leadership, it is about character,” he said. “And it’s also about the temperament and humility to listen to people who are smarter than you, who have more experience than you, to help solve this problem.”
The same was true on health care and the Democratic backed plan known as Medicare for All.
Schultz lambasted the universal health care plan as too expensive and a “far left” proposal but declined to get into what his own health care plan would include.
“First and foremost, I think everyone in America deserves to have the right for affordable care,” he said. “Second, there needs to be completion in the system.”
Schultz went on to say that he was proud of his support for the Affordable Care Act, but that he now believes “we have to go back in and fix the affordable care act.”
“Competition will do that,” Schultz added.
But Harlow followed up.
“How,” she asked. “The question is how?”
Schultz declined to go into depth.