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Howard Schultz Copyright Joshua Lott, Getty Images
Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz

Former Starbucks CEO Schultz Calls for Higher Taxes on Wealthy

"I myself should be paying higher taxes — and all wealthy Americans should have to pay their fair share. I think we can all agree on that."

By Sahil Kapur

(Bloomberg) --Billionaire Howard Schultz said wealthy Americans like him should pay higher taxes.

The former Starbucks CEO called for the rich to pay more during a speech Thursday at Purdue University in Indiana that was another stop on a nationwide tour he’s making as he weighs an independent run for president in 2020.

"I myself should be paying higher taxes — and all wealthy Americans should have to pay their fair share. I think we can all agree on that," Schultz said at the university.

He also called for an overhaul of the tax code that includes rate cuts for middle-income people and small businesses, though he didn’t unveil any specifics on his tax policy ideas such as rates.

Schultz has said he’s considering an independent White House run because of the leftward tilt of the Democratic Party, and he’s criticized proposals from Democratic presidential hopefuls such as Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren for sharp tax increases for the ultra-wealthy. Schultz is worth $3.7 billion according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He’s also criticized Republicans for cutting taxes on corporations and the wealthy.

Higher Taxes

Polls show public support across party lines for raising taxes on the wealthy, including ideas by Democrats such as Warren to impose an annual tax on wealth above $50 million and by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York to tax incomes above $10 million as high as 70 percent. Republican lawmakers widely oppose tax hikes, though surveys show many of their voters disagree.

In his speech, Schultz also touched on the threat posed by the nation’s $22 trillion debt and the need to reduce health care costs. “Neither side has developed -- let alone offered -- a credible plan to reduce costs by increasing competition,” he said.

As he has at other appearances, Schultz was critical of both major parties. “Our two-party system is broken,” he said.

His remarks on taxes are similar to what President Donald Trump said as a 2016 presidential candidate. In an August 2015 interview with Bloomberg, Trump said he’d favor raising taxes on rich people like himself. In May 2016, he told ABC News, "I am willing to pay more, and you know what, the wealthy are willing to pay more."

As president, the Republican enacted a sweeping overhaul that lowered taxes, with two-thirds of the individual tax gains accruing to the top one-fifth of earners by 2025, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.

Schultz, 65, and his advisers said he would make a run for the White House if it’s clear there is enough support for an independent to win. He’s pitching himself as an alternative to the ideological extremes that he views as ascendant in both Republican and Democratic parties.

A poll released Thursday showed he would be unlikely to win the White House as an independent but that he would probably pull enough votes from the Democratic candidate in 2020 to strengthen Trump’s prospects for re-election.

Schultz is drawing 7.7 percent of voters overall, but pulls twice as much support from Democrats (11.6 percent) as Republicans (5.6 percent), according to the survey conducted by Optimus, a data-science firm that’s studying the effects of independent candidates on the 2020 race.
 

 
To contact the reporter on this story: Sahil Kapur in Washington at [email protected] To contact the editors responsible for this story: Joe Sobczyk at [email protected] Laurie Asséo

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