Daily Beast's Gross Steamed at Starbucks CEO for His Shutdown Shtick

October 11th, 2013 4:43 PM

For someone whose job title is global business editor, Daniel Gross seems far more concerned with bashing businessmen for not toeing the liberal line than reporting business news. Then again, perhaps we shouldn't expect that much from The Daily Beast.

Gross, who has slammed Apple's penchant for legal tax avoidance as being "too greedy for its own good" turned his attention today to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, lambasting him for daring to blame both Republicans and Democrats for the government shutdown, rather than use the work stoppage as an occasion to spout liberal talking points demonizing the Tea Party. The Yahoo! Finance alum seems particularly miffed because of Schultz's push for socially liberal stands in the past:

...I was a bit dismayed by this morning’s news that Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is spearheading a  nonpartisan drive to jolt Washington into action. On the company’s home page there’s a plea to “our leaders in Washington, D.C.” to come together to  reopen the government, pay our debts, and “pass a bipartisan and comprehensive long-term budget deal by the end of the year.”

That isn’t doppio. It’s dopey-yo.

Why is this annoying? Look, it isn’t D.C. leaders who have shut down the government and refuse to open it. It isn’t Washington that is blithely threatening not to meet our collective financial obligations. And it isn’t D.C. leaders who are refusing to enter negotiations about a longer-term budget deal. Rather, it’s Republicans behind all three. The debt-ceiling brinksmanship and government shutdown are pure Republican enterprises. Even professional centrists like Tom Friedman are acknowledging as much.


Starbucks believes in global warming and climate change; today’s Congressional Republicans, not so much. Last month, Starbucks told customers it would really, really prefer that they don’t bring weapons with them into company stores. Schultz has come out in favor of a higher minimum wage. He’s for same-sex marriage, and told stockholders who disapproved of his company’s stance that they should just sell their shares and move on.

Then there’s health care. It’s important to keep in mind that the proximate cause for the shutdown was the House GOP’s fierce, insane, inexplicable horror at the prospects of working-class people getting health insurance. Schultz himself has been a leader on healthcare. Part-time employees get health benefits. When the company struggled during the recession, he refused to cut benefits. Unlike many other CEOs at companies that rely on relatively low-wage workers, Schultz came out in August and said that the company would not reduce hours or benefits in response to the advent of Obamacare.

Yes, of course, Starbucks aims to serve everybody. So I don’t expect the company to ally itself publicly with Democrats and run attack ads on Republicans.  But it should at least recognize reality. As the drama drags on, it is becoming increasingly clear to big business and Wall Street that the problem in Washington is the current Republican party, and the House Republicans in particular. It is becoming increasingly clear to the public as well. The devastating Wall Street Journal/NBC poll on Thursday shows the public overwhelmingly blaming Republicans for the crisis at hand.

You’d think that a company that is as savvy at marketing and gauging popular taste as Starbucks would understand that now is not the best time for a pox-on-both-houses message.

Witness, ladies and gentlemen, liberal-on-liberal bullying. Schultz and Gross agree on a whole host of issues, but the Starbucks chief's deviation on the shutdown is all Gross needs to pen a nastygram. Deviation from the party line is inexcusable, particularly when the left has invested so much into the fight in question. All hands must be on deck to blast Republicans and no quarter must be given.

But what Gross seems to not understand about Schultz is that he is simply acting in accord with his professed vision about the nature of Starbucks being more than just a place to get a java jolt. From the "our heritage" section of the Starbucks.com website (emphasis mine):

In 1981, Howard Schultz (Starbucks chairman, president and chief executive officer) had first walked into a Starbucks store. From his first cup of Sumatra, Howard was drawn into Starbucks and joined a year later.

A year later, in 1983, Howard traveled to Italy and became captivated with Italian coffee bars and the romance of the coffee experience. He had a vision to bring the Italian coffeehouse tradition back to the United States. A place for conversation and a sense of community. A third place between work and home. He left Starbucks for a short period of time to start his own Il Giornale coffeehouses and returned in August 1987 to purchase Starbucks with the help of local investors.

From the beginning, Starbucks set out to be a different kind of company. One that not only celebrated coffee and the rich tradition, but that also brought a feeling of connection.

Our mission to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.

It's in this light that Schultz's petition to Congress and last month's request to gun owners to not pack heat in Starbucks -- even though Schultz won't change company policy to expressly forbid doing so -- is best understood.

Schultz is a social liberal but above all else he fancies himself a man who can foster spirited but respectable discussion, the sort of chat you might have with folks in a coffee shop, ideally for Schultz, the Starbucks on the corner.