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Howard Schultz Has Alternative for Term 'Billionaire'

Former Starbucks CEO and possible 2020 contender rephrases to 'people of means'
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 5, 2019 11:22 AM CST

(Newser) – Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz's maybe-campaign for 2020 doesn't seem to be having a great start. In the latest development, Schultz is taking a ribbing for bristling at the term "billionaire" and instead suggesting something like "people of means." The details:

  • The remark: It came in an interview with CNBC's Andrew Ross Sorkin, who asked whether billionaires such as Schultz wielded too much power in the US, reports Indy100. Watch the video here.
  • The full quote: "The moniker 'billionaire' now has become the catchphrase," responded Schultz. "I would rephrase that and ... say that 'people of means' have been able to leverage their wealth and their interest in ways that are unfair." He later used the term "people of wealth," noting that such people have "unbelievable influence" on politicians allied with the major parties. He was making the case that he would be different because he'd run as an independent.

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  • The ridicule: It's coming fast and furious. HuffPost rounds up some online reaction, including those suggesting alternative terms. "I prefer 'wealth extractors,'" is one. Another thinks "people of means," or POMs, is "the new, protected minority class."
  • A critique: Matthew Dessem at Slate has some fun with the Schultz complaint about the "morally neutral" term of billionaire, but he has a bigger problem: "The weirdest thing about this very weird video of a billionaire asking non-billionaires to stop calling attention to the fact that he is a billionaire is that the thrust of the billionaire's argument is that billionaires have too much influence."
  • Wary Democrats: A new poll from Emerson College shows why many Democrats want no part of Schultz. President Trump's chances of defeating the current leading Democrats rise when Schultz is added to the mix as a third-party candidate. Against Elizabeth Warren, for instance, Trump's advantage increases from 4 to 9 percentage points with Schultz on the ballot.
  • Let him run: That's the message from the conservative editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, which thinks the early criticism of Schultz is unwarranted given that so little is known about his policy details. "If you are a Democrat worried about Mr. Schultz playing spoiler, don't insult him; instead, convince voters that another candidate is better," the editors write. "Our government doesn't belong eternally to Democrats and Republicans, and American voters deserve another choice."
  • Stay tuned: Schultz plans to deliver what the Washington Post calls a "major policy address" Thursday at Purdue University. He's expected to outline his case for why an independent challenge to the two-party system is needed.
(Read more Howard Schultz stories.)

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