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Stop Schultz! Stop the billionaires!

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Howard Schultz’s ego-driven drive to run for president reminds us once again that we do not want or need billionaires to run our country. They already have more money than they could spend in 100 lifetimes. Mansions, yachts, tropical islands, fleets of expensive cars, private jets, legions of servants, jewels, antiques, paintings…what more do they need? And yet, every time someone like Alexandra-Ocasio Cortez (AOC) talks about raising marginal tax rates on the uber-rich, these billionaires act like stuck pigs, screaming and howling as if they’re being water-boarded.

How the Republican Party has managed to convince hard-working Americans that raising taxes on the rich is bad, is beyond my capacity to understand. Oh, I know the mechanics of how they’ve done it; I just don’t know why people fall for it.

First, the Republican propagandists claim that taxes, in and of themselves, are evil. Then they allege that, if “they” (government bureaucrats) raise taxes on the rich, then “they” will come after the middle class and the poor. Then they smear people, like AOC, who have the temerity to suggest raising taxes on the rich: AOC is a socialist, a communist, a [fill in the blank with some terrible mischaracterization].

I’ve written here on several occasions that I have known quite a few billionaires, and many more hundred-millionaires, in my lifetime, and in every case, I’m appalled by their rapacious greed. They always need to own more and more and more. They have lifestyles that the average person—the 99%–cannot even fathom. Whatever you’re seen on Dynasty is only a pale shadow of the way these people actually live. When it comes to politics, their main concern is to support politicians who swear never to raise their taxes. They may otherwise be in favor things like the environment, or prison reform, or education, or research into climate change, or the Sierra Club, or the local Opera and Symphony, but their first and foremost concern is taking care of #1: themselves and their heirs.

From the Rockefellers to the Koch Brothers, we’ve seen their nefarious activities for generations. Jane Mayer identified many of the current malefactors in her brilliant exposé, Dark Money.  These people are nearly all Republicans (of course), but in many instances they’re ashamed of it, and so they perform their dark deeds in secret. That’s why they insisted on Citizen’s United,which permits them to donate limitless amounts of money to political candidates, and then to keep it a secret. And it’s why they like Trump: not necessarily for any of his rightwing policies, with the exception of two that they love: lowering taxes and appointing rightwing judges.

Howard Schultz is but the latest example of this particular infection in the body politic. He claims to be some kind of libertarian-leaning-left, but over the past week, since he announced that he may run, he’s become increasingly rightwing. He says, “I don’t believe what the Democratic Party stands for.”

What is it Schultz doesn’t believe in? Science? Marriage equality? The right of workers to unionize? The right to a fair living wage? Immigration? NATO? Public education? Universal healthcare? Making college affordable? All right, Republicans don’t believe in those things either, so we might as well face it: When Schultz says he’s neither a Democrat nor a Republican, he lies. He’s a Republican: if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it’s a duck.

Fortunately, it hasn’t taken long for the American people to see through Schultz’s charade. His favorability rating among Democrats, Republicans and Independents is 4%. Schultz claims that his chief concern with Democratic ideals isn’t the ideals themselves, but their cost: “How are we going to pay for these things,” he asks.

It’s a fair question. But it’s the exact same question Americans have always had to ask themselves, every time government has to make a big decision: How are we going to pay for the Middle East wars, or the Space Race, or Medicare, or Social Security, or a Border Wall, or Trump’s tax cut for the rich? Anything government does costs money. Nobody likes to spend the taxpayer’s money gratuitously; that’s why the Congress exists, to debate these issues and figure out how much is too much, how much is not enough, and how much is just right.

But for Schultz to condemn, ipso facto, everything the Democratic Party stands for, is just about the most Republican thing I’ve heard lately. How is that any different from Trump calling Democrats “un-American and treasonous”?

It’s not. Howard Schultz is just another rightwing Republican, pretending not to be, because he knows how unpopular these Republicans are. He’s a fraud, a thoroughly disreputable man, and in doing what he’s doing, he has become the poster child for the Basket of Deplorables that Hillary warned us about.

Look, these billionaires have run things for far too long. It’s time to rein them in and hold them to account. Even at a marginal tax rate of 70%, they’ll still have “more money than God” (to use an old Jewish expression). Please, readers, don’t fall for Schultz’s lie.

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