Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz’s interest in running for president as a centrist independent focused on the existential threat posed by America’s $21 trillion national debt should intrigue and please voters who are fed up with the irresponsibility of both political parties on fiscal issues.
Many of those who are focused on the divisive politics of the moment immediately blasted Schultz in the belief that a self-funding billionaire centrist could hand re-election to President Donald Trump. But the last time this happened, when Ross Perot ran in 1992, Democrat Bill Clinton beat incumbent Republican President George H.W. Bush. Perot got 19 percent of the vote despite an erratic campaign — a shocking showing that helped create a brief era of relative fiscal prudence in Washington.
Schultz, of course, has a long way to go to seem like a credible commander-in-chief; being a visionary CEO is not enough. But if he affects the national debate as Perot did, that alone would be hugely positive. An independent analysis last year forecast that just the annual interest payment on the national debt is on track to quadruple to $1.05 trillion in 2028 — far more than would be spent on the Pentagon or Medicare. At that point, a “death spiral” of increasing deficits and debt is a frightful possibility.
Where does that leave the U.S.? Trump’s budgets show he doesn’t care about the national debt. Many Democrats support expanded health care spending and free college without clear explanations of how to pay for them. Whether it’s Schultz or others, America needs candidates with greater fiscal discipline.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE