Some rich lead the way, but will anyone follow?
Warren Buffett and Howard Schultz want to change the conversation about how to fix the United States’ economic woes. But their solutions — more taxes on the rich and a boycott on political donations — risk falling on deaf ears among fellow business leaders.
Few high-profile decision makers have publicly supported their pleas so far, and most in their target audiences decline to even discuss it, lest they get dragged into the debate.
That isn’t the case outside the corporate elite.
More than 40,000 Twitter users shared billionaire investor Buffett’s op-ed column in Monday’s New York Times calling for the wealthy to shoulder a bigger tax burden.
CNBC’s largely corporate audience backed Starbucks Chief Executive Schultz’s call to fellow CEOs to stop sending political donations until Congress and the president come up with a long-term plan for a “fair, bipartisan” deal to curb U.S. debt, with 89 percent in favor in a poll.
But public outrage will not make their suggestions reality. That would require other tycoons and top executives to jump on board to tell the Republicans and the Democrats that they had also had enough of the rancor that brought the United States close to a debt default earlier this month and contributed to the loss of the nation’s triple-A debt rating.
“Getting Washington to do something about this, getting the GOP [Republican Party] to move off their ‘no new tax’ position, no funding of our deficit problem through raising tax revenue, I don’t see how that’s going to happen,” said Dal LaMagna, an entrepreneur and investor who has unsuccessfully run for national office.
LaMagna has a history of outspokenness, but few are joining him in debating this question.
Even if Buffett and Schultz fail to get more than a handful on board with their proposals, the very fact they made them may tend to help Democrats on the campaign trail for the presidential and congressional elections in November 2012.