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It's full of stupid!

Any Gentle Readers that are out and about in Left Blogovia probably have seen this elsewhere, but Howard Schultz (CEO of Starbucks) is getting lots of press for his pledge to stop making political donations until folks in our Government “strike a bipartisan, balanced long-term debt deal that addresses both entitlements and revenues”. He’s got a bunch of other rich people to sign on as well (according to this news story that is certainly not just a reprinted press release.

Can I ask—on a scale from one to stupid, how stupid is that?

I mean, politically stupid, not public-relations stupid, because it’s public relations clever, in a way. It’s got just the right bullshit level to look good without having any annoying substance—if Mr. Schultz wants to give money, he can just funnel it through a PAC. Or through a relative. Or, frankly, he can just give the money—on the off-chance that some enterprising reporter does remember three months afterward and check, Mr. Schultz could come up with some plausible reason, and it’s not like anyone will care. So, if we assume that it’s all bullshit for PR, then it isn’t stupid at all.

But if we take it at face value—and you know I do want people to criticize the face value of PR stunts, to hold the stunter to a higher standard—it’s dumber than anything Otto from A Fish Called Wanda would come up with. He wants a bipartisan, balanced long-term debt deal that addresses both entitlements and revenues, which is stupid in itself. I mean, first of all, I think it’s dumb to get worked up over a long-term debt deal in the first place, both because I don’t think there’s a long-term debt problem (as distinct from a health care financing problem) and because any long-term deal will be blown up the moment that somebody wants to either spend money (war! climate change refugees! stimulus!) or cut taxes. Secondly, if you want a particular policy outcome (such as “addressing” entitlements and revenues), you presumably want it whether it is bipartisan or not—it’s always nice if it’s bipartisan, but as an necessary condition for an ultimatum, it makes no sense. Thirdly, the idea that you would push your preferred policy position by refusing to support candidates who also support that position before the election is an amazing wonder of senselessness, a kind of juggernaut of nonsense, nonsense not on stilts but on a jetpack made of jello. Ultimate nonsense.

This is in addition to the obvious fact that one Party—my Party—has been publicly supporting legislation that addresses entitlements, revenues and the debt. It’s lousy legislation from my point of view, but it seems to be exactly what Mr. Schultz is demanding—or if it isn’t, he certainly isn’t saying in what way it isn’t. The other Party, of course, is blocking that legislation, and rejects the idea that it’s good policy. You see, the two Parties represent groups with different policy agendas. Really, they do. And Mr. Schultz seems to agree with one Party, and—gasp!—not with the other! Which makes it unsurprising that in the past he has contributed to one Party, and—gasp!—not to the other.

Which means that he is really pledging … think about it… that’s right, he is pledging not to give money to the Party with a policy he supports unless the Other Party changes its mind. He’s saying to John Boehner something like Unless you support policy that you think is lousy, I will stop giving to your opponents, and encourage other people to stop giving, too. This may not be particularly persuasive. It may be particularly stupid. After all, if the withholding of donations has any effect at all (which it probably won’t), it would be to get some people of the Other Party elected, thus making his preferred policy outcome even less likely.

Left Blogovia is het up about that part, the part where this fellow seems to be ignorant of what the two Parties are actually doing on this topic that he is focused on. And, of course, the part where he is actively doing damage to our Party, which makes us a bit cross, you know. So there’s that. But it’s not just that part that’s stupid, it’s that his policy preference is dumb, in broad outline and in detail, and he puts a rider on that preference that is both irrelevant and wrongheaded, and then his method for getting that policy into place is unbelievably dimwitted and counterproductive, and would be unbelievably dimwitted and counterproductive even if he wasn’t on top of all of this fundamentally wrong about what our legislators are actually doing.

That’s the beauty of it. It’s stupid on so many levels, viewed from so many angles, a kind of quaquaversal stupidity. And yet, terrific PR. Well done, Howard Schultz!

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,