Why Howard Schultz Is Wrong

Howard Schultz is a great entrepreneur, CEO, and philanthropist. I first met Howard when as fellow CEOs we were developing a partnership between Starbucks and HP. I have enormous respect and admiration for both his values and his accomplishments. But when he writes an open letter to his fellow business executives urging them to withdraw their financial support from political candidates, I believe he is wrong.

As a businessperson, I am alarmed by our current economic difficulties. Fourteen million Americans are unemployed, and six million have been unemployed for 27 weeks or longer. GDP growth has flat-lined, and consumer and business confidence are falling. Our tax and regulatory structure is increasingly uncompetitive, and our educational system is failing to prepare enough of our children for work in the 21st century. In addition to all of this, recent data makes clear that fewer small businesses are being created and more of them are failing. It has always been true that new and small businesses are the engine of growth for our economy, and the first rung on the ladder of the American Dream for generations of immigrants, women, Latinos, and African Americans. We are undermining the entrepreneurial foundation of our economy. Unless we rebuild it, our standards of living cannot continue to rise.

Mr. Schultz recommends that political contributions be withheld until “compromise” is achieved in Washington, D.C. And certainly I believe that we must move forward with a job-creating agenda that embraces tax reform, restrains regulatory excess, and restores incentives for risk-taking and entrepreneurship. We all know that entitlement programs must be reformed, and that deficits must be reduced, infrastructure rebuilt, and innovation rewarded. And while it may be that political gamesmanship, of which there is plenty, prevents our representatives from finding common ground, I think in fact they are having a crucial debate about very big ideas. How exactly are jobs created? Who creates them? Where are decisions best made in a thriving economy? How is capital best allocated? What programs actually work? What can government learn from business about effectiveness, transparency, and accountability?

Sorry, Howard, but we need more entrepreneurs, more small-business owners, and more business managers educating politicians on what it takes to start a company, create a job, or manage resources in a way that reduces costs and improves quality. We need more, not fewer, businesspeople involved in the political process. Job creators must speak out, and yes, they should support those candidates who will support them.

— Carly Fiorina is the former chairman and CEO of Hewlett-Packard. She currently serves as vice chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

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