Schultz's letter stopped well short of proposing any specific solution to the stalemate. He called for "civility, compromise and problem-solving" and lamented the "the level of irresponsibility and dysfunction we are witness to with our elected political leadership." Hard to argue with any of that.
It's a measure of how muted the business community's voice has been that Schultz's rather modest exhortation resonates so loudly. And given the depth of the current crisis, we can say it's about time. But we can also ask: How much do we want business leaders to say about politics?
Recent history tells us that political commentary by CEOs isn't always aimed at civility and compromise. A year ago,
A year before that,
Yet it's proper to ask why the business community has been largely silent about the impact of the government shutdown and the threat of a debt
But every business is threatened. So where's the rest of them? Presumably a few influential CEOs have informed their henchpersons in Congress that they're leading the economy into the abyss, but a public stand might be lots more effective. It's widely reported that the business lobby has lost its influence over the extreme wing of the Republican Party, but that may be because the jawboning has happened in private.
True, there's a thin line between speaking out responsibly and saying too much.
That's the risk being just a teensy bit too quotable. Still, the current crisis is uniquely dangerous -- or more precisely, the ignorance and stupidity in Washington driving the current crisis are uniquely dangerous. Maybe Howard Schultz has a point, and the CEOs of America should stand up in public and provide a little education.