Howard Schultz calls billionaires "people of means"

By Jason Silverstein

/ CBS News

That's rich. Howard Schultz, the billionaire Starbucks mogul toying with the idea of a presidential campaign, used the terms "people of means" and "people of wealth" in place of "billionaires" at a recent Q&A event.

The former CEO made the remarks in a discussion with journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin at a Barnes & Noble in Manhattan. Sorkin relayed a question from Anand Giridharadas, author of the book "Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World": Did Schultz agree that billionaires have too much power in American public life?

"The moniker 'billionaire' now has become the catchphrase," said Schultz, who has an estimated net worth of $3.5 billion. "I would rephrase that and say that people of means have been able to leverage their wealth and their interest in ways that are unfair. And I think that speaks to the inequality, but it also speaks to the special interests that are paid for people of wealth and corporations who are looking for influence."

You haven’t lived until you’ve seen Howard Schultz’s facial muscles react when @andrewrsorkin asks, on my behalf, if billionaires have too much power in American life. pic.twitter.com/DgbGhA0L5j

— Anand Giridharadas (@AnandWrites) February 4, 2019

Schultz added that, if he moves ahead with an independent 2020 run, he would not be "in bed" with any political party or special interest group.

Schultz spoke with Sorkin on January 28, the day after he announced he was thinking about a presidential campaign on CBS' "60 Minutes." But his comments went under the radar until Giridharadas tweeted a video of them last night.

"You haven't lived until you've seen Howard Schultz's facial muscles react when @andrewrsorkin asks, on my behalf, if billionaires have too much power in American life," the author wrote.

Democrats have slammed the idea of a Schultz campaign, warning that he could be a spoiler who would lead to President Trump winning another term. Some voters have also been clear that they don't want another business billionaire going for the White House. During the same Q&A with Sorkin, a heckler interrupted by shouting: "Don't help elect Trump, you egotistical billionaire [expletive]!"

Howard Schultz on independent 2020 run: "I think I can beat the system"

First published on February 5, 2019

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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