By Jill Richardson
Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz just announced he may run for president as an independent centrist candidate in 2020.
I have some concerns about billionaires, however well-intentioned, running the country.
For one thing, people generally pay a lot of attention to those who have more than them, but they are less aware of those who have less. A billionaire with “just” a private jet will compare himself to an even richer billionaire with their own private island. They don’t have any idea what life is really like for a single parent raising two kids while working and attending night classes.
Social psychologists find that people usually believe they are responsible for their successes, but blame their failures on external factors like bad luck or a sluggish economy. They also extend the same benefit of the doubt to people within their own group.
When looking at people in other groups, they are less generous. Then they tend to blame people for their own failures.
As a result, the rich generally believe that worked hard for everything they had — but many think the poor are probably poor because they’re lazy. In reality, all people’s fates are due to both their own talents and efforts and their circumstances.
Think about Donald Trump. He was born to a wealthy and well-connected real estate mogul in New York. His father gave him millions, sent him to elite schools, trained him in the business, and introduced him to the powerful people whose help he needed to succeed.
Would Donald Trump gone anywhere in business if he were born to your parents? Very unlikely. But could you have done even better than Trump in business if you were born to his parents? It’s definitely possible.
Trump, no doubt, believes his success is solely due to his own work and “genius,” but it’s undeniable that the circumstances he was born into played a role.
The same of true for those with less extraordinary privilege.
Imagine a college classroom filled with 30 equally talented and hardworking students. Some come from well off families, live with their parents, and don’t need to work while attending school. Others come from poverty and hold full time jobs to pay their living expenses and tuition.
Perhaps some are homeless, or food insecure. Maybe they have to care for children or elderly relatives in addition to attending school. They might not have reliable transportation or own a computer at home.
Who will get better grades? Who will graduate sooner? Who might not graduate at all?
Good bet the students from wealthy families will feel they’ve earned their good grades and will have no idea what the students with lower grades were facing at home. They might even think students who got poor grades did so because they were stupid, lazy, or both.
In such a class, the best way to get grades up might be to help the students have stable living situations, enough to eat, fewer money woes, and less need to work full time while attending school. Just telling the low income students to work harder can only help so much when they’re in such a tough situation — it may even demoralize them further.
We need a government that understands the lives and struggles of ordinary Americans and can craft policies to help them. Billionaires generally won’t, regardless of their intentions, because it’s human nature to be generally clueless about those with less privilege than you.
Jill Richardson is the author of “Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It.” She is a columnist for OtherWords.org.
Name any candidate that can relate to the struggles of us peons. Which one has been homeless, lived paycheck to paycheck while going to night school and single handedly raising kids. Just one.
Name 1 politician past or present who can relate to our struggles. Being homeless, being a single parent, living paycheck to paycheck. None of them can, so this article is null & void. Just another anti-Trump article written by a liberal
Well we have tried putting “community organizers” in charge and that did not work for crap either. At least putting someone in who has actually created jobs, has some idea of how to run a business and let’s face it. This country is just a big business. Of course we can put young bar tender in charge, who will get “all three houses of government” on her side and let her try to implement healthcare for all, negotiate trade deals, let her deal with tin pot regimes and see how that goes. And for those of you who say she would surround herself with people who know what their doing… what to you think a CEO does and if they do not perform they get fired.
Candidates for the Federal Government are billionaires or are lawyers or both! Have anyone noticed?
Concerned Citizen says
Money makes the world go around.
But it didn’t help buy grammar lessons or proof reading skills for the author.
The Truth says
I am not a big fan of Howard Schultz but he did grow up in a Brooklyn housing project. So nothing was given to him. There are many billionaires who have grown up in very humble beginnings. We should not trash theses people for being successful. This is the American dream. This is why so many people want to immigrate here.. If you are not as successful as you want, one may want to look in the mirror in lieu of blaming other people and society.
@mark How about 17 including Mr Starbucks/ . These people were poor. https://www.inc.com/business-insider/billionaires-who-went-from-rags-to-riches.html
Jill Richardson never researched for her article. Its just directed at the super rich .
If we look at the rich running for office without any political experience unsettling. I consider anyone who is worth over 5 million darn rich and of course we have the lottery winners that had nothing until their ticket hit. I have NO problems with people that came from a poor life and made it rich. Everyone has that same opportunity if you apply yourself. But this man started out with zip, went to college excelled and got rich. Trump on the other hand was given everything he had including his pathetic outlook at everything .
“Social psychologists find that people usually believe that they are responsible for their successes.” Well, Jill, I realize that liberals are averse to facts getting in the way of their narrative, but if you do a little fact-checking you will discover that Schultz IS responsible for his success. As a child he lived in the Bayview Housing projects in Brooklyn with his very middle-class family. He excelled in athletics, and as a result escaped from Brooklyn with a football scholarship to Northern Michigan University in 1970. After graduating in 1975, he found work as an appliance salesman. He rose through the ranks to become director of sales, and the rest is history. So your Left-Wing, Socialist disdain for billionaires doesn’t fit here….but nice try!
David T Schaefer says
We do not need another TRUMP in office…..
Stranger in a strange land says
There are HUGE differences between DJT, Howard Schultz and Michael Bloomberg. Trump was born to wealth and inherited a very substantial fortune. A sense of “with wealth comes responsibility” was NOT instilled in him nor did he acquire one (like FDR or the Kennedy family). Howard Schultz grew up in a housing project in Boston. His family struggled in many ways. He knows what poverty is. He lived it. Bloomberg grew up middle class. His father was an accountant for a dairy company. Both have a sense of responsibility to others. Both completely built their fortunes through innovation and hard work. In addition to that, I bet that if they were asked if there was an element of luck in their extraordinary success they would say yes. I know the self made, very wealthy (not billionaires) I know acknowledge luck helped. To expect DJT, HS and MB to know the price of Cherios at this point is rediculous. That doesn’t mean that at least Howard Schultz knew what it was like not to be able to afford Cherios and I am sure Michael Bloomberg was told to eat all his Cherios so as not to be wasteful. I doubt HS or MB have any gold bathroom fixtures in their homes. I do know both have given generously to charities that help the less fortunate and downtrodden. Assuming all billionaires don’t know what it means to struggle is nor fair. Look at their whole life before you judge their qualifications (or disqualification).
James M. Mejuto says
Let’s pass a law: ‘rich’ people need not apply. I’m sick n’ tired of the Kennedy”s, the Bushes and the
Trumps raping our nation. Dems or Republicanns, . . . stay the hell out !!!!!