Don't worry, everybody: Starbucks has thought about this whole shutdown crisis, and has just the thing to solve it. The company will launch a petition drive asking Congress to "pass a bipartisan and comprehensive long-term budget deal by the end of the year." Petitions, while boasting a Starbucks-like saturation of the political outrage market, are not exactly our nation's most effective policy-changing tools. But Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz seems to think that the company's leverage will make this petition different. This is, after all, the company that convinced vast stretches of America that Pumpkin Spice Lattes are to be celebrated, rather than shunned as a sugary abomination of all things autumnal.
Schultz has tried at least once before to bring America to the land of milk and honey-flavored syrup (with whipped cream on top) by launching a "Come Together" campaign during the last fiscal cliff crisis. That campaign, which involved writing "Come Together" on some Starbucks cups and also expressing opinions to people in D.C., was, shockingly, not successful.
His new campaign sounds a lot like the old campaign — it's also called "Come Together." It's also centered around the idea that really, everyone should be nicer to each other. But instead of Baristas scrawling "Come Together" on a cup, this campaign involves customers writing down their names. Here's more on the petition from Schultz, who outlined the drive to the Huffington Post on Thursday:
The studiously nonpartisan Schultz said it was "correct" that the Republican Party deserves more blame for the current impasse, but that it was now up to both parties — and the president — to compromise. "The parties are unequal in how the problem has been created," he said, "but both are equally responsible for trying to come up with a solution."
Schultz added that the company had to make its own petition infrastructure because the White House's petition mechanisms are shuttered for the shutdown, a fact Shultz deemed "almost perverse," adding, "in the midst of a government shutdown, the means of complaining about it are shut down."
The petitions will be available in most Starbucks locations in the U.S., and the outline of what he's asking for is available here. Of course, it's not really clear what a petition would say to Congress that it doesn't already know — polling has consistently indicated that Americans are unhappy with the shutdown, and specifically with Congress for its role in perpetuating it. Republicans in particular are seeing record-low approval ratings, thanks to the efforts of a handful of conservative Republicans who campaigned for months on a plan to cripple Obamacare with the threat of a government shutdown. While Shultz's campaign continues a familiar effort to stay above the fray of "partisan" disagreements by simply asking all sides here to do their respective jobs, that might not help in a fight that, for days now, has been about navigating complicated list of points of pride and bad headlines. The latest suggested "fix" for the current crisis is really more of a patch: reportedly a 6-week debt limit increase, giving House Republicans more time to figure out what they want without exploding the economy. Schultz doesn't like that plan either: he told HuffPo the idea was a "Band-Aid."
Shultz says he discussed the petition idea with Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett, House Budget Committee chair Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Budget Committee chair Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and that it has the support of a number of powerful American business leaders. Because sure, who doesn't like nice ideas about everyone being nice, even if they're unlikely to produce anything.