Feature

Starbucks' fiscal-cliff fail: The coffee chain's inane call for bipartisanship

The company's CEO calls for the words "Come Together" to be scrawled on cups in the Washington, D.C., area in the name of fiscal responsibility

A shot of deficit talks with your orange mocha frappuccino? That's what Starbucks customers in the Washington, D.C., area will get on Thursday and Friday, part of an effort by CEO Howard Schultz to publicly urge Congress to reach a deal on the fiscal cliff: Baristas will scrawl the words "Come Together" on every cup of joe they serve, which, according to Schultz, will "use our company's scale for good by sending a respectful and optimistic message to our elected officials to come together and reach common ground on this important issue."

Indeed, Schultz has managed to unite nearly everyone in utter scorn for his useless pabulum. "Schultz is a tepid showman masquerading as a bold visionary," says Hamilton Nolan at Gawker. "Foamy, lukewarm messaging with no point, please," orders Juli Weiner at Vanity Fair. "By any objective measure... writing trite phrases on thousands of coffee cups is going to rank quite low in the annals of political persuasion," says John McQuaid at Forbes. "If I've got this right, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz wants DC's Democrats and Republicans to have a simultaneous orgasm," tweeted Reuters' Felix Salmon.

Worst of all, it appears Schultz doesn't even understand what the fiscal cliff is. To recap, it's a slate of tax hikes and spending cuts that will likely hurt the economic recovery if they're allowed to go into effect in January. Schultz writes, "Our elected officials in Washington, D.C., have been unable to come together and compromise to solve the tremendously important, time-sensitive issue to fix the national debt." But as Suzy Khimm at The Washington Post notes, Schultz's statement reveals a "central confusion as to what the fiscal cliff is about in the first place." By raising tax rates and severely curtailing spending, the fiscal cliff will actually reduce the deficit — too dramatically, in fact, for the economy to cope. Schultz, like many in the media, has conflated the "time-sensitive issue" of the cliff with the U.S.'s long-term deficit problems.

However, it looks like the good baristas of Starbucks are unwilling to perpetuate Schultz's fuzzy understanding of the nation's fiscal situation. Some Washington residents are reporting that their cups are message-free.

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