Funny Business with Jane Wells

Jobs, Politics and Coffee

Coffee used to be black-ish water cowboys cooked over an open fire.

Now it's dressed up in more bling than a Vegas showgirl and can cost the price of a meal.

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz speaks at the Commonwelth Club of California on April 4, 2011 in San Francisco, California.  Schultz discussed his tenure as Starbucks CEO and promoted his new book "Onward. - How Starbucks Fought For Its Life Without Losing its Soul"
Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

This new world of coffee has made Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz a wealthy and powerful man.

Tonight, he hopes to leverage that position and add a jolt of espresso to the American economy.

Schultz is holding a call-in town hall meeting titled Upward Spiral 2011. His goal is to encourage all of us to get America back on track, and he has the backing of fellow CEOs like Tim Armstrong of AOL and Millard Drexler at J Crew.

Interesting list of names.

These guys are not known for politicking or hiring huge lobbies (well, AOL maybe). Coffee and clothing magnates sounding like Howard Beale? You know it's bad when people wearing school boy blazers drinking half-caf soy lattes have had it with Congress.

Schultz is asking people to take a pledge or two.

One is The Pledge to Withhold. "I believe we need to push our elected leaders to face our nation’s long-term fiscal challenges with civility, honesty and a willingness to sacrifice," Schultz writes. "I join my fellow concerned Americans in pledging to withhold any further campaign contributions to elected members of Congress and the President until a fair, bipartisan deal is reached that sets our nation on stronger long-term fiscal footing." When Schultz announced this pledge last month, the positive response surprised even him. Of course, according to, Schultz only gave $9,200 in campaign contributions over the last two years, while making a reported $22 million. Still, that's $9,200 more than I gave. This pledge is an easy one to take.

However, Schultz has also initiated a second, more difficult, pledge, called The Pledge to Hire. "We believe that right now our economy is frozen in a cycle of fear and uncertainty." the pledge begins. "We believe the only way to break this cycle is through positive action. This is why our company pledges to do everything we can to accelerate job creation before the end of 2011." As of this writing, 1,840 people or companies have taken that pledge.

Hey, if Starbucks can nudge companies to hire, Howard Schultz gets my vote for anything. Goodness knows his company is one of the few places where you can see commerce in action. How many times have you been in a Starbucks and seen people there having a business meeting, signing contracts, doing job interviews, running a startup from an iPad?

In the meantime, I'm certainly glad I live in the age of Starbucks, and not back in the day when housewives were in charge of making coffee. Watch this video and whisper a short "thank you" to all the women (and men) who decided that making coffee wasn't all that little girls should grow up to do—unless they want to be baristas and rise through the ranks to manage a Starbucks or two. Or ten.

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