Howard Schultz, who grew up poor in a housing project and worked his way up to CEO of Starbucks and is considering a run for president in 2020, said he is no longer a Democrat because they are "so far left" politically they want to "take over health care, which we cannot afford," give "free college" and a "free job" to everybody, and they have helped create a $21.5 trillion national debt.
"We can't afford it," said Schultz, adding that he is a "self-made" billionaire, a rags-to-riches story which he thought "was the American dream, the aspiration of America."
Schultz made his remarks on the Jan. 30 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe.
Panelists on the show pressed Schultz on possibly running as an independent in 2020, arguing that it would split the Democrat vote and help President Donald Trump to get reelected.
Co-host Willie Geist said, "Why not just run as a Democrat? We know you are a Democrat. You've given to Hillary Clinton -- you've supported her candidacy."
Schultz then interjected, "No, I've been a Democrat. No, I have been a Democrat, but I am no longer."
"So are you no longer a Democrat?" asked Geist.
Schultz replied, "No, I'm not a Democrat. I don't affiliate myself with the Democrat Party who is so far left, who basically wants the government to take over health care, which we cannot afford; the government to give free college to everybod; and the government to give everyone a job, which basically is $40 trillion on the balance sheet of $21.5 trillion. We can't afford it."
He further said, "Now, I've also been criticized for being a billionaire. Let's talk about that. I'm self-made. I grew up in the projects in Brooklyn, New York. I thought that was the American's dream, the aspiration of America."
"You're going to criticize me for -- for being successful when in my company over the last 30 years, the only company in America that gave comprehensive health insurance, equity in the form of stock options, and free college tuition?" said Schultz. "And Elizabeth Warren wants to criticize me for being successful? No."
Schultz was the CEO of Starbucks from 1986 to 2000 and again from 2008 to 2017. He has an estimated net worth of $3.1 billion.
A little later in the exchange, Schultz said, "I would have to be disingenuous to run as a Democrat because I do not believe in what the Democratic Party stands for and, most importantly, the American people. Not the people in Washington and not the people in New York, the American people want a change. The American people realize that government is not working."
"[T]he Democrats and the Republicans, under the last 20 years, on both parties, have been complicit in creating a $21.5 trillion debt," said Schultz. "That is a reckless, immoral abandonment of leadership."