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May 27, 2019

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Howard Schultz, eyeing presidential bid, speaks in Las Vegas

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz Speaks at Mandalay Bay

Wade Vandervort

Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz speaks during the Epicor Insights conference at Mandalay Bay Wednesday, April 17, 2019.

Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz Speaks at Mandalay Bay

Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz departs the stage during the Epicor Insights conference at Mandalay Bay Wednesday, April 17, 2019. Launch slideshow »

Maybe-presidential candidate Howard Schultz spoke at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center today, largely avoiding political topics in favor of talking about his business experience.

Schultz, who recently stepped down as CEO of Starbucks and has been exploring a third-party presidential campaign, touched on tariffs, the border and issues impacting the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Most of his comments, though, kept with the Epicor Insights Conference’s themes and revolved around his business experience. When he did touch on politics, it was largely to decry the current state of affairs in Washington. In one example, he said businesses may have to step up to tackle problems the government does not.

“I think the rules of engagement for business has changed dramatically over the last few years, and what I mean by that specifically is not because business has been vilified in the last few months by some of the people running for president,” he said.

“But I think the government sitting today is unfortunately $22 trillion in national debt, and the United States government is not going to able solve all the problems of the American people, Schultz said.

Schultz is not yet running for president in an official capacity — or even a pre-official capacity, as he hasn’t launched an exploratory committee — but he has been toying with the idea of declaring an independent candidacy since earlier this year.

He has positioned himself further to the center than the majority of the 2020 Democratic candidates, pushing back on progressive ideas like Medicare for All and a higher tax rate on high-income Americans.

He supports stronger border control but has gone on the record in the past against a border wall. He spoke at the event about a trip he took to Nogales, a border town in Arizona.

“Immigration in the country is a severe problem; it is a crisis,” he said. “But the real crisis is a crisis of leadership. This problem can be solved, should be solved, and it should be solved through the lens of humanity.”

He criticized the ongoing trade war with China and its impact on workers such as American farmers. And he criticized an overreliance on the stock market as a measure of economic success.

He spoke about what he called systemic failures of the VA in taking care of veterans.

“There are good people in the VA who come into work every day trying to do the right thing,” he said. “But the bureaucracy and the lack of conviction to do the right thing in the VA has created a situation where the vast majority of veterans feel as if the VA has not met their expectations and has completely disappointed them.”

He echoed his distaste for the current affairs in the federal government near the end of his speech.

“I think we all know one thing — that there’s something not quite right in terms of where we are as a country,” he said.