Starbucks CEO to Sanders: 'I Grew Up in Federally Subsidized Housing … I Came From Nothing'

( — In a testy exchange with Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a self-described socialist, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz challenged them for frequently tagging him as a “billionaire” by reminding them that he grew up in subsidized housing, his parents never owned a home, and every penny he made he earned — “No one gave it to me.” 

Schultz testified before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on Mar. 29, which is investigating the attempts by Starbucks employees to unionize in certain areas. Starbucks operates more than 33,000 coffee shops in 80 nations.

In his opening remarks, Sen. Sanders (I-Vt.) — who loves socialism so much he spent his 10-day honeymoon in the USSR — referred to Schultz as the “multibillionaire,” “billionaires,” and again “multibillionaire.” Sen. Smith also said to Schultz, “I mean, you’re a billionaire….”

After Sen. Smith made her comment, Schultz replied, “The last thing you said, and it’s been said many times by the chairman [Sanders], I just want to make a point of that. This — this monarch of billionaire, let’s just get — get it that okay?”

“I grew up in federally subsidized housing — let me finish,” said Schultz.  “I grew up in federally subsidized housing. My parents never owned a home. I came from nothing.”


“I thought my entire life was based on the achievement of the American dream,” he added. 

“Yes, I have billions of dollars,” he said. “I earned it. No one gave it to me and I’ve shared it constantly with the people of Starbucks. And so anyone who keeps labeling this billionaire thing, it’s –.”

At that point, Sen. Sanders interjected. “Mr. Schultz, I don’t mean to cut you off,” said the senator.  “We have time limits here and you have the opportunity — I’m not cutting you off.”

Schultz:  “It’s your — it’s your moniker constantly. It’s unfair.”

Sanders: “No, it is not. You have had more time, I’ve been generous with the time, I’m sorry.”

Schultz: “But Mr. Chairman –.”

Sanders: “We have a room full of people. We have panel to go after you.”

Schultz: “Fine, fine.”

Sanders: “You’re not the only person testifying.”

Schultz: “Okay.”

Sanders then moved on to Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.). 

According to, Howard Schultz was born in Brooklyn in 1953 to Jewish parents Fred and Elaine Schultz. The family moved to the  Bayview Housing projects in Canarsie, a neighborhood in southeastern Brooklyn, when Howard was three years old.  His father, Fred Schultz, was a truck driver

In 1970, Hoard Schultz went to Northern Michigan University on a football scholarship. He earned a B.S. degree in communications.  Schultz is married and has two children.  He reportedly drinks four to five cups of coffee every day, according to the Seattle Times

Schultz has a reported net worth of $3.8 billion. 

Senator Sanders has a reported net worth of $2 million and owns three homes. 


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