Starbucks Billionaire Howard Schultz recently announced he will be an independent candidate in the 2020 presidential general election. Recently a Democrat, Schultz agrees Trump must go.

But he also says the Democratic candidates already announced are all too liberal. Therefore, he feels obligated to run as an independent. I have serious misgivings about his real purpose in running, but even more about his effect on the presidential race itself.

In 1992 another wealthy, charismatic (that’s debatable) business executive, Ross Perot, ran as an independent and drained off enough conservative votes to assure George H.W. Bush’s defeat. In a sense, Perot elected Bill Clinton. Although the ideology is different this time, I can see the same general scenario occurring in 2020. Schultz could possibly divide the anti-Trump vote enough to assure The Donald’s reelection.

When Schultz calls the Democratic primary candidates too liberal, he could only be speaking of one issue, universal health care; or as some have called it, “Medicare for All.” But this is no liberal, pie-in-the-sky boondoggle. Universal health care is merely what every other industrialized nation has been providing to its citizens for a half-century or more. In the case of Germany, it’s for over one hundred years.

I was long ago convinced that the capitalist free-market economy provided the most and best goods and services — cars, socks, lawn mowers, root canals etc. — to the most people at the fairest prices compared to any other economic system. But in the area of medical care the free market in some respects turns out to be a license to steal. While the overall quality of U.S. medical care is rated rather low worldwide (which we, of course, deny), we pay almost double what the next most expensive country pays for its health care. I encourage anyone doubting these figures to Google up and verify them. It’s not that hard to do.

Right-wing ideologs warn that national health care would bankrupt the economy. Come on now! With our present disorganized system we are already paying almost double what the second most expensive country pays. And much of this is in unnecessary charges. Example: The U.S. government, the largest customer by far, is legally prevented from negotiating better prices with the pharmaceutical industry (Big Pharma) based on volume purchases as every other large customer routinely does. And over thirty percent of health insurance companies’ expenses go for administrative costs, much of it in trying to shift claims to some other agency or to avoid them altogether. Anyone still harboring doubts about overcharges in the health care industry needs to investigate the generic drug suppression by Big Pharma. Especially check out the “pay to delay” interference to the introduction of lower-priced generic drugs.

I think the main reason the health care industry gets by with ripping us off is their certainty of the average citizen’s disinclination to investigate anything that’s very involved or complicated. And so far, they have been right. Go bankrupt? When all the charges are added up, we are already paying far more than we would under a government-funded single-payer system; almost double. Whom are they trying to kid?

George B. Reed Jr., who lives in Rossville, can be reached by email at