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A brief list of better questions for billionaire presidential candidates

Illustration of question mark with a cheerio as the dot.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Howard Schultz sounded stumped last week when asked the price of a staple that wasn’t coffee — a reminder of the campaign-trail hazards for billionaires trying to project a common touch.

What happened: Mika Brzezinski asked Schultz on MSNBC's "Morning Joe": “How much does an 18 ounce box of Cheerios cost?" Schultz responded: "An 18 ounce box of Cheerios? I don’t eat Cheerios." Spoiler: They're about 4 bucks at Walmart.

Flashbacks:

The big picture: Billionaires may be unlikely to know what a grocery item costs, and their actions as president would have limited effects on prices.

But they should know the broader trends in the costs that most Americans face.

  1. Health care: How much has the average health insurance deductible for a family of four changed over the past 5 years? How about copays?
  2. Education: What's the average price of tuition at a public 4-year university? How much has this outpaced inflation over the past few decades?
  3. Kids: What's the average cost of child care in your home state? Is this a greater share of take-home income than it was 10 years ago? 20?
  4. The youths: What percentage of 25-year-olds have more than $50,000 in student debt? What percentage of 25-year-olds have purchased a home? How do these compare to 10 years ago?
  5. Housing: How much of the average American's monthly paycheck goes to rent or a mortgage?
  6. Rainy day funds: How many months of living expenses does the average American have in liquid savings?

Why it matters: “[T]he next president will have to demonstrate not only that he or she understands the day-to-day struggles that people are facing, but they also have to lay out a clear plan to address those problems," Center for American Progress SVP Daniella Gibbs Léger told Axios.

Go deeper: Livid liberals try to bully Schultz out of 2020

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