Whole Foods CEO calls Obamacare 'fascist'

John Mackey originally called the health care mandate socialist. Both declarations bum out his liberal buyer base.

By Jason Notte Jan 17, 2013 2:26PM
File photo of John Mackey in April 2011 (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)The political pendulum takes a pretty long trip between socialism and fascism, but Whole Foods (WFM) founder and chief executive John Mackey's willing to take that ride to slam Obamacare.

During a conversation on Wednesday with National Public Radio, Mackey made the following observation about the new health care law:

It's more like fascism. In fascism, the government doesn't own the means of production, but they do control it -- and that's what's happening with our health care programs and these reforms.

Mackey's position has gone through a remarkable evolution since 2009, when he wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed and used a Margaret Thatcher quote to equate President Barack Obama's health care platform to socialism. At the time, he suggested more passive measures limiting government control over health care and empowering health care providers to cross state borders with coverage and offer high-deductible plans similar to what his Whole Foods employees receive. He then bit the woven hemp gloves on the hand that feeds his empire by stating the following:

Many promoters of health-care reform believe that people have an intrinsic ethical right to health care -- to equal access to doctors, medicines and hospitals. While all of us empathize with those who are sick, how can we say that all people have more of an intrinsic right to health care than they have to food or shelter?

That last statement, according to Time, was enough to rile Mackey's liberal customers and prompt boycotts of his stores by groups like Single Payer Action. His latest declaration -- on NPR, no less -- may be prompting even more soul searching in Whole Foods' Prius- and Subaru-strewn parking lots.

In Mackey's defense, he hasn't identified as liberal in a good, long time. Mackey started out working at a vegetarian co-op and his Austin, Texas-based company grew from a vegetarian grocery store he and his girlfriend founded in Austin in the late '70s, but he's since drifted from his leftward leanings. He's still a vegetarian and still makes humane animal treatment one of Whole Foods' cornerstone issues, but publicly identified himself as a free-market libertarian during a debate in 2005. In later years, he also took positions against both labor unions and human-caused climate change.

Mackey's health care position puts him in line with Papa John's (PZZA) chief exec John Schnatter, who vowed last year to raise prices and cut employee hours because of the new health care law. The pizza magnate openly endorsed Republican candidate Mitt Romney during last year's presidential race and held a fundraiser at his Kentucky estate that would prompt the stereotypical Whole Foods customer into a kombucha spit take.

Yet Mackey's Whole Foods isn't the only corporation commonly associated with the American left to criticize the health care mandate. Starbucks (SBUX) CEO Howard Schultz, whose company helped make the slur "latte-sipping liberal" possible, told the Seattle Times that the law may be counterproductive to providing more Americans with health care because "the pressure on small businesses, because of the mandate, is too great."

Mackey may not have settled on the proper philosophy or political ideology to affix to the nation's new health care law, but his continued criticism is forming a lump in the throat of many customers as they choke down their Annie's Mac & Cheese.

More on Money Now

Jan 17, 2013 3:25PM
I know this post is not going to sit well with stead fast Obama supporters. When will people realize Obamacare isn't a free ride and was a political maneuver to garner votes. If you look closely at the bill it is a killer for business and the economy.
Jan 17, 2013 3:26PM
Picture that- a self-made business man abandoning liberalism and identifying himself as a freemarket libertarian. I guess hard work, success, responsibility, and experience change a man...
Jan 17, 2013 3:08PM
Wait until the bill comes do for middle class and higher middle class.  Lets face it the very rich won't have to worry because they can afford to get the best of the best. People with low incomes or know incomes like welfare and others won't have to pay, if they do it won't be lot.. In the future Medicare will go way up.  Like we all know, it has to be paid for some how..  Now guess who pays!

Jan 17, 2013 3:05PM
At least a couple of libs have begun to wake up and smell the Starbucks!!!
Jan 17, 2013 3:21PM

The health care system in the United States is broken and needs to be completely reformed from top to bottom. Obamacare was not intended to do that and much, much more needs to be done, health care costs in the U.S. have been increasing at twice the rate of inflation for years, and health care costs have quadrupled since 1990.


Health care costs in the U. S. are 40% to 70% higher than heath care cost in other industrialized and advanced nations around the world. Bringing our runaway heath care costs under control would also be a huge step toward getting the cost of Medicare and Medicaid under control. In fact, it is likely the single most effective action which can be taken to help control the cost of these programs.
Jan 17, 2013 3:52PM
Ahh, the idealism of youth has once again given way to the wisdom of age.  Some grow up faster than others, some never do.  
Jan 17, 2013 3:58PM
The leading definition  of Fascism is:  "the oppression of opposing views".  That pretty much defines the liberal establishment in America.    Fascism in the name of liberalism is still fascism
Jan 17, 2013 3:50PM
I think that obama is trying to take more power little by little no wonder why our country is going to hell.
We don't have a Whole Foods around here, but if we did, I'd buy everyday.  These owners know what ACA will do to America's healthcare system.
Jan 17, 2013 3:41PM

TRUE. There was never going to be ANY reform without tort reform as the 1st prerequisite, followed by incremental assement of each component affecting costs and care, then appropriate action and corrective approaches.

To throw thousands of pages of health care policy and practices, unread, and slam them down the throats of americans will prove to be the single largest boondoggle in U. S. history and, I believe, will ultimately result in less access, higher costs, and more exemptions to buy votes. No real reform ever allows exemptions, including congress and unions.

I have posted it before. All I need to know about government controlled healthcare is to see an imaging center in NY filled with Europeans, and centers in Chicago and Detroit filled with Canadians having to wait months for a scan, during which time their disease often advances beyond treatment,  and due to costs and age, may be denied treatment beyond pain management.

Stock up on pain pills americans.  

Jan 17, 2013 6:54PM

So, if Obama Care is so GREAT, why didn't Obama, Senate and Congress decide to enforce IT on Gov't officials including themselves?


Instead THEY ALL rack up massive pensions, with little work done and it's ALL OUR money.


OBAMA, lead by example...Oh wait,, no..


It's Do as I say, not as I do.  For HIM and Republicans and Democrats in Congress.  AND YES, let's penalize business, brilliant.

Jan 17, 2013 4:36PM
What is a killer for the working poor is we have to pay for others that want something they cannot afford but feel they are entitled to.  It has always be noted that you work to get a better job to get benefits (insurance and retirement) but all of a sudden everyone thinks they are entitled to what the working people have.  I feel if you want it, work for it, I do!  Don't make me pay for you because you are too lazy to get out and get a job.  You depend on the government to take care of you, who are you taking from Joe Taxpayer, not the government....they take from us every week without us opting out of the deductions.  We get less and less and you lazy bums get more and more.  You want it work for it!!!
Jan 17, 2013 4:18PM
It's called Oligarchy, and these bigwig business types (the ones in the insurance industry) have fixed it so they'll never want for money again.  They'll all share in it, all except us that is . . .
Jan 17, 2013 4:59PM

Obama is a Lazy, Arrogant, Corrupt Imbecile.  Anyone that thinks different isn't from Chicago.  He was a failed community organizer.   His policies are to the left of Marx.

America chose him.  Our days as a great nation are over.  We have rotted from within.  Too many democrats.  94% of the prison populations are democrats.  Their base consists of the 47% that freeload off the rest of us.

The country spend 3.8 trillion.  There 80 million households.  That works out to 47,500 per family.  If you are not paying that much in taxes, YOU ARE THE PROBLEM.  It is not governments job to seize from the hard working to give to the lazy.  We can always import a leech class (and some same we have with illegals).  

Pay your fair and EQUAL share....   
Jan 17, 2013 3:46PM
I heard that obamacare is going to be so good, the unions are going to drop their wavers and participate in it!!!
Jan 17, 2013 3:36PM
I dislake the ACA mainly becuase it relies on a dubious Medicaid expansion for the lowest paid workers that are uninsured and it drops a nasty mandate on the next income tier of uninsured workers that can ill afford it. We are not about to be blessed with a new robust health care system. Instead we are getting a poisonous white elephant that will do alot more harm than good. Many people will do a cynical culculation and pay the the tax penalty rather than take on burdesome rip-off inursance health insurance policies. E.G. 250 x 12 (pus a deductible and copays) is greater than a penalty of $750, and at $250/ month an  individual over 40 would have a tough time finding any health insurance that cheap. Ridiculous. If we can't have single payer than just leave well enough alone!
Jan 17, 2013 4:55PM
Great thing is that we have term limits for Presidents. Less than 4 years and will never have to worry about Obama being President again!
Jan 17, 2013 4:50PM
I agree with this person.  Obamacare, no matter how well meaning, is facist.  We are a Democracy not a socialist or facist country.  That should mean less federal government in our lives, not more. 
Jan 17, 2013 4:03PM

I'm sure when Roosevelt and others proposed Social Security, along with other programs....

We had the same uprising of hate....And hate mongers beating the drums..


I remember as a kid, seeing poor farms....And wondering why ? Why in this Great Nation...??

Most were closed and gone by the time I was in my 20s...

They actually looked like enjoyable places, but I never quite grasped the full ramifications.

It also seemed that they were "somewhat" self  supportive, but I'm sure there were Fundings to help maintain them or the buildings, it was a very cheap way to wharehouse a large group of people.

We also had more Insane Asylums or State Mental Institutions...?? 


Today we have Nursing Homes and Institutions that are owned by the Medical Profession, Doctors and Lawyers along with quite wealthy Investors, Most are private..??

Some cost an individual or a Family as much as a $100,000 per year to live at...Although there are recourses and some of that cost is picked up by our Society.

A $100,000 a year when in fact, that can usually provide for a family of four(4) quite reasonably.

Without going without, except maybe higher learning.


The point being, is most/many Countries that have a Nationalised Healthcare Systems do not incur these types of cost, individuals nor families, along with Governments...

Our HSystems are out of whack, we pay through the nose, even 10X for the same pill others can get for less...Something needs to be done, I don't have the all the answers....

But our systems have run Amok with greed and brought despair to many in our Nation. IMO.

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