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

733Comments
Jan 17, 2013 3:51PM
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I am for government healthcare oversight with only 2 criteria-single payer and NO exceptions regardless of race, union, business,sex, political affiliation, etc. Without this, it will not be sustainable and care will erode over a period of time-itssimple math. 
Jan 17, 2013 3:50PM
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Hi, strange comments from the man who's stores should be called Wholecheck. The everyday middle / lower class person can not shop at Wholecheck every week because there would be no money left over for healthcare...oh that's right he's one the 1%! Dont be fooled his business model is to attract the upper middle class only so that's why he has to bash healthcare reform, keep my customers happy at all times. Who takes 3 years to find a fishery that can provide sustainable fish?

 

Like everyone else who shares his view they have the magical crystal ball that can predict the future of prices and the stock market...blah, blah, blah!

Jan 17, 2013 3:50PM
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I think that obama is trying to take more power little by little no wonder why our country is going to hell.
Jan 17, 2013 3:48PM
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I can't wait until some of the people against the Affordable Healthcare Act find that they have no insurance but have a preexisting condition. I'm sure that they will refuse the insurance now made available to them and pay for all of there  hospital stays in cash,being to proud to benefit from Obamacare. Yeah right !!!
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Whole Foods is a VERY expensive place to shop. It's a good probability that his customers can afford to have health care if they don't mind paying 50% more on their weekly groceries.    Mr. Mackey is either out of touch with the 47% or just doesn't care because they don't provide him with any profit.  Marie Antoinette learned her lesson the hard way.   Mr.Mackey proves again that being wealthy doesn't make you a good person. 
Jan 17, 2013 3:46PM
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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 3:45PM
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Brilliant. Poke a stick in the eye of a large percent of your customer base.

Mackey should ask the CEOs of Papa Johns, Chik-Fil-A, Dardens and Interactive Brokers how smart they felt after their remarks got the attention they deserved.

Jan 17, 2013 3:45PM
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I intend to spend all my money at WF, I dont eat pizza. Last time the liberals and slackers tried to affect WF economically, their sales improved. check out their stock value since then. It must be the 1 percenters, they have ALL the money.
Jan 17, 2013 3:41PM
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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 3:40PM
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that's unfortunate, I actually liked whole foods. Unlike the card board crap pappa jons, and Dominoes  call pizza. WE need to compile a list of these greedy SOB's so we can hit them where they understand! The pocket book, they worship money and don't give a rats azz about their employees
Jan 17, 2013 3:38PM
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John Mackey's is the typical fascist CEO of corporation.

I think he doesn't know what fascist means.

Jan 17, 2013 3:36PM
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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 3:34PM
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GOP - are for themselves and their money - Dems about taking care or others and making sure everyone has a level playing field.  It does not matter that these capitalist got their money on the back of poor workers who work for min. wage with no benifits. These are the same people who will not go to war or sent their kids to defend this country in time of need. They just want to tell every one else how to live. My family has already agree not to go to these big mouth capitalist stores or business. Maybe someday they will learn to shut their big mouths.
Jan 17, 2013 3:33PM
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Where has this guy been? ObamaCare was ruled constitutional by the U. S Supreme Court months ago.
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Maybe Mr.Mackey should be more concerned with the Insurance Industry lobbyists who buy votes In Congress.  What "label" would he put on that practice.  There are just too many abuses by large corporations to be so indignant about a President who is trying to level the field so that the average American can be protected from those abusive practices.  With this current batch in Congress we could use a benevolent dictatorship to straighten out the cluster F that is now the norm.  We don't have law makers any more.  We have committees and debate teams who get paid no matter if something is accomplished or not.   
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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 3:30PM
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I have stopped going to Papa John's,Denny's,Wendy's,Chick Fil-A,and now I can put Whole Foods on the list for their actions concerning health care.This guy is probably worth millions and he is willing to send people off to die for his self serving beliefs.
Jan 17, 2013 3:29PM
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I suppose in his view anything but laissez-faire capitalism is fascism at some level.   Simpleton.
Jan 17, 2013 3:26PM
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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...
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