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

Mar 2, 2013 8:33PM
The ruling class discovered decades ago the benefits of the fascistic over the socialist model. Profits are still nominally private, but heavily taxed and regulated by the government. If a store is state owned, the obvious people to blame are the party planners. But under the fascist model that the government currently follows, the government controls businesses and takes their cut. That way, when the prices go through the roof due to government mismanagement, all the sheep blame the visible corporations making huge profits, instead of the invisible hand of government manipulating the whole thing. Please, the next time you have an impulse to blame big greedy corporations; learn some economics, and start peeking behind the big business straw man the men of force have setup for you to knock down . You'll find threads of economic distortion emanating from Washington you never even knew existed.
Jan 21, 2013 3:19PM
the government plays upon our ignorance. like a fiddler on his fiddle. fiddling away does it do.
Jan 20, 2013 7:10AM
hey, we all need a petty dictator in our lives anyway. not to keep us honest, but to keep us on our toes.
Jan 20, 2013 7:05AM

we are all equal people. death is the great equaliser. so nobody is better than anyone else. but i hate to break it to you libs that there are people out there that are vastly smarter than others.

Jan 18, 2013 3:23PM

...Yet another reason not to shop at Whole-Paycheck.  As if pretentiousness, inflated prices and overpriced, half-rotted produce weren't sufficient reasons.

Jan 18, 2013 2:52PM
Where are all those Obama Jobs?     WTF is wrong with this country?
Jan 18, 2013 2:37PM
Well, I have said from day number one that his policies were very 'socialist' leaning. Meaning leaning towards government control of goods and services rather than private industry and I don't see how anyone can dispute that all his policies move in that direction. Even our housing industry, with so many Fannie Mae Freddie Mac owned foreclosures is in prime position for the move to socialism, where people often aren't allowed to own homes-the government does..but I wasn't aware of this distinction between marxism and socialism. Axelrod, who hails from here as well is known for his marxist ties and leanings...so not surprised. Glad to see someone actually call him out for what he really is and his agenda..socialism is not a pretty way to live..
Jan 18, 2013 2:25PM
What a hoot coming from an ex-hippie who charges other deluded hippies $8.99 for a pound of strawberries.  Sanctimonious ****.
Jan 18, 2013 2:21PM
I had an interesting conversation with a Canadian yesterday afternoon.  She is wondering if the USA will go down as one of the poorest humanitarian nations in the world.  We have a responsibility here and it appears once people become more and more successful (money hungry/greedy) they forget that they are not on this planet alone.  We have socialized medicine here in the US .. it's on the back of the middle class and small/mid-sized business owners.  We are not a nation of "We the People" we are a nation of "We the Corporation".  Get with it America .. we are loosing ground fast and 1/2 of our population has been hood winked into thinking if they buy guys they're going to save themselves from that military helicopter landing in their from yard!  The right are nothing but a bunch of "fearful old men" or should I say the leftovers of those southern demes that didn't believe in desegregation so they moved to the right.  Along with those who call themselves Christians, they are making the USA look like idiots to the rest of the world.  God, wake up USA and look in the mirror ... we've created a bunch of crack pots in our Congress (on the right) who couldn't care less what's best for any of us but what's best from whomever paid to put them there. Yek! At least those who did not vote R said their peace, God Bless them!
Jan 18, 2013 2:19PM
Jan 18, 2013 2:05PM

Repeal Obamacare, N.A.F.T.A. and regulate health care and insurance companies.




Medical: I gave birth to our child at home. Received a medical bill for the labor and delivery room . When questioning the hospital for the bill, we was told that labor and delivery rooms services were part to the "package" and would not remove the charges to the bill.

We told our insurance company agent and still the charges were not removed.

Household insurance: Was given 10 days to replace a Shake shingled roof because they thought it was a fire hazard. There was nothing wrong with the roof's condition. We changed the roof at the insurance's requirement and our utilities increased by approximately 33% and the insurance increased approximately 5% the following year.

N.A.F.T.A..: Jobs are contently being moved to other countries and depleting job availability here.

Obamacare: The rise in Healthcare cost, the depletion of hours in the workforce,

no jobs available for unemployed. (I have read in a newspaper a employer wanting a Master's Degree to work in a Fast -Food place....I thought: So much for education. )

The minimum wage doesn't cover all the expenses that are now being raise do the increases in taxes, healthcare, retirement fund ( if available), food, utilities.


Jan 18, 2013 2:01PM
I made about three thousand dollars last year, and have lived in a camper since 2010. I don't have or need or want healthcare coverage. But Obamacare will give it to me at YOUR expense. As a free man in a free country I should be able to choose. I choose NO. You have a fascist president who will choose for you. If I don't use my coverage, then it can pay for those children and elderly who really need it, so I won't be getting my teeth cleaned and will pay for my own glasses and band aids. At least you know ONE person who is helping America despite the oppressive rules.
Jan 18, 2013 1:54PM
Free Markets do NOT provide ROADS (they are built and maintained with tax money), PUBLIC SCHOOLS (where most of our kids get a basic education), POLICE and FIRE (tax money), MILITARY DEFENSE (tax money). When there was NO such thing as elections and govenments accountalbe to the people, like in dictatorships or the medievel times. there WAS NOTHING. IF MR BIG SHOT CEO and his other BIG SHOT CEOS would have used their eductaion, skills, intellect, IQ, connections, money, and whatever to help tackle a problem that has been growing for a century, MAYBE the people WHO VOTED FOR Obama wouln't have supported a President who supports some type of mandatory health coverage. Appartently, MR BIG SHOT CEO didn't have the time or counldn' have cared less. Now, he HAS to deal with it, JUST LIKE American workers have had to deal with China, and India, and South America. Hey, Mr BIG SHOT. It's NOT facism. it's DEMOCRACY as in people had a choice and they voted. I know it gets in the way of DOING WHAT YOU WANT ALL THE TIME. Come up with new ideas or suggestions and quit the woe is me  bull.
Jan 18, 2013 1:40PM
I wonder if this dunderhead knows what "Socialist" & "Fascist" mean.  He's kind of like playground children describing others as "bastards" , knowing only that he's using "bad words" to describe persons he doesn't like.
Jan 18, 2013 1:37PM
The only entity with poor health care was the federal government. The rich always get what they pay for  and the middle class, while having to pay to much for their health insurance, was satisfied with the care they recieved. It is the government that mis-managed its responcibilities to the medi-care/medicade programs and VA and welfare recipients. The government kept running up costs and expanding the rolls to the point they could no longer be afforded. That then prompted the government to begin the so-called campaign to provide insurance for the "uninsured". They played on the sympathies of common Americans, the government took advantage of the decency of its citizens to bail them out of their mis-managed mess otherwise known as government health care. How much more will they now screw up the health-care that remains? 
Jan 18, 2013 1:31PM
I think insurence companies should be allowed to rule the united states and CEOs deserve 400 millon dollar saleries.
Jan 18, 2013 1:19PM

It is very simply the overall feelings that small biz owners have for Obama. The majority don't trust Obama and will never expand or open very many new shops as long as "dimwit" is our President. Our debt is screwed up, our spending is screwed up, our health care is screwed up, the economy is screwed up .....


How can one guy be so bad at so many things!!

Jan 18, 2013 1:16PM
Now he's a fascist?  I thought he was a Kenyan muslim socialist antichrist
Jan 18, 2013 1:06PM
I wouldn't eat Papa John's Pizza even if it was free.
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