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 3:21PM

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 3:19PM

Is white liberal guilt a whole food?

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 3:03PM
He's spot-on with his assessment. Of course, most people hear such a term and dismiss it as name-calling rather than looking at the definition of the word and then comparing the characteristics of the subject to it.

Do you care to guess what's even more wild? When you go as far right on the political spectrum as you can get, Fascism is what you have. (In case you're curious, going as far left as possible is socialism). Doesn't it strike you as strange that a President as left-leaning as ours is would have cooperated in implementing a system as far-right as this one?
Jan 17, 2013 3:01PM
Fascism is the extreme opposite of socialism.  Nazi Germany was way different to communist(socialist) Russia.  Fascism is for the glory of the state. Socialism is for the equality of the people.
Jan 17, 2013 2:48PM
It's like this.  We start in the same place, you travel always east and I travel always west, eventually we end up at the same place on the other side of the world.

Socialism and National Socialism--eventually they get to be tyranny.  And tyranny is tyranny, especially when it gets to the point--as it is getting with our Imam/Fuhrer/god-Wannabe Adolf Obamanation--that it is forbidden by law to believe certain ways; especially when--ditto--the greater "good" of society trumps the very lives of the most helpless among us.

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