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 9:35PM
Well, since when has a CEO ever cared about Main Street and the Middle Class?  In all honesty, I purposely posted this specifically to PO all the mouth breathing Tea Party morons and welfare queens who won't buy insurance, still go to the ER, and drive my premiums up. By the way, the insurance mandate was first proposed by the ultra conservative Heritage Foundation in 1990, who said people who don't buy it drive up costs for everyone else, and later supported by 4 GOP U.S. Senators, two of whom were Grassely of IA and Hatch of UT, who said people have to accept responsibility for themselves, and buying health insurance was part of that responsibility, Bob Dole proposed it for his health care reform plan, and Romney put it into his MA program.  Why weren't you people bitching about it back then?    Go ahead, start foaming at the mouth, but don't choke on it.
Jan 17, 2013 9:34PM
Go head complain all you want.  Its funny I had a double bypass March 20th, 2012. Total cost $61,000.00 plus my total out of pocket including my Fed 2012 physical which started the whole order will cost me less than $4,500 and my wife and I yearly deductable is $6000.00.  You people are complaining about something you heard from people who know nothing of what they are talking about.
Jan 17, 2013 9:28PM

90 % of people in this country work for small business, No brainer that the healt care bill will destroy them.

Obama is trying and suceeding to break this country. Wake  up liberals, you are in the same sinking boat!

Jan 17, 2013 9:19PM
to all you anti health care people, when you reach 65 I bet you turn down medicare and social security and keep paying for your own way, you are all so full of yourselves, as for Mr Mackey if he is unable to pay his employees a living wage and health care he should realize that he has failed as a businessman, period, he is your typical CEO who expects employees to work for nothing while he reaps all the rewards, call him and ask him what he yearly compensation is and what he pays his employees............  
Jan 17, 2013 9:17PM
I will continue to shop at Whole Foods as always.  From now own, I will put lots of frozen food on the bottom, wander all over the store (for a good mix) and fill my shopping cart(s) to the brim.  Then I will put my letter to Mr. Clueless Mackey on top, park the cart in the aisle, and walk out.  Putting all the food back will create lots of extra work for Whole Foods workers (overtime!!!) who are innocent in all of this.  It will hit Mr. Clueless in his bottom line where (perhaps) he has feelings (since he is obviously without conscience or moral rudder).

Be a SECRET SHOPPER : Shop And Walk (Don't Forget Your Letter)>  Shop OFTEN!!!
Jan 17, 2013 8:57PM
Whole Foods CEO is an idiot ,greedy fool. I'm a Gulf War veteran I love it . Nice to see the real working people taking care of. May be he's worried there won't be enough money for his needs LOL.

Jan 17, 2013 8:57PM
More and more people everyday are waking up to the facts of this 'be all' health care program.  Socialism is alive and growing in our government.  It is the middle class that will pay for this socialist program and remember it was the middle class that revolted in Russia.  Our Government is pushing the middle class and business to revolt.  
Jan 17, 2013 8:53PM
if everyone has health care now ,,,,,,,why are there penalties for not having health care in obamacare? the mandate is as dumb as its name sake!
Jan 17, 2013 8:40PM
Apparently the republicans are continuing their effort to shove their expensive shoes farther down their throats. This guy runs a company and we wonder whats wron with the economy. Well folks it is not the government it is this CEOS of American companies and their greed and stupidity.
Jan 17, 2013 8:38PM

Mark Wilson / Getty Images

John Mackey, co-CEO of Whole Foods


Whole Foods co-CEO John Mackey said Thursday that he regrets his "poor word choice" in a radio interview comparing America's health care system to "fascism."

Jan 17, 2013 8:35PM

Good for the Whole Foods CEO - it the truth hurts those that actually believe the healthcare system is going to be better with the government inbetween you and your Dr. and Insurance carrier, well good luck with that.  Government is going to grow and the money that is being extorted from us will go into that big deep dark hole the democrats love to play in (other people's money) and healthcare will get more expensive, less coverage and harder to get access, that is unless you're Congress or a government employee!  If you keep voting for people that only want to take from you then this is what you get in return - hope you're happy with it, I'm certainly not!

Jan 17, 2013 8:33PM
The person who wrote this article is obviously a leaft leaning socialist.
Jan 17, 2013 8:28PM
Hi, everyone should have health insurance, even if the penny pincher bosses dont think so !
Jan 17, 2013 8:13PM
I agree with the fascist statement.
Jan 17, 2013 8:11PM
The 47% don't care what it does to the economy, or anyone  that's paying this pig in a poke health care.  All they care about is getting the government to take care of them from the cradle to the grave.  They lack any kind of self respect to earn their own way.
Jan 17, 2013 8:11PM
Like Social Security and Medicare...another slush fund has been created that will pull more and more dollars out the pockets of the productive to give to the non-productive. Regardless on which side of the fence you sit politically, your paycheck will be ever smaller and smaller after deductions and that is a fact.  
Jan 17, 2013 8:10PM
Does anybody have a good solution or does everyone just bash the government.  I get that it will hurt small buisness because of the higher premiums.  What I want to understand is how we are going to pay for the 20-40% of the people that have no insurance that go to the hospitals right now and get health care for free.  Neither side will go after imigration reform because it will hurt them politically and also in their pocket book.  Do you think the Wallmarts of this country give a damn that the middle class is paying for this group thru higher health care premiums?  I own a small buisness and already pay for all of my employees health care.  I make less on my bottom line but it is in my opinion the right thing to do.  I don't allow the middle class to pay for my employes health care.  I will never shop at Wallmart or any other company who makes it a practice to not do the ethical thing and keep ripping off America.
Jan 17, 2013 8:10PM
John Mackey KNOWS Obama. Too bad others have their head in a smelly place.
Jan 17, 2013 8:07PM
Time to get the Mackeys, Kock brothers, Walton family and others like them to quit whining their immoral crap that is about serving their own pockets and rather be moral and patriotic members of the USA or else be forced to leave the USA and leave their money in the USA.  We are all tired of this whine "oh it's too expensive, too fascist, too communist etc.  Get with the program you capitalist republican Nazis or else face the distinct possibility that the repubescent party will become extinct before the next presidential election.  Get with the program: got it?
Jan 17, 2013 8:07PM
You right wingers have no problem spending a trillion dollars to start a totally useless war in Iraq, getting thousands of our troops killed and maimed and wrecking a country. But when Obama tries to spend money on  providing some healthcare for your fellow Americans, he gets vilified. And I'm sure you all claim to be Christians. I got mine, screw you, hypocites would be a better name.
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