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 5:54PM
As companies realize the actual costs and make adjustments there will be a huge shift to what appears to be affordable healthcare. Many companies will cut back the hours or number of employees to avoid the cost of supplying healthcare. It's going to happen and probably will happen more and more. This is the first wave of consequences for the healthcare mandates. As time passes those that had their hours cut back will find that they are "required" by tax law to have healthcare or pay a tax for not having it. They will still have to pay their own costs for healthcare too. One way or another everyone will pay and it depends on where the burden will be shifted. Will your employer pay for it, or help pay for it, or will they shift that burden to the individual to pay on their own even though they had their pay cut? No one can tell you how it will play out. This is part of the "contract" of healthcare that politicians said had to pass and we would know and worry about what is in the legislation after it was passed. In a court of law, if you sign a contract without knowing what is in that contract, you are still bound to it because you had the choice to read and understand it before agreeing to it. I guess that doesn't apply to politicians and the the government in their representing the will of the people.
Jan 17, 2013 5:53PM
this is guy is a sleaze always has been always will be, .I remember him on message boards using an alias and spreading rumors about Wild Oats so he could drive down the price...

I have been in dozens of his stores and I think only two if them did I see a happy group of employees....Thanks goodness I live in a place with other alternatives for organic healthy foods and I can avoid Whole Paycheck

Jan 17, 2013 5:50PM
Republicans are nasty greedy people who have no moral compass. They are nothing more than something they invest in! It is obvious to all that they worship only money, Its time we scraped them off our shoes and moved on! One can only hope that through their ignorance they pick up arms, that way they can be scraped off for good!
Jan 17, 2013 5:46PM
No, idiot. Fascism is what we had under Dubya Bush. Obama is promoting socialism. Get your dictionary definitions straight. There's something seriously wrong with you Texans. We SHOULD let you secede from the union... and give y'all back to Old Mexico. They would know how to deal with morons like you.
Jan 17, 2013 5:43PM



Jan 17, 2013 5:40PM
Before Obamacare, the 'system' excluded persons with pre-existing conditions, the underemployed with no benefits and/or those incapable of affording Health Insurance, right?

Was that not basically an implied "Death Panel" by default?
Jan 17, 2013 5:39PM
Free America - my **** - Thanks Obama, Liberals and the Media idiots like MSN - you can all go to Hell
Jan 17, 2013 5:38PM
This man is not impressive! a CEO and he slams the president of The United States. He has no heart when it comes to pricing his product or paying his help. I think the Whole Foods chain should look for a new leader.  Just take a look at his salary and perks.. A company could pay the Health care bill of all ,its employees with just 10% of his grab. I think he should tell Barack he is sorry and try to make it work.  CEOs should never get involved will politics, he should know better and pay his share. The only time i go into whole foods is when they have a product that's lower than Market Basket, so it isn't very often....  Obama care will help everybody, but no one wants to pay for it. What a mess ....
Jan 17, 2013 5:36PM

We are going to pay through the nose for Obamacare!   Wait a minute, we are already paying through the nose for health insurance. I (and I have insurance) already pay for all the people that go to the emergency room and run up huge bills that they can not pay since they have no insurance. I pay for the huge CEO pay and the golden parachutes ($10's of millions). United Health Care CEO got $102 million in total compensation last year. How many Government employees get that? I pay for the 20% overhead private insurance take (Medicare overhead is less than 5%). I love when these millionaires and billionaires complain about something they do not personally need to worry about. Then again, any increase in employee costs, the less for them especially now that they have upped their income tax rate to 20% (us working bees still have a rate of up to 32%).

Jan 17, 2013 5:35PM

Mackey is right.  The people on here who are sighting Canada, Germany and Sweden among others for their great health care should know this......having been there myself, prices for all goods purchased in these countries are double or triple what we pay in America!  OBAMA CARE WILL NOT BE FREE!

Jan 17, 2013 5:33PM
I think he's being to soft on the "commie"!
Jan 17, 2013 5:32PM

Do any of you people actually know what the health care law does or why some of its provisions exist? From what I've read here I doubt it. The health care law regulates the insurance industry. It doesn't control it so Mackey is flat out wrong. Calling it socialist was closer to the mark because, whether you look at it drunk or sober, it is a socialist concept.


Ignoring the law for a moment ask yourself this question. Is universal health care a good thing that should be instituted in the US? If your answer is yes, all that's left is to figure out how and criticisms of the health care plan should come along with suggestions about what to do instead.  If your answer is no, I'd be curious to know why.


As for people like John Schnatter, if adding 25 cents to the price of a pizza is what it takes to get everyone decent health care, here's your stinking quarter.

Jan 17, 2013 5:32PM
wow, another person wakes up.. good for him.  now we all need to support his business as much as we can..  as the obama care  ach suckes and the more people read it and have to deal with it the more people hate it
Jan 17, 2013 5:31PM

As a libertarian I can tell you I have no problem with Mackey's comments.  Obamacare is very beneficial to the middle to low income population.  These are not customers of Whole Foods. These are the people that are trapped by government regulations and live by the USDA's definition of the healthy living food pyramid.  This guideline has been proven by many different diet and nutrition experts to be flawed in so many different ways.  We are eating far more processed and hormone enhanced meat and vegetables than we every have and the health of this country is failing at it's highest rates.  Heart Disease, blood pressure rates, diabetes, all cancers, etc are at their highest levels ever. And guess who benefits from our sicknesses.  Yep the health care industry and that's who's calling the shots in Washington. Obamacare is cancer to small to medium sized businesses.

Jan 17, 2013 5:31PM
American business has to kick Obama right in the **** by reducing work hours to less than 30 hours for all employees which will exempt them from the Obamacare healthcare requirement and also exempt them from the tax penalty.  The savings will increase profits and the emloyees and the families have no healthcare.  This trend has to continue until the majority of Americans are without healthcare which will cause the law to be repealed.  Obamacare can be defeated, it takes businessmen with balls to do it.  For jobs that require 40 hours it will be necessary to hire two people each working 20 hours.  We will end up with a large group of Americans working 40 hours per week but only twenty hours at each employers business.  Eliminate Obamacare and then Obama.  If enough people do not have healthcare Obama will be impeached and thrown out of office. 
Jan 17, 2013 5:30PM
I like this guy.  I might start shopping at Whole Foods!
Jan 17, 2013 5:24PM
I've been wondering when people who provide jobs and actually have to pay for the 47%+ who don't want to work or take responsibility for themselves speak up and say it like it is.  You go Mackey and Schnatter as you seem to be the only ones that have figured out what this Obamacare is all about.  When you consider that here's Obama, who never had a real job in his life and has always lived off the government dole who pretends to know how the world works.
Jan 17, 2013 5:24PM

In a sense the man is correct. Obamacare sprung from the 'think tank' Heritage Foundation, an extremely right-wing conservative ideology. The goal of the ACA is to try and allow ~100 percent of Americans receive health care. Obama bended towards a pure capitalist approach rather than a pure socialist approach. Part of the concept was expecting Small Businesses to from 'Pools' which will allow them to compete as Big Business. Just that, many people for racist and political purposes has decided to implement pure ignorance into this.

The trick is, as Obamacare becomes mandatory for everyone by law; the loop-back is: should the capitalistic venture fail, the other end of the extreme will prevail.

Of course the right-wing will spend the rest of eternity trying to get rid of Social Security, Medicare etc. Heck, if a right-wing businessman can Privatize the 'heat and light' coming from the sun, he will do it.

Jan 17, 2013 5:23PM

If the brain trust in DC doesn't find a solution to the budget problems, affordable health care will be the least of our worries.  Mackey will have a hard time selling his products when everyone is shopping at Aldi and Walmart, assuming they have an income to buy food with.

Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.

Trending NOW

What’s this?


[BRIEFING.COM] The stock market finished an upbeat week on a mixed note. The S&P 500 shed less than a point, ending the week higher by 1.3%, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average (+0.1%) cemented a 1.7% advance for the week. High-beta names underperformed, which weighed on the Nasdaq Composite (-0.3%) and the Russell 2000 (-1.3%).

Equity indices displayed strength in the early going with the S&P 500 tagging the 2,019 level during the opening 30 minutes of the action. However, ... More