Whole Foods CEO biting the hand that feeds him

No doubt Whole Foods CEO is a smart man. He took a small supermarket from Austin and not only turned it into a national chain, but totally took the idea of food shopping and turned it on its head. From an onerous task of schlepping a rickety cart up and down aisle after aisle of packaged goods highlighted by cheaper prices and artificial lighting, John Mackey turned shopping into an event. Fresh, organic foods, natural light, new and exciting products from local farms and fields in far-away places.

Whole Foods prices are more expensive than other places, but it doesn’t matter, because people love to shop there, they love to interact with the knowledgeable staff and they love the idea of shopping at a place that seemed to have a heart.

Then CEO John Mackey wrote a piece on health care reform for the Wall Street Journal. The op/ed as it ran had the headline, “Whole Foods Alternative to Obamacare,”

Boom… Right away, John Mackey showed he has NO IDEA who shops at whole foods. Obama voters, liberals, people obsessed with health. Mackey claims that the Wall Street Journal chose the title for the piece. Here is a blog post from the Whole Foods blog that has Mackey explanation and has the original post.

In his op/ed, Mackey explains Whole Foods policy on Health Care. Seems reasonable, I don’t know, I don’t work there and I’ve never needed Whole Foods provided insurance, but I’ll assume it’s positive.

He then goes on to describe ways he thinks health care can be reformed. Tort reform, change tax laws, etc. Most of Mackey fixes are straight out of the John McCain, conservative talking points.

He then goes on to mention that in the Declaration of Independence there is not a mention of a right to health care. This is a very right-wing talking point and VERY out of step with Whole Foods shoppers.

Many promoters of health care reform believe that people have an intrinsic ethical right to health care-to universal and equal access to doctors, medicines, and hospitals.  While all of us can empathize with those who are sick, how can we say that all people have any more of an intrinsic right to health care than they have an intrinsic right to food, clothing, owning their own homes, a car or a personal computer? Health care is a service which we all need at some point in our lives, but just like food, clothing, and shelter it is best provided through voluntary and mutually-beneficial market exchanges rather than through government mandates.  A careful reading of both The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution will not reveal any intrinsic right to health care, food or shelter, because there isn’t any. This “right” has never existed in America.

While the Declaration of Independence never mentions health care, clothing shelter, computers and cars as personal rights, it never mentioned education either, but education is a right in this country. As a matter of fact, if a parent does not educate their child, they can go to jail. But Mackey doesn’t mention education as a right not mentioned in the Declaration of Independence. I’m sure Whole Foods shoppers would object to the right to education being taken out of American “rights.” I’m wondering if Whole Foods 50,000+ employees are nervous about the future of their health care. If health care is not a right, according to the company’s CEO, why is Whole Foods paying for their employees generous health care?

It’s fine with me that Mackey has his own opinions, he should. He should feel free to express them as he sees fit. However, his customers do not have to support a store that contributes to ideals so contrary and objectionable as their own. Comments on Mackey’s post seem to indicate that they do disagree with his ideology. These are his shoppers, these are the people who make it possible for him to support libertarian candidates and the libertarian party. Whole Foods’ liberal shoppers will decide for themselves if they want their food dollars to support candidates with ideals that run antithetical to their own.

Whole Foods twitter page is filled with backtracking posts.

1. CEO John Mackey IS in favor of health care reform; Whole Foods Market as a company has no official position. More:http://bit.ly/315tBa

2. Our Leadership’s Response Statement to John Mackey’s Op/Ed in the Wall Street Journal http://bit.ly/1m39hN

3. @BRRNN In the original Op-Ed Mackey sent to the WSJ, he did not use the term “Obamacare”; that was added by editors – http://bit.ly/315tBa

The Whole Foods PR team is probably working the weekend and the company is probably looking for ways to distance itself from Mackey’s comments, but the notion that Mackey put his business in the middle of the debate is just plain silly. Mackey’s political donations make it seems as though he has been a libertarian for a while, but if he knows who shops at Whole Foods, he wouldn’t have picked a fight with the people that keep food on his table.  


The Washington Post has a story in today’s paper titled:
Whole Foods Devotees Lash Out at CEO

Here’s a paragraph from the story (but the entire piece is worth a read):

Mackey is not the first corporate executive to wade into the contentious health-care debate, but other brands do not inspire the level of fanaticism that Whole Foods does. Safeway chief executive Steve Burd wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal in June that also called for market-based reforms in health care with nary a social media ripple.

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