The Nation's Pulse

Whole Foods, Half a Brain

John Mackey discovers that on health care, liberals want easy answers and no debate.

By 8.25.09

Send to Kindle

As healthcare reform continues to spark debate, both intelligent and obtuse, at town hall forums and dinner tables around the country, it's also aroused those who would prefer to shut the conversation down.

In a refreshingly no-nonsense op-ed in the Wall Street Journal earlier this month, Foods CEO John Mackey poked several gaping holes in Obama's healthcare plan and made several suggestions that mimic Whole Foods' healthcare option for its employees. While Mackey may have gained added respect from Republicans unaware of his libertarian ideals, he not only lost the esteem of some Democrats, he may have lost some business too.

Roused by Mackey's pro-free-market claims, liberals cried "Boycott!" faster than they could shovel organic granola into their whiny mouths. At Whole Foods' Internet Forum, a site normally reserved for customers to "exchange recipes" and the like, a health care debate tab now appears. As of this writing, there are 11,000 posts on it. They range from the thoughtful --"Mackey actually makes some really good points" -- to the absurd --"What an embarrassment Mackey is. Plus, he's really stupid." Writes "MLad:" "Spewing right wing ideology may be good for fox news, but I suspect it's not good for whole foods. My wife and I have been regular customers for years. That's no longer the case..."

For some time, the trend to shop organic and at high-end grocery stores has been associated with liberals -- conservatives are obligated to duck into Wal-Mart. In an article on Slate a few years ago, the writer gushed Whole Foods is a "haute-crunchy supermarket chain that has made a fortune by transforming grocery shopping into a bright and shiny, progressive experience" and praised how well the company treated its employees while simultaneously supporting wind-power utilities. (In the end, the writer was critical of the company too.) So it comes as no surprise then that when Mackey turns out to operate his company in a way that would make Milton Friedman proud, liberals cry foul because they either disagree, or they don't understand market-based economics

On Facebook, several groups calling for a boycott of Whole Foods have popped up; the largest has 14,000 members. On that group's homepage, the creators comment Mackey believes "healthcare is a commodity that only the rich, like him, deserve." Not only is that a blatant distortion of Mackey's op-ed which offered detailed and effective ways to create healthcare reform, but such comments filtrating the internet cast a glimpse into the flawed thinking of postwar Democrats.

Before World War II, Americans had to not only pull themselves up by their bootstraps, but they had to purchase and replace them with their own money as well. In other words, before President Franklin Roosevelt, if a person could afford healthcare, he purchased it himself from a company that offered the best coverage at the best price. When World War II broke out, the Roosevelt administration instituted a cap on wages freezing the pay of millions of financially-strapped Americans. To attract new workers, companies started offering health insurance and other fringe benefits, a tradition that continues today.

Caps on wages are obsolete but healthcare has the employer-based health insurance system has exploded into a serious mess. Rather than try to fix it, many rank-and-file liberals insist that healthcare is a right rather than something that must be purchased through costs and trade-offs.

It is easier to call for boycotts on Whole Foods than to think about healthcare policy with more than half a brain.

Like this Article

Print this Article

Print Article
About the Author

Nicole Russell writes from Northern Virginia.