Our VoiceNews & Politics

Whole Foods CEO Takes Cue from White Nationalists


Jessica Acee • Aug 24, 2009

There is a disturbing trend spreading in the business community to side with white nationalists when it comes to health care, even using the same arguments. Last weekend I was in Austin, Texas, where among the kitschy neon signs, sits the largest whole foods in the nation. It’s a store whose official values include promoting health and investing in the environment and local communities.

Yet Whole Foods CEO John Mackey recently spoke out against Obama’s plan to reform healthcare in a much talked about Wall Street Journal Op-ed. It’s ugly, and if you haven’t read it yet, check out the link here. Mackey even had the nerve to say that we need to make it easier for rich people to voluntarily donate money towards the health needs of the less fortunate. While Mackey famously reduced his salary a few years ago from 3.36 million to one dollar, his real salary comes from millions in bonuses and stock gains. I’d like to know how much he donates to his local hospital.

The blogosphere has been afire debating his op-ed (with most opinions ranging from dumb to dumber) and many have called for a Whole Foods boycott. While I certainly stand among his critics, I want to talk about something different.

The talking points that Mackey used are strikingly familiar to those used at town hall meetings this summer. When Mackey writes that the right to healthcare “has never existed in America”, what he is really saying is that healthcare should remain inaccessible to immigrants and other non-white Americans. In the same manner, the comments made by those disrupting town hall events quickly turned to anti-immigrant rants and conspiracies about whites facing martial law.

The US Chamber of Commerce, representing millions of American businesses, has just announced a huge TV ad campaign to drum up more fear of “socialized medicine” and tax increases. While it is democratic to have dissenting views, it is disturbing that mainstream businesses are using the same arguments as white nationalists in the healthcare debate.

Interestingly enough, Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest private employer, has signed on with SEIU and the liberal think-tank Center for American Progress in favor of Obama’s health care reform. Wal-Mart has the largest number of uninsured workers and (no shock here) the company is invested in “sharing the costs”.

There is a real face to this healthcare debate, and the millions of Americans who are sick and frustrated with bad care represent it. When I remember 17-year-old Natalee Sarkisian who died last year while waiting for her insurance company to ok a transplant, I know that the insurance companies and Big Business will never change healthcare on their own. John MacKey and Whole Foods shouldn’t be cuddling up with white nationalist in an attempt to argue otherwise.

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