No doubt with his marketing honchos standing over him, tapping blackjacks into their palms, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey has been busy walking-back comments he made to NPR in which he described Obamacare as an example of a fascist enterprise. While still critical of the administration's controversial healthcare scheme, which is heavy on government mandates, he now regrets his choice of words. That's a damned shame, since he was dead-on with his original description.
NPR originally reported on Mackey's obviously thoughful, if harsh, assessment of Obamacare:
What he doesn't think is right is President Obama's health overhaul and the new costs that coverage requirements will place on businesses.
When Inskeep asks him if he still thinks the health law is a form of socialism, as he's said before, Mackey responds:
"Technically speaking, it's more like fascism. Socialism is where the government owns the means of production. 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 took a lot of flack from the usual suspects who strongly resented the linking of a policy they like to an ideology known for being a tad authoritarian. And no doubt Whole Foods, as a business that caters to a customer base that may be more Obamacare-friendly, on average, than Americans as a whole, is vulnerable to political push-back. So Mackey publicly reiterated his criticism of government-dominated healthcare while repudiating his word-choice. From the Whole Foods company blog:
I made a poor word choice to describe our health care system, which I definitely regret. The term fascism today stirs up too much negative emotion with its horrific associations in the 20th century. While I'm speaking as someone who works hard to offer health care benefits to more than 73,000 team members, who actually vote on their overall benefits packages, I am very concerned about the uninsured and those with preexisting conditions.
I believe that, if the goal is universal health care, our country would be far better served by combining free enterprise capitalism with a strong governmental safety net for our poorest citizens and those with preexisting conditions, helping everyone to be able to buy insurance. This is what Switzerland does and I think we would be much better off copying that system than where we are currently headed in the United States.
I believe that health care should be competitive in the open market to promote innovation and creativity. Despite the criticism of me, I am encouraged that this dialogue will bring continued awareness and a better understanding of viable health care options for all Americans.
Fair enough. I get it that Mackey's main job is running a company and avoiding offending his customers. So spin away. But here's the thing: He was right the first time. Obamacare looks an awful lot like fascism — specifically, like the corporatist economics at the heart of the ideology. If anybody knew a little something about fascism, it was a fellow named Benito Mussolini. In 1935, Mussolini wrote in Fascism: Doctrine and Institutions:
The corporate State considers that private enterprise in the sphere of production is the most effective and useful instrument in the interest of the nation. In view of the fact that private organisation of production is a function of national concern, the organiser of the enterprise is responsible to the State for the direction given to production.
So ... Privately owned businesses under state control is what was envisioned by Benito Mussolini as fascism, and it is what John Mackey very accurately described in his discussion of Obamacare.
Too bad if that accurate description hurts some folks' feelings.