Whole Foods CEO: “I Made a Poor Word Choice” in Describing ObamaCare as Fascism

Leah Barkoukis

1/18/2013 1:35:00 PM - Leah Barkoukis

In an interview with NPR, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey drew a lot of attention—and criticism—by comparing ObamaCare to “fascism.” He said, "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.” Now, he’s walking back the controversial statement even though his feelings about the health care law haven’t changed. On CBS This Morning, Mackey said it was “a bad choice of words” because it has an association with dictatorships in the 20th century. He continued to say, however, that, “We no longer have free enterprise capitalism in health care. It’s not a system any longer where people are able to innovate. It’s not based on voluntary exchange. The government is directing it so we need a new word for it, I don’t know what that right word is.” Clearly agitated, Norah O’Donnell interrupts, saying that she’s not as concerned about the word, but can’t seem to understand why he’s so opposed to ObamaCare to even use a word "like that." How dare he!

Mackey also released a statement on the matter:

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. There is an alternative to mandated health care in free enterprise capitalism based on voluntary exchange for mutual gain. This alternative allows individuals and businesses to innovate and develop customized solutions to health care where a “one size fits all approach” fails.  Creativity and progress are stifled when government regulations dictate the parameters of what health care plans can be offered. Creative businesses, and the people who work them, can make something that has value for all stakeholders.

I need a new word or phrase to describe the state of health care now because it is something that I, like all folks entrusted with the wellbeing of a team, grapple with daily in this era.  I think for now I will simply call it government-controlled health care to distinguish it from free enterprise capitalist health care.  Clearly, I would prefer free enterprise capitalism in health care because it would greatly increase innovation and progress —just like it does in every other aspect of our lives, wherever it is allowed to exist. I hope those who are my critics, would recognize that we are all after an improved state of society, and not be distracted by the poor use of an emotionally charged word.