Whole Foods CEO John Mackey and “Conscious Capitalism” – putting lipstick on a pig

John Mackey is the co-CEO of Whole Foods Market, its founder, and a self-proclaimed independent libertarian. Mackey has also recently authored a book, “Conscious Capitalism.” While he speaks in platitudes about corporations acting as conscientious citizens of the world, Mackey’s actions as CEO of a major corporation betray his real motivation.

Mackey was forced to back pedal from his comments on the Patient Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”):

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 is dead wrong on the government-corporate relationship under fascism. Italian historian and fascism authority Emilio Gentile gives the authoritative description:

Corporative organization of the economy that suppresses trade union liberty, broadens the sphere of state intervention, and seeks to achieve, by principles of technocracy and solidarity, the collaboration of the ‘productive sectors’ under control of the regime, to achieve its goals of power, yet preserving private property and class divisions. (Payne, Stanley G (A History of Fascism, 1914-1945). University of Wisconsin Press. pp. 5–6)

More importantly, it is time to call Mackey’s vision of capitalism (and Whole Foods Market) what it is, and this writer does not use this term loosely. “Corporate fascism” is an accurate and apt description of the Mackey philosophy. Consider Gentile’s definition. above, in light of Mackey’s actions and writings.

Mackey is a staunch proponent of a corporate-centric economy, with no government or regulatory intervention. Both Whole Foods Market and Mackey are anti-union, anti-worker’s rights. The Mackey philosophy would see a collaborative corporate control over the means of production, to achieve its own goals of power through corporate solidarity (WMC, US Chamber of Commerce, etc.). Preservation of private property and class division are a necessity for the Mackey vision, as there can be no cheap labor production without class division. Ironically, Mackey is a proponent of the expansion of state intervention, as long as it is on behalf of corporate welfare expansion. There is plenty of proof to support this assertion…

On November 16, 2011, Mackey penned an op-ed by invitation in the Wall Street Journal, titled “To Increase Jobs, Increase Economic Freedom.”  In a response to Mackey’s article written on February 1, 2012, Badger Democracy addressed the fundamental arguments in the op-ed:

1. Cut the size and cost of government – 100 years ago, government spending was 8% of GDP; today it is 40% of GDP. This additional money spent by the government could be used to “create jobs.”

2. Cuts should be made in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Defense – many of these services could be privatized, using the “success” of Chile and Singapore as models.

3. Stimulate the economy by cutting taxes and regulations – Mackey explains that cutting taxes would “increase revenue… as entrepreneurs create new businesses and new jobs and as people earn more money.”

In his own op-ed, Mackey supports further provisions which would continue the US economy down a dangerous path. Greater corporate consolidation of power, greater consolidation of wealth, greater class inequity, and greater corporate influence on policy which would regulate said power.

The dagger in Mackey’s theory is a recent report in the conservative-leaning Financial Times, also reported in the New York Times. The article cites a steady decline in earned wages and a steady rise in investor income through profit and interest:

“58%…is the share of US national income that goes to workers as wages rather than to investors as profits and interest. It has fallen to its lowest level since records began after the second world war and is part of the reason why incomes at the top – which tend to be earned from capital – have risen so much. If wages were at their postwar average share of 63 per cent, workers would earn an extra $740 billion this year, about $5,000 per worker, according to FT calculations.”

More power and wealth for the corporate fascists, with less taxes and accountability means more money to influence and drive politics and policy:


Corporate Taxes Paid by US Corporations, 1950-2010

(Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis analysis)

Corporate income tax graph


Cheap labor production is possible due to the expansion of the wealth gap and class disparities:



John Mackey’s Whole Foods Market has also forced employees to “vote” to cut their own wages and benefits. Wages have been cut due to reduction in hours, and employees will be forced to contribute more in spite of enormous corporate growth:

In 2007, WFM profits (after taxes and expenses) totaled $182.7 million. Four years later, in 2011, profits totaled $342.6 million – nearly double in 4 years.  For the first sixteen weeks of 2011, total profits were $88.7 million; for the same period in 2012, profits totaled $118.3 million. Store expenses have decreased by 38 points in 2011, including 28 points due to wage cuts. In real numbers, most stores have executed 3% cuts in labor over the past fiscal year, resulting in most employees seeing a 5-8% cut in wages (due to hours being cut).

Of course, Mackey built Whole Foods with his own two hands, with no government help (sarcasm)…therefore, government should stay out of his business. This is the great lie of corporate fascism. Mackey and his ilk want the government to work for them. The doctrine of so-called “corporate conscious” follows in the words of Gentile:

…broadens the sphere of state intervention, and seeks to achieve, by principles of technocracy and solidarity, the collaboration of the ‘productive sectors’ under control of the regime, to achieve its goals of power.

The corporate fascists would have us believe the great lie of their own self-determination and success, that personal strength and sacrifice alone built their empires. Mackey is as guilty of this as any of them. Whole Foods is a prolific recipient of government intervention and welfare on its own behalf.

In 2011, an $8 million tax break for a new Washington DC Whole Foods development raised questions of return on public investment and why public money was even needed:

And why does this project require a special subsidy to move forward in the first place?  This Whole Foods already would qualify for a set of tax incentives for grocery store development, including a 10–year property tax break on the store itself.  Moreover, while some projects near Nationals Park have languished in the recession, this area is likely to be part of the emerging rebound, thanks in part to prior public investment by the District.  Finally, if a Whole Foods will revitalize this neighborhood as it did in Logan Circle, why won’t private market interests step up to make it happen?

In the same year, Whole Foods received $4.2 million in tax subsidies to open a Detroit area store, uncovered only by FOIA requests:

The documents, obtained by the Chaldean News under the Freedom of Information Act and provided toCrain’s, show that Whole Foods is asking for $4.2 million in city, state and federal incentives to open a store in downtown Detroit.

According to the exchanges, the 21,000-square-foot project is expected to get $1.5 million in local and community foundation funds, $1.2 million in federal tax credits under the New Market program and $1.5 million in state incentives.

Michael Sarafa, president of the Bank of Michigan and co-publisher of The Chaldean News, questions the use of incentives to lure a national grocery chain to Detroit. He said there are 83 independently-owned grocers in the city, many of them owned by Chaldeans, who did not receive incentives.


Controversial “TIF” funds are being used for construction of a Whole Foods-anchored development in St. Louis, hardly in a blighted area.

The new Whole Foods development in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago is being partially funded by an $11.3 million “TIF” in an already well-developed area.

Mackey is now on the record confirming that Whole Foods will begin eliminating full-time employees as a result of “Obamacare” being fully enacted. This in an interview with Greta Van Susteren:

…there will be a strong temptation for businesses to keep people under 30 hours, so they don’t have to provide health care. And you will have a lot of part-time workers and fewer full-time workers, a lot of people underemployed.

Whole Foods prided itself, we’ve always had a higher mix of full-time to part-time workers like 80 percent full-time and 20 percent part-time, which is very rare in retail. But as I suspect as our health care costs are driven up by health care reforms then we’ll end up gradually lower our full-time ratio to a much lower number.

There is no fiscal truth to this statement. As proven in Whole Foods’ own financial statements and a previous Badger Democracy blog, the company’s health care costs per employee are actually lower than they were before “Obamacare’s” passage. The reason for Whole Foods’ higher total costs is simple – the company is growing. With government and public help.

It is time to take the lipstick off the pig. The philosophy of John Mackey should be called what it is. Corporate freedom, rights, and independence over all – even the individual. No worker’s rights, no government regulation or intervention EXCEPT on behalf of the corporation and its own interests. In short…corporate fascism.

And Mackey calling “Obamacare” fascism? Pure projection.



What the media, Republicans don’t get – The Founding Fathers would Occupy Wall Street…and on a personal note

The media – Fox in particular, Republicans, and many corporate Democrats miss the point of not only Occupy Wall Street; but the massive implications of Scott Walker’s policies ending collective bargaining rights for Public Employees. The push back that is the current Progressive movement in Wisconsin and Occupy Wall Street represents the real spirit of the American Revolution. A plutocracy has been formed at the expense of the middle class, and our political system has been sold to the highest bidders – who now use it to continue their plunder of society, for their own benefit.

The mass media has fallen for the basest propaganda, as have many Wisconsinites, Americans, and citizens of the world. This propaganda falsely promotes greed and avarice above the well being of a majority of the population – creating the myth that labor works at the whim of the few who control existing capital. And those controlling few made their fortunes through their own toil and effort – therefore they are entitled to the spoils alone.

Benjamin Franklin, in 1783, wrote on just this subject:

“All the Property that is necessary to a Man, for the Conservation of the Individual and the Propagation of the Species, is his natural Right, which none can justly deprive him of: But all Property superfluous to such purposes is the Property of the Publick, who, by their laws, have created it, and who may therefore by other laws dispose of it, whenever the Welfare of the Publick shall demand such Disposition. He that does not like civil society on these terms, let him retire and live among Savages. He can have no right to the benefits of Society, who will not pay his Club towards the Support of it.”

Franklin and other Founders would stand with us in this peaceful revolution against the Corporatist power that deprives the majority of the people of the basic rights Franklin addresses.

That is what the recall is about; that is what Occupy Wall Street is about, and what the people of the world are waking up to. The American system has been turned upside down. It is our duty and obligation to right it by any peaceful means necessary – Recalling Scott Walker is our right and obligation.

On a personal note : those of you who follow Badger Democracy have likely noticed a decrease in posts recently. I have been finalizing a two-month project examining the politics of power in Waukesha County. The piece will be run in the Isthmus as cover story next week – look for it! Special thanks to Dean Robbins, Kristian Knutsen, Judy Davidoff for their help; and the people who were interviewed…Sly, Mark Pocan, Jon Erpenbach, Kathleen Falk, Paul Soglin, Don Taylor, Scott Jensen, Dean Marquardt, Barry Burden, John Nichols, Mike McCabe, and my father, who related a personal story about Don Taylor that provided the direction for the piece.

See you this weekend at the Leftist Cocktail Party, Great Dane Fitchburg, 4:30… Solidarity!

Remember, Remember, the Fifth of November…and Wisconsin

November 5th is only one month away, and the poem referencing Guy Fawkes has been repeated from Madison to Wall Street, and around the world:

 “Remember, Remember, the fifth of November, the Gunpowder Treason and Plot.

I know of no reason, the Gunpowder Treason should ever be forgot.”

Today, October 5, the attention is turned to Occupy Wall Street, Chicago, Boston, et.al. For good reason – the movement which began as a march up State Street to deliver Valentines to the State Capitol on February 14 has turned into national recognition that Corporate Anarchists began class warfare over twenty years ago – and the people are waking up to reclaim Democracy. The movement, the people’s peaceful revolution, has begun. While the movement has spread to support our Brothers and Sisters around the nation (and indeed, the world), the time is upon us to turn our attention and focus where it all started – Wisconsin.

In Wisconsin, the Legislature will be back in session to take up bills which are now receiving hearings with little attention. With the massive crowds gone, and attention turned outward, the GOP hope is to pass these “job creation bills” without much fanfare. So-called “job creation” bills are no more than continued giveaways to GOP-friendly corporations and the top 2% of wage earners, all in a Special Session called by a desperate Governor who may be sensing his time in office is limited.  Scott Walker faces a looming and expanding John Doe investigation into his campaign activities while Milwaukee County Executive; and an inevitable effort to recall him. The actions of a desperate politician are unpredictable, save the motivation to do anything to retain power and control. This Special Session, coupled with the unveiling of the State Public Employee handbook (rumored to be introduced within the week), stands to rival the implementation of Act 10 in its effects on the working middle class – and benefits to the wealthy, corporate elite.

We are one month away from the earliest date a recall petition can be filed. It is this writer’s opinion the earliest filing date is inevitable. There are significant movements among grassroots groups, labor unions, Democrats, and PACs to band together in a united effort to recall Scott Walker. Come November, every available activist, progressive, Democrat, centrist, etc., must be available for the effort. Holiday shopping, Packer games, Badger games, must take a back seat to the recall effort if it is to be successful. Scott Walker is covertly arming his recall war chest, and may start campaigning immediately upon the petition filing – giving him a significant jump on any challenger. And the challenger? Who will it be? The likelihood of an April recall election becomes very likely, six months away…the vetting process needs to begin. For Wisconsin and the people of The United States, the recall is a must-win scenario; if we are focused, united, peaceful, and passionate, we will win. For that, our attention must be here, at home.

The effort will need people to assure voter education and registration; fundraising efforts, quick and accurate information, armies of people to gather accurate and legal petitions, and coordination between scores of vested organizations, and a candidate to unite a state which has been torn apart by Scott Walker. People of Wisconsin, the time is now. On the 5th of October, turn your attention inward, to Wisconsin. You are needed to write, call, protest, educate, gather signatures, rally volunteers, vote, and get out the vote. This is the People’s time – to show the world what Democracy looks like. Scott Walker was elected last November, and committed treason against Democracy, selling it out to the highest bidder. This month, and this November, we peacefully take it back.

“Remember, Remember the Fifth of November, the Scott Walker Corporate Plot,

I know of no reason the Corporate treason should EVER be forgot.”

Solidarity, and Forward!



From Madison, with Love – Occupy Wall Street, Occupy the World

The peaceful occupation of Wall Street is virtually unreported in the mainstream media – save a brief update on MSNBC this evening. New York City Police have begun an attempt at quelling the protest through use of force, unprovoked and without cause. Why, in the United States of America, would this happen? How can the First Amendment rights of so many be restricted – to the point where Twitter will not allow #occupywallstreet to trend, even though it is exploding worldwide? One needs only look back about seven months to the occupation of the Wisconsin State Capitol to find the answer.

The mass protest and resistance to Corporatic anarchy created a stir across the nation, and around the world. To neo-Conservatives, using Scott Walker and the Fitzgerald-led Legislature as puppets, Wisconsin became the “tip of the spear” in the rising class warfare. Destroying the Labor movement was just the beginning, as we all have seen. Something profound happened in February and March; something the neo-cons could not have anticipated in their attempted “shock therapy” for Wisconsin. The people resisted. 14 Senators left the state, denying the quorum necessary to pass  Act 10 – and waking up the entire country to what was happening in Wisconsin. In that time, people also began to wake up – prematurely, for the neo-cons, to the agenda being imposed upon them. People all over the United States began to wake up.

While much of the right-wing agenda has been implemented, some is stalled. In Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and other states, the right-wing has not gotten everything it wanted – and some things they have gotten are ripe for recall. The movement is growing – the people are poised to take back what is rightly theirs. Democracy, and equal representation regardless of class, race or social status. The blackout of “Occupy Wall Street” is a desperate attempt at censorship, by those who have become desperate to retain the power it has taken them 30 years to amass. In that desperation, comes the ability to do anything to hold onto power – including arresting innocents. Or, in the case of Troy Davis, executing a man who didn’t deserve to die. Or cut nearly $1 Billion from Wisconsin Public Schools, and strip public workers of their Rights to Collectively Bargain. Or cry “deficit crisis” as a rationale for decimating America’s social safety net and ever-shrinking middle class. Or allow hundreds of thousands of jobs to be “off shored” to increase the profits of 2% of the population, while hundreds of thousands are unemployed. Yes, the Corporate Anarchists are becoming desperate – and that makes them dangerous.

United we stand…this will be a heated Autumn – on Wall Street, Main Street, in Wisconsin and around the world. The People are rising, and the tide is turning. It must do so peacefully. Why? The right is increasingly looking to create antagonistic situations – as much has been said by pundits and politicians alike in Madison and Wisconsin, the same is true everywhere. Truth is on our side…heed the advice of Gandhi and Dr. King, protest peacefully, and we shall stand together united – to “proclaim liberty throughout ALL the land unto ALL the inhabitants thereof.”

It is our obligation to spread the word…follow #occupywallstreet, watch the video feeds on youtube, follow Occupy Wall Street on Facebook, and share the story. More importantly, share OUR story. The People’s story, and stories of our neighbors, families bring us together and bind us in the common cause of freedom from Corporate Tyranny. We send to Wall Street, and to Main Street all over the world, love from Wisconsin – to the People’s Revolution.

Our time has come. People are waking up in Wisconsin and around the world. Spread the word – this matters. This is a pivotal moment in the People’s History, and it is for us to write – what will your chapter read when it is written?

SPREAD THE WORD, and Forward in Solidarity!