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Tilting at Windmills

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January 4, 2010

WHOLE FOODS CEO, GLOBAL WARMING DENIER.... John Mackey, the co-founder and CEO of Whole Foods Market, raised a few eyebrows over the summer with a Wall Street Journal op-ed trashing health care reform. He equated Democratic proposals with "socialism," all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.

Given Whole Foods' reputation, the right-wing missive came as something of a surprise to Mackey's clientele, and there were various efforts to organize boycotts. In time, the controversy faded.

Nick Paumgarten's new profile of Mackey, however, seems likely to reignite criticism. The Whole Foods CEO rejects the Keynesian economics that ended the Great Depression, admires Ayn Rand, and in a particularly interesting note, rejects the science of global warming.

One of the books on the list [of books Mackey has been reading] was "Heaven and Earth: Global Warming -- the Missing Science," a skeptical take on climate change. Mackey told me that he agrees with the book's assertion that, as he put it, "no scientific consensus exists" regarding the causes of climate change; he added, with a candor you could call bold or reckless, that it would be a pity to allow "hysteria about global warming" to cause us "to raise taxes and increase regulation, and in turn lower our standard of living and lead to an increase in poverty."

One would imagine that, on this score, many of his customers, to say nothing of most climate scientists, might disagree. He also said, "Historically, prosperity tends to correlate to warmer temperatures."

Mackey, Paumgarten said, is a "right-wing hippie."

I suspect the more progressive, engaged members of Whole Foods' customer base will be less than pleased.

Steve Benen 2:20 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (42)

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He also said, "Historically, prosperity tends to correlate to warmer temperatures."

He's right. Six Flags over Antarctica closed down almost as soon as it opened.

Posted by: howie on January 4, 2010 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

You mean a guy who has been running one of the biggest cons in decades* in order to make millions of dollars is a rightwing buffoon?

I'm shocked. Shocked I type!!


On another note, can all the Rand lovers PLEASE PLEASE OH PLEASE go Galt and leave already? I'll even help you pack.

(*Sorry, folks, but you're not going to live longer/help the planet by paying 5-8 times more for your food, even if it claims to be "free range" or "organic" or whatever. It's a scam.)

Posted by: Mark D on January 4, 2010 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

"Buy Local" would doom Whole Foods

Posted by: bcinaz on January 4, 2010 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

"Historically, prosperity tends to correlate to warmer temperatures."

I think we've found Sarah Palin's Twitter ghost-writer.

Posted by: hells littlest angel on January 4, 2010 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

Who cares what his politics are. If value what Whole Foods sells, than buy there. If not, don't.

(plus, whole food has the cheapest milk around.)

Posted by: George on January 4, 2010 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

His cranium is lukewarm, does that count?

Posted by: Trolloply Yours on January 4, 2010 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

He also said, "Historically, prosperity tends to correlate to warmer temperatures."

Because the economic powerhouses are all centered around the equator.

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on January 4, 2010 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

I assume that liberal Democratic CEOs of multigazillion-dollar corporations are about as rare as, umm, conservative Republican professors of French literature in Ivy League colleges. Given that assumption, I read the article and was surprised that Makey isn’t more of a wingnut.

Posted by: Seth Gordon on January 4, 2010 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

I would also suggest reading the entire article. it is a pretty insightful read.

Posted by: George on January 4, 2010 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

I actually stopped shopping at the lovely, brand-new Whole Foods just blocks from my house when I heard about Mackey's op-ed on health care. Hopefully others will do the same....

Whoever thought that Whole Foods would be on my list of shame with Wal-Mart? (I never shop at Wal-Mart, thanks to their employee benefit practices -- and yet still managed to be surprised when I clicked over to the Monthly piece on Texas textbooks and learned the Wal-Mart family supports the right-wing agenda. Lovely.)

Posted by: RR on January 4, 2010 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

meh. They have good food there, and he's a jackass who alienates most people he meets. No conflicy, no boycott from me.

Posted by: Rathskeller on January 4, 2010 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

I hate to bring up the whole Hitler was a vegetarian thing, but why is it a common assumption that health/natural food types are left-wing hippies? There are plenty of right wing christian survivalist types who think the adulteration of food is anathema to god's plan.

Posted by: martin on January 4, 2010 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

Randians fascinate me. In Atlas Shrugged, Galt needed the equivalent of a perpetual motion machine to remove himself from the rest of society. If anything, that just reaffirms how utopian and unobtainable her philosophy is.

Oh, and Whole Foods sucks. Overpriced for what you get. Where I live, Wegmans is much better.

Posted by: Walker on January 4, 2010 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

"Whoever thought Whole Foods would land on my list of shame with Wal Mart?"

Actually, regardless of politics, WalMart is moderately supportive of health care reform and makes a considerable effort to design energy efficiency into their stores. Now, they may be doing it because they think it's good for their bottom line, but there's nothing wrong with that.

Posted by: art hackett on January 4, 2010 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

(*Sorry, folks, but you're not going to live longer/help the planet by paying 5-8 times more for your food, even if it claims to be "free range" or "organic" or whatever. It's a scam.)
Posted by: Mark D

Spoken like a true idiot. I mean seriously, 8 times the price ??? And free range ?? I like the animal products/bi-products I purchase coming from animals not kept in small cages. How is that a scam ? I would estimate that I spend 10% more on groceries, but that 10% extra in price easily tastes 30% better.

Back to the post. His personal views obviously have no correlation to the company he runs attitudes. WF continually boasts of its efforts to reduce pollution and energy consumption.

I would assume that being environmentally friendly doesn't require believing in Global Warming or at least that is the line his company is comfortable balancing.

That is fine with me, you don't have to believe in Global Warming so long as you are reducing greenhouse gases. Plenty of CEO's believe in God, doesn't mean their company is going to produce Jesus Flakes.

Posted by: ScottW on January 4, 2010 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

For a good laugh today, the story about Michelle Bachman is hard to beat.She has found out the purpose of the census and has stopped talking about it because her seat is the one that would be lost in Minnesota, I for one hope her idiot followers who think they are all going to be rounded up and sent to camps refuse to comply with the census.

Posted by: JS on January 4, 2010 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

Economic prosperity only seems to correlate with warmer temperatures because the Whole Foods CEO is so full of hot air which vents whenever he opens his yap, which is often.

Last time I buy an overpriced block of artisan cheddar at that store. I'd rather give it directly to the farmers at my local overpriced farmers market. That way at least we can take more Whole Foods tractor trailers off the road and lower their carbon footprint.

Posted by: pj in jesusland on January 4, 2010 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder if he was "educated" with Texas textbooks. . .

As for good eats, buy local. There's absolutely NO reason to eat food that has been processed to death and transported across the country. Strawberries in January are an abomination. Plus, they have no taste. (as do tomatoes, year 'round!)

Buy a freezer, befriend a farmer, start a garden, learn to can.

Posted by: DAY on January 4, 2010 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

as i understand it, free range doesn't mean animals aren't kept in small cages, just that for part of a day they have the opportunity to leave those small cages if they so choose. now, that may be more humane way of treating animals, something i'm all for, but i don't understand where the justification for the additional cost comes from.

Posted by: mudwall jackson on January 4, 2010 at 3:10 PM | PERMALINK

After Mackey's article this past summer, I won't go near a Whole Foods market. There are alternatives. Sorry Mackey!

Posted by: ted on January 4, 2010 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK

Mr. Benen, your use of hate speech does you no credit.

However wacky Mackay's views, trivializing the Holocaust is not a reasonable response.

Posted by: Duncan on January 4, 2010 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

Actually Art, I think Wal-Mart supports HCR *because* it otherwise gives such meager and lousy employee benefits that this would significantly help its employee base, many of whom make so little money they are hard pressed to get by without food stamps, let alone health care. So still no WM for me. :-)

Posted by: RR on January 4, 2010 at 3:26 PM | PERMALINK

We're not trivializing the Holocaust, Duncan; we're tagging nutcases who deny scientific reality as denialists. It's possible to deny more than one thing, believe it or not.

Torquing off wingers is just frosting, and they've done it enough with their labels that my sympathy level is low. Although delusionist may be a better description of those who actually believe that climate change is some sort of conspiracy.

Posted by: Marc on January 4, 2010 at 3:27 PM | PERMALINK

I think the point is hypocrisy.

Here is a company that has built its reputation and marketing on being an advocate of sustainability, and being "green". From these values is the goal to support people around the world to make a living wage creating and growing these products.

So the problem arises when the CEO and founder of a company that promotes these values doesn't believe them at all and voices them publicly. I compare it to Tiger Woods - who's reputation as an upstanding, moral athlete to be a role model, only to find out who he really is. It's selling false values to make money ONLY and it's not real.

I guess it's not suprising just disappointing.

Posted by: Elsie on January 4, 2010 at 3:28 PM | PERMALINK

Hate speech? Trivializing the Holocaust? What the hell are you talking about?

Posted by: TR on January 4, 2010 at 3:28 PM | PERMALINK

Strawberries in January are an abomination. Plus, they have no taste.

You've obviously been eating the wrong berries. January's peak berry season in Plant City, FL, and they have absolutely delicious berries. They taste pretty damned good even after shipping.

Now if only I could get them to ship me a strawberry milk shake from Parkesdale's...

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on January 4, 2010 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK

I would estimate that I spend 10% more on groceries [at Whole Paycheck], but that 10% extra in price easily tastes 30% better.

10% more than where?? Sutton Place Gourmet, maybe?

I do my grocery shopping mostly at Food Lion and Trader Joe's, and there's no way I could buy a comparable set of groceries at Whole Paycheck for less than double what I'm paying now. Probably closer to triple.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on January 4, 2010 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

cyclist: it depends on what you buy, which is true of every grocery store. Their truly inflated prices are for staples (e.g. `organic' flour, salt, cooking oil.) They are much closer on things like dairy products, and have a decent supply of more humanely raised animal products which don't represent a huge markup. But if you bought everything at WF - yup, through the nose and no doubt about it.

Posted by: Marc on January 4, 2010 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

A little digging through their SEC filings shows that Mackey holds 1,288,135 shares of common stock in Whole Foods, or less than 1% of the total. Board Members / Officers, as a whole, own 18.6% while the company retains 8% of the shares that the board may vote, bringing the total voting holdings of the Board to approximately 26.6%.

The same reports suggest that the Board supports John Mackey quite fervently (opposing splitting the positions of Board Chairman and CEO into two as just one example), so figure that sum total of 26.6% would go toward voting to keep him.

Though no one asked this question, it would, it seems, be an awfully difficult task to unseat the man despite his wackiness. Still, I'll think twice before shopping there again.

Posted by: Shantyhag on January 4, 2010 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

He's just enjoying being controversial, and the attention that comes with shocking people.

Posted by: Jenny on January 4, 2010 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK
Spoken like a true idiot.

Typed like a true fucking moron who has never actually compared prices at Whole Foods to damn-near any local chain.

I've checked WF prices' numerous times -- I wander in there about once a year just to see if they're still nuts. And each time I'm reminded that WH is just a place for self-righteous hipsters who are convinced that their $10/lb. ground beef is sooooooo much better for themselves and the environment than the stuff I get at the local Hy-Vee for $2/lb -- despite the fact the cows are raised and fed and treated the exact same way.

Trust me. There's a farm 100 feet from my backyard. Half my fraternity are now farmers or ranchers. I have a bit more experience with it than just what I read on some package or website. And you're not getting what you pay for (or think you're paying for) a huge, gigantic majority of the time.

But hey, be parted with your money in whatever way you want. And if doing so makes you feel better about yourself, congrats!

The rest of us will realize that P.T. Barnum was wrong: there's one born every second.

Posted by: Mark D on January 4, 2010 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK

Bottom line: Once you get filthy fucking rich your naturual instinct is to bow down to the republican gods and chum around with the other One percenters (top wealth) who can afford to ignore science. An empire built on gullable tree huggers and yuppies- how funny is that?

Posted by: John R on January 4, 2010 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

But who the hell goes to a grocery store owner to get the best advice on global warming? I wouldn't go to Albert Einstein to find out where to get the best Cauliflower, would you?

Posted by: Paul Gottlieb on January 4, 2010 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

Whole Paycheck is a great way to nick name the rip off.
If you buy anything but food you can end up totally broke. Try buying spices, foil, trash bags, etc. I saw Schilling lemon pepper in WF for 7 bucks! Its sold @ market street, kroger, sprouts, etc for 2, why so pricey @ WF? Its not organic or free range lemon pepper. It was in the same freakin' packaging too.

OTOH, I only buy my grain fed, free range turkey from WF. Doesn't taste good from anywhere else.

As some posters haven't quite articulated; I don't agree with mackey's bs & therefore refuse to support his bottom line with my hard earned cash.
Same goes for why most of us don't participate in the further pillaging wally world does to our local merchants and low income workers, much less how they only sell shit from china anyway. -sam walton would be ashamed of what his family has done in his name-

Posted by: vwmeggs on January 4, 2010 at 4:48 PM | PERMALINK

Corporations don't have political opinions and values, they have charters and are accountable to their shareholders. All the other values stuff is just marketing, the point of which is to make money.

That's why they should not be entitled to free speech or other inalienable rights reserved for normal thinking people.

Posted by: ElegantFowl on January 4, 2010 at 4:59 PM | PERMALINK

And here I was, silly me, already boycotting this pinhead's stores simply because of their outrageously high prices. Didn't know the putz was a teabagger as well.

Boycott this right-wing douche, my friends. Kick him where it hurts the most.

Posted by: I Me Mine on January 4, 2010 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK

I've boycotted WF since the HCR op-ed. Been much easier than I thought. My problem then is that his op-ed used the Whole Foods brand to argue against HCR. This latest seems like his own crazy idea. Plus, it is an interview on his personal thoughts, not corporate policy (unless I'm reading it wrong). I don't care if he denies anything, as long as he isn't using the Whole Foods brand to do it. Of course, he could only be getting op-ed space because he is the CEO of WF, but that is WF problem.

He was recently pushed out of the Chairmanship, most likely because of the backlash over his HCR op-ed. This latest seems like someone who wants to be forced into retirement.

Posted by: patrick on January 4, 2010 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

I shop at Wegman's.

Posted by: cyrki on January 4, 2010 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK

Mark D, you're a liar and a fool. Whole Foods doesn't sell ground beef for $10 a pound, it sells it for $3.29 a pound. What's more, they grind on premises from whole cuts, a substantive difference from the $1.99 a pound you buy at your local megamart, which can come from literally thousands of cows and can contain beef trimmings treated with ammonia. Mmmm.

Me, I buy grass-fed whole cuts of chuck at $3.99 a pound, local when I can get it, generally $4.49 a pound then, grind it myself, and enjoy a medium-rare burger along with my happiness of eating meat from livestock that were well-treated in life and in death.

Posted by: dob on January 4, 2010 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK

Steve Benen wrote: "I suspect the more progressive, engaged members of Whole Foods' customer base will be less than pleased."

Progressives have long been aware that Whole Foods is anti-union and anti-worker, and has built its empire by driving small, independent, local, family-owned and co-op health food stores out of business.

I buy ONLY organic produce and ONLY natural products that are 100 percent vegan. I buy all of that stuff from a small, local, family-owned natural foods store -- which by the way has MUCH lower prices than Whole Foods. I would go hungry before I would buy anything from Whole Foods.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on January 4, 2010 at 5:15 PM | PERMALINK

Whole Foods is definitely anti-union, but I'm not sure I'd count it as anti-worker; decent health insurance, wages competitive with other grocers, stock options for its workers, I'm not sure what's not to like.

Posted by: dob on January 4, 2010 at 5:19 PM | PERMALINK

I could be paddling a rowboat down Market Street in San Francisco after the poles have melted, and there will still be conservative fanatics who deny that humans are responsible for Global Warming or that it is even real. I invite you to my web-pages devoted to raising awareness on this urgent issue: http://pltcldscsn.blogspot.com/2009/12/conservatives-still-deny-global-warming.html

Posted by: David Scott on January 5, 2010 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK
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