Whole Foods, Health Care and Bullshit

21 Aug

Have you been reading about the ruckus stirred up by CEO John Mackey?  If not, start here, the “opinion” article he wrote for The Wall Street Journal.  His ideas are very right-wing conservative and his food chain, Whole Foods, caters to very left-wing liberals.  Quite a few people (at last count, around 18,000 on FaceBook alone) were very upset with Sir John and organizing a boycott of Whole Foods.  Boycotting Whole Foods won’t, of course, punish Sir John at all, but will (if successful) punish the 50,000 people who work for Whole Foods, most of which are not college graduates and don’t pull down college graduate salaries, if you get my meaning.

I first read about Sir John’s “opinions” and the pagan community response over at The Gods Are Bored.  I like, and agree, with Anne’s analysis of the products sold by Whole Foods.  More about the whole “organic” movement later.  I also like her summary of three of Sir John’s talking points and she really kicks ass and gets to the crux of the matter where he dragged our Constitution in to justify his overall position.

The Gods Are Bored post led to a post by Mama Kelly over at the 2 Witches Blog that I enjoyed even more.  Mama gets really snarky (and rightfully so) about Sir John’s claim that “70% of all health-care spending—heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes and obesity—are mostly preventable through proper diet, exercise, not smoking, minimal alcohol consumption and other healthy lifestyle choices.”  I’m always suspicious when pundits pull out statistics, and since my health care costs my insurer $500,000 a year and is not related in any way to heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes or obesity, and there are millions of other health care related issues that don’t fall into these categories, I’m not buying his 70%.  And neither is Mama.  And Mama kicks ass even better on our Constitutional rights.  Yo, Mama!

Of course, Sir John did some mighty back-pedaling, you betcha.  He’s got his own blog, donchaknow, and when I visited there were 2,341 comments.  Here is one by mmmm’kay I thought particularly pertinent:

As an American living in Canada, I can safely tell you that you are full of it. My care and that of my family here has been excellent, timely, and has not caused a financial hardship. I can also tell you that Canadians are aghast and disgusted when they hear about the inhumane private medical system in the US.

kcox said:

I’ve run companies based in Canada and companies based in the US. All I can say is that our Canadian employees (with a single payor system) got better coverage and we paid less than for US employees.

Brian said:

“Even in countries such as Canada and the U.K., there is no intrinsic right to health care.”  How can you lie like this with a straight face? UK and Canadian citizens receive basic care cradle to grave. Perhaps you’d care to ask their politicians about that.  Have you no sense of decency, sir?

Former Canadian Whole Foods customer says:

Speaking as a Canadian, I read Mr. Mackey’s op-ed piece and his comments about Canadian (and British) healthcare are, er…lies. Sorry folks, we are not waiting in long lines for treatment as Mr. Mackey dishonestly claims; nor are we being told where to go to get medical treatment by cold, uncaring socialist bureaucrats as Mr. Mackey also dishonestly depicts. Medication and drugs for treatment are much more affordable than in the USA its worth mentioning also. NOBODY ever died waiting for treatment here Mr. Mackey, that is a bald faced lie that is perpetuated by American health insurance companies to scare ignorant and mislead Americans from switching to a far more economical and effective healthcare delivery system: socialized, or nationalized medical care.

James says:

Firstly, I moved from Canada to the USA to be with my American wife. So I know exactly what the Canadian health care system is like. Stop the damned lies please.

Secondly, the American health care system sucks big time. When I moved here I was denied coverage by Kaiser Permanente in California for a physical disability because of a military accident in Canada. Isn’t it nice that you Americans can discriminate against people who have a disability?

Thirdly, if there is anything I’d like to keep from Canada it would have been my medical coverage. At least I did not have to worry about anything. The Canadian medical system is great. I could go to any doctor in any clinic or even to any emergency room (when necessary) for FREE. No going bankrupt for anything. How you Americans can be proud of your medical system is astounding. I would hang my head in shame.

Mr. Mackey… You are clueless when it comes to what goes on in Canada. Before you speak nonsense you should actually do some research.

BTW, Canada has a single payer medical system and it did not turn Canada into a socialist country. Jesus, you Americans make me sick with your “socialist” rants. You have “socialist” type medical systems in place with the military and Medicare for seniors. What’s the problem?

Later he goes on to say:

@ Mr. Mackey

You sir are so wrong. Canada has what is called the “Canada Health Act.”

The Canada Health Act states in the preamble that the objective of Canadian Health Care policy is “that continued access to quality health care without financial or other barriers will be critical to maintaining and improving the health and well-being of Canadians.[“] The primary objective of the Act is “to protect, promote and restore the physical and mental well-being of residents of Canada and to facilitate reasonable access to health services without financial or other barriers.” (Section 3).

As you can see, Canadians do have a LEGAL right to health care coverage regardless of their financial status. Where I come from (Manitoba) you have basic coverage for all. That is free. If you want to get extended coverage for things like having your own hospital room, cable tv, etc., you get Blue Cross, etc. extended coverage. Simple and that is the way it should be in the United States.

Here is a lone dissenting voice, Kathryn McAleece:

I read your article in the WSJ and find that in general I am in agreement with you. I have just spent the last 8 years living in a country with a single payer public system- Canada. A single payer system is great as long as you are in general good health. It is true, waits are long, general practioners [sic] are in short supply as are specialists. Who wants to wait four months to have a cancerous kidney removed, be sent home and then come back to the hospital two weeks later because an organ transplant came in and the transplant got priority. You see the operating room shut down at 4:30pm. Or, have your child diagnosed with cancer by your family physican [sic] and then go on the waiting list for treatment. The waiting list is at least 3 months long and in some cases longer. Manny [sic] parents just go to the emergency room and have their child admitted because once diagnosed (again) at the hospital, the child goes to the head of the list. Be admitted to the hospital for testing, be told the machine is broken and if you go home it will be at least three months until you can get an appointment. Stay overnight and the test can be completed sometime the next day. The income taxes are high, a few years ago an “insurance premium” was added based on income and sales taxes run 15%. Not to [sic] long ago the provencial [sic] govts. were warned by Ottawa that the hospitals run in the black or close their doors. No more bail outs. SARS created chaos among the nurses because private nurses were paid more than public nurses. The govt. had to anty [sic] up with big temporary salaries for nurses dealing with SARS patients or face a boycott. The answers won’t come quickly or easily. Rather than rushing, Washington needs to get this right and you have some great solutions. Thanks for speaking up.

I got bored after this comment (#229) and quit reading.

These comments interest me particularly because Sir John claims that, “Although Canada has a population smaller than California, 830,000 Canadians are waiting to be admitted to a hospital or to get treatment. In England, the waiting list is 1.8 million citizens.”  Now, just where did he get these figures?  Here’s what Former Canadian Whole Foods customer had to say on that subject:

Hello All,

I want to make an important point regarding Mr. Mackey’s Wall Street Journal article: I just researched the Investors Business Daily article John Mackey cites for his quotes regarding healthcare in Canada and England–you know, the part about 830,000 people waiting for medical treatment, or the “1.8 million deep” British people waiting for treatment at the hands of the “heartless, cold and uncaring socialist bureaucrats”. So here is what I found out…

So who wrote this article for Investors Business Daily? Nobody: no author is even cited! And oh, yeah: the Heritage Foundation (an infamous right wing think tank that counts among its ilk Karl Rove and Dick Cheney) is quoted as one of the sources for the highly dubious claims of higher mortality in European countries with socialized healthcare. To quote the Heritage Foundation on anything is to quote an extremely biased, neo-conservative pro-corporate think tank with an agenda. Hardly a trustworthy source of objective, scientific data on healthcare outcomes, Mr. Mackey.

But there’s more: Not only is NO AUTHOR cited for the Investor Business Daily article Mr. Mackey quotes from, but further NO CITATIONS are given for the so-called long waiting lines in Canada and Europe! For all we know these long lists are just made up–by a phantom author no less.

Finally: can we trust Investor Business Daily–a stock market website–for objective, unbiased information on healthcare comparisons between USA and Canada/Europe? No, we can’t: they are cheerleaders for American health insurance corporations and their stock holders.

Mr. Mackey quotes bogus statistics without citations to verify, or quotes statistics from the militant right win[g] think tank Heritage Foundation–an article without an author! Little wonder Americans are so confused about healthcare reform: they are being fed lies and misinformation like Mr. Mackey is using in his Wall Street Journal article.

And if you have watched the film “Sicko” by Michael Moore (not my most favorite person), you know there is even more room for doubt regarding the truthfulness of Sir John’s statement.  I really want to know what the truth is and, if a single payor system is viable, why our Government hasn’t examined it and made it a serious consideration.

I’m also very suspicious of the whole “organic” market.  I’m not a big fan of Penn and Teller either, but Showtime has been airing some interesting half-hour segments by them called “Bullshit.”  They did one on organic food and made many points with which I have long been in agreement:

  • Myth #1:  Organic foods are produced by small farmers and buying organic food supports small farmers.  Not so; most organic food is grown large scale by large corporations.  Large corporations are not stupid; they jumped on this band wagon a long time ago.
  • Myth #2:  Organic food is nutritionally better for you.  Not so; scientific studies have shown there is no nutritional difference.
  • Myth #3:  Organic food is chemical free.  Not so; in fact, no food can be grown without some form of pesticide/herbicide or else crops would be destroyed; in fact, most organic farmers are using older chemicals that are less safe than newer ones.  Additionally, all crops need fertilizer and organic crops rely upon “natural” fertilizer, like manure (bullshit), which contains contaminating bacteria like e-coli.
  • Myth #4:  Organic food tastes better.  Not so; in taste tests, the majority of people could not accurately identify organic food by taste.
  • Myth #5:  Organic food means a return to sustainable farming.  Not so; organic farming cannot produce the quantity of food needed to feed the world’s population.  If “organic” farming were to be mandated today, much of the world’s population would starve.

Two things about organic food are most certainly not myths:  Organic food costs more.  A whole lot more.  And buying organic food makes people feel like they are doing something good; good for themselves, for the environment, for the planet.  But that’s just hype.  Expensive hype.  The type of hype that made Sir John the multi-millionaire he is today; so rich, in fact, that he boasts his salary is only $1.00 a year.

So, what do I think about Sir John’s “eight reforms that would greatly lower the cost of health care for everyone?”  Belly up to the bar and find out:

  • I don’t think high-deductible health insurance plans and health savings plans will work for the majority of Americans and we are trying to find a workable solution for the majority.  Certainly not in the current climate of excessive debt, failing mortgages, declining economy, and large population living hand-to-mouth that doesn’t know how to save.
  • I agree that employer-provided health insurance and individually owned health insurance should have the same tax benefits and I didn’t know they don’t now.  Sir John is correct when he says, “This is unfair.”
  • I don’t understand his proposal to repeal state laws prevent insurance companies from competing across state lines so that insurance is portable.  I’ve had the same insurance for years regardless of whether I lived in UT, RI or FL, but if this is a real problem, I agree it should be eliminated.
  • I am divided on the issue of the Government mandating what insurance must cover; I am divided, in fact, on much that Government regulates but have lived through the effects of deregulation.  A la carte insurance seems to me to be a ridiculous and untenable proposition.  I think this is a right-wing conservative swipe at issues like abortion and stem cell research, both of which I support.  I don’t like to think that my insurance company would refuse to provide coverage for such services because they had an ideological problem or wanted to only do business with a group having view opposing mine.  Sir John seems to forget that the consumer is not the only one who determines what is on the menu; the chef is wise to consider the diners and their tastes, but ultimately he is the one who decides what will be cooked.
  • Tort reform to cap doctor liability (the only thing that is going to decrease malpractice insurance) is a good idea for doctors, but is not a good idea for patients.  Sir John tried to put this one past us by not calling a spade by its name, but I wasn’t fooled.  If doctors want malpractice insurance to decline, they need let their ranks be policed, break their code of silence and complicity, and weed out the killers before they kill and/or maim.  They are the root of their own problem.  Sorry dudes.
  • I can’t think of a single way that making costs transparent is going to “greatly lower the cost of health care for everyone.”  I know how much my Cinryze costs per month, but knowing this isn’t making it cost less.  It isn’t making me determined to use less, nor should it.  I know how much I have negotiated with my insurance to pay for a visit to the doctor’s office; my insurance company knows how much they have negotiated with the doctor to pay for a visit to the doctor’s office; I do not need to know how much my insurance company has negotiated with the doctor to pay for a visit to the doctor’s office.  That is not part of my contract and has no impact on the terms or conditions of my contract with my insurance company; it has no impact on whether or not I need a visit to the doctor’s office.  So I do know the cost of the goods and services I am buying (my premium and my copay) without making costs transparent at the subcontract level (what the insurer pays the doctor).  Don’t try to guilt people out of getting the health care they need because what the insurer negotiates to pay the doctor looks like a lot of money (yeah, it is compared to what you make and includes all kinds of overhead, too).  No points for Sir John here.
  • Medicare reform.  Everyone says reform Medicare and no one says how.  Empty rhetoric, Sir John.  No points.
  • Let taxpayers donate to the needy on their tax form.  As so ably pointed out by others, if charity would solve the problem of the under/uninsured, we wouldn’t be facing the crisis we are facing.  There are too many haters out there, Sir John, who make assumptions about the poor (like they’re lazy or cheaters living off the system) and you think these people are going to reach out voluntarily and help the unfortunate?  Think again; hard.

Well, I have to give Sir John two out of eight; that’s 25%.  Obama’s rating is still above 50% and, while I don’t think his health reform is headed in the right direction, Sir John is even further off course.

I second Anne’s nomination of Sir John for “moron par excellence” of the month.  I’m sure someone even more moronic will show up before the end of the year.


6 Responses to “Whole Foods, Health Care and Bullshit”

  1. Shel August 21, 2009 at 2:16 PM #

    The following is the status of my emailed question to Investor’s Business Daily.

    Aug 21st

    Just a reminder.

    This shouldn’t take more than 30 seconds to answer. Just tell me what was the source for this 830,000 was.

    On Fri, 14 Aug 2009 21:41:49 -0700 (PDT), you , “IBDeditorials.com” ,wrote:

    >Thank you for contacting us.
    >Due to the large volume of email we receive, we are unable to respond to every comment or inquiry. However, please know that we value your input and read every email we receive.
    >The IBDeditorials.com team
    >Free Newsletter: Get IBD’s commentary and cartoons via email.
    >Click below to sign up:
    >Discussion Thread
    >Customer – 08/14/2009 09:41 PM
    >This isn’t a letter to the editor. I just want to know the source of
    >your information.
    >Reformers’ Claims Just Don’t Add Up
    >By INVESTOR’S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Friday, July 17, 2009 4:20 PM PT
    >there is the following:
    >”Then there are the waiting lists. With a population just under that
    >of California, 830,000 Canadians are waiting to be admitted to a
    >hospital or to get treatment. In England, the list is 1.8 million
    >I’ve done some google searchs and can’t find 830000 Canadians. I’ve
    >also looked at waiting list information on the Canadian and Ontario
    >web sites. Canada’s health care is delivered by 10 provinces and 3
    >territories and not at the national level as in the UK. From the
    >confusion I find, I’m not sure the information exists anywhere.
    >And second , could you give me the source for the unstated but
    >obvious needed waiting list information for the United States in some
    >way that uses a similar measurement tool as Canada..
    >Of course I won’t get the second. But certainly you can give me the
    >Thanking you in advance
    >Question Reference #090814-000413
    > Date Created: 08/14/2009 09:41 PM
    > Last Updated: 08/14/2009 09:41 PM
    > Status: Unresolved

    • Faerie♥Kat August 21, 2009 at 2:34 PM #

      Hi Shel

      How entertaining! Surely you don’t actually expect that they will ever provide anything but an automated response that will entirely fail to address the issue at hand lol. Organizations such as this don’t feel they have any responsibility to answer to the public for the garbage they spew and purport to be the truth, and the American public has been rudely awakened to this fact over the past twenty years or so. Or at least the intelligent part of the American public has been awakened. The unfortunate truth seems to be that intelligence in America is waning. Did you notice that the only dissenting voice regarding health care in Canada couldn’t spell and now lives in the USA? How very sad.

      I would love to be kept in the loop on your communications with the IBD; laughter really is the best medicine!

      Faerie blessings,


  2. Saje August 22, 2009 at 3:33 AM #

    Wow! This whole thing is making my head hurt… Oh well, as a Canadian I can stroll to one of the three clinics I have within walking distance of my house. Then, I’m sure within a half hour, I can see a doctor and have them tell me what to do to cure my headache. At that point I can leave without paying a dime. Weird, huh?

  3. Mama Kelly of 2 Witches Blog August 24, 2009 at 5:59 AM #

    Great article FaerieKat!

    It is so sad to me how much anger is inspired by the quest for “free” health care for all Americans. My medical insurance premiums is my largest “bill” each month and eats up half of my weekly paycheck (and I work 40 hours a week) … even slashing that in half would be a blessing to me …. esp if that came with lower co-pays.

    Very few of the uninsured do so out of anything but sheer necessity. They just cant afford it (and you don’t have to be below the poverty line to find paying over $1000 a month cost-prohibitive). If they’re healthy they are hoping they remain so … if they’re not, they typically ignore health issues until they simply cant any longer.

    Unlike what the radical right wing seems to think … I (and those like me who I know) am not looking to live off a government teat … I am simply one voice trying to bring attention to a system that is irrevocably broken.


    Mama Kelly

    PS thank you for the shout out!

    • Faerie♥Kat August 24, 2009 at 2:04 PM #

      Hi Mama Kelly

      I hear you and so agree! When I was in college I thought I was uninsured and had a monstrous amount of medical bills because of my medical condition, which required continual hospitalization. I later found out that I was covered under my father’s insurance all during that time and didn’t know! But I faithfully walked every week (when I could walk) to the other side of town and gave them half of my paycheck against that monstrous debt until, by a quirk in the college’s financial system when my mother divorced (once again), I qualified for back-payment of all my tuition. Since I’d already paid all my tuition expenses, I used that money to pay my medical bills, bought a train ticket East, and moved to RI (where my father and BGF lived) with the expectation of being accepted into the University of Delaware (I was in Utah at the time). My BGF and I planned to attend the Univ. of DE together the next year, by my application was a few days late, so I worked for a year in RI and went down to DE the next year. It was while visiting my father in RI that I found out I was covered for all those expenses I took upon myself to pay and the abject poverty I went through could have been avoided. Not that I still wasn’t living in poverty still, but I’ll never forget the utter disconsolation of knowing I would have died if I hadn’t had medical intervention and the overwhelming depression I suffered from the massive amount of debt that medical intervention created. And all at the age of 19. You can be sure this caused me to consider health benefits when it came time to seek permanent employment, given my health concerns, and that is exactly what happened. Then I worked hard to make myself as indispensable as possible so my health problems would be of as little concern to my employers as possible, and that is exactly what happened. I have come to realize just how fortunate and blessed my life has been, how impossible everything I’ve achieved seems to those around me, how blind determination combined with luck can create what looks like miracles. And it makes me angry and confused to see other people work just as hard as I ever did and not get the same breaks. I never cheated any system, but, even though I never made any 5-year plans or had any specific goals and wasn’t constantly on the look-out, I seemed to be drawn to opportunities others never saw and I took them, those paths less traveled perhaps. I think my life has been a series of happy accidents.

      This realization does not help me one bit towards knowing how to help resolve the health crisis, however. I’m once again living paycheck to paycheck as a medical retiree, but the bulk of my health insurance premium is paid by my former employer (Federal Government) and the rest is deducted from my annuity before it’s deposited in my bank. My deductible is low and I even have a non-profit that helps with with that. My first shipment of Cinryze in January puts me over my yearly catastrophic maximum and all my medical expenses are covered 100% by my insurance for the rest of the year.

      I’m not positive, but I think the “minimum requirements” for the health care insurance reform may have come from the Office of Personnel Management, the official body that negotiates the health insurance contracts for the Federal Government. I do have to say that the percentage of the premium we pay as employees is very low (I pay $152/mo for single person high premium BC/BS National PPO; I don’t know what the amount is for family), but the benefits and terms/conditions of the contracts have been eroding over the past 25 years and the premiums have been increasing rapidly, just like in the private sector. However, comparing what we get and what we pay to what the private sector gets and pays, civil servants are definitely getting a better deal. Not nearly as good a deal as what the Congress gets, but no one in the free world gets what they get — free health care for life.

      Still, I think taking a look at Canada’s system wouldn’t kill Obama’s administration.

      Kat —– Original Message —–

  4. Marvin August 26, 2009 at 8:15 PM #

    Eh, it’s just the unions leading the attack on Sir John… they want to unionize the stores. 😉

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