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60 Dead, Every Day

Pollan, Mackey, Whole Foods and Single Payer

by RUSSELL MOKHIBER

Michael Pollan is a professor of journalism at the University of California, Berkeley.

He’s a prolific author and speaker.

And he’s a campaigner for fresh, wholesome, locally grown organic food.

He’s the author of many books, including The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

On his web site, he lists all of his recent appearances and speaking engagements.

Missing from the list?

Pollan’s June 4, 2009 appearance before the annual convention of America’s health insurance industry lobby – America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP).

Title of the panel on which Pollan appeared?

“Challenging American’s Attitudes Towards Personal Responsibility and Health.”

The personal responsibility thing is, of course, at the heart of the national debate over health insurance reform.

Are we our brother’s keeper?

Or are we not?

Pollan stepped right in it last month when he posted an item on conservative David Frum’s New Majority web site.

In it, Pollan sides with Whole Foods and against those – like Single Payer Action – who have called for a boycott of Whole Foods.

Single Payer Action called for the boycott last month the day after Whole Foods CEO John Mackey penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal arguing that there is no right to health care in the United States.

And that there shouldn’t be.

It’s about personal responsibility, Mackey says.

“Rather than increase government spending and control, we need to address the root causes of poor health,” Mackey writes. “This begins with the realization that every American adult is responsible for his or her own health.”

Pollan says he won’t join the boycott of Whole Foods.

“Mackey is wrong on health care, but Whole Foods is often right about food, and their support for the farmers matters more to me than the political views of their founder,” Pollan writes.

Check that out: farmers matter more to Pollan that the political views of Mackey.

How far do you want to take that Michael?

What if Mackey were a flag burner?

Or a racist?

Would Pollan say that Whole Foods’ support for farmers matters more to him than the racist views of its founder?

Or the flag burning views of its founder?

No, he would not.

But, after all, we are just talking about life and death here.

Pollan has in the past taken the view that we can’t just be active consumers.

We have to be both active consumers and active citizens – rolled into one.

And as active citizens, how can we support a corporation whose CEO believes there is no human right to health care?

Can’t afford organic foods?

Tough luck, brother.

Can’t afford health insurance?

Tough luck, sister.

Every country of the Western industrialized world recognizes a basic human right to health care.

Except for the USA.

The result:

More than 60 Americans dead every day from lack of health insurance.

In his blog posting on David Frum’s web site, Pollan says he disagrees with Mackey on health care – but then says he wants to keep for profit health insurance companies in the game.

“When health insurers realize they will make thousands more in profits for every case of type II diabetes they can prevent, they will develop a strong interest in things like corn subsidies, local food systems, farmer’s markets, school lunch, public health campaigns about soda,” Pollan writes.

Pollan might know about his tofu and asparagus.

But he needs to brush up on his health care politics.

Keeping for profit health insurance corporations in the game will just guarantee the daily carnage of 60 Americans dead every day.

As Dr. Marcia Angell, former editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine puts it – single payer national health insurance – everybody in, nobody out – is not only the best option – it’s the only option that will insure everyone and control costs.

We sent Pollan two e-mails over the last couple of weeks, seeking some explanation.

As of now, no answer.

So, don’t know what you have up your sleeve, Michael – blogging for David Frum, cavorting with health insurance executives at their annual meeting, and advocating for a health care system that keeps profit health insurance corporations in the game.

But it sure does pose a dilemma.

And it has nothing to do with being an omnivore.

RUSSELL MOKHIBER is editor of Corporate Crime Reporter and founder of http://www.singlepayeraction.org/