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Inside Politics: CEO changes remark on Obama to ‘fascism’

- - Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The CEO of Whole Foods Market Inc. compared President Obama's health care law to "fascism" in a radio interview Wednesday, a turnabout from earlier comments in which he compared the signature reforms to socialism.

"Technically speaking, it's more like fascism," John Mackey told NPR's "Morning Edition." "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."

The Wall Street Journal in 2009 ran a piece by Mr. Mackey that was critical of Mr. Obama's law, which passed in March 2010 and is marching toward full implementation in the coming years. The article led with a quote from Margaret Thatcher, who said, "The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money."

NEW YORK

Fox hires Kucinich, starts in time for inauguration

NEW YORK — Days before President Obama's inauguration for a second term in office, Fox News Channel has signed Dennis Kucinich, one of his former opponents, to be a regular contributor.

Mr. Kucinich, a presidential candidate in 2004 and 2008 who ended his 16 years in Congress two weeks ago, will make his debut as a Fox contributor on Thursday's edition of "The O'Reilly Factor," the network said Wednesday.

"I've always been impressed with Rep. Kucinich's fearlessness and thoughtfulness about important issues," Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes said. "His willingness to take a stand from his point of view makes him a valuable voice in our country's debate."

Fox is the nation's top-ranked cable news network, particularly popular with Republicans. Its big-name Republican contributors include Karl Rove, Sarah Palin and John Bolton. Democrats in the Fox stable include Evan Bayh, Joe Trippi and Bob Beckel.

Mr. Kucinich was elected to the Cleveland City Council at age 23 and, at 31, became one of the nation's youngest mayors. He also has been an Ohio state senator and run his own communications and marketing firm.

"Fox News has always provided me with an opportunity to share my perspective with its enormous viewership," he said.

STATE

Clinton calls on Laos to find missing activist

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is urging Laos to investigate the disappearance a month ago of a prominent social activist and reunite him with his family.

International pressure is growing on the authoritarian government in Vientiane to account for Sombath Somphone, 60. Closed-circuit TV footage shows him being detained by police in Vientiane on Dec. 15, and then driven away in the company of two unidentified men.

Mrs. Clinton's statement called on the government to pursue a transparent investigation and to do everything in its power to bring about his "immediate and safe return home."

Laos has disavowed responsibility for the disappearance, suggesting Mr. Sombath was kidnapped over a personal dispute.

The Southeast Asian nation's government is intolerant of dissent, but associates say Mr. Sombath's work was neither directly political nor confrontational.

WHITE HOUSE

Episcopal priest chosen for inaugural benediction

The pastor of the Episcopal parish closest to the White House will give the benediction at President Obama's inauguration.

The Rev. Luis Leon of St. John's Church has been chosen for the honor. He replaces Atlanta megachurch pastor Luis Giglio, who bowed out last week after a sermon he gave years ago surfaced in which he criticized the gay-rights movement. A spokeswoman for the Presidential Inaugural Committee said the person chosen to give the prayer would reflect the administration's beliefs.

The Episcopal Church blesses same-sex relationships and elects bishops who live openly with same-gender partners.

St. John's Church is known as "the Church of the Presidents." The National Park Service says every president since James Madison has attended a service there.

The presidential inaugural will be held Monday.

CONGRESS

New tax deduction limits worrisome for charities

Charities and nonprofit organizations worry that new limits on tax deductions for high earners will hurt donations just as charitable giving is starting to rebound from the depths of the recession.

Tax specialists doubt the new limits will have much impact on giving, but some major nonprofit organizations fear they are a sign that the charitable deduction is no longer sacrosanct on Capitol Hill, just as Congress is promising a broader effort later this year to overhaul the tax code.

The limits on deductions are part of the tax law Congress passed on New Year's Day. They reduce the value of itemized deductions for individuals making more than $250,000 and married couples making more than $300,000.

"The charitable deduction incentive is different than any other deduction or credit in the tax code," said Sandra Swirski, executive director of the Alliance for Charitable Reform, which lobbies on behalf of donors and private foundations. The deduction encourages people to give away income, while other deductions and credits encourage people to buy things they can then write off, she noted.

Charitable giving in the U.S. increased in 2010 and 2011, according to the latest data. But it has yet to fully return to prerecession levels, according to data from the Giving USA Foundation and the Indiana University School of Philanthropy.

Charitable giving by individuals, foundations and corporations topped $298 billion in 2011. In 2007, it was $337 billion, in inflation-adjusted dollars.

From wire dispatches and staff reports