Takin’ a Week Off

I’m going to take next week off. I will, in equal parts, be enjoying the end of summer and catching up on a few things I promised to get done by September. Next week will be "Best of Frank" reruns. I’m sure several of you haven’t yet worked through the entire back catalog of posts anyway.Beach crop

In the meantime, I thought I would clear off some links and topics I’ve been meaning to get to, but am now willing to admit that I won’t.

A while back one of my best tipsters sent me a link to this really rather bizarre post on Mint.com’s blog written by Chris Larsen, CEO of Prosper, which claims to be "America’s largest peer-to-peer lending marketplace." It’s about his apocalyptic view of the near future in which the middle class disappears and we are left with a tiny elite of super rich and the poor, who will be employed primarily as members of the elite’s household entourage.

And speaking of CEOs and finding out how weird they are, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey has been ruffling more than a few feathers with an opinion piece he wrote on healthcare in the Wall Street Journal last week. It caused Mark Gimein at The Big Money to ask Has Whole Foods’ CEO Gone Completely Bananas?

Okay, first off, Gimein is a little late to the John Mackey Is Nuts party. This is the same guy who for seven years used a pseudonym to criticize a rival supermarket chain on Yahoo Finance. And he has some wacky ideas about his own company, viewing Whole Foods as an emerging "Third Place" for his customers, the other two being home and work.

Truth be told, what Mackey said in his piece wasn’t all that nutty, although it was mostly contrary to the points of view held by just the sort of folks most likely to think of Whole Foods as place #3. (Not very nutty sounding recap can be found here at All Financial Matters.)

I’m really trying to keep the healthcare debate/debacle from making more than cameo appearances in this blog, because I know that if I really got into it, it would just take over. But I will say this: Mackey’s primary fault is a tin ear for the politics of what he is saying. And ending your column endorsing a change to a "diet consisting of foods that are plant-based, nutrient dense and low-fat" isn’t going to help you get taken seriously.

But he could have a point about diet. Last month the Times had an item on how obese Americans spend more on healthcare than smaller Americans. That’s not a surprise exactly, but the article did have a tidbit I was meaning to verify. Apparently, treating obesity-related conditions "represents almost 10 percent of all medical spending." Perhaps one of you readers can look into this while I am gone. It certainly satisfies the three rules of numerical fiction.

If true, it sure would justify a punishing tax on junk food, just like we do for cigarettes. Speaking of which, I finally found a grow your own solution that I agree may have economic merit. According to the AP, people have started growing their own tobacco to make their own smokes. It seems that $24.50 worth of seeds could produce enough to "satisfy a pack-a-day habit for more than three years." The catch, of course, is that it is spectacularly labor-intensive, so the seed price isn’t really a factor. Still, this sounds like the predictable result of selling a product at a price that is almost entirely made up of taxes.

Well, that’s it from me for a while. I’ll be back the week after next.

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