Op-Ed: Silicon Valley Must Vote Out Sellout Politicians

My generation is sick and tired of politicians who answer to corporate interests.

Two years ago, I took an AP U.S. government class, where I learned the damage the contentious ruling of Citizens United v. FEC did to our democracy. I’ve also learned that Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-Palo Alto), who represents the majority of Silicon Valley, has personally profited from this damage.

Throughout her political career, Eshoo has taken $1.8 million from pharmaceutical corporations, making her the top recipient of Big Pharma money in Congress.

What’s more, Rep. Eshoo just happens to chair the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on health, which means that she leads a subcommittee that has jurisdiction over the price of medications.

This is a powerful conflict of interest: Eshoo can regulate the prices of life-saving medications, yet she is in the pocket of the same people who profit from selling them.

And she has played the part.

In 2009, with America still reeling from the 2008 recession, Rep. Eshoo introduced a provision into the implemented 2010 health care overhaul legislation to grant complex biologic drugs a 12-year exclusivity period, which allowed manufacturers to maintain exuberant prices for these drugs without competition from more generic versions.

In 2009, such medications cost uphill of $20,000, and in the midst of an HIV/AIDS pandemic, Eshoo ensured that life-saving drugs remained outrageously unaffordable.

I’m forced to ask myself, how can she possibly be representing her constituents, rich or poor, by advocating for such legislation?

I am entirely confident that the American people deserve better.

That’s why thousands of students across the nation, including myself, have dedicated our time to helping elect a new voice in Congress.

Rishi Kumar, a two-term Saratoga council member and high-tech software executive, is running to represent the people of California’s 18th Congressional district.

Unlike Rep. Eshoo, he supports Medicare for All, and has pledged never to accept any corporate PAC money, including the Big Pharma money that many politicians can’t seem to part with. And that pledge to reject all special interest money is something that my generation knows differentiates a people-centric candidate from a politician for sale.

The thing about Rishi is that he truly is a fighter for the people. When I joined his team last April, I was expecting to be a part of a political campaign.

I quickly learned that, at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, Rishi had paused his congressional campaign and instead assembled a Neighborhood Pandemic Preparedness Team, a grassroots group of helpers who called 86,000 seniors in the district, made and donated over four thousand masks to the Valley Medical Center Foundation, and delivered medication and groceries to seniors in need.

When we called people, we didn’t talk politics. We asked them if we could be of assistance. No fanfare, no ostentation, just genuine efforts to help people. And that inspired me. In every way, Rishi has put people ahead of politics—in word and in deed.

Meanwhile, Rep. Eshoo was busy claiming that she “led the charge in Congress to develop preparedness plans for pandemics,” while healthcare workers in her own district struggled with massive shortages of personal protective equipment and a severe lack of administrative accountability for the death and sickness of nurses.

You don’t need me to tell you that the situation was and continues to be completely untenable. And yet, our for-profit healthcare system, comprised of corporations which fund Rep. Eshoo’s re-election campaigns year after year, continues to benefit off of the suffering that the pandemic has caused.

In the midst of fires raging across California, the Neighborhood Pandemic Preparedness Team is at it again, reaching out to individuals in affected areas and offering assistance.

As the world faces unprecedented challenges, the United States needs new leaders who will ensure this nation reaches its full potential in every way. Rishi’s the type of reformer I want fighting for my interests and my future in Washington.

Meriam Ahmad is an honor student at Basis Independent Silicon Valley High School in San Jose. She also volunteers for the ACLU of Northern California and is a member of the Santa Clara County Single Payer Health Care Coalition. Opinions are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside. Send op-ed pitches to [email protected].

9 Comments

  1. > My generation is sick and tired of politicians who answer to corporate interests.

    Meriam:

    Those politicians who make you sick and tired are the same politicians who have contrived the “mis-education system” that ill-equipped you to write such an ignorant and partisan pastiche of social justice sound bytes.

    If you think your analysis and argument sounds thoughtful, compelling, and convincing it is only because you have never had a conversation with a serious, informed, grown-up,

    The faculty of your high school likely fails the “serous, informed, grown-up” standard.

    There is an enormous amount of information that rebuts your simplistic talking points. You just don’t know about it, yet.

    > “I am entirely confident that the American people deserve better.”

    Before giving the American people healthcare policy advice, it would be more useful for you to give America some first hand advice on why your education has been so deficient.

    How is it that you DON’T know things that you SHOULD know? Tell us, who do you think failed you?

  2. Thank you for clearly highlighting Rishi Kumar’s efforts to make politics about people instead of power and money. This is concise, well-written, and gets to the issue. We need to get Rep. Eshoo out of office and replace her with a real progressive.

  3. Thank you for this article Meriam. It is refreshing to see young people like you engaged and active in the election. We need new blood and political leaders who are not sell-outs to corporations and Big Pharma.
    Good for you!

  4. Dear SJOUTSIDETHEBUBBLE,
    Rather than belittle and denigrate the young lady, I would suggest that it would have been a more useful comment, on your part, to have actually addressed your objections to her comments by citing a few of the facts that you believe would rebut her comments. As an instructor who teaches logic, I can say that there was nothing about your comment that helped to persuade anyone of anything; other than perhaps, that you may be a politician with a guilty conscience or that you simply have not done your own research. My personal belief is that we would be much better off as a society if we could have productive and polite conversations, even when we disagree.

  5. Ok, so you want to replace a corrupt politician with another politician who has praised far right (not just normal, but extreme conservative) values, the BJP and Prime Minister Modi, saying that out of all the political parties you liked them best? No wonder progressives (khanna, kalra) & moderates refuse to support you and yet your number 1 endorsement, Nora campos, is known for taking big oil money. oh and dont forget the hit and run, placing yard signs without consent. sorry, i don’t like Anna, but I am definitely not going to vote for Rishi.

  6. ZOE HAS GOT TO GO!

    It’s time for a change! Vote out the ONE PARTY SYSTEM in California and let’s try something different.

  7. Chiming in as another progressive high schooler with a different perspective. I staunchly agree that we need Medicare for All and that Anna Eshoo has done a terrible job on healthcare issues. Unfortunately replacing a corrupt corporate-backed member of congress with an outright racist is not the solution. Rishi Kumar still, to this day, has a list of “neighborhood safety tips” on his campaign website that includes advice to the effect of call the police on anyone you think doesn’t belong in your neighborhood. He also brags about the creation of neighborhood watch programs. This kind of attitude is exactly what got people like Trayvon Martin and Ahmaud Arbery killed. It is a sad reflection that CD 18 cannot run anyone better than Anna Eshoo or Rishi Kumar. But in this case, I am holding my nose and supporting the candidate who does not fan the flames of the very hatred that has gotten people killed and in our own communities subjects far too many of our Black and Latino neighbors to consistent needless harassment and abuse at the hands of the police.
    Also, Rishi’s staunch opposition to any new housing (his council record and his current rhetoric) is exactly the last thing we need right now, as is his baseless opposition to affirmative action.

  8. Rohin,

    If neighborhood watch programs are racist, how do you feel about ANTIFA?

  9. Thanks Meriam for your insightful article! Your dedication to our democracy of supporting We The People, has resonated with me, Sounds like you had a knowledgable, and thought provoking, instructor in AP U.S government. My vote will be for new and determined leadership that puts the people first, and not for their own personal gain!! Rishi has my vote!!