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].