Confessions of a Democratic Whore: An Open Letter to Dr. Paul Song

Confessions of a Democratic Whore: An Open Letter to Dr. Paul Song

President Obama, after signing the Affordable Care Act into law in 2010.

Dear Dr. Song:

I am a little perplexed.

Yesterday at a Bernie Sanders campaign rally in New York City, you riled up a giant crowd by describing unspecified Democratic members of Congress and Hillary Clinton as "Democratic whores" beholden to the pharmaceutical industry that is the chief roadblocks in the path of achieving a single payer health care system.

After an inconvenient social media reaction, you first claimed that you did not mean to include Hillary Clinton among such "whores" though any reasonable construction of your own words would indicate that you did. But since her husband did rescue your sister-in-law from a North Korean prison at the asking of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, it would look pretty bad. You said that you had certainly meant it about Democratic members of Congress, whom you had been referring to in that way for years. Then you even walked that back and said you were sorry for using the term 'whore' against Democratic members of Congress.

Here's where my perplexity comes in. Dr. Song, as you well know, a single payer system merely makes the government the only payer in the system, but it doesn't necessarily address the payees, like pharma, directly. That is the difference between a single payer health care system and a socialized one. I am not saying that you should know this because you have "spent [your] adult life fighting for health care for all", but because you are yourself a rather major beneficiary of the pharmaceutical industry. You have been in the upper echelons of that industry for some time, and you're even a minority shareholder of a privately held pharmaceutical company in New York.

I'm sure your well deserved windfalls from your pharmaceutical career helped pay for your lavish wedding which was featured in InStyle magazine, and this magnificent home in Santa Monica, California. So you could understand if some people thought that for you to be calling other people whores to the industry that made you rich is, well, a little rich.

No matter, you have expressed regret, and your candidate has repudiated. Not on stage in front of a giant crowd like where the charge was made, but still.

Still though, the accusations of corporate whoredom among Bernie Sanders supporters against anyone who doesn't support their - your - candidate is an epidemic. I have been called a corporate whore many times for the simple fact that I support Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and despite the facts that TPV receives no funding besides advertisement and individual gifts at all and that my dayjob is the farthest thing (which is not connected to TPV and which I need to support myself) from corporate employment. You were merely channeling what many among the assembled NYC crowd already believed.

So I have been thinking. It doesn't appear that it's evidence that makes one a Democratic Whore (TM). It appears that what makes one a Democratic whore is - as you outlined - their willingness to make compromises to make public policy rather than holding to ideological purity. As you said, the Democratic whores are the ones who aspire to steps of progress rather than revolution. And, as you so well put, Democratic whores are the Democrats who back the health care status quo put in place by a Democratic president - the only president since Johnson who was able to change the previous status quo and achieve broad based health care reform. Democratic whores are the Democrats who believe we should build on that base rather than tear it up, start again, and get into another huge, most likely fruitless, fight about a whole new system.

That leads me to a confession: I am a Democratic whore. I am damn well proud of President Obama and the Affordable Care Act, which to me will always be Obamacare. I am beside myself that after a half century of trying and bickering by presidents, Barack Obama was the President who actually got it done. I am elated that we finally have a status quo that establishes a health care as a social responsibility rather than a financial privilege. I'm getting all whorish just thinking about it.

I am proud of the fact Obamacare now covers 20 million additional Americans, and I don't want a wholesale replacement. I am proud of the fact that for the first time in history, we have insured 9 out of 10 Americans, and I'd be damned if we start electing candidates who want to mess with it, especially ones who don't seem to have an idea what they're doing.

I'm proud of the fact that seniors on Medicare now get free preventive screening, and that they have collectively saved $20 billion in prescription drug costs over the past six years because of the bargains the President made with drugmakers during the formative process of the Affordable Care Act. Thanks, Obama.

And I have to tell you, Dr. Song, I love my Democratic whores in Congress who voted to have President Obama's back and make this happen while so many dry, non-whore ideological purists were fighting tooth and nail to stop it because it didn't meet all their ideological checklists. I love the courage of the people who put the Democratic whore majority in Congress on the line so they could help people immediately instead of bickering for another decade or two or five.

Why do I love them so? Because, you see, it helps people. It saves lives. I know people it helped. I know people who hadn't been able to get insurance in a decade either because of a pre-existing condition or because they couldn't afford it finally see a doctor. I love them because they helped me. There was a time not so long ago when I felt safer in my car than anywhere else, because at least my car insurance included medical coverage. I know how that feels. I also know what it feels like to buy health care on an ACA exchange, partially subsidized by Obamacare's subsidies, I mean whore money. I know what it feels like to get a medical checkup and get all my preventive tests done without spending a dollar out of pocket. More whore money saved.

I think we should tinker with the edges of Obamacare. I think we should find a way to make sure that 5.2 million people who are being denied health care by Republicans in red states rejecting the the ACA's Medicare expansion at 90% federal expense actually get covered. I want to make sure that the federal government can officially negotiate for prices of prescription drugs not just for people on Medicare but also for people who are getting their insurance through the exchanges. I think we should make the plans in the exchanges even more affordable by instituting bigger subsidies (aka whore money) and tax credits to offset out-of-pocket costs (again, aka whore money), in addition to lowering those costs themselves. I think families, regardless of immigration status, should be able to get help to buy health insurance.

All these are things Hillary Clinton plans to do, and that's why I am supporting her with fervent whorish tingles up and down my leg at the prospect of getting even more help in paying for my health care. Granted, I probably won't save too much since I'm relatively healthy and a US citizen, but you know how we Democratic whores are. We like it when other people save money on their health care too, even the ones who are not Democratic whores!

Yeah, I like the status quo. This status quo - the one that President Obama created. I like the candidate who has a plan to build on the President's transformative reforms. I like it because of the money it has invested in my coverage, in the coverage of millions of people, and in patient protection of hundreds of millions who do not get direct help to buy coverage but still get free preventive services and can no longer be turned down for coverage if they develop a serious illness (or a whorish pimple). And naturally, as someone who has experienced both for myself and others the tremendous benefits, I am not keen on a candidate who says they will just start over. I am not ashamed to admit that my health and life and those of so many others are invested in this transformation that President Obama and Democrats in Congress have created. If that makes us Democratic whores, I can't wait to shout it from the rooftops.

Please, Dr. Song. Give us Democratic whores a chance. Listen to us. Listen to our stories. You might just see that public policy is not about ideological purity but about helping real people. You might just see that too many just cannot wait for perfection, for our politicians to get it "just right", whatever you think that might be. You might see that we're not the ones paid by Pharma. You see the world, and the world's problems, through our eyes for once.

Sincerely,

A Grateful Democratic Whore for President Obama.



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