Senate staffers and interns: Save yourselves, quit now

Today, all over the United States, staffers and interns are fielding desperate, angry, and heart-breaking phone calls from constituents opposing legislation that would slash Medicaid and repeal health reforms that millions of Americans rely on for access to affordable care.

This legislation, in all it’s various forms, is massively unpopular. American citizens oppose it by about 4-to-1. That makes sense, because American citizens are the target of this bill. They would be harmed by it — denied insurance, denied care, forced to pay far higher premiums or to rely on low-cap, huge-deductible junk insurance plans. More than 20 million Americans will lose their insurance. Personal bankruptcies will likely double (they were cut in half following the Affordable Care Act). Hospitals and medical clinics will close. And it is certain and indisputable that thousands of real people really will really, actually and in fact, die.

Thousands of Catholic sisters religious have signed on a letter opposing this attack on health care, which they describe as “the most harmful legislation for American families in our lifetimes.”

“The passage of this bill would cause far more suffering than we could possibly attend to through charity,” the sisters write. “This is simply immoral and contrary to the teachings of our Catholic faith.”

No medical organization supports this bill. It is opposed by hospital associations, the AMA, nurses and nursing homes. Advocacy groups for senior citizens fiercely oppose this bill. So do people with disabilities, people with chronic diseases, people with cancer, diabetes, asthma, mental illness, or any other ailment that requires ongoing care and medication.

Every type of medical provider has spoken out in opposition to this legislative effort: General practitioners, surgeons, pediatricians, geriatricians, ob/gyns, gastroenterologists, otolaryngologists, oncologists.

Pediatric oncologists are condemning this bill in language just as harsh and morally vehement as that of the Catholic sisters. Just pause on that thought for a second. If you are a member of Congress supporting this effort, the people who treat children with cancer say you ought to be ashamed of yourself. They say you’re doing something harmful and disgraceful and indefensible.

They say this because, in fact, you are.

And that’s not only true for those members of Congress. It’s also true for their staff — for everyone who works for them and supports them and facilitates the disgraceful harm they are doing.

So let me address those staffers and interns and volunteers directly: This goes on your permanent record. I don’t know you, personally. Most people don’t know you, personally. All that we can and do know about you is the sort of general outlines and basic biographical facts that one learns from a Linked-in page, or a résumé, or an obituary.

And now, as of this week, the overwhelming, all-eclipsing, central fact of that bio and résumé is this: That in July of 2017, you worked for a senator or a representative in support of the most harmful legislation for American families in our lifetime. You were there, helping to deny access to care for millions, bankrupting families, adding thousands of dollars of expenses to households throughout your state. And ensuring that thousands of your fellow Americans will die from preventable deaths.

Résumés are forever. A year from now — five years, 10 years, 30 years from now — everyone who sees your résumé will see where you were and what you did in July 2017. And they will not be able to ignore this, because the harm of what you participated in during that month will be real and impossible to ignore. The simple immorality of it, the reckless destructiveness of it, will be an inescapable part of your history and of your future.

Every prospective employer — every prospective friend, acquaintance, investor, landlord, creditor, or romantic partner — will be able to see and to know that this is what you helped to do. This will follow you, forever. You will have to explain this, excuse this, attempt to justify this, not just this week or this month or this year, but for the rest of your career and the rest of your life.

And, no, “I was just doing my job” or “I was just following orders” isn’t going to cut it.

The only remedy for this is to get out. Now. Quit. Resign. Get yourself fired.

July 2017 is a part of your résumé. There’s no escaping that now, so make the best of it. Make that date a bold-type bullet-point marking a bold and honorable decision in your own personal history.

This is, undeniably, the right thing to do. But it is also the smart thing to do. Right now, your résumé marks you as the opponent of your fellow Americans — as someone participating in a harmful, destructive, fiscally irresponsible act of cruelty opposed by 80 percent of your potential future employers and co-workers. It pits you against them and therefore pits them against you. It tells them that you were willing to harm them and that you would likely be willing to do so again. It tells them that, when it counted, you could not be counted on.

But you can change that. You can turn it around and reverse it, completely. You have a chance — one chance — to turn July 2017 into a badge of honor instead of an indelible mark of shame. But you haven’t much time.

We need you to do this. “We” being your constituents, your neighbors, your fellow Americans — anybody who is sick or infirm, or who loves anyone who is sick or infirm, or who might ever one day be sick or infirm.

But you don’t have to do this for us. You can do it for you.

It really is your only option.

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