Fifty dollars will only allow you to eavesdrop on At Home With Hillary and Pete. But if you fork over $2,500, you can then advance to Virtual Host status, and Hill and Pete will actually talk back to - or at least at - you. The duo's respective PACs (Onward Together for Clinton and Win The Era for Buttigieg) will then split the ticket sales.
Pete vows that he will use his share of the take to "replace the current politics and do away with the division and cruelty that have characterized the Trump era and also ensure we have strong leaders at every level of government."
To obtain access to the specific ways in which Pete will accomplish this task while not running for or holding any public office and exerting no influence on public policy whatsoever, we are taken to his website, called (what else) Win the Era. Now, if that name sounds all too creepily similar to Barack Obama's first term Win the Future head-fake designed to make the foreclosed, the evicted and the downsized believe that austerity was good for them while the rich only got obscenely richer, then please just relax. "Future" is irritatingly gauzy, while "Era" is irritatingly grandiose. They are different, yet ever so unique forms of the same neoliberal jargon. The use of the word "win" is practically required so as to hammer home the point that you must claw and compete at every stage of your life in order to become the entrepreneur of your own life.
Specifically, Pete wants to enlighten us to the fact that "so many unsustainable features of our old status quo were both exposed and exploited by Trump's (Covid-19) crisis, the disempowerment of workers, the racial disparities in health care access, poor coordination with other countries and international bodies, the reduction of believing in science as a political preference.
"Now is our chance to elect leaders at every level of government who will build a better, more inclusive future for this country and the next generation," he grandly concludes with just the right touch of gauziness.
What kind of candidates would those be, you may ask?
For the answer to that question, please look no further than the designated moderator for the online soiree, freshman congress-critter Lauren Underwood (IL-14). See how how carefully Pete advocates only for the people of the future, rather than for the currently existing desperate ones. He calls for access to health care for black and brown people, rather than guaranteed care that is free at the point of entry. Then notice that Underwood herself is not a proponent of Medicare for All, even right in the middle of the pandemic which is disproportionately sickening and killing black and brown people. Then notice the extremely high price of admission to At Home with Hillary and Pete.
The event is for rich people who don't want poor people to have nice things. I got my invite by total mistake!
Reactions from the woke hoi polloi to this roller coaster ride of hope deferred and access denied have been mixed. "Stop, stop, it's too much. The queen and the boy prince. This sparks joy!" gushed one invitee, while another person griped, "I really want to see them together (and Lauren Underwood, too) but I don't have $50 to shell out to a PAC."
Lauren Underwood, paradoxically enough, won her congressional seat in 2018 in part by virtue of the false accusation by Republican incumbent Randy Hultgren that she was for single payer health care. With her credentials as a registered nurse with advanced public health degrees, you'd forgive him for thinking that she would have seen enough pain and suffering and grim statistics on morbidity and mortality rampant in our cruel healthcare marketplace that like the majority of her profession, she would want to get rid of the whole rotten for-profit system.
But he and you would be thinking wrong, because she was never employed in a clinical care setting. Right after graduating Johns Hopkins, she went to work in the Obama administration to help implement the Affordable Care Act.
When Obama left office in 2017, Underwood became senior director of policy and regulatory affairs at Chicago's Next Level Health, a Medicaid managed care plan owned by Cheryl Whitaker, the wife of Obama's friend, foundation trustee and Harvard classmate Eric Whitaker. Her business came under scrutiny when it emerged that a miraculous algorithm was funneling her more than one third of the state's Medicaid patients who hadn't requested a particular plan. This influx was despite the fact that Next Health was designated the worst-managed care plan, under six different metrics, in the entire state of Illinois.
Next Level Health just announced that it will be closing this month.
"Insurance is a very capital-intensive business," Whitaker said in a statement to Crain's confirming the closure. "COVID-19 has exacerbated the difficulty of black-owned businesses to access capital. NextLevel Health's community-based approach combines a culturally sensitive lens and the recognition of social determinants of health to provide Medicaid members access to quality care that has the power to improve lives immediately and long term. We look forward to lending our expertise to community partners and other providers to holistically treat and heal our communities. Our work is not done."With neoliberal Newspeak like that, maybe she can hustle up some capital by joining her former policy director on stage with Pete and Hill.
Speaking of work not yet done, and millions of indigent patients not yet totally done in by the pandemic and other health problems caused by racialized capitalism, hubby Dr. Eric Whitaker's private equity firm will be buying three more Chicago-area hospitals this month. The future of these hospitals, right in the middle of a pandemic, is not yet clear. Whitaker already has a history of purchasing hospitals, declaring the least profitable of them bankrupt and then reselling the property at a tidy profit. His firm is currently being sued for fraud by a Chicago suburb that lost its hospital.
"I'm an entrepreneur at heart," he once explained to a journalist.
Maybe we can become entrepreneurs too, and find a way to sneak into Hill and Pete's and Lauren's virtual soiree without paying, just to mess with their thick heads.
After all, with pitchforks showing up in the Hamptons to mess with such quarantined billionaire icons as Michael Bloomberg, anything is possible. Not to mention absolutely necessary if we have any hope at all of not so much winning the era but correcting the error of too much wealth in too few greedy, grasping hands.