Here we go again.
Remember when Crabby Old Lady told you about a letter emailed from her house to the White House? And then, a few days later, the pro forma reply that bore not a single reference to the subject of Crabby missive?
Last Friday, Crabby received a second email from the White House (full message is below) - this time addressing elder issues in general but again, making no meaningful reference to the topic of her letter.
Crabby had written to President Barack Obama about Social Security but more than half the latest response is about how wonderful the Affordable Care Act is for Medicare recipients. (It is, if not wonderful, a welcome improvement in some areas.)
Only three sentences of the five-paragraph, boilerplate letter address Social Security. One is simply PR, another is a pitch for the president's request that Congress authorize another one-time, $300 payment to Social Security beneficiaries as was distributed when the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (i.e., the “stimulus bill”) was passed by Congress in 2009. (Don't hold your breath.) A third says this:
“By protecting Social Security from risky privatization plans, we are preserving its solvency and maintaining it as a reliable income source for seniors.”
It's not at all clear that is what the Obama administration is doing but more importantly, it makes no mention of Crabby's point that by giving workers a two percent break on the payroll tax and replacing that money in the Social Security trust fund from general revenue, the seal on the trust fund door as been seriously breached.
Because it holds the budget purse strings, Congress can, if it chooses, refuse repayment thereby NOT “maintaining [Social Security] as a reliable income source for seniors.” Who needs protection from privatization when the trust fund door is left wide open?
Plus, there is no mention of the possibility, put forth by some in Congress during the last session, to change the method of computation of the cost-of-living adjustment that would drastically reduce those adjustments from what they are now.
The letter finishes with a bunch of links to government web pages for elders that, like the letter, do not address the reason Crabby wrote her letter in the first place.
If Crabby Old Lady were running the White House office to answer citizen mail, she wouldn't allow such claptrap out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. First, she would commission software to flag email with too many expletives. Just save them in the F*** File.
Crabby's software would also sort for keywords related to current and ongoing issues: Social Security, Medicare, Afghanistan, taxes, ACA, housing, unemployment, Wall Street, Occupy, banking, Wall Street, Syria, Israel, abortion, immigration, unions, budget, etc. etc. which would, obviously, be updated as needed.
Snailmail would be sorted by hand but could be easily scanned into the electronic file folders.
The White House communications office would supply Crabby's mail-answering crew with briefing books by topic so that responses would conform to fact. All the crew would be supplied with email addresses and phone numbers of designated federal experts on each topic or subtopic for fact checking.
Of course, there would also be parameters past which the workers are not authorized to speak/write.
Workers then could respond with answers that make sense. The letters would not need to be long or elaborate. But they could address the writer by name (the computer could do this part too) and speak to the actual point of the writer's message. Crabby would not have been disappointed to read:
Dear Crabby Old Lady:
Your point about the trust fund breach is well taken and the White House keeps its eye on that. The president also agrees with you about not changing the Social Security cost-of-living adjustment calculation...
(Or, they could have said, “disagrees” and briefly explained why.)
Now and then, as the White House tells us they occasionally do, a handful of really good letters could be shown to the president for him to answer personally. Yeah, they can promote doing it; that won't offend Crabby.
Crabby's point is that to her, the boilerplate letters are counterproductive. They make her feel a bit foolish for having wasted her time slaving over a hot keyboard to write a smart letter that made her points clearly and, maybe, effectively.
In fact, in an era when only wealth has access to power in Washington and the problems for the middle class seem insurmountable, the president could score a lot of points with disaffected voters by nothing more than greeting letter writers by name: Dear Crabby Old Lady:
That would have worked or, at least, softened the boilerplate.
Here is the White House letter, below which is the daily link to The Elder Storytelling Place.
February 3, 2012
Thank you for writing. I have heard from many Americans about issues affecting older Americans. Today's economic climate further intensifies the unique challenges faced by seniors, and I appreciate your perspective.
My Administration continues to support older Americans encountering unfair treatment, financial hardship, or difficulty obtaining health care. The historic Affordable Care Act strengthens Medicare by providing free preventive care and improving care coordination. It gradually closes the "donut hole gap" in prescription drug coverage, and provides individuals who fall into this gap a $250 rebate. This law also helps prevent and eliminate elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation.
Additionally, the Affordable Care Act implements unprecedented measures to fight waste and fraud, and to improve the quality and outcomes of care for Medicare beneficiaries. It ends unwarranted subsidies to private insurance companies, and takes important steps to reduce unnecessary hospital admissions, improve patient safety, modernize payment systems, and streamline record-keeping. It also realigns incentives to reward medical providers for the value, not the volume, of their care. For resources and information on how to prevent, report, and stop Medicare fraud, visit: www.StopMedicareFraud.gov. To learn more about the Affordable Care Act, please visit: www.HealthCare.gov.
By protecting Social Security from risky privatization plans, we are preserving its solvency and maintaining it as a reliable income source for seniors. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act included an additional payment to supplement Social Security benefits for seniors struggling to make ends meet, and I have called on Congress to extend this relief again. Together, we will ensure all our citizens, not just a privileged few, can retire with dignity and security.
Finally, as we work to keep America's promises to senior citizens, we are helping ensure older Americans can continue to enrich communities across our Nation through service and community involvement. By expanding the Senior Corps and implementing the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, we are creating more opportunities for seniors to share their knowledge and experience with younger generations.
Thank you again for being in touch. To find assistance for senior citizens and their families, visit www.Eldercare.gov or call 1-800-677-1116. For help with Medicare, call 1-800-MEDICARE. Additional information and resources are available at: www.usa.gov/Topics/Seniors.shtml.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Ellen Hellos: The Church was Closed but Angels were on Duty