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Elder Occupy

The White House Responds and...

category_bug_politics.gif...there is nothing to know. Did we really expect anything else?

Remember last Friday when I posted a letter here that I had emailed the White House asking President Barack Obama not to sell out elders in regard to Social Security?

Yesterday, Tuesday, I received a reply. Well, I assume it is a reply to that note since I haven't sent any others in the past couple of months. It's hard to tell since there is zero reference to me or to the subject of my letter:

January 31, 2012

Dear Friend:

Thank you for taking the time to share your ideas. I appreciate hearing from you.

Our Nation faces serious challenges, and we will only overcome them by involving all Americans in shaping the policies that affect their own lives. My Administration is continuously working to engage individuals in innovative ways. I encourage you to explore www.WhiteHouse.gov, which is regularly updated and more interactive than ever before.

Thank you, again, for contacting me and providing your thoughtful suggestions.

Barack Obama

Not even a personalized salutation like “Dear Ms. Bennett” or an “about Social Security” at the end of the first sentence.

I have no doubt many of you have received similar communications in response to your own messages to Congress or the president - that is, polite, knee-jerk phrases completely devoid of meaningful information.

What a bunch of hooey. I feel like a third grader who's been patted on the head by her elders for doing good work in school today.

I am torn in two directions about this stuff. On the one hand, I understand that there is not enough money for the White House (or members of Congress) to hire the number of people – smart ones, too – who would be needed to read through, consider and give a thoughtful response to every letter received.

On the other hand, it infuriates me that the only people who can get the president's (or a Congress member's) attention for a serious conversation about real issues are captains of industry and finance or those (usually the same ones) who can bundle millions of dollars for election super-PACs – as though the accumulation of money is the definition of intelligence, knowledge and thoughtfulness.

It seems to me that this system precludes – entirely – any conversation and policy ideas that do not benefit the wealthy to the detriment of everyone else.

It's not that I don't see the problems – probably insurmountable - in taking seriously letters from citizens. A large number of them are from cranks and crazies. I know this from hundreds of pieces of fan mail delivered every day that, in my youthful employment on radio and TV shows, were my job to plow through.

A whole lot more are from people who have no idea what they're talking about along with those who just want to chat, let the president know what's going on in their family and by the way, could he send an autographed photo.

Oh, and don't forget the ones spewing pages of vitriol about how stupid the president is and how much he is hated. That leaves one or two in a hundred that are legitimate questions or thoughts that in a perfect world should require a reasonable response and maybe even a conversation.

An aide to Senate Leader Harry Reid once told me that the positions in all letters to senators are tracked. That is, if you write your senator supporting a bill, that's added into the others and compared to the number of letters that oppose the bill. (The aide did not say if the totals affect the senators' votes.)

I wonder if the White House tracks numbers of letters it receives on various policy issues.

Meanwhile, off on a tangent: Do you suppose there is such a thing as federal government or presidential grammar? If you look at the nation's founding documents, you'll see that compared with what we use today, 18th century scribes had interesting ideas about which words to capitalize.

Look at the capitalization in part of the first sentence of the Declaration of Independence:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty...”

Odd isn't it, capitalizing People, Order, Justice, Blessings, etc. Now look at the capitalization in part of the email note from the White House:

“Our Nation faces serious challenges, and we will only overcome them by involving all Americans in shaping the policies that affect their own lives. My Administration...”

Nation? Administration? Weird.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Jackie Harrison: Put on a Happy Face


Perhaps we should consider doing what the young woman did to get Bank of America to back off the $5 charge to use your own BOA credit card. There was enough of an "e-outcry" that BOA backed off. Can't recall the details, but she managed to do it again with another nuisance for the middle class. I guess I need to do some more research, altho' I'm sure the well informed folks who visit TGB will know what I'm referring to. There's got to be a way for elders to use the internet to get some press attention. I'm going to think on it :) Dee

This is why folks Occupy -- to get our rulers' attention. And to get our attention. I'm trying to listen. Maybe I'll learn something; maybe not.

I continue to send e-mails and on occasion, a snail-mail letter. It is rather disheartening to get such a pro-forma response or no response at all.

Publicity. It's the key. Here in San Diego a young man went on a hunger strike and no one knew about it. The word didn't get out. The cause was remote, (whales and hunting,) and the young man almost died.

Yeah, you got a form letter reply. I don't know if it is worse that you got a meaningless form letter or if you hadn't received a reply at all.

"Dear White House staff: Please Do not send out Meaningless form letters as standard responses to Meaningful letters from your Constituents. Sincerely, We The People

I get emails from the While House that tell me I can enter a lottery to eat lunch with the Head of State if I contribute a substantial donation to his campaign. I have never been lucky, so do not donate.

Have often wondered about the rules for capitalization in writings from the 17th and 18th centuries. Maybe some language historian out there can explain it.

As for getting the attention of congress people one would wish they did pay look at poll numbers since most Americans support social security and medicare. And education which is vital to economic growth.

Despite the impersonal response, you can bet someone is tracking the numbers. That's why the Occupy movement has had an impact: numbers and publicity. Occupy, like your letter, is about economic injustice, and we're finally getting that concept on their radar screen. We just have to keep screaming. Keep up the good work, because every letter counts.

I received the same generic letter from the White House in reply to a letter I wrote. I read that the staff pick a letter out of 10 to read and reply to. I don't know if that is a personal reply or just the form letter you received, Ronni.

I guess it can't hurt to try to reach the President if they do, as Harry Reid's aide told you, track the positions stated in the letters.

Well said!!
Perhaps we need some sort of "Elder Occupy".

I was thinking maybe you should write a personal handwritten note on the back of the form letter and send it back to the President.

I'm in for "Elder Occupy".

One of the things that bothers me is how communicative and personal our elected officials can be when they are asking for monetary contributions.

Like Tabor, (and I am sure many others here)I, too, get frequent email offers to donate to Obama's campaign in exchange for a chance to have a meal with the President. I have responded to some and sent relatively small donations, although they are more significant amounts to me and my modest income. So far,there has not been an invitation to join him at a dinner, other than the ones in Chcago where for $1,000+ I could purchase a place at the table. I became fed up with this ploy a few months ago after receiving several of these that begin with "teaser" lines like "choose where you'd like to sit at dinner with the President", or some such thing. One of the most recent, with the sender being Barack Obama, simply had a subject line of "Hey". I am quickly losing faith in this administration, when the President seems to be more concerned with fundraising and "quasi-campaigning" as governing and leading the country during these trying times.
I think the BOA campaign was aided by change.org in accomplishing her goal. You can find out more about that at their website.

Dee...I believe the that Verizon wanted to add another surcharge to our bill and there was another out pouring of resentment and they then had a change of "heart".

Yes, Let's Elder Occupy/Jam
the WH/President Obama!

I'm Fowarding Ronni's Letter

I also received those letters from the President telling me that if I sent a donation I would be in the pool to be invited to have dinner with him.

I didn't respond because I have already fallen for too many ploys that never panned out to my advantage but I did track it to see if a winner was really picked and did have dinner with the President.

The answer is yes. Someone did win and they DID have dinner with the President, but NOT at the White House where one would expect to have the dinner. It was held at another place that was not mentioned.

I have always resented the fact that the White House, that we support with our tax dollars is off-limits to the regular folk. It seems only movie stars, athletes,rappers and top donaters are welcome there.

And I thought Barack Obama would be different. Not so much!

Well, still, good for you for trying ... I dunno, are we better off writing our member of Congress, who might pay a little more attention but has less influence?

It's tough dealing with any large, bureaucratic organization whether it's the White House, Congress, Verizon or Bank of America.

When I write any of these people, I do not care if I get a personal response. I care that they tally what was said and care about it. I see the complications of personal responses. Suppose they hire a bunch of people (or even volunteers) and they respond back but it's something that doesn't fit what the White House is saying? Suppose it goes out to the Internet as if it's policy except it's not. They basically have their standard policy up but to write more from anybody (and it's sure not going to be Cabinet level responses to anybody but the wealthiest donors if them) is time they should be working on the problems. I do hope that they tally the results and don't just send back a form letter but nobody does any evaluating what the mood is. That is a good way to lose elections.

Oh and the president doesn't have to offer me a dinner or a t-shirt or anything to get us to donate. I want all that money to go to the campaign. We are convinced just by listening to the Republican debates that donating is important if we want to get anything close to what we would like from government. Obama might not be doing it all but if you listen to the other side, they will gut every program we value to give more tax breaks to the rich. It's a no-brainer for us what we have to do given our own hopes for this country.

I would add it'd be good to be thinking ahead to who do we want to support in 2016 whether Obama wins or loses. This is a long-term battle for the soul of America-- and I say that not as a religious person at all.

It's a numbers game, and the sheer volume of emails and letters to Washington DC almost precludes responses that are both timely and meaningful. The Obama administration (note my use of lower case "A") has done a pretty good job of using the Internet to gather opinion and provide information. The "We The People" petition site at https://wwws.whitehouse.gov/petitions#!/petitions provides one entrance to White House decision making, and the Issues pages provide policy statements and solicit feedback on those statements. Here, for example, is the "Seniors and Social Security" page: http://www.whitehouse.gov/issues/seniors-and-social-security

By the way, megadittoes on the Elder Occupy ideas that are bubbling up. (Are we allowed to use "megadittoes," or is that a registered trademark?)

Frustrating, isn't it, to take the time to gather your thougnhts and compose a letter to the President only to receive a form letter in return.

"...the Issues pages provide policy statements and solicit feedback on those statements.

Here, for example, is the "Seniors and Social Security" page: http://www.whitehouse.gov/issues/seniors-and-social-security"
Posted by: Frank Paynter
Yes...an easy comment box there--no capcha thing to deal with and no indication of
text limit.

Forwarding Ronni's Letter

You're right, it's unfair for people will lots of money to have access to politicians. We need a system where the average person can be heard.

Politicians do measure the volume of emails and letters, but I don't know if that's enough.

I've always thought the solution was more referendums. Just bypass the politicians and lobbyists.

Your well-thought out and excellent letter deserved a far better response than it got. I agree with "Occupy by E-mail"! Surely if the WH and Congress receive thousands of letters from older Americans (they already know we vote!), it should have some impact. I am disgusted through and through by the easy access Big Money enjoys, but there are MANY more of us (the 99%) than there are of them, and there is strength in numbers. I say "E-Occupy".

While capitalization conventions of the 17th and 18th centuries are beyond my ken, I surmise that the White House is following GPO style. Government Printing Office style is the house style for the federal government (or Federal Government if one is writing from within departments, agencies, bureaus, and so forth).

See http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=2008_style_manual&docid=f:chapter4.wais for these two and many other examples.

Administration, with name; capitalized
standing alone if Federal unit:
Farmers Home
Food and Drug
Transportation Security
but Bush administration;
administration bill, policy, etc.

. . . . . .

Nation (synonym for United States); but a
nation; nationwide; also French
nation, Balkan nations

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