How Politicians Read Letters

I’m a slow learner. Since the early 1980s I’ve been writing letters to my representatives about Social Security. Even back in the olden days I was doubtful of its future efficacy. Inevitably the responses I got pooh-poohed my concerns, saying that “tinkering” (that’s the word they used most often) was a bad idea. They system was just fine and I had nothing to worry about. They didn’t interact at all with the content of my letters – just seeing that the subject was “Social Security” told them exactly what to say.

Well, now some people in leadership have learned enough math to have some concerns also. President Bush has shown interest in reforming the system, though he hasn’t given many details. Having heard some of his speeches and having read much analysis of Social Security reform issues, I wrote the President with the particular question about how those of us who pay self-employment tax will be affected, and whether he (or any one else) was even thinking about changing the fact that self-employed people pay twice the rate of non-self-employed people.

Today (after a month and a half) I finally got my answer. Signed by a staffer, I see that politicians still read letters the same way. “Oh, it’s about Social Security. I’ll get my computer to spit our our standard form letter on Social Security.” The closest the letter came to addressing my questions was to say that the president is against raising payroll taxes.

What does it take to get our leaders to actually deal with the questions we give them?

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