It has been a little over a month since the White House launched an outreach program promising official responses to policy ideas submitted by everyday Americans. The result? A whole lot of arguing concering space aliens, marijuana legalization, and onetime murder suspect Casey Anthony, followed by a bunch of vague, bureaucratic answers from bedraggled staff members.
In short: it has been an entertaining project to watch! The gist of the program was announced in September, when the White House asked people to submit questions or "calls for action ... on a range of issues." The threshold for answering a demand was setup like this: "if a petition gathers enough support (i.e., signatures) it will be reviewed by a standing group of White House staff, routed to any other appropriate offices and generate an official, on-the-record response."
It was a pretty cool idea and it got off to a great start. The White House team first considered a petition that gathered some 32,000 signatures asking for the government to forgive all student loan debt. While not bowing to the petitioners' demands wholesale, the Obama team responded Oct. 26 with the announcement of a new policy to reduce student loan debt on students.
We agree that reducing the burden of student loans is an effective way to stimulate the economy and save taxpayer dollars. That's why we're excited to announce a new policy that speaks to the concerns expressed in this petition.
Only a sucker would assume the White House drafted its student debt "Pay as You Earn" proposal in response to a petition signed by 32,000 people on the Internet. But still, it created a nice call-and-response dialogue with the participants and gave a sense that the administration was taking the petitions seriously.