Every day, President Barack Obama is given 10 letters from the thousands the White House Correspondence Office receives, and he hand-writes responses to two or three of them. On more than one occasion, he has gone so far as to include a personal check to Americans who have written about their financial struggles.
It's not something I should advertise, but it has happened, Obama told Eli Saslow, a Washington Post reporter who is writing a book about the letters the President receives.
This admission is bound to spark criticism that Obama is hand-picking people to help while the economy as a whole languishes. He made it clear to Saslow, though, that he does not see writing checks as a substitute for working to improve the economy, but rather as a way to give immediate help in a way that it is not possible to do through legislation.
Some of these letters you read and you say, 'Gosh, I really want to help this person, and I may not have the tools to help them right now,' Obama said. And then you start thinking about the fact that for every one person that wrote describing their story, there might be another hundred thousand going through the same thing. So there are times when I'm reading the letters and I feel pained that I can't do more, faster, to make a difference in their lives.
Letters Also Serve As Social Service Agency Response Starting Point
Other times, Obama has forwarded a letter to a particular agency or made a phone call on the writer's behalf to get their issue addressed right away.
The White House declined to answer several questions from The Huffington Post, including what types of problems Obama wrote checks for and whether he sent the checks directly or through an intermediary like a bank or nonprofit.
Commenters had a variety of responses to the news that Obama had written personal checks to Americans.
He feels guilty because he has failed them, so he's trying to assuage his guilt. His liberal policies didn't fix anything and only made the debt worse. Rather than writing checks why don't you step aside and admit you are woefully unqualified and unprepared to lead a nation? one Huffington Post commenter wrote.
Another responded, The man has a golden heart, we've known that since 2004. For a man with such a heart, the frustration of not being able to solve people's economic hardships as quickly as he'd like, and all because of damn political games, must be enormous. No matter how upbeat he tries to be to instill confidence in our country, every time he speaks, I see a man who feels the weight of the world on his shoulders and wishes Congress would work with him to solve the problems.
Interestingly, President Ronald Reagan did the same thing Obama has done. In one instance, When Reagan discovered that a woman he had sent one hundred dollars to hadn't cashed the check because she wanted to save it as a memento, he told her to deposit it and made sure his accountant sent the canceled check back to her, James Sutherland wrote in a biography of the former president.
Reagan, though, did not say that he had written those checks until he was out of office, and some commenters are saying Obama should have done the same, if only to avoid the scrutiny that is bound to come when Saslow's book is released.