27 January 2012

The President gets mail

A pair of items from this month's Harper's Index:
  • Number of letters from Americans President Barack Obama reads each evening: 10
  • Number of staffers in the Corespondence Office responsible for seelecting those letters from the 11,000 received each day: 7

There's a lot to ponder there.  First of all, it's not a Democrat/Republican thing - the same must have been happening since the office of the presidency was established.  But look how it must have ramped up - now 11 thousand letters every day.

And seven staff persons just to sort through that mail.  One knee-jerk reaction would be that this is an example of how government has become bloated.  But on the other hand many of these letters are from people with genuine concerns, and probably the staff forward items to relevant congressmen or government agencies.

Still - 11,000 letters every day.  And how many emails?  Interesting to think about.

Addendum:  A hat tip to Chuck for finding this relevant story at ABC News.


  1. In the grand scheme of things, 7 clerical workers to sort the POTUS's mail from constituents isn't that large an expense.

    I would be interested to know the sorting algorithm that sifts out those 10 letters. And as you mention, how it has changed over time.

  2. As I read this, I just assumed “letters” meant e-mail messages, until I got to the last line in your post. A reflection on the times we live in! (Which makes the sending of so many physical letters pretty impressive, I think.)

    1. Actually, I don't know for sure that the "letters" referred to are snail mail conventional letters. Maybe they included emails in the data.

  3. 11,000 divided by 7 workers is 1571 letters per day per worker. If they work 8 hours, they need to get through 196 letters an hour, every hour. Three minutes a letter. Something to ponder.

    ...assuming the numbers are correct.

    This says 20,000 letters and emails:

    But claims FIFTY full-time analysts, 25 interns, and 1500 volunteers. That's only a letter and a half an hour.

    So how do you get your letter read by the president?

    I don't know, but I think there are clues here:

    1) Be representative of a lot of other letters
    2) Eloquently and passionately explain yourself, preferentially in a way that allows your letter to be used for political purposes


    1. Thank you, Chuck; I've added the ABC link to the post.


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