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And the White House Tweets Back

BY Nancy Scola | Tuesday, May 5 2009

We tweeted. And the White House tweeted back.

If you could boil down what made the Obama campaign such a revolution in digital politics, it might be the fact that technology was woven throughout the enterprise. On the Obama campaign, new media was, it seemed, far less ghettoized than it has traditionally been in political campaigns of the past. Technology, high and low, was a conduit for how the campaign did business -- not an offshoot of the "real" politics of the rest of the effort.

Powerful stuff, potentially, and that's a lesson that the White House seems to be eager to re-learn in the governing context. What's happened is this: President Obama announced yesterday proposed changes in U.S. tax law aimed at ending international tax havens and limiting the appeal of relocating jobs oversees. On Facebook, Twitter, and other social media, the White House asked for feedback. We gave it.

And then an actual live, smart human being on the White House team responded.

In a tweet, natch, the White House Twitter account at @whitehouse announced that the National Economic Council's Deputy Director and highly-regarded economist Jason Furman had, over on the White House blog, answered a handful of questions that came in through new media channels. (The blog post's title? "Continuing the Conversation." They get how this is supposed to work.) Now, just how strong a question, you might ask, can be posed in just 140 characters or fewer? Here, @kylekunkler's question is instructive. He asked about the U.S. corporate tax rate. And, like so many of us so often do, used a Tiny URL to flesh out his point. You can pack a lot of meaning a tweet by linking out to the rest of the web.

Furman gave a short but considered response, arguing that while the U.S.'s corporate tax rate under law is among the highest in the world, all our loopholes and special provisions cause the actual practiced tax rate to drop considerably. Tightening the tax code as it applies to overseas, Furman wrote, is a first step to simplifying the law. Only after tax statute is applicable as intended can tax policy be made fairer.

Not quite a conversation, perhaps. But it could be the start of a pattern of back-and-forth between our White House and its people -- the likes of which, it's probably fair to say, we've never quite seen before.