The federal government is finally trying to digitize. The paper lobby doth protest.

posted at 4:01 pm on February 19, 2014 by Erika Johnsen

This is just another of the many reasons why big government is such a confoundedly awful idea: Just about any industry that can manage to scrape together a lobby can find a way to get a foothold, even if that foothold comes at the expense of the federal bureaucracy finally getting it together and joining the 21st century.

The Obama administration has been making a concerted effort to improve efficiency, save resources, and cut down on costs by going digital and rejiggering its services toward online communication, forms, direct deposit, and etcetera. As you might imagine, the paper lobby — or perhaps you didn’t imagine it, because who even knew there was such a thing? — is not a fan of this initiative from one of its biggest single customers. The inaptly named Consumers for Paper Options (inaptly, because it is comprised not of consumers but rather a creation of the paper industry itself) is is working Congress in closed-door meetings, underwriting research favorable to its position, and putting together a media campaign in an effort to preserve Washington, D.C. as the capital of paper, the Washington Post reports:

The group — which bills itself as “a coalition of individuals and organizations advocating for access to paper-based services and information” — was set up by the Envelope Manufacturers Association (EMA), officials from both organizations said. It receives financial backing from the paper industry’s largest trade group, several of North America’s biggest paper manufacturers and EMA, according to documents and interviews with company and trade association officials. The EMA and other paper companies are also pushing for Congress to pass legislation to help stabilize the Postal Service.

Consumers for Paper Options is led by a veteran advocate for the industry’s interests on Capitol Hill. His previous posts include head of federal government relations for International Paper, the largest pulp and paper company in the world, and treasurer of its PAC. …

At Treasury, which last year suspended most paper mailings for all but the very aged and those with “mental impairments,” officials estimate the shift will save $1 billion over 10 years. The move by the Social Security Administration in 2011 to stop mailing paper earnings statements to 150 million Americans is saving $72 million a year. …

For the paper industry, the stakes are high. The digital age has ravaged sales of envelopes, office paper, catalogues and pulp products, with industry analysts saying that demand for paper products dropped 5 percent on average in each of the past five years. Mills have closed, and thousands of employees have been laid off.

The paper lobby’s best and biggest argument in this facepalm-worthy fight against creative destruction is that up to a quarter of Americans are still without home Internet access, and that the federal government should probably accomodate some paper options while the full population catches up so as not to “disenfranchise” the elderly or the poor — but come on, now. Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that the paper lobby is some kind of social-justice martyr that won’t do anything and everything humanly possible to lobby for the preservation of paper-heavy processes wherever it can, with whatever excuses it can think up, to keep themselves viable at the expense of overall economy and national budget.


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I guess the buggy whip manufacturers weren’t smart enough to form an advocacy group like this.

Socratease on February 19, 2014 at 4:06 PM

Is tweaking the paper lobby a form of origami?

Flange on February 19, 2014 at 4:07 PM

It’s going to take 30 years. Watch 30 years.

Oil Can on February 19, 2014 at 4:09 PM

This is vast stupidity.

antisense on February 19, 2014 at 4:09 PM

“and all on 0.006 deg C per year! “: http://whatreallyhappened.com/WRHARTICLES/globalwarming2.html

SCIENCE!!!

davidk on February 19, 2014 at 4:10 PM

The federal government is finally trying to digitize. The paper lobby doth protest.

Personally, I’d go with the paper…at least for back up and secret documents.

Dr. ZhivBlago on February 19, 2014 at 4:10 PM

Sigh. If this is hard, imagine what real reform will take

Doc Holliday on February 19, 2014 at 4:11 PM

the fact that there is a paper lobby in the first place makes me want to bang my head against a wall several times.

Sachiko on February 19, 2014 at 4:13 PM

I’m quite amazed there is a paper lobby.

But actually… I’m for this. Anything that keeps the government slow and cumbersome is okay in my book. Except for the VA. I’d prefer they be up to date and fast.

ConDem on February 19, 2014 at 4:16 PM

Fear not, paper industry. If you’ve ever seen the file room at your local Family Court, you know that your future is secure.

On a serious note, paper is just another casualty of the Internet. When is the last time you walked into a bank… a post office… or a travel agency? It’s standard economic churn: people who lose their jobs making Sony Walkmans, now make iPods.

VastRightWingConspirator on February 19, 2014 at 4:24 PM

Please, it’s a government bureaucracy of the worst kind, -federal. Digitization will likely consume more paper than the old ways. They just can’t help themselves.

Ditto more employees, management, infrastructure, pensions and benefits, etc.

slickwillie2001 on February 19, 2014 at 4:24 PM

For the paper industry, the stakes are high. The digital age has ravaged sales of envelopes, office paper, catalogues and pulp products, with industry analysts saying that demand for paper products dropped 5 percent on average in each of the past five years. Mills have closed, and thousands of employees have been laid off.

Too bad software and internet hardware companies don’t employ people, too. Oh, wait.

deadrody on February 19, 2014 at 4:25 PM

As long as you must wipe the paper industry is secure.

meci on February 19, 2014 at 4:27 PM

Please, it’s a government bureaucracy of the worst kind, -federal. Digitization will likely consume more paper than the old ways. They just can’t help themselves.

Ditto more employees, management, infrastructure, pensions and benefits, etc.

slickwillie2001 on February 19, 2014 at 4:24 PM

Oh, you’re right about that. Where I work we have a particular computer system with “paperless” right in the name. More paper is wasted printing out things in the “paperless” system than you could possibly imagine. I printed something the other day that was probably 20-30 pages just to find a single 6 digit number because it would take more time to look through the document electronically than to just print it.

deadrody on February 19, 2014 at 4:28 PM

http://thelibertarianrepublic.com/child-gunned-cop-answering-door-holding-wii-controler/#axzz2tn9SOzHq

davidk on February 19, 2014 at 4:16 PM

Unbelievable.

Murphy9 on February 19, 2014 at 4:32 PM

That way there won’t be any evidence. They won’t have to spend all that time shredding.

crankyoldlady on February 19, 2014 at 4:33 PM

I’m quite amazed there is a paper lobby.
ConDem on February 19, 2014 at 4:16 PM

They have to fight to keep their members happy=dues rolling in:

keeps the DC office near the corn lobby looking spiffy;
finances the fact-finding paper travel to important paper places;
attracts young paper-activists for internships

bettycooper on February 19, 2014 at 4:33 PM

Moral of the story: greener technology will mature in its own time, and regardless of when it does, it will come at the cost of jobs in the previous generation’s industry.

This is an idea whose time has come, so rejoice in all the trees that will no longer be cut down by these Evil People ™ trying to feed their families or whatever.

We’ll have cars soon enough that run on banana peels and beer cans, and then you can stop trying to force people to use plug-in cars and cars that run on french fry oil and whatever else, while we get another article about the thousands of former oil wellers joining the unemployment queue.

The Schaef on February 19, 2014 at 4:35 PM

The Obama administration has been making a concerted effort to improve efficiency, save resources, and cut down on costs by going digital and rejiggering its services toward online communication,

…ObamaCare… is working so well?

KOOLAID2 on February 19, 2014 at 4:40 PM

Dwight Schrute is behind this.

RDH on February 19, 2014 at 4:57 PM

The Obama administration has been making a concerted effort to improve efficiency, save resources, and cut down on costs by going digital and rejiggering its services toward online communication,

…ObamaCare… is working so well?

KOOLAID2 on February 19, 2014 at 4:40 PM

The first thing that popped into my head as well. Gotta say that I’m on the fence on this one.

mikeintsn on February 19, 2014 at 5:02 PM

Based on the awesome overwhelming success of the HealthCare.gov website, the paper suppliers for the Federal Government may still have a bright future.

Besides, even if the Federal Government does manage to make something work online, any lawsuit is going to require hard (paper) copies of online documents as proof.

But if use of the Internet has cut down on paper usage, it also means less de-forestation to make paper. Maybe that’s why Al Gore invented the Internet…

Steve Z on February 19, 2014 at 5:11 PM

I always hated it when the Federal Budget would come out and the news would show stacks and stacks of budget books that no one would ever look at… of course that was way back when a budget was actually produced… think of all of the trees that have been saved by Reid and company ignoring the need for a budget! Win win!

whatabunchoflosers on February 19, 2014 at 5:12 PM

As long as you must wipe the paper industry is secure.

meci on February 19, 2014 at 4:27 PM

But Cheryl Crowe wants us to use only one sheet. Maybe that’s why she wears lots of perfume.

Steve Z on February 19, 2014 at 5:13 PM

How many people would actually trust a “communication” from the government via the internet?

Hey! I’m from the Social Security Administration. Please verify your name, address, phone number, date of birth and Social Security Number please.

As for paper manufacturers, no worries! How often do workers press PRINT because ‘they NEED a copy’?

GarandFan on February 19, 2014 at 5:15 PM

I work for the federal government. I don’t think we will ever go digital completely.

NavyMustang on February 19, 2014 at 5:29 PM

Only government can charge a fee for convenience.

southsideironworks on February 19, 2014 at 5:36 PM

But…but…but…paper is a RENEWABLE RESOURCE!

:boggle:

xNavigator on February 19, 2014 at 5:38 PM

I printed something the other day that was probably 20-30 pages just to find a single 6 digit number because it would take more time to look through the document electronically than to just print it.

deadrody on February 19, 2014 at 4:28 PM

It doesn’t have a ctrl-f function of some sort? Holy cow.

I do prefer paper for some things. I went looking for airmail letter paper the other day because I wanted to write an old-fashioned letter to someone. I couldn’t find it (though I didn’t run all over town looking). So, I’ll have to use college-ruled paper instead. Oh well – less elegant, but still nicer than pixels.

None of that means that the government shouldn’t reduce its paper consumption drastically. You know the best way to do it, though? It’s not by digitizing. It’s by reducing the size and scope of the national government to its Constitutional duties, so that it doesn’t generate hundreds of thousands of pages of regulations and forms and documents every day.

GWB on February 19, 2014 at 6:01 PM

As for paper manufacturers, no worries! How often do workers press PRINT because ‘they NEED a copy’?

GarandFan on February 19, 2014 at 5:15 PM

This is primarily a function of 1) taking notes (still not as easy to do digitally as it is to write them) and 2) not being able to take your computer with you to meetings and such (especially if you work in classified areas).

GWB on February 19, 2014 at 6:02 PM

I work for the federal government. I don’t think we will ever go digital completely.

NavyMustang on February 19, 2014 at 5:29 PM

I don’t think they could nor would it be wise. But the storage costs for what could be scanned will far exceed the actual paper eventually.

CW20 on February 19, 2014 at 6:04 PM

As long as liberals keep trying to nationalize and computerize health care, we’ll still need paper.

Socratease on February 19, 2014 at 7:23 PM

If you have to review a 60 page contract, being able to flip pages on the couch beats the tar out of dizzily scrolling

cosifantutte on February 19, 2014 at 7:23 PM

Paper lovers are raaacists! Digital lovers are raaapists! Do away with both. I’ve just solved the bureaucratic problem!

vnvet on February 19, 2014 at 8:06 PM

Lawyers want paper documents. Look how many lawyers there are.

crankyoldlady on February 19, 2014 at 8:52 PM