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.