In Perfect Example Of Dumb Politics, the Paper Lobby is Fighting to Stop D.C. From Going Digital

In Perfect Example Of Dumb Politics, the Paper Lobby is Fighting to Stop D.C. From Going Digital

The federal government is trying to save money and go digital — but they're facing resistance from (who else?) the gigantic paper lobby you probably didn't even know existed.

Switching from paper to digital notifications has paid off big time for feds trying to save money. Federal government operations are extraordinarily complicated and eliminating the paperwork is a massive timesaver, cutting out redundant processes, staff, and printing and distribution costs. Meanwhile, while an electronic payment costs just 9 cents to process, a paper check costs up to $1.25, and it's far easier to track. The Treasury expects to save $1 billion alone over 10 years by eliminating paper mailings for all but the very old or mentally ill. Since 2011, the Social Security Administration has saved $72 million a year by getting rid of paper mailings to some 150 million Americans.

But the paper industry has seen 5% retractions annually for the past five years, with mills shutting down and thousands of laid-off employees. So Consumers for Paper Options and industry officials have been flexing their power in closed-door meetings and media outreach, claiming they represent the elderly and the quarter of the country without internet access. They've set up this nifty website explaining why we can't afford to go all-digital:


Executive Director John Runyan claims to represent disenfranchised citizens, but he's actually a well-known lobbyist with a history of representing major industries. (It doesn't take a lot of work to put two and two together.) Although the paper industry admits government receipts are a small fraction of overall sales, Runyan hopes that success will set a precedent for financial firms, corporations, and retailers that going all-digital is a bad idea.

"If there are Americans who can't use an iPhone to navigate the Internet, there ought to be an option for them," Runyan told the Washington Post. Consumers for Paper Options cites an industry study which found that 73% of consumers said they'd prefer not to be required to interact with the government online (of course, that's leaving open the possibility that many Americans don't like being forced to interact with the government in general, regardless of medium).

But they might have a point regardless. According to The Wire's Philip Bump, statistics from 2010 suggest that over half of Americans 65 and older lack access to the internet. Bump says that "People who comprise a large percentage of those receiving government support — people on Social Security or Medicare — are also those least likely to have the electronic systems needed to accept electronic payments and statements."

In the meantime, though, the group seems to be facing an uphill battle to turn back decades of gravitation towards paperless government and the immense possible cost savings.

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Tom McKay

Tom is a staff writer at Mic, covering national politics, media, policing and the war on drugs. He is based in New York and can be reached at tmckay@mic.com.

MORE FROM

Dozens killed in deadly car bomb attack in Kabul

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the deadly attack.

‘Hot Mic’ podcast: Democratic brand, WH Communications Director, Jared Kushner to be questioned

Here are the important stories to know for Monday, July 24

New White House communications director Scaramucci says press briefings should be on-camera

If the new White House communications director gets his way, the press briefings could soon be recorded once again.

At least 9 dead, 29 injured in locked tractor trailer outside Walmart in Texas

Authorities told press that the deaths were caused by "a human trafficking crime."

Amid new revelations, here’s what we’ve learned about the Russian lawyer who met with Trump Jr.

The picture of Natalia Veselnitskaya is coming into clearer focus.

Republican Senator urges whoever leaked Russia/Sessions phone calls to release whole conversation

Sen. Chuck Grassley wants the person who leaked intelligence about Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak to come forward with more information.

Dozens killed in deadly car bomb attack in Kabul

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the deadly attack.

‘Hot Mic’ podcast: Democratic brand, WH Communications Director, Jared Kushner to be questioned

Here are the important stories to know for Monday, July 24

New White House communications director Scaramucci says press briefings should be on-camera

If the new White House communications director gets his way, the press briefings could soon be recorded once again.

At least 9 dead, 29 injured in locked tractor trailer outside Walmart in Texas

Authorities told press that the deaths were caused by "a human trafficking crime."

Amid new revelations, here’s what we’ve learned about the Russian lawyer who met with Trump Jr.

The picture of Natalia Veselnitskaya is coming into clearer focus.

Republican Senator urges whoever leaked Russia/Sessions phone calls to release whole conversation

Sen. Chuck Grassley wants the person who leaked intelligence about Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak to come forward with more information.