As Feds Go Digital, Paper Industry Wages Secretive War
'Consumer' group was developed by the paper industry
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Feb 17, 2014 9:00 AM CST
Paper makers want to ensure paper's role in government.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – In 2011, the Social Security Administration put the kibosh on mailing paper statements to 150 million future retirees, at an annual cost savings of $72 million. But last month's budget contained language that forces the government to plan for restarting these paper mailings. Ridiculous? Not according to a group called Consumers for Paper Options, which lobbied for that change and has since 2010 been "advocating for access to paper-based services and information," as the group puts it. But though the group says it's a "coalition of individuals and organizations," it's actually a product of the paper industry, the Washington Post reports: It was established by the Envelope Manufacturers Association and gets funding from the top paper-industry trade group.

The Treasury expects to save $1 billion over a decade following its 2013 move to largely paperless communications, noting that processing a paper check costs $1.25, which is $1.16 cents more than the cost of an electronic payment. (It hasn't stopped paper mailings to the elderly and people with "mental impairments," the Post notes.) But "if there are Americans who can't use an iPhone to navigate the Internet, there ought to be an option for them," says a rep for Consumers for Paper Options, noting that a quarter of the US lacks Internet access. He also cites a study that says 73% of adults don't believe they should have to deal with the government online. That study was run by the group. A recent op-ed in Roll Call signed by a pair of congressmen also pushed for paper; it turns out Consumers for Paper Options was involved in that piece, too. Who are the "consumers"? "Everybody’s mother and father and sister who care about the way government policy develops," says an industry leader.