FOR MONDAY POST Government-by-Paper Focus in Congress Isn't What Maine Needs from a Gov. Michaud

Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME), February 23, 2014 | Go to article overview

FOR MONDAY POST Government-by-Paper Focus in Congress Isn't What Maine Needs from a Gov. Michaud


The U.S. government in recent years has stopped selling paper savings bonds, mailing IRS forms and Social Security statements by default, and started the shift away from paper federal benefits checks.

As The Washington Post reported recently, 22 of the largest federal agencies have cut their spending on paper by about 7 percent -- to $64 million -- in the past year. That's a development to cheer -- a sign that the federal government is adapting to a digital world and saving taxpayers money.

But that trend has the paper industry, a staple of Maine's economy, alarmed and in full lobbying mode. An industry-funded group, Consumers for Paper Options, is pressing the federal government not only to keep paper options available for those Americans who need them but to, in some cases, even reverse the movement toward digital governance.

U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud of Maine is one of the members of Congress the industry-funded group has in its corner. Michaud scored a victory for the group last year when he managed to have language removed from a pharmaceutical bill that would have required drug and safety information be posted online rather than included in drug packages as paper inserts.

Paper mills in Madawaska and Bucksport make those paper inserts. A shift away from reliance on paper would have endangered Maine jobs.

Michaud also co-authored an opinion piece in the Washington, D.C., publication Roll Call in December that Consumers for Paper Options helped to craft, according to The Washington Post report.

"The government's rush to go paperless is disenfranchising millions of seniors and other vulnerable Americans and making the digital divide even deeper," read the essay, which Michaud signed along with Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis.

Michaud's advocacy for papermakers is not surprising. Papermaking runs deep both personally for Michaud -- he worked two decades at the temporarily shuttered Great Northern Paper Co. mill in East Millinocket -- and in the district he represents in Congress.

Some Americans will need paper options for tax forms, Social Security statements and more for the foreseeable future, and the federal government should take measures to ensure the nation's elderly are aware of how they can access paper alternatives. …

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