When President Obama announced his proposed budget, he did it in the the traditional fashion.  By rolling out reams upon reams of printed paper.  Maybe it makes for a nice photo op.  Maybe it gives government workers something to do.  But it is an extraordinarily wasteful way to disseminate information in the 21st century.

Think of all the energy that was wasted -- and all the greenhouse gases that were emitted -- by chopping down trees to produce the paper, transporting the ink and paper to printing presses, running the printing presses, and transporting the printed documents to the White House and Congress.  All this energy and expense to produce a document that most people will never read and that will end up as waste paper in a matter of a few weeks.

There is a better way.  We could save money, reduce carbon emissions, and more effectively get documents into the hands of the people by distributing them electronically.  After all, we live in an era when grandmothers have e-readers and Facebook accounts.  None of them is going to see the massive budget proposal in printed form.  But if you put it on line and made it searchable, many Americans would take a look.  So why are we spending hundreds of millions of dollars to print documents that are less accessible to Americans than they should be?

President Obama has implicitly recognized this waste by proposing to eliminate the practice of printing and mailing the Federal Register (which is available on line).  This one act will save $16 million in printing and mailing costs.

Why stop there?  Why not eliminate all spending on printing government documents?  Why not transition to a 21st century practice of making government documents more accessible, less costly to produce, and less harmful to the environment by stopping the presses and distributing everything on line?

John Howley
Orlando, Florida

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