OK Now, Who Repealed Reagan's Paperwork Reduction Act?

by James Glaser
September 13, 2006

I remember it well, Public law 96-511 Stat.282544 U.S.C.3503, better known as Ronald Reagan's Paperwork Reduction Act of 1980. My dad didn't even like Reagan as a president, but he did say that it was about time, and from then on he spoke more kindly of the man. Dad actually thought government paperwork would be cut and kind of as a trickle down thing, Dad's paperwork would be cut too.

Come to find out the Reduction Act was one of those laws that not only sounded good, but a law that made sense, so you almost knew it would never be implemented. Today in the age of e-mails, pdf files, and instant messaging, paper work is still on the upswing. I have a post office box, and if I don't empty it every couple of days, the mail can be so bound up in it that I often rip a letter in half getting it out.

Letter might be a bad term for the mail I get. When ever I get a real letter with a message from some loved one or even an acquaintance, it is pretty exciting. It doesn't happen very often. Mailmen are no longer "letter carriers," now they are bill delivers or advertisement pushers. You can fill out a form at the post office that stops everything but first class mail from entering your box, but what I want is to stop all the envelopes that have those little windows on them.

Everyone tells me I should keep all my paper work for at least seven years. Can you even imagine how much shelter that requires for the over two hundred million adults we have in this country, all the businesses? For sure that space could house every homeless man, women, and child in America.

One advantage of having a post office box is that they have trash containers at the post office, and if you take the time to sort junk mail from what you have to keep, you can cut the paper you take home by 75%. Who knows how much this costs the post office.

I must confess that there have been days that I have just wanted to start a fire out in the yard to burn excess paper work. When I moved down South I had my truck and trailer packed to the roof with things I thought I would need, and yes, there were several boxes filled with paper work. There is this fear in the back of every American's mind that they will somehow lose their paper work. . . and then what will they do?

I can envision what a feeling of freedom it must be for people whose house burns to the ground. I do have a safety deposit box at the bank, and you know what? That little box holds all the really important paper work that I have. My Mortgage, insurance papers, my Will, photos of my kids when they were little, and a few stocks and bonds. Also some old American paper money that I have come across over the years. The box I rent isn't very big, and truth be told it isn't very full. When you get right down to it, the real important paper work you need to save would fit in any brief case. The bank safety deposit box just keeps it all together in a place your children will be able to find after you die. So, it really isn't your important paper work, it's your kid's paper work.

Ronald Reagan had the right idea, and I think Bill Clinton reaffirmed that bill with another in 1995, but they put no teeth in either one. Lobbyists from the paper industry must have watered every thing down, and the increase in paper work and storage has increased as the years have gone by.

I still like the idea of the back yard fire!

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