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Congressman Scott Peters

Representing the 52nd District of California

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National Journal - Teenagers of America: Congress Will Use Your Ideas for Bills

Apr 2, 2014
In The News

Elahe Izadi - Remember that middle schooler with an idea to change the font the government uses as a way to save taxpayers millions of dollars?

Well, it turns out, it won't, as The Washington Post's David A. Fahrenthold found after talking with the Government Printing Office. But that was after staffers for Rep. Scott Peters, D-Calif., looked into the idea for a possible bill.

Here's the backstory for those of you who don't know about this cost-saving scheme: Pittsburgh middle-school wunderkind Suvir Mirchandani made national news over the weekend, when he found while doing a science project that the federal government could save upward of $136 million if it switched its font from Times New Roman to Garamond. The reasoning? The latter font uses less ink, and ink is mighty expensive.

Harvard's student-run Journal of Emerging Investigators published his findings, with a JEI founder telling CNNhow "impressed" they were with Mirchandani's work.

Seemed like a fantastic idea, right? Peters's staffers thought so, too.

"We leapt at the idea to save lots of taxpayer money through what seems like a relatively small change," Peters said in an email.

So staffers checked with GPO about the possible changes, and it turns out the initial premise didn't exactly pan out. Apparently Mirchandani's estimated price of ink was too high, because the government is able to buy ink at a lower price than the average consumer, given it uses much more of it. Additionally, GPO printing is done with printing presses, and not laser or inkjet printers. 

Mirchandani can be forgiven for such oversights. He told CNN that he had tried to get in touch with GPO about how much they actually spend on printing, but didn't hear back until he had finished his project.

Despite the font-change idea not working out, Peters doesn't want to dissuade the nation's teenagers from pitching him more ideas. "That shouldn't discourage Americans of any age from letting elected officials know where there could be savings," he said. "Government needs to encourage innovative solutions from its constituencies, not discourage it."