I first heard about "Obama phones" a few months ago when a man provided me his cell phone number and referred to his phone as an Obamaphone. I pressed him for details and he stated he simply had to fill out a form when he applied for food stamps and he was given a phone along with free minutes every month. He also stated that he could purchase more minutes and would be given an equal number of free minutes for any amount he paid for. I wasn't sure if he was pulling my leg, but he seemed fairly sincere about it, so I believed him and tucked it away as another ridiculous government give-away.
Then comes the mailing from my Congressman, wasting paper and mail resources to brag about how he secured 28 million dollars to provide internet service to underserved areas. The argument about what is a natural (birth) right and what is a privilege is completely and forever lost on me now. There was a time in this country when rugged individualism and pride would have prevented an American from taking even the most modest of help from the government. When storms wrecked houses, neighbors pulled together to rebuild. Now we simply write a check (we spent enough after Katrina to buy a 200,000 house for every citizen...so where did all the money go?) Health care, cell phones, internet, air conditioning, and a host of other things simply are not natural rights. We have been conditioned to think that the government will always be there to bail us out instead of relying on our own abilities, families and communities. So where will the madness end.
I was pretty aggravated to see my taxpayer dollars wasted on a propaganda commercial from General Motors recently. The dishonest advertisement was a disgusting abuse of power that should be thoroughly investigated. And now, today, I am yet again peeved at the incessant waste of money our government is engaging in.
I arrived home to find a mailer from Assurance Wireless. The mailer claims that I can get a FREE CELL PHONE along with 200 FREE MINUTES PER MONTH. Eligibility is based on income or other programs. If you are already getting Medicaid, food stamps, supplementary social security, temporary assistance for needy families, federal public housing, low income housing assistance or are on the national free school lunch program, you qualify. If your income is 14K, 19K, 24K, 29K or 34K based on the size of your family (1,2,3,4 or 5 members) up to 34K for larger families you also qualify. All this on an advertisement that my tax dollars funded. Okay, this entitlement thing has GOT TO STOP.
It appears that this program is being funded by the Universal Service Fund. The Universal Service Fund has been around a long time and was intended to create a more level playing field in the telecommunications field. The law has been changed and overhauled a few times over the years, but the stated goals of Universal Service as mandated by the 1996 Act are as follows:
To promote the availability of quality services at just, reasonable, and affordable rates,
To increase access to advanced telecommunications services throughout the Nation,
To advance the availability of such services to all consumers, including those in low income, rural, insular, and high cost areas at rates that are reasonably comparable to those charged in urban areas,
To increase access to telecommunications and advanced services in schools, libraries and rural health care facilities,
To provide equitable and non-discriminatory contributions from all providers of telecommunications services to the fund supporting universal service programs.
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 states that all providers of telecommunications services should contribute to the federal universal service in a fair and nondiscriminatory manner; there should be specific, predictable, and sufficient Federal and State mechanisms to preserve and advance universal service; all schools, classrooms, health care providers, and libraries should have access to advanced telecommunications services; and lastly, that the Federal-State Joint Board and the Commission should determine those other principles that, consistent with the 1996 Act, are necessary to protect the public interest.
Okay...it is not literally tax dollars collected by the government. But it is money collected by my service providers and kicked into the fund, that is a de facto tax without the government acting as a middle man.
From my reading of the 1996 Act, it appears the fund was supposed to increase services at schools and libraries while reconciling pricing discrepancies between various parts of the countries. It talks about cost containment for lower income users but nothing about free phones. This is yet another disgusting abuse of the Free Market System. It is Socialism, wealth redistribution and another example of Class Warfare. When is the madness going to stop?
Update: I have reviewed my personal carriers and find a 2.00 charge for each of my personal accounts listed as the Universal Service Fee. It is described by the phone company as:
Telecommunications services provided by the Company are subject to a Universal Service Fund Fee. The Universal Service Fund provides telecommunications and information services to schools and libraries and rural health care facilities and subsidy for local service to high cost areas and low income households.
Man is that aggravating. I have been paying a hidden tax on my cell phone bill for years (the Bill was passed in 1996 and updated in 2005...I have seen that on my bill for quite some time but never paid it much attention. I thought it was for hearing (TYY) services for the disabled. Not a free handout.
Unlike the previous reviewer, I'm going to start out with the legitimate problems that I think this program is designed to address. First, we live in a society where most people (unless part of an insular group like the Amish) really need some form of telecommunication services to participate in our democratic system and capitalist economy. This is all the more necessary since mail quarantines were instituted for mail sent to congressmen following the 2001 anthrax … more
Assurance Wireless offers a free wireless phone and 200 free minutes of wireless service to eligible customers each month. There are no bills, long-term contracts, activation fees, recurring fees, or surcharges for Assurance Wireless customers.