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Where will the entitlement madness finally end???

  • May 5, 2010
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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.  
Where will the entitlement madness finally end???

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January 21, 2011
Yes! Yes! Yes! Others may think we're heartless, but we're bankrupting the entire freakin' country with the government's inability to stop pissing away cash (while funding banking bonuses through bailouts - yay!).

If you want to get even more aggravated, check out this GAO report that shows how the Defense Department left unused 270,000 commercial airline tickets ($100 million) and then the Pentagon couldn't be bothered to get refunds for these fully refundable tickets.

That whooshing noise is the sound of our future being flushed down the toilet...
November 14, 2010
you guys are totally unreal and totally heartless. i am a disabled veteran who is wheelchair bound. i don't get much from the va each month but i get more than most disabled people. i served my country for almost 11 years active duty and three years reserve. i worked as long as i could until my inflammatory arthritis cripped me into a shell of my former self. i'll be totally honest...i'll take anything the government wants to give me for free. i earned it each time i raised my right hand and swore to defend my country. maybe, you idiots should do a little more research before making your balnket hateful statements. btw, i am nearly deaf too from my autoimmune disease.
November 14, 2010
Iceturkee I am not totally heartless. I have a great heart. I am also a veteran with eleven good years. I got out because I chose to, but respect your service and commitment. But that has nothing to do with this issue. If this program was reserved for those who EARNED it, that would be a different story. It is not. Drug dealers with no income that are on food stamps because their income is illegal use these phones to further the drug trade. Let that sink in for a minute. My anecdote reads much differently from your own. But it is equally true. So indiscriminate benefit programs have to end somewhere. We cannot AFFORD them. We are broke. Would you rather we just collapse the economy? The majority people who will suffer are at the lower end of the income spectrum. I don't think people realize that. Many poor people will starve to death or kill themselves in violent riots if the economy collapses. That is where we are headed. So instead of lobbing insults, especially at a fellow veteran, consider the complete ramifications of this program. I will allow that you have earned your entitlements and would challenge anyone who tried to take them away. But you fall into a much different category than someone who has never raised their hand...expect maybe to get fingerprinted. And I have done quite a bit of research on this subject. John
November 14, 2010
true story, almost 2 years ago i tried to qualify for vocational rehab so i could go back to work. the va turned me down because of the severity of my health issues. i am 60 years old. i tried to work with the system as long as i could. but i'm caught between a rock and a hard place. i make too much money for govt assistance and too little to move into a nice senior housing/assisted living facility. i am angry because too many people take advantage of the welfare system leaving nothing for a legtimate person such as myself. i have had govt assistance. i hated it so much i did everything i could to assure i'd get a check every month. i guess i'm mad because too many people make the assumption all people on the take are abusing the system. so john, my apologies for venting my growing frustration.
November 14, 2010
No need to apologize. As I said, I would challenge anyone who would deprive a veteran of what they have earned. And this really goes to my point. The system is not set up to help those in need. It is set up to maintain a system of poverty without opportunity. Often those most deserving are treated the worst under this system (as you have presented). We need an overhaul of the current entitlement system to one that reinforces positive behavior. And we need real opportunity. I wish the best and hope that you find relief.
November 14, 2010
that is the god's honest truth. i agree the system needs serious overhauling. but we may disagree about ending entitlement altogether. it might be real easy to say we are in overload here. it would be another, if god forbid, you woke up one morning facing serious health challenges that cost more than your insurance can afford. its real easy to critical of something one day and then need it the next.
November 14, 2010
I have been on both sides of the fence, so I understand where you are coming from. As a recently discharged Marine, I had to pay for the birth of my first child. I had made too much money in the month previous to my discharge to qualify for benefits and my military benefits did not extend past my discharge date. I wrote to my Congressman and they eventually changed the law...but that did not help me personally. I paid with my life savings for that birth. But I did not suggest that we end entitlement. I suggested that we overhaul it. That means changing the way it is distributed. Means testing is not the most effective way of determining need.
November 14, 2010
just to change the subject a little but are you enrolled in the va system? i have been using the va since 1988 and it frustrates me to no end but its better than nothing. i don't think they would have paid anything to offset the birth of your child (congrats, i'm about to become a great aunt in a few months). i constantly complain about the va but i would hate to think where i would be without it.
November 14, 2010
That birth was nineteen years ago...and she is healthy as ever. They changed the law not too long after that. Maybe in part due to my complaint to Jesse Helms, who at that time was the chairman of the armed services committee. I do not use the VA. I struggled for a few years after I got out, and was smart enough to get a catastrophic health insurance policy...which I never needed, but it was there. They I landed a decent job with health benefits, so I do not need the VA. I am aware of the issues that have arisen regarding the VA and am shocked. It is a shame that we give free health care (quality care) to the poor but treat our vets so shamefully. In fact, that is one of my fears about government run health care. The VA should scare anyone that is in favor of a government option.
November 14, 2010
you are fortunate that you have other health options. and yes i would agree that one only need to research the va's pitfalls to be concerned about government run healthcare. that said, i believe any healthcare is better than none. its a far cry from perfect...a far, far cry. but the alternatives, to some, can be far more devastating.
November 02, 2010
I could not agree with you more, this entitlement era must end, or it will be the end of all of us. Personally, I use an old cell phone and pay once a year for 1000 minutes. No USF attached to that that I can see.
November 03, 2010
I see it is up to 250 free minutes now...
May 07, 2010
I don't much about this topic...thanks for sharing! Thought-provoking as always.
May 06, 2010
I understand your anger about having been deceived into paying taxes to support something that you didn't even know existed, but I think that suggesting this has to do with entitlement isn't really accurate. There are a lot of towns, such as my own, where people work themselves to the point of exhaustion and yet they can't afford to pay their phone bills. So, there are a ton of people, including those with disabilities, who would benefit from this and who deserve it. However, I think a simpler solution would have been to have toll-free phone booths instead of wasting all this money on the cell phones. It would cost less, because likely tax dollars are also paying for replacement ones if these get damaged, and let's face it, cell phones aren't exactly environmentally friendly either.
May 06, 2010
I deal with the "entitlement" crowd regularly. The majority of the ones I come in contact with have better phones than me, gaming systems and every other manner of electronic device. There is way too much abuse in the system already without adding more free give-aways. I concur with making communications available via cell towers or phone lines into areas where service population might not cover the cost of a profitable company putting assets in the area. But not free phones. People can try to justify that until they are blue in the face. I am not buying it. My understanding is that used cell phones can be used to dial 911...give them recycled phones with no minutes on them. 200 minutes a month? Are you kidding me?
May 06, 2010
A good review all around, and especially well-researched, but I have to disagree with your outrage to a certain extent. While I understand why some people become outraged at the idea that other people get something for free that they had to pay for, or that their money involuntarily goes to benefit others, there is a necessity for this.

The major concern behind the origins of the SafeLink program, and its subsequent tweaking to incorporate modern technology, is to ensure that communications companies do not deny coverage based on profitability. There are important elements to our country's infrastructure, and one of these is ability to openly and effectively communicate withing its boundaries. If given the opportunity to deny services simply because of profit motivations, entire sections of the country could be denied essential telecommunications services.

So this is really less of an "entitlement" program than it is a regulation of an integral part of American life. And as with any corporation, the cost of business is passed onto you, the consumer. I agree that it sucks a bit. But not everything that needs to be done is popular.
May 06, 2010
There are two uses of that money which I have no problem with. Subsidizing hearing impaired users for access to phone service and infrastructure in less profitable areas. I understand that remote areas might still not be connected to hardline telephone service if it were not mandated, because of the lack of profitability. But that is another issue altogether from free cell phones. I don't see the two as compatible. So in terms of providing "access" I am all for it...in terms of giving something away free...no way.
May 07, 2010
I don't understand where people come up with the idea that one extreme (totally unregulated free-market economics) is any better than the opposite extreme (totally regulated command economics). You might have had a point about the evils of market regulation (or as you called it, "government killing competition, controlling markets, and setting prices"), if years of completely unregulated market activities, much of it shady and unscrupulous, hadn't resulted in the near-collapse of the US economy and a recession far worse than the one under Jimmy Carter.

I can understand if people feel that billions of dollars in bailouts payed to failing banks and auto manufacturers is unfair market manipulation, but giving free cellphones and reduced rates to people living 135% below the poverty line doesn't seem to be hurting Verizon or Sprint at all.
May 07, 2010
Actually, the number I used is correct. (I had included the link to LifeLine.gov to verify it, but for some reason it didn't make it to the post.) What was incorrect was my phrasing, which should have been 135% OF the poverty line, not BELOW. But thank you for taking a whole paragraph to use the miscommunication to somehow mathematically prove that poor people are living large and reaping the benefits of liberals hell-bent on destroying American culture as we know it. Now I can skip Glenn Beck tonight.
May 08, 2010
Smichael...you seem to indicate in your posting earlier in this thread that the economic crisis was somehow tied to deregulation.  If anyone considers 78,000 pages of regulations a lack of oversight, I must have missed something.  That is the length of the regulations that oversee our commerce.  I would like to get a few facts out there...because this misrepresentation of the economy has run rampant in certain circles.

First of all...the bubbles in our economy can be tied directly back to our money being taken off the gold standard and setting up the Federal Reserve...a private entity that can produce money without silver and gold backing (everyone say thank-you Woodrow Wilson).  This secret take-over of our monetary system was done in a hush-hush meeting of the top bankers down in Georgia nearly a century ago.

That devaluation of our money has allowed banks to lend money exponentially.  Combined with a perfect storm of bad policies, this created one disaster and we are still awaiting MORE.  Housing markets further spun out of control due to government manipulation (some might actually call that regulation) which required banks to lend to undesirable risks.  Those loans were underwritten by another phony entity created by the government to reduce the risk (Fannie and Freddie...entities that Barney Frank defended right up until the end).  The bad loans were bundled and sold as securities, freeing the banks to lend MORE BAD MONEY that they could simply pass along with the rest.  When the housing markets corrected, the overextended loans and ridiculous gimmicks used to get unworthy credit risks into bigger homes than they could afford created a dilemma. 

Basically, the housing bubble was supported by the market bubble, to hyper-inflated segments of our economy that were too directly tied into each other because of the stupid concept of selling mortgages off.  When one deflates, the other does.  When one pops...the other does.  Deregulation had nothing to do with it. 
May 05, 2010
How far off until entitlement Corvettes are around the corner? I can't aford one, therefore I want one and should have one. It's fiberglass and won't rust therefore if I go back to Wisconsin, I don't have to worry about roadsalt eating my car. Give me a corvette Obama.
May 05, 2010
The problem with your Obama-vette is that it will constantly pull left.
May 05, 2010
OOOOOOOOOOOOOHHH! BURN!! I'll remember it.
November 02, 2010
Sorry to break this to you John, but with Obama's Green Initiative, you'd probably be getting a Chevy Volt rather than a Chevy Corvette. Though that wouldn't be so bad either...
May 05, 2010
Never heard of this program before, but wow.  I hate to sound so insensitive, but no one needs a computer, no one needs internet and no one needs a cellphone.  Up until just a few years ago, tons of people seemed to be living just fine without them, and a ton of people continue to live just fine without these things.  Sure, they're nice to have and do make your life a bit more convenient, but they're far from necessities like clothes, shelter and food. 

Not only do programs like these promote entitlement, they also promote helplessness, and take away any motivation, that people who this program was designed to help, to do better for themselves and to work up the money to afford these things for themselves.  If people who fall within this income bracket keep getting more than the bare necessities to survive for free, why would they ever want to strive to do better?  What's going to be offered next?  Diamonds and cars?  Thanks for the heads up on this, John.  Very interesting and thought-provoking.
May 05, 2010
Thanks for commenting. I agree. If you examine our description of poverty and compare it to the rest of the world it changes your perspective. Our poorest citizens live far better lives than the majority of the people on this planet.
May 07, 2010
I have to disagree. Some people don't have good paying jobs and cannot afford to maintain the cost of a cell phone. I think that people benefit from this program, like the elderly, the disabled and the poor. I don't think the goverment would give people free phones for no reason. They would have to be a requirement, like being on foodstamps or medicare, and the phone would only be temporary. People did get along fine without that stuff back then, but it's a different world today....and alot of people buy things they don't need because they enjoy using them....
May 07, 2010
No one needs a public park or a public library either, yet I don't see a massive movement calling for their elimination. Well, besides Chris Christie in New Jersey, that is. Public schools are also a classic example of people "getting something for nothing," so I suppose we should close them down as well?

I think what gets lost in these arguments about "entitlements" and "handouts" is that most people with no experience with these programs is that they tend to equate receiving government help to free samples at the supermarket. I personally have never collected welfare or food stamps, but I have met people who were forced to do so in times of need, and empathize with the shame and defeat they expressed at having to use them. Yes, they all felt helpless, but only because they had to resort to such programs, and their despair at being in such a situation was their motivation to to get out of it. Are some people content with collecting welfare rather than working? Sure. Some people are content with stealing rather than working, too. But not everyone without a job is a thief.

Now, I understand that cell-phones aren't food stamps, but in this discussion they have been lumped into the same "entitlement" category that most welfare programs get lumped into, so I don't think it is an unfair comparison. You are right, cell phones aren't a necessity to life, but they are becoming more and more a part of daily life, and if anybody wants to prove me otherwise by not using theirs for an entire month, I look forward to their testimony. I'm only kidding, of course, but an inexpensive cell phone (they aren't passing out free iPhones, after all) might be the tool that helps a single mother 135% below the poverty line obtain the job that helps her get a leg up, and that doesn't seem like such a stretch to me.

Yes, if the government starts handing out free diamonds and, I might join you in your outrage and concern. But I don't see helping the poor and working poor communicate with others as a major step towards an absolute welfare state.  
May 08, 2010
YES! Let's close the public schools and privatize!
May 09, 2010
Wow, there are lots of strong opinions being shared here! You all should really consider making your comments into reviews so that they don't get lost in the comment threads ;)
May 26, 2010
the phones are provided by the service providor the orginal program that allows this is called lifeline it was orignaly intended for home phone but has since changed to cellphones
November 02, 2010
I couldn't have put it better myself Devora, thank you!
More Assurance Wireless reviews
review by . December 23, 2011
I ordered this phone for my daughter to use for safety reasons, and It was never shipped to me. I reported that and they verified the had the right address and said they re-sent it out, and still never received it. I tried 2 more times and gave up..never received the phone. They even sent me a letter asking did I receive it and wanted me to rate the phone service. I don't understand what the problem was..but they have some bad Customer Service.
review by . January 24, 2011
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 …
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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.
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