Free phones are costing the government billions and coming out of the average Joes pocket.
The California Lifeline program, also known as â€œObama Phonesâ€, is a program that gives away free mobile phones to low-income residents. According to Progresstexas.org, in order to be eligible for the program applicants must make under $11,170 per individual, $23,050 for a family of four. Applicants can also be enrolled in programs such as Medicaid, Supplemented Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).
The purpose of the â€œObama Phoneâ€ is to give low-income families access to emergency services, jobs, healthcare and social services. However, according to Congressman Tim Griffonâ€™s article on griffon.house.gov, this is not the case and the Lifeline program has been plagued by waste, fraud, and abuse for years.
â€œThe evidence is stacking up,â€ said Griffon. â€œDead people are receiving free cell phones in the mail, eligible and ineligible individuals are obtaining more than one, and electronic kiosks have been stationed in convenience stores to spread the word about this “free” opportunity.â€
According to progresstexas.org, â€œPoverty has increased substantially, from 12.5 percent in 2007 to 15.1 percent in 2010, resulting in more households qualifying for the program.â€ Even though the purpose of the program was to get families out of these types of situations, it seems the hole is only being dug deeper. Also in that time the program has grown to cost the government $2.2 billion as last recorded in 2012 by the federal communications commission.
The trick to the â€œObama Phonesâ€ is that the government is not actually taxing the American people directly. Instead, the program is funded by the Universal Service Fund (USF), which receives its resources from a fee that most telephone users unknowingly pay.
The billions of dollars that get put into an obviously wasteful program could be much more beneficial to the American people if used towards educational programs, as stated on mccaskill.senate.gov by U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill.
A better program, like the ConnectED initiative, is trying to use existing funds to connect 99 percent of students in the U.S. to internet and educational technology in classrooms.
â€œThe ConnectED initiative has incredible potential to improve the lives of young folks around the country-especially students in lower-income and rural areas,” said McCaskill. â€œIt’s common sense that we concentrate existing money on the program with promise, and eliminate the one that’s proved to be obsolete and a target for fraud and abuse.”
The logical thing to do now would be to shutdown the program for good and hang up on â€œObama Phonesâ€.