LETTER: Time to stop free phone service
The “Obamaphone” debacle on YouTube Sept. 27 supports Romney’s point about government welfare programs ballooning and fostering dependency. The Left claims no connection with Obama. Partly true.
Lifeline started in 1985 as a tiny government program providing phones to low-income disabled persons in two states. In 1996, Clinton expanded it to all 50 states. By 2008 there were 5 million disabled participants. A fuzzy confluence of events occurred about the time Obama was elected. TracFone linked with Lifeline, initially providing free cell phones to 812,807 low-income households. Anyone receiving welfare, food stamps, Medicaid, SSI, CHIP, free school lunches, Section 8 housing assistance and families with income below 135 percent of the federal poverty guidelines – about $31,000 for a family of four – 12 percent of the adult population, qualified for Lifeline. By 2011 TracFone had 3.8 million Lifeline subscribers, collecting a monthly subsidy of $9.25 for each one. Coincidence that TracFone’s CEO contributed millions to Obama’s campaigns?
Other providers scrambled to the hog trough. Advertising spread the word. Participants soared to 8.6 million in 2009 and 16.5 million in 2012. What could that have to do with the election? Eligible and ineligible individuals are receiving free phones in the mail. A recent FCC audit found an ineligibility rate of 9 to 19 percent of phone users and 400,000 households having more than one subsidized connection.
Lifeline cost $772 million in 2008; $1.1 billion in 2010, and $1.75 billion in 2011, funded by a federal tax, the universal service fee on your phone bill. The FCC predicts $3.3 billion by 2014. It wants to add broadband internet access paid for with money saved by reforms to the phone program. It’s time to hang up on this disastrous program.