Free phones are costing the government billions and coming out of the average Joes pocket.

The California Lifeline program, also known as “Obama Phones”, is a program that gives away free mobile phones to low-income residents. According to, 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 “Obama Phone” is to give low-income families access to emergency services, jobs, healthcare and social services. However, according to Congressman Tim Griffon’s article on, this is not the case and the Lifeline program has been plagued by waste, fraud, and abuse for years.

“The evidence is stacking up,” said Griffon. “Dead 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.”

According to, “Poverty has increased substantially, from 12.5 percent in 2007 to 15.1 percent in 2010, resulting in more households qualifying for the program.” 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 “Obama Phones” 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 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.

“The 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. “It’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 “Obama Phones”.

Sources: ontinue-push-lifeline-program

One Reply to “OP-ED: Can You Hear Me Now?”

  1. The government can only GIVE what it *takes* from someone else.

    “The most eye-opening civics lesson I ever had was while teaching 3rd grade. I decided we should hold an election for a class president. We would choose our nominees and they could make a campaign speech, and then the class would vote. To simplify the process, candidates were nominated by other class members. We discussed what kind of characteristics these students should have. We got many nominations and from those, Jamie and Olivia were picked to run for the top spot.

    The class had done a great job in their selections. Both candidates were good kids. I thought Jamie might have an advantage because he received lots of parental support. I had never seen Olivia’s mother.

    The day arrived when they were to make their speeches. Jamie went first. He had specific ideas about how to make our class a better place. He ended by promising to do his very best. Everyone applauded and he sat down.

    Now it was Olivia’s turn to speak. Her speech was concise. She said, “If you will vote for me, I will give you all free ice cream.” She sat down.

    The class went absolutely wild. “Yes! Yes! We want free ice cream.” She surely would say more. She did not have to.

    A discussion followed. How did she plan to pay for the ice cream? She was not sure, but no one pursued that question. They took her at her word.

    Would her parents buy the ice cream? Who would pay for it? She did not know.

    The class really did not care. All they were thinking about was free ice cream. Jamie was forgotten. Olivia won by a landslide.

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