Obamaphones: Who Says There’s No Free Lunch?

The matter of free cell phones for the needy is back in the news. Like most misleading legislative titles, this one was originally known as the Lifeline Assistance Program. But now it’s better known as the “Obamaphone” program. It’s been around since 1985 as a means of providing rural families with a means of communicating with each other. Not unlike the Rural Electrification Administration (REA), or the Post Office’s Rural Free Delivery (RFD) routes. Theoretically, to participate in the program, consumers must have an income at or below 135% of the federal Poverty Guidelines; or be eligible for a selected list of government entitlements. In 2005, wireless cell phones were added, and the rush was on! Then its popularity really exploded in 2012 when the video of a woman in the presidential battleground state of Ohio went viral, saying that she and “everybody in Cleveland, every minority, got an Obamaphone. Keep Obama as president. He gave us a phone. He gonna do more.”

A week or so later I was watching John Stossel on FOX NEWS interviewing another lady who, when opening her purse, showed six (6) of what she also called “Obamaphones.” The reason for the six? Well, with this deal you only get 250 free minutes per month, per phone, and her need obviously exceeded that limit.

So how does all this work? A Mexican telecom mogul, and one of President Obama’s top donors, Senor Carlos Slim, is getting even richer from this U.S. government program to supply Obamaphones to the poor.
     Senor Slim, shown here displaying his White House ID badge while en route to a Presidential dinner, is listed by Forbes as the world’s richest man, with an estimated net worth of $70 billion.

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Slim owns a controlling stake in TracFone, which takes in $10 per phone, per month, for each device it provides to poor Americans. Considering that there are now more than 12 million Obamaphones currently in use. That calculates to $120,000,000 per month being charged to American taxpayers. TracFone is estimated to enjoy 29% of that amount.

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The company, whose president and CEO is Frederick “F.J.” Pollak, also makes money from extra minutes and data plans it sells to subscribers who get phones and service through the government’s Lifeline program. Pollak donated $156,500 to Democrat candidates during the last election cycle, including at least $50,000 to the Obama campaign. His wife, Abigail, a campaign bundler for Obama, raised more than $632,000 for the 2012 presidential campaign, and more than $1.5 million since 2007. She has personally contributed more than $200,000 to Democrat candidates and committees since 2008.

The Pollaks hosted Obama at their Miami Beach home for a $40,000 per plate fundraising dinner, and hosted a similar event with Michelle Obama in July 2008. The couple personally donated a combined $66,200 to Obama’s re-election effort that year.

The temptation was just too great. I applied,
submitting my actual personal financial data (the form said that lying would be considered a felony, so I wasn’t going to jail over a cell phone which I really didn’t need anyhow). I’m not wealthy by any means, but I did confess to owning two cars, maintaining both checking and saving accounts, and having a roof over my head. To verify my honesty, I even sent them last years 1040!

Shazzam!!! Three days later, here came my free Obamaphone! Good one too! Works great. Now that I have it, I don’t know what to do with it. So far I have only used it to locate my real cell phone when I can’t remember where I left the thing!

Then, within the next four days I received three unsolicited government e-mails on how to properly use all its features — which is more than I can say for Verizon!

U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin, (R-Ark.), one of the biggest critics of Lifeline’s explosive growth, recently introduced a bill on Capitol Hill to end the $2.26 billion Lifeline program, up from $772 million in 2008.  “This program is rife with waste and abuse,” Griffin said. “It’s set up in a way where people can receive multiple phones for free.”

Griffin said he has seen cases in which single individuals obtained dozens of the phones, and that under the lax requirements, more than 80 million Americans are eligible. Naturally, it didn’t take long for recipients to learn they could pawn the units for about $40 each.

I am sure the 80 million estimate is quite low, since I am not considered to be “poor” by their standards, and yet, I got one by simply filling out the form and sending it in. I don’t want an Obamaphone. I don’t need an Obamaphone. I only applied to see if I could get one. And, sadly, I could.

There was a time here in rural Tennessee when a vote could be bought for a Mason jar of bootleg whiskey. It’s a little more expensive these days, and Senor Slim gets a gift that just keeps on giving!

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