The Right To Life, Liberty And The Pursuit Of Free Cell Phones
It must be in that other version of the Declaration of Independence. Not the one we learned about in school that guarantees everyone "the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness". No, this is the Obama version that guarantees everyone "life, liberty and free cell phones (provided by taxpayers at no small charge by a large campaign contributor)".
Decades ago, the government placed a surcharge on phone bills. This surcharge was designed to generate revenue to help phone companies defray the costs of providing landline coverage to rural areas.
This program, originally designed to help build the telecommunications infrastructure of this country, has now morphed into free cell phones for anyone who asks. Since 2008, the cost of providing free cell phones has swelled from $772 million to the current cost of $1.6 billion.
"Free" is, of course, relative. The cell phones are paid for by fees charged existing telephone users. In essence, this is a tax.
The biggest beneficiary of this fee isn't the "free stuff" crowd though. It's actually a Mexican telecom mogul named Carlos Slim, who coincidentally happens to be one of President Obama's largest campaign contributors. Slim, you see, has a controlling interest in TracFone. TracFone makes $10 per phone for each cell phone it provides to "the poor".
Nice work if you can get it.
To this point, I'm looking at a mass mailing that was sent to "Residents" at various zip codes in Milwaukee by SafeLink Wireless.
The mailing says: "Dear Sir/Madam, We are contacting you because you may qualify for Lifeline program benefits and have the right to request a free cell phone with free monthly minutes from SafeLink Wireless. Once your application is approved, you will receive a brand-name cell phone such as LG or Samsung, and up to 250 free minutes every month for local and long distance calls, text messages and much more! The program is supported by the Federal Lifeline Program. You won't pay anything. There are no bills, no contracts, no credit checks and no fees. All you have to do is fill out and sign the enclosed application, and send it back in the pre-addressed envelope to get your free phone and start service. ... Don't forget to tell your friends and family about this great opportunity and we look forward to you joining SafeLink Wireless".
Heck, you don't even need a stamp to get your "free" phone. Be sure to "tell your friends"!
The application itself, in English and Spanish, describes the program and lists 10 separate categories of public assistance that qualify you for free cell phone service. You do have to sign the form under "penalty of perjury" but the next person prosecuted for cell phone fraud will probably be the first person prosecuted for cell phone fraud.
Should we really be surprised then that this program is being abused?
It should be no shock that a St. Louis television station caught people on camera enrolling for multiple cell phones, not providing proper documentation and (my personal favorite) talking on a cell phone while signing up for a "free" one.
I understand that some people think that they're entitled to have everything they want from the government. In this regard, I think some entitlement programs provide the less fortunate with an important safety net. That safety net shouldn't be a hammock however.
After cell phones, what's next? Free cable television? Free iPads? Free compact cars? Don't laugh, these make as much sense as free cell phones.
If President Obama is re-elected, I have no doubt that the "free" cell phone for all movement will continue to grow and prosper. As for those of us that don't have "Free" cell phones, the government has one word to describe us.