Patterico's Pontifications

10/25/2009

Free Cell Phones

Filed under: Government — DRJ @ 7:29 pm



[Guest post by DRJ]

Every low income telephone program I’ve seen requires recipients to pay something for their landline service, although often at reduced rates, but this Gateway Pundit post suggests the government is giving away free cell phones and airtime:

“SafeLink Wireless is proud to offer Lifeline Service, which is a program that enables qualifying customers to receive discounts on monthly telephone service. In our version of the program, you will receive free cellular service, a free SafeLink Wireless cell phone and the assurance that you will get no bills and no contracts EVER!

SafeLink describes this as a “program that was created by the government” available to low income people who already participate in federal or state assistance programs (like food stamps and Medicaid) and those whose total household income is at or below 135% of the poverty guidelines, provided no one else in the household has a similar service. The program also lets recipients buy more minutes if they don’t have enough free minutes.

I hope the goal of this program is to provide people with phone service so they can call for emergency assistance but, if so, the phones should limit calls to emergency contacts like 911. It doesn’t sound like there are any restrictions on phone use. If so, programs like this take away people’s incentive to work and achieve so they can buy things like cell phones. I also wonder how long it will take for someone to claim this is a government plot to give poor people cancer?

— DRJ

UPDATE 5/5/2012: Free cellphones cost the government $1B a year, and GOP Congressman Tim Griffin thinks it’s time to stop funding it.

28 Responses to “Free Cell Phones”

  1. Makes me wonder why I’m bothering to hunt for a job. My conscience just won’t let me take advantage of all this “free” stuff given out by the gov’t these days.

    wherestherum (081143)

  2. wherestherum:

    Sounds like you have a morality problem.

    Newtons.Bit (448400)

  3. Psst…911 calls are free.

    If you have a phone, cell or otherwise, you can call 911 on it. Kinda the same thing about using emergency rooms in a hospital.

    MunDane68 (54a83b)

  4. My conscience just won’t let me take advantage of all this “free” stuff given out by the gov’t these days.

    wherestherum, I believe if more people had your character, we’d all be better off. Here’s hoping you find work very soon.

    Dana (e9ba20)

  5. Why not just buy them flat-screens, an X-box, and an IPod?

    JD (4fb388)

  6. Cell phones have been provided to welfare riders for some time in this area. They have to have a way to call their drug dealers and to call 911 when their druggie friends beat he** out of them to get the drugs. Been a quiet weekend, guess the welfare checks don’t come until the end of the week.

    Scrapiron (4e0dda)

  7. I don’t have a specific comment on this particular program, but as a social security disability recipient since my early 20s I can tell you that SSD at least is set up to make it incredibly difficult to break free. You get punished for even trying if you don’t succeed.

    Soronel Haetir (2b4c2b)

  8. JD, that made me think back to when our children were small and we decide that I would stay home with them to be a full-time mom.

    My husband was still getting established in his career in those early years and there was very little extra money for luxuries, actually none really.

    Well, anyway, one of the Nintendo home systems had just come out and our and our older son, maybe 7 or 8, begged his dad for one.

    We knew we couldn’t get it, and my husband explained that we could not get it because mom stayed home and we only had so much money to spend.

    My son started to beg for it, and my husband wisely pointed out that while he couldn’t have a Nintendo, he was fortunate to have his very own “Pretendo”.

    My son asked what he meant, and his dad told him his “Pretendo” was what he unknowingly used every day to play pirates, cops and robbers, fort building, Legos, etc. My son got a big grin on his face and merrily went on his way to explain to his younger brother how great it was that to have a “Pretendo” and that his brother had one too!

    The idea is, what is wrong with going without? It can build character, and in our case, our early poor years and “Pretendo” stories are some of our favorite memories to look back on. Tough times, for sure, full of struggle but not the end of the world. We so much more fully appreciate the comfortable life we’ve come to know.

    Dana (e9ba20)

  9. Under current law, workers are required to pay tax on personal cell phone use on a work phone as a fringe benefit.

    The IRS this week issued a notice seeking public comment on ways to revise the current system. Options include letting employers deduct the entire sum of a worker’s cell phone use if a worker can establish she uses a personal phone for some period, and letting employers use statistical sampling to generalize about usage.

    Another idea is for employers to assign a set rate for business use, 75 percent proposed by the IRS, with the remaining treated as personal use.

    “For employers we thought we should give them alternative ways to take these deductions,” the IRS official said.*

    happyfeet (f62c43)

  10. Thank you, Dana. I wish there was a way to make the bleeding out of welfare stop, but there seems to be no end. The sense of entitlement people have these days is mind boggling. And I say this as someone in their mid-20s.

    And when did flat screen TVs, cable and cell phones become necessities?

    wherestherum (081143)

  11. I don’t get this post. Lifeline is nothing new. It just sounds like this company has figured out a way to get consumers to take it on cell phones rather than land lines, and at no cost to the consumer. Good business, don’t you think?

    Gerry (b58bf6)

  12. Are there programs that give free landline phones to low income people? As I said in the post, I’ve seen discount landline programs but not free ones. And as some commenters have mentioned, cell phones are still more like perks than necessities.

    Anyway, how can you say this is “no cost to the consumer”? It’s clearly free to the user but someone is paying for it, and it sounds to me like taxpaying consumers are footing this bill.

    DRJ (dff2ca)

  13. No cost ?! No cost to anyone except for people that actually pay taxes.

    JD (cb2ae5)

  14. I hope the goal of this program is to provide people with phone service so they can call for emergency assistance but, if so, the phones should limit calls to emergency contacts like 911. It doesn’t sound like there are any restrictions on phone use. If so, programs like this take away people’s incentive to work and achieve so they can buy things like cell phones.

    I seem to recall reading about programs that looked to find a way to provide phone service to those who were unemployed and needed the phone so that prospective employers could call them back if they wanted to hire them and so that they could call to setup interviews, etc. Now that I’ve got all that devil’s advocate stuff out of my system, I should also add that I would rather keep my money if given the choice between lower taxes and paying for the program.

    Anon Y. Mous (ebb7f8)

  15. Fair point. And every issue, like every website, can use a devil’s advocate.

    DRJ (dff2ca)

  16. mister mouse hit on an issue I had recently. In November, I lost my job of 9 years in such a way I could not get unemployment. In February, my savings was gone. In May, my creditors quit calling me because Time-Warner cut off my internet/cable/phone service. I went for help and got on the PIPP (percentage of income payment plan) program for my electricity and natural gas. I, of course, had zero-pay for both. But my arrears continues to grow, so I will eventually have to pay for what I use. Just not right now. In July, I got my Jeep reposessed.

    I got absolutely huge help from my mother and sister and a little bit of help from 4 different neighbors, but no government money. So my dogs and I didn’t go hungry and didn’t lose water.

    I got a prepaid cell phone, which had a start-up cost of $60 and a minimum cost of $10 every 2 months (plus tax) if very few or no minutes were used, for the purpose of gaining employment or “being there” for my daughter.

    It is very possible to survive on the kindness of others without aid from the government, aside from a forebearance (to be paid later) and I’m living proof of that. And, no, I do not have a job that pays all my bills. I have a 37.5-hour-a-week job at a dime above minimum, which is enough to keep my dogs and me fed but not enough to pay my creditors.

    All that said, tell the US Government, who is doing all sorts of unConstitutional things, to quit stealing from producers to give to the non-producers (minus a massive processing fee).

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  17. DRJ: “I also wonder how long it will take for someone to claim this is a government plot to give poor people cancer?”

    — Does Reverand Wright read this blog?

    Icy Texan (60ccf2)

  18. Sure this isn’t a scam?

    JEA (dffa7e)

  19. Sounds like a scam to me.

    jpe (b7f2d7)

  20. update: not a scam.

    jpe (08c1dd)

  21. And when did flat screen TVs, cable and cell phones become necessities?

    They became necessities when news crews went down to see how the survivors of Katrina were faring, and discovered that many had spent much of their gov’t monies on such electronica – so that was OK in their POV. But they were still living in their temporary mobile homes.

    Dmac (5ddc52)

  22. LifeLine/LinkUp is part of a real FCC program (privately-administered by a non-profit org) that’s actually been around since the Clinton Admin (or depending on how you look at it, since FDR’s New Deal). They’ve now expanded it into “free” cell phones as the cost of limited-time cells became cheaper than landlines. Unless something has changed recently funding comes from the Universal Service Fund, which in turn is funded by all telecomm companies operating in the United States.

    It’s not all that needed for simple 911 access. ALL cell phones made since Jan 1998 are supposed to be able to call 911 regardless of whether or not they are activated to a network or the bill is up to date. In my community we regularly distribute (through the Police Dept as part of community policing efforts) FREE refurbed cell phones to people in poor neighborhoods so that they can call 911 even if they’re not in their homes. (The phones we distribute are ONLY good for calling 911.)

    Tully (c2f070)

  23. You don’t need a conscience in our new socialist workers’ paradise! The guvmint is only redistributing wealth that bad people have and giving you your just due! You deserve it!

    Sure, it’s morally bankrupt and takes away any motivation to work or otherwise live with dignity, but the membership card in the Permanent Drone Majority will make up for any temporary discomfort. Soon your conscience will atrophy too.

    Patricia (c95a48)

  24. How do you get a job these days if you DON’T have a phone? I’m sure there is abuse with this as with well… everything. But children who are dumped out the foster care system at age 18 without anything need a way to become productive. It is not their fault who their parents were. Yes, I know some get adopted and some have wonderful foster parents. But many have no one at all. Even a job at a fast food place wants you to have a phone # first.

    Cindy (742bb6)

  25. You’ve got to be kidding me here. Yeah, who cares how you spend it? its only my money. What can we say or do to get it through our leaders’ heads that spending should be limited?

    A.W. (b1db52)

  26. They have already had a program like this in Alaska for quite some time. They give out free cell phones to poor people in case of emegency, and boy do they work!
    Just the other day I was listening to my local talk radio show when a homeless woman called in to voice her political (drunk) opinions. It was quite touching to know that we were paying for her to call in. And yes, she said it was a free phone that she got and the only problem with them is that they keep getting stolen. So these irresponsible people are given free phone after free phone cause they keep ‘losing’ them? Come on.

    Jen (e373ff)

  27. Cell phones have been provided to welfare riders for some time in this area.

    free (5fcd36)

  28. Hooray for this program that offers free cell phones. My brother is a double amputee, both of his legs are cut off. He lives alone and has a very limited income. He is a diabetic who recently became gravely ill, he was alone in his apartment without a phone. By the time he arrived at the hospital the doctors had minutes to rush him into surgery. A phone could have saved time notifying the hospital or ambulance. Regardless of those who think free programs should be abolished, I thank God for corporations who undersand how to do well, while doing good in the neighborhoods.

    Dora (1342a9)


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