Free cell phones for low-income Americans, one of the fastest growing welfare programs in the United States, is—by the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) own admission—rife with “waste, fraud and abuse.” And who is paying for these free Obamaphones? If you have a phone subscription, you are.
The program, officially called Lifeline, predates Obama’s presidency but has earned the colloquial name “Obamaphone” after nearly tripling in cost since 2008.
Almost everyone who pays a phone bill has an extra monthly charge that contributes to the Universal Service Fund, which covers Lifeline access. The government pays companies $9.25 for every person connected through Lifeline. Recipients typically receive a free wireless phone and a certain amount of airtime.
These Obamaphones aren’t iPhones, but they typically have nearly all the capabilities offered through a standard phone contract.
SafeLink, for example, offers government-sponsored plans that not only include basics like local, long distance, and emergency calls, but other amenities such as international calls, 1,000 texts, carry-over minutes, call waiting, roaming, and a choice of 67, 125, or 250 minutes—all at no cost and contract-free. If 250 monthly minutes are not enough to call potential employers, no problem! Referring a friend for a free cell phone will score an additional 100 minutes.