Mike Kueber's Blog

March 13, 2013

Obamaphones

Filed under: Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 6:54 pm
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I try not to get distracted by anti-Obama allegations that are often circulating either in conservative blogs or on talk radio – allegations such as Obama’s Kenyan birth, his Muslim roots, or his plans to declare martial law.  One such allegation that I’ve often heard but never bothered to examine concerns so-called Obamaphones.

Today, however, a Facebook friend who works for Congressman Castro, Cary Clack, posted something from Rachel Maddow’s blog suggesting that the conservative criticism was manufactured fiction.  One of Cary’s friends commented that this sort of meanness and ignorance from conservatives is why she left the Republican Party.  That characterization prompted me to examine the Obamaphone.

As reported in the Maddow blog, the Obamaphone was actually a federal program – Lifeline – started by Reagan in 1984.  The program enabled welfare recipients (Medicaid, food stamps, etc.) to get a basic landline for emergency purposes.  Clinton in 1996 extended the coverage, and Bush-43 in 2008 expanded coverage to include cellphones.  Because of this expansion to include cellphones, the cost of the Lifeline program has tripled from $819 million in 2008 to $2.2 billion in 2012. 

Conservative criticism of the Obamaphone because inflamed shortly before last year’s presidential election with a YouTube video of a Cleveland woman.  The woman loudly proclaimed her undying allegiance to Obama because he gave her and all her friends and neighbors Obamaphones.  Because the video went viral in the conservative world, it is easy to understand why Romney would characterize Obama as a gift-giving politician.  The same thing could be said about Romney’s malignant characterization of 47% of American households that don’t pay income taxes.  That is a number that has been circulating in the conservative world for years.

In addition to criticism of Lifeline as gift-giving politics, the other conservative criticism was based on the amount of fraud in the program.  According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, a recent investigation determined that as many as 41% of the program beneficiaries aren’t entitled to the benefits.  And, although the New York Post suggests that Obama deserves credit for cracking down on this fraud, I think it is also fair to say that Obama deserves blame for allowing the spending on this entitlement program to get so out-of-control.

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