It's called the Universal Service Fund and it gets money by taxing phone companies. We all know that the phone companies pass along those taxes to each of us. You see it on your home and cell phone bills as the Universal Service Charge which, according to my January home phone bill, increased as of 1/1/2010. From my bill:
"This fee supports telecommunication needs of low-income households, consumers living in high-cost areas, schools, libraries and rural hospitals."
Why am I paying a phone tax to support libraries and schools, not to mention hospitals????
Originally, the tax was supposed to "provide affordable rates for those living in less densely populated areas where phone service was more costly."
However, in 1996, Congress voted to extend the use of this fund to subsidize low-income households and subsequently expanded the list of those required to pay into the fund to include: local telephone companies, wireless companies, paging services, and payphone providers. (Naturally, the cost for this fund is passed to the customer.) In 2008, the Federal Communications Commission began subsidizing cell phones for low-income households.
According to Heritage:
Welfare recipients in approximately 20 states – with more to follow – are currently eligible to receive a free cell phone with a limited number of monthly minutes. All individuals that qualify for state or federal welfare–food stamps, Medicaid, etc.–and have an income at or below 135% of the poverty level, are eligible. According to a Fox News report, the cell phone service is currently the fastest growing welfare program in the country.
In 2008, the fund that foots the bill for this program contributed $819 million to subsidize low-income telephone services. The fund is projected to grow to over $1 billion this year. That’s $1 billion of over $800 billion the United States will spend on welfare in 2010.
According to the Fox News Report linked in the quote:
And in some markets, the number receiving this benefit is exploding, up 600 percent in New Hampshire and up 900 percent in New Jersey in just two months, according to government figures.
"If they would give us free phones, that would be fantastic," said Lester Frasier, outside a welfare center in Los Angeles. "It will free up more money for me, that's one less bill for me."
Isn't that nice? Lester would have one less bill to pay, but I'd be paying more just so he doesn't have to????
Didn't you know that cell phone ownership is a 'right'?
Yep! One of the contracted providers for the government program is SafeLink Wireless (TracFone) which states on their website:
TracFone Wireless believes that cell phone ownership is a right and an important tool for individual success in today's world. Everyone should have a cell phone without the need for a contract or a high credit rating. People should have the right to always know what their cell phone service will cost and no one should have to pay more than they want or can afford. (emphasis added)
But a huge problem with the program is the lack of monitoring. If the cell phones are supposed to be for quick emergency calls or to aid in a job search, why aren't the recipients required to show that the majority of calls on the phone are for those purposes?
And what happens if the recipient gets a job and is no longer eligible for the free phone? Nothing! There is no one checking continued eligibility.
So you and I continue to pay our bills and meet our financial obligations in these difficult economic times while being taxed to provide giveaways to 'poor' people who then are absolved from all responsibility to provide for themselves.
Think about it...how many government aid recipients would make different decisions if they didn't have food, housing, cash, transportation, cell phones, insulation, etc... paid for by someone else?
Even Jesus recognized that the 'poor' will always be with us, but I bet a large majority of government recipients would find a way to meet their personal needs if they didn't have our tax dollars to support them.