The viral video sensation of the hour is a sad, terrifying, deliriously funny tirade from an Obama voter protesting at a Romney event, shrieking about the joys of her free “Obama phone” while declaring that “Romney sucks”:
I don’t think this is a put-on satire of the helpless, childish, angry dependency of the hard-core Obama voter, but if it is, this lady is a brilliant comedian.
So, what’s the deal with those “Obama phone?” A few urban-legend discussions of the topic can be found around the Internet, because a widely-forwarded viral email dating back to 2009 trumpets the “no joke” arrival of “Obamaphones.”
A thorough review of the subject reveals that there is indeed a program to provide heavily subsidized cell phones for welfare recipients. It’s an outgrowth of a program called Lifeline Assistance, which was established in 1996 by FCC mandate to help low-income people cover the cost of telephone installation. It expanded to include assistance for cell phones in 2008, which is the year Obama got elected, but George Bush was president at the time.
The qualifications for receiving assistance for this program haven’t changed since the Clinton years. “An applicant is generally eligible if they are at or below 135-150% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines (depending upon the state in which they live), or if they already participate in one of many public assistance programs such as Medicaid, food stamps, energy assistance, public housing and others,” according to FreeGovernmentCellPhones.net. Incentives are offered for bringing other denizens of Food Stamp Nation into the program.
So it would be more accurate to describe these subsidized cell phones as “Bush phones” or “Clinton phones,” if one wanted to bring the name of a president into the discussion. But maybe a better name would be “Sucker Phones,” in honor of the people who actually pay for them. If you pay for your own phone, that would be you – the program is funded through a surcharge on your monthly phone bill, directed to the Universal Service Fund.