September 27 2012

Woman: I Am Voting for Obama because He Gave Me a Free Phone!

Charlotte Hays

Mitt Romney has been pilloried for saying that there are voters he can’t get because they want free stuff from the government.

What a mean thing to say!

So what is one to make of this Youtube video in which a woman says she plans to vote for President Obama because he gave her a free phone?

This is so outrageous that for a few seconds I thought it was a hoax. But let's assume until further notice that it's on the up and up.

The woman in the video is likely talking about a government program that provides help with phones for welfare recipients. Though the phones are widely known as “Obama phones,” the program started before President Obama came to office.   

Politifact responded to an email query about the phone perk:  

All those perks are the result of Federal Communications Commission programs to help low-income people get phone service. Specifically, Lifeline, which TracPhone participates in, provides discounts on basic monthly phone service, and Link-Up America helps those who qualify get telephone service by paying one-half of the startup fee, according to the FCC Web site. Eligible participants must have an income that is at or below 135 percent of the federal poverty level or use Medicaid, food stamps, federal public housing assistance, or supplemental security income, among other things. In some cases, states administer their own programs.  
 
We spoke with Rosemary Kimball, an FCC spokeswoman, to get more details.
 
She said consumers can qualify for a cell phone plan if they don't have access to a land-line. Though the exact details of the benefit vary from state to state, cell phone providers typically provide low-income consumers with some form of a monthly discount, whether it be free minutes or a reduced rate, she said. …

The program is more than decade old.
 
Kimball said it comes from the 1996 Telecommunications Act, which amended the Communications Act of 1934 to require low-income assistance. The law required the FCC to create the Universal Service Fund, a pool of money subsidized by small charges on our phone bills (we checked our bill and found we kicked in $2.80 last month) and redistributed to the low-income service programs as well as programs that bring telecommunications services to rural areas and schools. And the LifeLine program has been around even longer — since 1985.

It's a matter of opinion whether this program threatens the very foundations this country was built on. But the e-mail is correct that tax dollars are being used to support the cell phone program. Still, it mischaracterizes the program by making it seem as if it was created by the Obama administration. In fact, Lifeline and Link-Up have been around for nearly 14 years. These are not "Obama phones." (Maybe we should call them "Clinton phones.") So we rate the claim Barely True.

Okay, so President Obama didn’t give this woman a free phone—you and I did, Ms. Taxpayer.

But he is going to reap the benefit.

Somebody owes Mitt Romney an apology.

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