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by Peter Moskos

April 28, 2012

Right-Wing Lies (VII) - Free Obama Phones for the Poor

A while back I started hearing rumors about "Obama phones." You know, Obama taking our hard-earned money to give free phones to undeserving poor people in the ghetto. Really? I keep hearing about this, so I thought there must be something to it. Take this facebook post from a Baltimore cop friend of mine:
Beautiful day out and then I see the all to familiar free cell tent a block away from the methadone clinic. I am so happy I PAY my cell phone bill so the "disadvantaged" can get a free phone. WTF!! The best part is both clinic and tent had the same people in line!!
Almost always (not in my friend's case) these posts are racistly linked to President "Hussein Obama". OK. I know there are racists out there (not my friend, but it's impossible to do online research into this matter without coming across a lot of them), but that's not the point. What I want to know is, is this true?! Are there tents in poor neighborhoods giving away phones? If so, why? And is it an Obama plot?

Let me put it in FAQ format:

Q: Are they really giving out phones in the hood?

A: Yes!

Q: You mean they're really giving out free phones? Like with minutes on them?

A: Yes!

Q: Is the government really taking our hard-earned money and giving poor people phone service?

A: Well, Yes. More or less. Actually a charge on your phone bill rather than a straight-up tax. But whatever.

Q: Why can't I get one?

A: You might be able to, if you're poor enough to qualify for food stamps (gross annual income of less than $14,160).

Q: What's the cash value that these moochers get?

A: About $10 a month.

Q: Is this a secret Islamic Socialist Obama plot to take they money of hard-working white Americans and give it to poor ghetto drug addicts?

A: No, you stupid schmuck!

Q: But what about that video of the woman saying "Everybody got an Obama phone"?

A: She's an idiot. As is anybody who believes Obama gives out phones.

Turns out this subsidized phone service for poor people (many of them rural whites) began under The Great American Socialist, Ronald Reagan.

In 1996, when Clinton was president, people got the choice of using this subsidy for cell-phone service instead of land-line service. Fair enough.

Then in 2005, the program was expanded during the liberal Bush administration.

So go ahead and blame Obama. Why not? He is our president. Born in the Ol' U.S. of A. He does happen to be African-American. So go ahead and blame Obama for whatever you want... but don't blame him for phones subsidies for poor people! [You could, of course, blame him for saving the economy, killing Osama Bin Laden, getting out of Iraq, and keeping this country safe from a terrorist attack.]

The actual cell-phone giveaways did start, by chance, in 2008, right before Obama was elected. Why then? Not because Sharia law was creeping over America, but because cell phone costs actually came down so much that right around then private companies could actually turn a profit by taking money from this program, even with the expense of giving away a phone.

But you know what, maybe giving phone to poor people is actually a good use of government money. Crazy, I know. But think about it. Because you can't get a job if you don't have a phone! Certainly when I was a cop, most homes I went into did not have phone service. [Many didn't have electricity, either. After a while I felt kind of silly asking for a phone number, much less a "work" phone number. Seriously, you don't know what f*cked up poverty till you're a cop in Baltimore's Eastern District.] I seriously doubt people were poor because they don't have a phone. But, should perchance you want one, it's almost impossible to get a job if you don't have a phone phone number to put on the job application so your future employer can call you!

Meanwhile, on April 15, I was with all those middle-class home-owning folk lining up at the Post Office to get my Obama money. You know, mortgage interest-tax deduction. Thank you, Mr. President. I spent mines on booze!

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