Speaking of entitlements like food, housing, and healthcare, advocates for the poor are now insisting that having a cell phone is also a necessity of life which should be taxpayer-subsidized:

Should the poor have cell phones?

It's a question that has engaged both ends of the political spectrum since 2004, when the conservative Heritage Foundation published a controversial paper saying the poor enjoy "high living standards" and cited as proof that many have cell phones, among other things.

In rebuttal, advocates for the poor have argued that cell phones are not luxuries but necessities, as basic to modern life as electricity.

Complicating the debate these days is a new development: free cell phones for the poor and working poor distributed by a Miami wireless company.

They're paid for, in part, by charges on phone bills that the federal government allows carriers to levy. It's a little-known collaboration between the federal government and phone carriers, devised by the Reagan administration 26 years ago.

What this does is to force paying customers to fund phone service for non-paying customers. Saying that the government "allows" carriers to do this is a bit deceptive, because I suspect they are required to do it. The whole idea blurs the distinction between government and private business -- and most likely, that's the whole idea. Corporate socialism -- enforced not by the government, but by big business.

The Lifeline program does seem to be a Reagan vintage idea, too (aided by later Republicans, of course):

Though free phones are a new idea, the notion of the government's becoming involved to help the poor get phone service is not.

The federal Lifeline program, begun in 1984, requires phone companies to discount the bills of poor people up to $10 a month.

The Federal Communications Commission established a subsidy for carriers so they could recover those costs. Money for that subsidy comes from all phone customers, who pay a charge of up to $2 per monthly bill.

Under the administration of former President George W. Bush, TracFone and other wireless carriers were allowed to participate in what had been a wired-only program, industry experts say. TracFone changed the equation two years ago by offering discounted service and free cell phones.

To opponents, the government funding feels as though phone customers are being surreptitiously taxed, said Kevin Kelly, a leader of Loyal Opposition, a conservative Center City political group.

"This is theft masquerading as charity," he said. "If companies want to help the poor, they should take the money out of their own hides, not their customers'."

I can't help notice that the plan they're talking about only offers 68 minutes of free talk a month. Isn't that unfair? I mean, why should the rich get more minutes than the poor? Shouldn't poor people have just as much right to unlimited service as anyone else?

I'm wondering where these endlessly-expanding entitlements to "necessities" will end. Is a television a necessity? If so, then why not cable TV or satellite? How about a car? A computer? A washer and a dryer? A dishwasher? Automatic garbage disposal? And what about furniture? Isn't there a right to beds, chairs, tables, pillows, bookcases, patio furniture? And if there's an entitlement to these things, isn't there also an entitlement to have them repaired?

I think it's unfair that anyone should get to have anything that everyone else can't also have.

So where's my free phone?

posted by Eric on 06.14.10 at 02:59 PM


And a maid. Everybody ought to have a maid.

Eric Wilner   ·  June 14, 2010 7:15 PM

I do not have a cell phone. This is utter nonsense.

What Eric Wilner said.

Gringo   ·  June 14, 2010 10:58 PM

I love watching Cash Cab, often so I can root against NYC leftist idiots.

There is one episode with this 25-35 year old fine example of NYC womanhood.
They have a "Red light challenge" where you have to name a group of things in 30 seconds.
Like "States that end in A" or something.
She had to name the rights in the First Amendment.
She got freedom of speech and religion and got lost.
She actually said, and I quote, "Freedom from want."

I was rooting for her until she said that.

Some people really think the gov't is there to give you everything, to take care of you the way your parents should when you're young.
They are ready to give up their freedom to a benevolent gov't.

We are so screwed.

Veeshir   ·  June 14, 2010 11:22 PM

" Some people really think the gov't is there to give you everything, to take care of you the way your parents should when you're young."

If cell phones had existed when I was young, my parents would have said "No".

Choey   ·  June 15, 2010 10:16 AM

I stand corrected.

I should have written, "to take care of you the way the parents of spoiled yuppies with a huge sense of entitlement treated them".

Veeshir   ·  June 15, 2010 10:48 AM

If you think about it we are already paying for them to have cell phones, or whatever else they spend their own money on while we cover their necessities. Think of it as a luxury subsidy.

My wife had a guy come into the pharmacy one night recently who at first was agitated and then rude, yelling at my wife that he needed his prescription fill NOW! It seems junior was leaving for his family vacation to Florida and was behind schedule. When my wife went to check him out he passed over his TennCare card(our state Medicaid system) at which point she let him know what she thought about his ability to take a vacation.

When you come across that as regularly as my wife does it make you seriously think about going Galt. You get the feeling, if you are among the ever shrinking number of producers, that you are being played for a sucker in this game.

Crawdad   ·  June 15, 2010 3:22 PM

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