Monday, June 1, 2015

The legacy, at last. More welfare.

The Obama administration Thursday announced a plan to expand the troubled Lifeline program, which subsidizes phone service, to also include broadband coverage. Despite the enormous potential for even more waste, fraud, and abuse in a program already famous for such fiscal irresponsibility, the Democrat-controlled Federal Communications Commission is nonetheless likely to approve this proposal. 
I know from personal experience that this is a terrible idea. That’s because in 2013, I received three so-called Obamaphones myself — when I wasn’t even eligible for one. As I wrote for National Review, my income was high enough that I could have supported a family of eight and still remained ineligible; and even though eligible beneficiaries may receive only one phone, I received three “free” phones in the mail. Most incredibly, I got these phones without lying, truthfully answering every question Lifeline representatives asked me. 
My phones arrived in 2013 — a year after the FCC adopted reforms that were supposed to cut back on waste, fraud, and abuse. Nevertheless, the FCC touted those same proposals Thursday, claiming it would build on them as it expanded the subsidized-phone program to include Internet. The problem is that the Lifeline program is premised upon perverse incentives — so it’s no surprise that superficial reforms haven’t worked. And this faulty incentive structure reaches from boardrooms to the streets where Obamaphones are hawked. The Lifeline program has ballooned under the Obama administration, and if the FCC adds broadband to Lifeline, it would further cement the president’s handout legacy. The street-level vendors signing people up for Obamaphones often work on commission, so they have every reason to skimp on due diligence. These Obamaphone hawkers didn’t want to ask me rigorous questions to determine whether I actually qualified for the program. They wanted to sign me up fast, ring up their commission, and move on to the next person. Such corner-cutting is common. The Scripps National Investigative Team found that at least 50 TerraCom workers had forged signatures to sign people up; other applications led to abandoned buildings and homeless shelters. “Part of the problem is that we were taught, go, go, go, go, go, as many clients — like 25 to 45 people a day,” one Obamaphone rep told me. “You gotta get that money. . . . Basically, we were rushing through the process.” Expect to see the same commission-based model duplicated for Internet service, with the same results. 
The federal government’s corporate partners also profit significantly from encouraging fraudulent Obamaphone sign-ups. The federal government gives phone providers $9.25 per enrollee per month — a sum that adds up fast. Wholly contrary to the spirit of the Lifeline program, which is to provide phone service to those too needy to afford even the most basic service, the federal government has also permitted these companies to offer upgrades. Phone companies have been repeatedly caught abusing the Lifeline program — but the federal government has slapped them with fines dwarfed by the huge profits they reap. TracFone Wireless, owned by Mexican billionaire (and Clinton Foundation supporter) Carlos Slim, pulled in more than $430 million from the Lifeline program in 2013 alone, the latest year with statistics on record. Internet companies and their salesmen will have the same perverse incentives to approve sign-ups regardless of households’ eligibility. The inevitable result: Higher Internet prices for households that actually pay their own Wi-Fi bills. Already, the federal government tacks a “Universal Service Fund” fee on phone bills. Paying broadband customers will similarly have to subsidize Web service for others. Supporters of the president have pushed back against the Lifeline moniker “Obamaphones,” correctly pointing out that the program began under the Reagan administration. Obama himself even riffed off this sentiment recently, saying: “If you watch Fox News on a regular basis, they will find folks who make me mad. I don’t know where they find them! They’ll find folks who say, ‘I don’t want to work, I just want a free Obamaphone’!” But it’s indisputable that the Lifeline program has ballooned under the Obama administration. If the FCC adds broadband to Lifeline, it would further cement the president’s handout legacy. The pervasive waste, fraud, and abuse of Obamaphones proves that this isn’t a program that can be adequately reformed. It’s an exercise in foolishness, then, to expand it. The only appropriate solution would be to eliminate Lifeline altogether. 
 — Jillian Kay Melchior


  1. The only appropriate solution would be to eliminate Lifeline altogether.

    No, the only real solution is to end taxes, end immigration, end bad trade deals, end Democrats, end liberals, end solar polar and hippies and while we are at it, lets end candy too because the first time someone tastes something sweet, they will expect to be provided with sweetness for life from the government.

  2. Hey Max, wasn't Lifeline begun under during the Reagan Administration?

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  3. Lifeline was instituted during the Reagan era. It was a landline program for shut ins.

    The program was changed during Bush 2 years to include cell service.

    Obama expanded the program to anyone receiving government assistance. Hence the expansion of the program from 800 million to over 3 billion dollars.

    What's 3 billion when your wasting 4 trillion dollars. Thought I would try for a rise from Rick.

    1. Here is another thought that occurred to me. When a program is taken advantage of by business shitbags who want to rip off the government rather than work hard to make money honestly, the conservatives jump all over that and basically say it's the fault of the government that there are crooks ripping the program off. When it's a slacker poor person, it's because they don't have a work ethic or morals. When it's a business who defrauds the nation of millions of dollars, its the fault of the government. That logic has never made sense to me.

    2. People are people. If a dollar is on the ground, some will pick it up and put it in their pocket. Human nature.

      If government offers welfare, benefits that outweigh working, people take the benefits. Human nature.

      Face facts, government is incompetent, the Aurora VA fiasco is the perfect example. They may be corrupt however we will never know as when government investigates government the outcome is preordained. Did business shitbags rip off the government? You could say that however if a business is slow pay, 90-120 days or longer, do you build that into the price of doing business? If a business knows the government will change the original specifications costing far more than the original bid, do you bid a premium to cover your potential loss?

      Yes some businesses screw the government. Government tends to screw business far more and is the norm, not the exception.

    3. It is, as you've posted many times before Max, a logic rooted in a blind hatred for government philosophy.

      Wasn't this your example? Murder is illegal but people commit murder anyway. By this logic, we should not make murder illegal, provide everyone with a gun, and let Darwin sort it out.

      It's your "we can only punish excess" assertion that you've posted time & time again.

    4. pfunky,
      Hatred based on Government excess?
      Government corruption?
      Government waste?
      Government over reach?

      The VA hospital in Aurora will likely cost 5x the original VA estimate. 1.73 billion dollars yet not 1 person was fired.

      I person took an early government pension.

    5. Hiya lou :-)

      No one was making the argument that those things about the government aren't deplorable, though one could argue that those things you mentioned are the direct result of the powerful who would and do exploit a flawed system - kinda Max's point I think ...

      The point is, why, in the line of thinking that Max mentioned, is it always the fault of the poor "takers" and the bloated/corrupt government, but the rich & powerful who exploit an inherently flawed system that overwhelmingly favors them, and are largely responsible for the bloat and corruption that you (general) hate so much, get a free pass and are often even revered for their cleverness for gaming the system?

      And the solution is never to fix/improve the government which would take care of much of that corruption and bloat. It's always deport the immigrants and take a chainsaw to the budget of every government program except the military.

      It's a good question. TS and I had a lengthy discussion along those lines not too long ago. It's worth some thought.

    6. Hey pfunky,

      is it always the fault of the poor "takers"


      If a dollar is on the ground, some will pick it up and put it in their pocket. Human nature.

      If government offers welfare, benefits that outweigh working, people take the benefits.
      Human nature.

      Do we blame the poor or the system? The system is the problem not the people. A system built on buying votes by giving more to people. I read the exploit a flawed system. I look at the Clinton foundation and say, yes they are a perfect example of the rich and powerful taking advantage of flaws in our system. Yes, Buffet does it, Soros does it, Koch does it. They all exploit our system for personal gain.

      The solution is never to fix/improve the government which would take care of much of that corruption and bloat.
      When was the last time an audit was done of government departments to eliminate bloat, duplication? When was the last time a government department was eliminated as they were no longer served the people? When was the last time government downsized, laid off government workers, contractors? Government today never gets smaller. Government consumes on a larger basis every year.

      It's always deport the immigrants
      People who follow the rules are welcome in the US. Hell, now people who break our laws are welcome here. pfunky, do you honestly believe there are 11 million illegals in the US today? That number was derived from the 2000 census. The estimated number is upwards of 30 million illegals. 10% of our population. Why else would Lowes/HD/Walmart have bilingual signs? What everyone forgets the illegals compete for jobs with citizens. Teens, HS grads that do not attend college. The excess workers cause wage stagnation. Why would any employer pay more than minimum wage when people are lined up to take that job? Illegals cost local school systems as they provide bilingual education. At a cost of $12,300 per pupil per year. Where does that money come from? Many unlawful immigrants have U.S.-born children; these children are currently eligible for the full range of government welfare and medical benefits. Illegals with citizen children are eligible for SNAP benefits. Our healthcare system taking care of illegals and the cost passed to the taxpayers. The costs are staggering when you look at the entire picture.

      Chainsaw to the budget?
      1 trillion this year will be spent on SS and government pensions.
      1 trillion will be spent on healthcare, ACA, Medicaid, Medicare.
      800 billion will be spent on the military. That leaves 1 trillion for all other government programs. Yes, they may be able to cut cost from some programs however the rising costs of healthcare and pensions will eat up all cuts after a few years. Cut the military budget in half, the results will be the same except we will have more unemployment as military and suppliers are laid off.

      Government reform? Not likely.
      End of the flood of illegals? Not likely.
      Cut government spending? No way that will ever happen.
      End duplication, bloat in government? Not likely.
      Benefits of Americans cut? Almost certain.

      A pretty bleak picture isn't it.

    7. Actually more welfare helps our economy, ask Nancy Pelosi. As for free phones, I think they should be free for everyone, including Internet hookup. After all, what do we do with all those EX-ACORN workers if we eliminate the program?

      Sign me up!

    8. "After all, what do we do with all those EX-ACORN workers if we eliminate the program?"

      Wow, an ACORN reference. I'm surprised you came up with something more recent than the CRA to bitch about.

    9. Acorn workers?

      They actually pay people to pick up acorns?

    10. Hey Lou,

      tough loss for the men of four feathers last night. Was really hoping they come home 2-0 instead of tied.

      Couple general points. Funky really summed up my point well. As for your responses, the much maligned Al Gore actually did make a good effort to streamline some government programs, and it was during the Clinton administration that we actually had welfare reform. Lets be clear, Clinton and Gore were not clamoring for reform of welfare, but they did not go out of their way to block it. Shitty as NAFTA was for American workers, IMO, Clinton also signed off on that as well as signed off on the repeal of Glass/Steagall. My point here is that we DID have efforts recently to try and have meaningful reform and it wasn't simply a matter of Democrats giving away free shit to poor people. In fact, it was quite the opposite and we are feeling the effects of that today.

      If Republicans want audits of programs, why don't they ask for them? We have time and money to investigate Benghazi for the umpteenth time, and we also seem to have time to invest in voting for a wholesale repeal of Obama despite the fact Obama won't sign it and there aren't enough votes to override him. Democrats have passed many a program with a good intention only to see it create an unfortunate outcome when it is exploited by either the poor or, just as frequently, the rich. Still, it's hard for me to buy into the endless wail that everything government does is bound to be a fuck up when the Republicans do nothing to fix it. To keep voting over and over for bills that don't ultimately have enough votes to overturn a POTUS veto is not, IMO, doing something constructive. I continue to believe we COULD fix programs, we COULD try to curb fraud. If we did though, that would only encourage us to keep trying to find programs that work and IMO, this is precisely what many don't want to occur.

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    12. Hey Mike.

      Actually watched that game. The power play goal. A disappointment for sure. What ever happened to the old days when Hockey Teams had names that I could remember. Today, the DUCKS, the LIGHTENING. I get the Devils an appropriate name for the state team. I get the Stars, what else can you call a team without any other city tribute. So many teams guess they are struggling for names now.

      Upside is the next game is on home turf.

      Your comments does make the point rather nicely doesn't it. Government, not party is responsible for the issues of the day. Rarely can a law or regulation justifiably be attributed to one party unless they hold congress and the oval office. Happens but not often or for long.

      During the Clinton years the reforms of the welfare programs was spot on. Of course the reforms were undone with the stimulus and have not been reinstates so welfare grows again.
      To the point, neither party wants to reform government. Neither party really wants to cut spending. The Dem's cut military spending a small amount and the R's scream. The R's cut the welfare budget and the Dem's scream and the end result is little change.

      When you look at the last few decades, the democrats claimed foul with deficit spending of the R's during the Bush years. Give us control and we will fix it. The control was given to the D's, Harry and Nancy's time to shine and spending accelerated. The R's claim foul and say give us control, we will fix it. The R's now have control and nothing has changed. When will America figure out there is no difference between the parties?

      As to the investigations issue. That is laughable, government investigating government. A partisan outcome guaranteed from start to finish. With out a special prosecutor, think anything would have come of the Nixon tape issue? If the government wanted the truth, they would have a special prosecutor in place to investigate any possible issue. The DOJ now is the enforcement arm of the ruling presidential party and would never appoint a special prosecutor if were not in the parties best interest.

      As to repeal of the ACA, never happen. The President would not sign it as it's his legacy. The Dem's who wholesale supported it would never allow it as it would be used as a hammer in every election for the next 20 years. No matter how bad it is, once an entitlement program starts, it goes on forever unless replaced with a bigger entitlement program. It's how government and people are today. The screams of the people losing theirs would be deafening. Imagine if they came out and means tested SS to the point of some people receiving nothing. The outrage would begin, I paid in all my life, I am entitled. Try it with Medicare. The same outrage would be there especially for the people getting free medicaid.

      Everything in government is generally fucked up because it is highly partisan and never changes. The Aurora hospital is the perfect example. The investigation results so far, 4 people take early retirement, no one is held accountable a 600 million facility will top 1.73 billion. We move on to the tanks being build that no one wants. 2000 broken tanks sit in storage in the desert. Cheaper to drie a new one that fix one you don';t need. That's from a R district that doesn't want to lose jobs. And no, the D's do not want to fix anything nor do the R's. Neither want to do anything to mess with the chance of re-election.

      There are no reasons for government to reform itself. Continuing the status quo is the best opportunity for re-election for both parties as no one is upsetting voters by losing benefits, losing jobs. Government is truly a quagmire.

    13. Yeah, game 3 on home ice. There is much I am critical of coach Q about, but I will give him credit in chasing lineups at home. I think he is one of the better coaches in the league in the mad scientist matchup game. I think that had a lot to do with them wining in Anaheim. The Hawks were clocking the Ducks on the dot, which gave Q the chance to negate the Ducks home ice advantage of choosing match ups.

      Compared to last year, the Hawks have fixed the depth issues, except for third defense pair, and that kind of falls on the coach. He was determined to make the team drag the aging body of Rozsival around and it was horrible to watch all year long. Sadly, right when the games finally slowed down in the playoffs, Rozsival was looking better and had a season ending injury. The pickup of Timmonen just did't pan out. Tampa's D on third pair is certainly no better than the Hawks, and it is quite arguable their second pair is not as good as the Hawks second pair. Basically, I see it as a series between the third and fourth line forwards, which it usually is. it can still really go either way if TB gets a split in Chicago.

      On the spending front, I don't dismiss the gargantuan size of our debt or the need to cut spending. I guess what I am tired of is empty rhetoric. When you have both debt and a giant gap in income versus outlay, the only first step you can take is to get the income versus outlay gap to zero. You will spray your screen with coffee here as I say something ridiculous, but the fact is that we have slowly been narrowing that gap under Obama. The social programs and food stamps are a pittance in the budget, and Republicans whack them every chance they get, which is why, IMO, they never make much headway in fixing our money problems. Like you show with the tanks, that gets justified because it is a jobs creating program, food stamps just let slackers eat. After Reagan's massive deficit spending, even Republicans at one time were agreeing to cuts in military spending. That won't happen now.

      I guess I see it this way: if you want real progress, both parties need to be willing to agree to things they don't want to see. For the most part, we are simply going through the motions of electing supra majorities and then making the minority eat shit. Still, the last time a Democrat held the white house and the Republicans had the rest, we got things done. Just sayin