We knew the federal government provided food stamps, housing allowances, energy subsidies, unemployment benefits and all sorts of other welfare goodies to poor people, but until recently we had no clue America’s “comfortably dependent” were also receiving free cell phones (and free cell service).
The program is called Lifeline and from 2008-2012 its costs have mushroomed from $819 million to $2.2 billion. Who’s paying the freight for these charges? Cell phone subscribers like you and me (you know, people who actually pay for our own phones, food, power bills and mortgages).
Anyway, if the fact government is forcing us to shell out $2.2 billion on cell phones and service for these dependents pisses you off, prepare to blow a gasket. According to The Wall Street Journal, two out of every five participants in this program is ineligible to receive the benefit.
“More than 40 percent of the six million subscribers at five of the program’s top carriers were either ineligible or failed to show that they qualified,” the paper reported this week.
And carriers – eager to lap up this “free money” – are engaging in all sorts of nefarious schemes aimed at padding enrollment (like signing people up in hospital beds or sending them unsolicited phones in the mail).
Of course the most offensive thing about all of this is the fact absolutely nothing is going to happen. The whole scandal will barely register as a blip on most people’s radar – and like everything else the government mandates this program will continue to grow in size, cost and inefficiency.