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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Free Phones Costing Taxpayers $2.1 Billion Per Year

We must eliminate government programs, agencies, departments as well as severely cut spending if we want our country to survive. - Reggie

You're probably familiar with the food stamp program which grew from $35 billion in 2008 to $75 billion last year. But did you know that getting food stamps also makes you eligible for a free government cell phone?

A program called Lifeline provides free phones and free monthly minutes to anyone on food stamps, WIC, Medicaid, Head Start, and several other government programs. And just like food stamps, Lifeline (aka "phone stamps") has been growing by leaps and bounds since 2008, at significant cost to taxpayers.

Lifeline was started in the mid-'80s to reduce the cost of phone service to rural and needy customers. The program's costs are covered by a tax included on every monthly phone bill called the Universal Service Charge. The program eventually grew to include discounted cell service but took off in 2009, partly because TracFone announced a new program whereby eligible individuals could get a free phone and free monthly minutes. As a result, participation in the program (and costs) skyrocketed:

Program participation was stable from 2005 to 2008, from 6.9 million to 7.1 million participants, but increased to 8.6 million in 2009. Likewise, support payments were relatively stable from 2005 to 2008, from $802 million to $823 million annually, before increasing to approximately $1 billion in 2009.

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