The video of an Obama supporter praising Obama for giving her an “Obama phone” has gone viral on the Internet and opened up questions about a little known government entitlement program called Lifeline.
“Keep Obama as president,” the animated woman says on the video. “He gave us a phone.”
However, Lifeline has actually existed since 1985 and has been extended, according to a Fox News report.
Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Ark. Says the costs of the program to taxpayers has rocketed from $772 million in 2008 to $1.6 billion.
“It's a government-run, taxpayer-funded program that's running wild and costing more and more,” reads Griffin’s official House of Representatives website.
Meanwhile, private carriers like TracPhone and Sprint, contracted by the government to provide services to low-income Americans, have websites with interesting names like obamaphone.net and freegovernmentcellphones.net.
“The free Obama phone is an important program, especially for low income families that would otherwise not have access to basic communications,” says the website at obamaphone.net reads.
Somewhere on the site a disclaimer says that Obama did not create the program and the phones are not really "Obama phones."
According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), participants must: A. Have an income that is at or below 135 percent of the federal poverty guidelines or B. Be or become a member of a government assistance program such as Medicaid, Head Start or Supplemental Security Income.
Recently the Romney and Obama campaigns have focused, for opposite reasons, on the notion that about 47 percent of Americans pay no income tax at all, drawing national attention to wasteful government programs.
Last year Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., was solicited by mail by an entity claiming she was eligible for a phone. The advertisement caused her concern.
“I am troubled by the expansive potential for the program to be abused," McCaskill wrote the FCC in December.
Griffin introduced a bill, H.R. 3481, late last year that would eliminate the program. Griffin has cited evidence of dead people receiving free cell phones by mail, ineligible people getting multiple phones and electronic kiosks in convenience stores promoting the free government phones.
There are 12.5 million free government phones in use today, according to Bloomberg News. They allow about 250 free minutes per month.
With Congress deadlocked and the Senate budget still due, the bill stands little chance of passage until after the elections.