Check out the video that went viral of an Obama supporter's rant shouting, "Keep Obama president. He gave us a phone.Everybody in Cleveland has an Obama phone." (There's a lot more to the video.)
The distribution of free cellphones -including minutes - began in 2008 under President Obama, although the subsidization of phones began under Bill Clinton. Free cellphones to welfare recipients began in 2008 and are paid for by a surcharge on phone bills. The cost mushroomed from $772 million to an astonishing $1.6 billion in 2011.
In 2008 there were 7.1 million "Lifeline" cellphones nationwide. According to Bloomberg news there are 12.5 million today. The government pays $10 a month for each subscriber.
Here's the point: According to a member of the Democratic National Committee, they handed out 4 million Obama phones to welfare recipients, who never voted before, in a get-out-the-vote campaign during the presidential election season. (Recall the video rant mentioned above.) Volunteers would hand out the phone and then take them to the polls. This is either executive "action" - the word the president prefers to use, rather than executive order - or an abuse of power. Take your pick.
Obamaphones are there for the asking. After the election one woman, who obviously was not on welfare, managed to get three phones at different food stamp centers - not by misleading the distributor - but by saying she'd like to be on welfare and would like to have a free phone (Her words).
This is carrying redistribution of the wealth to a new, more creative level.
Here is another case in point to demonstrate how populists get and maintain power: Reuters news reported before the Venezuelan 2012 election that "Chavez still feels the love in Venezuela's slums." Pet owners were lining up to take advantage of the government's latest initiative - subsidized neutering of pets for his Chavistas. While Chavez's ploy was arguably more creative than Obama's, I'll bet Obama got a bigger bang for his buck (with our money) than Chavez did. Both men were buying votes. Both men know that little giveaways also solidify the base. In a poor country with a wretched economy what leader would even think of neutering pets for free for the poor? A laudable endeavor, but why not jobs?
Obamaphones are old news, yet they are indicative of the larger issue of an activist government building up a rock-solid base of voters kept loyal by a continuous flow of government largesse. In the age of technology and social media which Obama's bureaucrats have mastered, access to government assistance is no problem. Websites such as USA.gov, FDA .gov, Grants.gov and Recovery.gov will get you started. They are exciting to read for the faithful. One website boasts "Grant money on line for free . Grants for $1000 to pay bills for free ... $1000 for your personal bills."
The Grants Policy Committee explains, "If you ever had a dream and lack funds, then government grant money may be just the solution you are looking for . Apply today online for free!!" Their progressive philosophy is explained as follows, "In a country as rich as America, with as much money as Uncle Sam takes in every year in taxes there is no reason . that any American should be living without the basic necessities . You must apply for these government grants to pay bills. They will not come to you. So do your research, and find all the available grant resources you can ... "
You can't make stuff like this up; but by providing precise quotes, it illustrates the aggressiveness of endless programs that progressive liberals would describe as outreach. What is so depressing is that too many struggling underachievers give up the fight and get hooked for life. What a disastrous example for their children.
The administration's strategy is a quintessential tool in the Democratic Party's toolbox: Touch as many potential voters as you can with a freebie, such as an Obamaphone, and that means one more vote.
Instead of being a party to the destruction of the U.S. economy - and to demonstrate that conservatives are unimaginative losers - they wouldn't even think of giving away free phones paid for with taxpayer dollars. How cruel. Even worse, they're trying to cut back on government spending. An undereducated, low knowledge voter in a low paying job doesn't understand where the money is coming from and and doesn't care.
Remember that video of that Democrat quoted at the beginning of this piece, "Keep Obama president. He gave us a phone." (She's one more Democratic vote.)
I can't think of a better reason to vote for the man. Just give me a free phone and you can count me in.
John Reiniers is a retired attorney who lives in Spring Hill.