by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Plenty, as a blurb in the latest print edition of National Review explains.
The federal government’s Lifeline program is supposed to provide subsidized phone service to the truly needy. The program’s costs rose to $2.189 billion in 2012 — a 166 percent increase in the past five years. Much of that is fraud and abuse, as we recently discovered firsthand. NRO reporter Jillian Kay Melchior visited many of New York City’s welfare offices in pursuit of Lifeline phones. Her income is reasonably high, and she doesn’t receive welfare, rendering her ineligible. She truthfully answered questions asked by wireless-company reps. And in the end, she received three subsidized phones in the mail, even though the Lifeline program allows only one mobile per qualifying household. Lifeline is fatally flawed, in part because big wireless providers that participate have perverse incentives to pass out as many subsidized phones as possible. If you doubt it, give Melchior a call — on any of her government phones.
Of course, the real reason for writing this entry is that it provides an excellent opportunity to revisit one of the most cogent arguments put forward in 2012 for supporting our president’s re-election bid.