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Start with the Obamaphones

We growled about cell phones, taxes and the abuse of taxpayers in March based on a Tax Foundation policy paper.

More abuse of taxpayers was reported earlier this month by Jillian Melchior, a fellow at the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, in this story posted August 1, 2013, at National Review Online. She wrote, "In the past month, I have received three shiny new cell phones, courtesy of American taxpayers, that should never have fallen into my hands." She added this:

"But as with any federal program with too much funding, too little oversight, and perverse financial incentives, Lifeline has become infamous for rampant fraud and abuse. There have been news reports about recipients flaunting dozens of subsidized phones. And in February, the Wall Street Journal reported on an FCC audit of the top five Lifeline providers, which found that “41% of their more than six million subscribers either couldn’t demonstrate their eligibility or didn’t respond to requests for certification.”

Now comes a column by Nolan Finley in today's Detroit News opining that amid talk of defunding Obamacare, Congress should "first, defund Obamaphones," a program he says was actually started under President Reagan. According to Finley:

"Nothing better illustrates the impossibility of killing a federal entitlement than the fraud-riddled Obamaphone program.

"The $2.1 billion giveaway, funded by a tax on every cellphone service contract, is a well-documented boondoggle — an estimated 41 percent of the phones go to ineligible recipients.

"Earlier this month, my former intern, Jillian Melchior, was able to obtain three of the free phones on the streets of New York City without telling a single fib. Melchior, now a reporter for National Review, says the service reps who signed her up seemed completely uninterested in whether she was eligible for the program — she isn’t.

< . . . >

"So why hasn’t it been axed? Because federal spending programs rarely die, and are even more rarely reformed.

"Every dollar the government spends has a constituency. In this case, the private companies providing the phones are perversely motivated to ignore eligibility requirements — the more phones they pass out, the more money they make. The recipients of the phones are voters, and the administration has no incentive to alienate its own voters to save such a piddling amount as $2.1 billion.

"Federal programs are judged on their intent, not their performance. For example, the General Accounting Office two years ago identified $18 billion of waste in federal job training initiatives, and yet there’s been no move to cut off those funds, because no politician wants to vote against job training."

The real question, it seems, is why aren't the masterminds on Capitol Hill being held accountable for the lack of efficiency, economy, and effectiveness in the programs spawned by earlier masterminds?

Kudos to Nolan Finley and Jillian Melchior for educating us about another abuse of America's taxpayers, and why there is no accountability. Readers of Growls are urged to call or write their representatives in Congress. If you live in Arlington, they are:

  • Senator Mark Warner (D) -  write to him or call (202) 224-2023
  • Senator Tim Kaine (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-4024
  • Representative Jim Moran (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376

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