Today's Politicos vs The Words and Deeds of The Founders
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Panem et Circenses

When the people find they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic. Attributed to Ben Franklin

Remember back in 2009 when Ken Rogulski of WJR in Michigan interviewed a few Obama supporters hoping to get some of that “Obama Money?”

Well Obama’s “stash” evidently includes free cell phones too.

Panderer in Chief describes the program :

A free government phone isn’t a cheap wireless phone or a discounted model. These are recent model, fully featured cell phones, backed by prominent mobile phone companies. You won’t get an iPhone, Android or Blackberry, but you’ll get a basic, modern phone.

In addition to the phone, which comes with voice mail, call waiting and caller ID, you will typically get up to 250 minutes of airtime per month. It’s not a lot of airtime, but anyone complaining should remember that service is made available to you for free, and is indirectly paid for by other Americans. In addition, most companies offer the ability to send and receive text messages.

So, who can apply for and receive a “free” cellphone?  Well, for starters, anyone enrolled in one of the following government programs automatically qualifies:

  • Food Stamps or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Medicaid
  • Supplemental Security Income – commonly known as SSI
  • Health Benefit Coverage under Child Health Insurance Plan (CHIP)
  • The National School Lunch Program’s Free Lunch Program.
  • Low-Income Energy Assistance Program – LIHEAP
  • Federal Public Housing Assistance ( Section 8 )
  • If you are a low-income Eligible Resident of Tribal Lands
  • Temporary Assistance to Needy Families – TANF

This woman certainly seems pretty happy about the prospect:


This program is an offshoot of an earlier government program to ensure that poor people had adequate access to telephone service.  As the price of mobile phone service has dropped the program was expanded to include cell phones.  The Washington Examiner reports:

The program is called Lifeline, established in 1984 was originally created to subsidize landline phone service for low income Americans, funded by government-collected telecommunication fees, paid by consumers.

In 2008, the program was expanded to support cell phones which quickly escalated the cost of the program. In 2008 the program cost $772 million, but by 2011 it cost $1.6 billion.

A 2011 audit found that 269,000 wireless Lifeline subscribers were receiving free phones and monthly service from two or more carriers. Several websites have been created to promote “free” government cell phones, including the”The Obama Cell Phone” website at

The Left protests that conservatives are making much ado about nothing ($1.6 Billion is apparently chump change), according to

The Lifeline Assistance and Link-Up programs are federally funded programs that provide free phones and free phone service to qualifying applicants.  Up until recently, only home landlines were available under these programs, but recent changes have allowed cell phone carriers to provide free cell phones and cell phone service to customers.

These free government cell phone programs are what conservatives refer to as the Obama Phone program, but these programs have been in existence long before the Obama administration ever took office and will continue to operate for a long time to come.

Obviously, it isn’t just conservatives that refer to it as “the Obama Phone program.”  (Unless you believe the woman in the video got her information about the “free Obama phones”by listening to Rush Limbaugh or from reading the Drudge Report.)  There are tons of websites out their touting the program and many refer to it explicitly as such. There’s even one called  The Left wants to have it both ways – they want to claim that Obama and his minions aren’t pandering to his base with offers of free goodies – at the same time they pander to his base offering free goodies.  They are only too happy to have prospective voters like this woman believe that Obama is giving her a free phone, while at the same time vehemently denying it.

“Bread and Circuses” (or bread and games) (from Latin: panem et circenses) is a metaphor for a superficial means of appeasement. In the case of politics, the phrase is used to describe the creation of public approval, not through exemplary or excellent public service or public policy, but through diversion, distraction, and/or the mere satisfaction of the immediate, shallow requirements of a populace, as an offered “palliative.” Juvenal decried it as a simplistic motivation of common people. The phrase also implies the erosion or ignorance of civic duty amongst the concerns of the common man (l’homme moyen sensuel). Wikipedia


1 FLR { 10.01.12 at 5:11 pm }

I was surprised when I saw these phones repeatedly advertised on TV here in Columbus Ohio.
Here people – “free” cell phones.


2 Jeff Edelman { 10.02.12 at 10:38 pm }

If the government hadn’t devalued our money, these people could pay for their own phones. This monetary policy has created many crises that the government has then had to “solve”.


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