Is the Obama Phone an Urban Myth?

In the recent weeks there had been uproar about the ‘Obama Phone’ in US. People who had not watched the TV were crazy to know about the Obama Phone and whether the information spread about this phone was fake or real.

Video started the controversy

All this started with a video which went viral. In the video, a so called Obama supporter is shown as telling to a reporter about her “Obama phone” at a rally held in Ohio. This video brought the incorrect word ‘Obama Phone’ into public eye.

In fact ‘The Obama Phone’ exists nowhere. The term has been a talking point of the public ever since President Obama inaugurated the free cell phones program for the poor. Opponents of Obama have been criticizing the program since 2009. Many people accuse Obama of using the program for his election campaign.

Obama did not start the program

The myth that president Obama started this free cell program is not true. The program started in 2008. This was the year when Obama was elected as the president but it was merely a coincidence. Actually the program is the brain child of Clinton and continued under the administration of Bush and Obama.

It was Clinton who first started the scheme of giving subsidiary on cells phones to the poor. The service in the present form is implemented through two programs

  • Lifeline Assistance
  • Lifeline Link-Up

Lifeline Link-Up pays the initial cost of the phones while the Lifeline Assistance helps in paying the monthly bills. These two programs are often clubbed together and called Lifeline. The eligibility conditions for qualification for this program have also not been formed by Obama administration. They are in effect since 1996. To be eligible for the program an applicant must be below 135 to 150 percent below the Federal Poverty Guidelines depending on the states they live in. Persons participating in other public assistance programs like food stamps. energy assistance, public housing and medical aid are also eligible for this program. No eligibility condition has changed since the days of Clinton and Bush.

Criticism of Obama is not fair

The criticism that Obama is redistributing the wealth through this program also does not hold good on two counts. Firstly, this free cell scheme was not started by Obama. It was the brainchild of Clinton and continued even during Bush administration. Secondly, the money for this Lifeline program is not paid by the taxpayers. For this program a small fee is added to the monthly telephone bills. The fund is called the Universal Service Fund and is used for funding the program. It is also important to know that providing a cell phone does not cost more than that providing a land line phone. Both are provided on subsidized rates.

So, calling Lifeline, the free cell program to the poor, as Obama Phone is factually incorrect. The term Obama Phone cannot be stated to be real. If some name is necessary for the program the best term could be ‘The Clinton Phone’ or ‘The Bush Phone’.

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