SafeLink Wireless is a TracFone company that distributes “free” cell phones to the poor compliments of the taxpayer. On its website the company claims “cell phone ownership is a right … and no one should have to pay more than they want or can afford.” Read that again, “no one should have to pay more than they want” for cell phone usage. Is there any point at which it becomes unacceptable to seize the property of hardworking individuals in order to provide “the poor” with convenient luxuries. I’m all for helping folks in need–though aid is much more effective through private charity–but when did a cell phone become necessary for subsistence?
According to the Heritage Foundation, the program currently costs $819 Million ($819,000,000) annually and covers only twenty states. Costs are projected to grow to over $1 Billion ($1,000,000,000) this year, and the program isn’t even covering half the states in our nation. These hefty price tags are largely paid through phone service taxes on those of us “fortunate enough” to pay our own phone bills. At some point, enough has to be enough. Welfare is on the fast track to becoming a viable career option in our nation. The government has already touted the benefits of “free broadband.” About all that remains is “free” Satellite or Cable.
A 1995 study found 80% of our states welfare benefits paid more than an $8.00 per hour job, and benefits exceeded the minimum wage in all fifty states and the District of Columbia. Welfare spending has only continued to grow since then, and why wouldn’t it? It sure beats working to earn less. When the government subsidizes a behavior, it becomes more prevalent in society. Subsidizing dependence only leads to greater dependence while placing an ever increasing tax burden on the so-called rich. Despite all the promises, increased welfare spending has never solved the poverty problem.
Overall, the typical American defined as poor by the government has a car, air conditioning, a refrigerator, a stove, a clothes washer and dryer, and a microwave. He has two color televisions, and cable or satellite TV reception. He has a VCR, a DVD player, and a stereo. He is able to obtain medical care. His home is in good repair and is not overcrowded. By his own report, his family is not hungry and he had sufficient funds in the past year to meet his family’s essential needs. While this individual’s life is not opulent, it is equally far from the popular images of dire poverty conveyed by the press, liberal activists, and politicians.
Welfare utilization will never decrease so long as it provides greater benefits than productive employment. We’re already providing non-working individuals with a lifestyle that far exceeds any reasonable definition of subsistence, and the American “poor” are afforded a lifestyle that is above average in developed countries and extravagant compared to many others. At some point, people need to be reminded of their personal responsibility to provide for themselves. If you want a cell phone, pay for it.