Fox News Complains That Reagan-Era Program Has Been ‘Hijacked’ By Obama

Fox Business host Charles Payne. Image via Media Matters.

Fox Business host Charles Payne.
Image via Media Matters.

President Obama recently blasted the folks over at Fox News for constantly stereotyping poor people as being lazy and wanting handouts. This portrayal has long been a talking point repeated over and over again by conservative media as well as the people who parrot the propaganda word for word. Even conservatives who receive financial assistance from the government will happily vilify other people who get the same help they do, because they believe that they “earned” their EBT cards and disability checks, and everyone else is a “moocher” and a “Cadillac-driving welfare queen.”

There are people who have pretty much made a career of telling viewers that everyone but them is cheating the system, and this is why we need to continue to slash government assistance programs in order to stop people from committing fraud. One of their favorite programs to vilify is Lifeline, a service that was started under Ronald Reagan and later expanded during the Bush Administration to include cellular phones. Despite these facts, Fox News and the people who listen to them love to call it the “Obamaphone” program, because it plays into the idea that black poor people just want free stuff, and that’s why they voted for President Obama.

Now, Fox News is back at it once again:

Fox News continued its crusade against the Reagan-era affordable telephone service program for low-income Americans, which the network derisively refers to as “Obamaphones,” with a misleading segment suggesting that the program has “runaway costs” and traps low-income Americans in poverty.

On May 28, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Tom Wheeler published a proposal to amend and modernize the Lifeline program, which currently provides landline and cellular phone subsidies to qualifying low-income Americans. Wheeler’s proposal would expand the user-funded program to include broadband internet services, which he called “essential communications services in the 21st Century.”

On the May 29 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Tucker Carlson and Fox Business host Charles Payne attacked the broadband proposal and claimed that the Lifeline telephone service system was “radically expanded” during the Obama administration leading to so-called “runaway costs” and fraud. (Source)

Honestly, who uses a land-line telephone as their primary form of communication these days? Think about it for a minute; if you’re disabled or don’t have transportation, how are you going to apply for a job or interview for one if you don’t have internet access? When I first moved to Louisiana, I was without reliable transportation and my only internet access was through an unapproved tethering app on a Sprint phone I had to put next to the window to get any reception on. Yet, folks like Tucker Carlson and other conservative pundits would have you believe that taxpayers are being forced to pay for people to sit around their house and play Candy Crush or Farmville on their phones all day, when that’s simply not true.

Taxpayer money doesn’t pay for these services, it’s actually a requirement for all telephone companies providing interstate service to pay into the Universal Service Fund – they just decide to pass on the cost to the consumer as an extra charge on the bill.

Because telephones provide a vital link to emergency services, to government services and to surrounding communities, it has been our nation’s policy to promote telephone service to all households since this service began in the 1930s. The USF helps to make phone service affordable and available to all Americans, including consumers with low incomes, those living in areas where the costs of providing telephone service is high, schools and libraries and rural health care providers. Congress has mandated that all telephone companies providing interstate service must contribute to the USF. Although not required to do so by the government, many carriers choose to pass their contribution costs on to their customers in the form of a line item, often called the “Federal Universal Service Fee” or “Universal Connectivity Fee”. (Source)

What conservative media doesn’t tell you is that times have changed and making broadband access available to people who couldn’t otherwise afford it gives them a chance to lift themselves out of poverty. They want you to continue to believe the tired old lies that people are poor simply because they’re lazy and we need to cut more assistance programs so that more tax cuts can be given to the wealthiest Americans. It’s a simple, cold-blooded strategy – and it works.

Watch the video from Media Matters below:


Facebook comments

  • Pipercat

    Yeah, whoop it up on that 9.25 per month…

  • strayaway

    “if you’re disabled or don’t have transportation, how are you going to apply for a job or interview for one if you don’t have internet access?”

    Does anyone have any statistics showing what percentage of Obamaphone calls were made applying or interviewing for a job? Why can’t those same number of calls be made on a less expensive land line? Surely, there must be some statistic revealing the number of jobs received because of Obamaphones. Since these jobs were made possible because of Obamaphones, how did the new job holders then get to work since they needed an Obamaphone because “they didn’t have transportation”?

    • MarcoZandrini

      Actually, a land line can be as expensive as a cell phone as the phone companies are seeing their land line investments lose money.

      As far as finding out the % of calls made are for finding work: it’s none of your business. It’s called privacy, or it used to be until the nsa started collecting metadata.

      • strayaway

        So there is no validation to the argument that these phones are useful investments for people getting jobs? Unemployment offices ask recipients of unemployment compensation where they have sought work in the last week. Is that also a violation of privacy? It’s ironic that president Obama, the namesake of Obamaphones, who used to speak out against the Patriot Act and sent James Clapper to lie to Congress about collecting metadata is now promoting the collection of metadata.

      • tracey marie

        Reagan thought they were usefull as well as bush.

    • Brian

      Your only counterpoint is “surely people don’t NEED this”. Try harder.

      • strayaway

        That isn’t a quote so quotations should not be used. My counterpoints were that there seems to be no statistical evidence that handing out Obamaphones leads to jobs, that Obamaphones would be more effective than cheaper land lines even if there was some evidence, that the same people who supposedly need an Obamaphone because of lack of transportation will be able to get to work without transportation. Under what delegated power is this a federal program anyway?

      • baruchzed

        I would prefer that every american got a free phone and free food and healthcare…than continue waging war around the world, than continue selling weapons around the world. In fact what the US spends of weapons could feed the world many times over! Let’s get our priorities straight. Life over money. Life over profits.

      • Cliff Herring


      • tracey marie

        reagan phones and bush phones

    • Cliff Herring

      Why do you insist on “Obamaphone” when,as the article clearly stated,this program began under Reagan? Cuz you’re a knuckle dragging Fox watcher,that’s why! If Fox doesn’t say it,it doesn’t come outta your mouth! If pennies from me per day would give someone a cell phone to either GET,or KEEp a job,I would be HAPPY to part with it. See,that the difference between cons and Liberals…Liberals care about EVERYONE. Cons only care about themselves.

      • strayaway

        Go to the web site obamaphoneDOTcom. The distributor calls them “Obama Phones”. Who am I to argue? Your presumptions about my watching Fax are wrong and stupid. If you could prove that anyone either got or kept a job because of their Obamaphone, you would be doing better than anyone else here so far. It probably has happened but my question had to do with how often. I agree with you though that liberals do a better job about pretending they care about everyone.

      • Cliff Herring

        PRETEND to care? Hey,we Liberals instituted Social Security so people wouldn’t die in poverty when they couldn’t work anymore. We institued FDIC so unscrupulous bankers wouldn’t screw you out of EVERYTHING you HAVE in their bank! I can name plenty of others. And each and everyone of them the Republicans have fought tooth and nail AGAINST!!! How many times have they tried to destroy/repeal S.S.?You may not be a Faux watcher,but you’re STILL a knuckle dragging CON! And it’s YOUR party that will drag this nation down. Hey,let’s cut ALL Welfare. You know how much of the budget THAT adds up to? About 1%! Oh yeah..THAT will put us back in the black! Instead of railing about Obamaphones,why don’t you rail against all the subsidies corporate Amerika gets! CORPORATE Welfare!

      • strayaway

        I’m more libertarian than conservative. Conservative has recently come to mean wars, big spending, police state stuff much like the Liberal agenda. I was thinking more along the lines of Obama’s rule under which the 1% have thrived better than they did under Bush while the average US income has declined. Or to make example of a client group; black incomes, home ownership rates, and black wealth declined under Obama relative to those of whites. Racial relations have taken a measurable nosedive too. Whether or not Democrats claim the high moral ground, their policies have helped the rich more than the poor. If you want to go back to Roosevelt, why not go back a little further to Harding who reduced unemployment from over 11% to under 4% in two years by cutting government spending. I suppose you would rather have Obama’s lesser recession drag on trying things that didn’t work for Roosevelt. Or how about state programs. Remember, the 10th Amendment clarifies which programs are state vs. federal programs. Even so, the Obama administration squashed the 0% interest loans the Bank of North Dakota had been issuing ND students and prevented Vermont from having an affordable single payer health care plan like any Canadian province has. Oh, and don’t forget, North Dakota is not covered by FDIC because it has its own state deposit insurance program. But don’t worry, Obama did his best to extend spying on your phone records and is trying to slip though the TPP to gild those corporations and 1%er’s accounts.

        Next up Hillary whose two largest lifetime campaign contributors are Citicorp and Goldman Sachs. Hillary pretends to care too.

    • tracey marie

      there are no Obama phones, reagan or bush phones, period.

    • Janet D’Angelo Beardsley

      My son got a very good paying UNION job because of his Obamaphone, thank you. I saw it in my local paper, called him and he went in and applied. He was hired and now makes a living wage. Yay Obamaphones.

    • noah vail

      i got my “reaganphone” so i could have access to emergency care…at 75 yo and on a very limited income and having subsidized religion for all these years i figure that all those “good christians” wouldn’t begrudge me a phone…how, you ask, did i subsidize religion? by your church and your pastor, niether of which contribute anything to this country, NEVER paying a cent in taxes and then vilifying the very government that allows them to skate by for free…i guess that makes the religious community a bunch of lazy loafers as well…well, how about it “christian”? the sword cuts both ways…

      • strayaway

        I think that clergy already pay income tax. Since churches use fire and police departments and benefit from roads, I’m all for churches alsopaying a fair share of property taxes.

        I think, however, that you are making assumptions in your effort to vent. Also, your logic is a bit faulty. Just because churches aren’t paying their end of the tax burdens doesn’t mean that it follows that you can make your neighbors pay for your free cell phone service while they pay full price. Freedom of speech, of course, is guaranteed by the first amendment even if you don’t like the content.

  • amersham46

    The working poor ,,,, slowing becoming the cornerstone of Americas workforce