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:
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