The Latest Moronic Right Wing Racist Meme: The “Obama Phone”
Today’s completely fake, blatantly racist right wing attack on President Obama emanates from Drudge Report, like so many of these racist memes do: Just How Racist Is the ‘Obama Phone’ Video?
Answer: totally 100% racist.
There was a video leading the Drudge Report on Thursday afternoon of a poor black woman with messed-up teeth saying she’s voting for President Obama because he gave her a free phone, and perhaps you have some questions about it. Questions like: Is this video racist? Is Obama really giving away phones? Is anyone really bothered by these Obama Phones? And, come on, this is just blatant racism, right? We’ll try to answer them.
Is this Obama Phone phone real?
Sort of. The Federal Communications Commission has a program called Lifeline that provides low-cost or free phone service. The agency’s website says this is because it and Congress “recognize that telephone service provides a vital link to emergency services, government services and surrounding communities.” Who qualifies varies by state, but “in general,” to qualify you must have an income that is no more than 135 percent of the federal poverty line, or be enrolled in assistance programs like Medicaid, public housing assistance, discounted school lunch, or yes, food stamps. (This Factcheck.org piece has a good overview of the issue.) Strictly speaking, it’s not a government-funded program: the telephone companies make payments to a fund administered by a non-profit called the Universal Service Administrative Company, but anyone with a phone bill chips in through a surcharge on their service.
Is the Obama Phone Obama’s doing?
No. The universal service requirement dates back at least to the Communications Act of 1934. The Lifeline program specifically was started in 1984 under President Reagan and was expanded in 1996 under President Clinton to allow qualifying households to choose to apply the benefit to either a landline or a cell phone. So no, it’s not an Obama handout.