It’s fair to use the moniker “Obamacare” in reference to the Affordable Care Act, since that bill was his idea. But if you decide to make a habit of attaching President Obama’s name onto things, you need to be judicious about it. Today, for example, we take a look at Obamaphone. House Democrats want more of an investigation into the program’s propensity for waste, fraud and abuse. But before you praise them for bucking their president, let’s clear a few things up.
First, Republican opponents of the program, which is actually called Lifeline and is administered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), have been calling it “a massive entitlement.” That may seem trite when you consider Social Security and Medicare. However, reforms to the program aimed at tightening eligibility and limiting growth have saved $200 million, making you wonder how much hasn’t been cut. There, they have a point.
But let’s remember how the whole Obamaphone thing started, with this video of a woman in Cleveland praising Obama for the program. Now, seeing as the Lifeline program a) began in 1985 and b) was expanded to provide subsidies for cellular service in 2005, her praise was obviously misdirected. But when the government provides you with something and you’re ill-informed about who “the government” is in your case, you’ll probably default to the president. (Please read a newspaper.)
Here’s how I imagine this playing out among any high-profile Republicans or conservatives who have used the word “Obamaphone” to attack Obama:
“So, this lady in Cleveland said Obama gave her a free phone.”
“You mean under the FCC program?”
“Yeah, but fiscal prudence and waste and stuff. It’ll work for the base.”
“Isn’t that inaccurate?”
“Relax. Nobody will notice.”
Of course, it took this long for Democrats to push back. They’re blaming former President George W. Bush for the increase in waste following the 2005 expansion to cell service; clearly intellectual consistency isn’t their strong suit. Only FCC chairman Julius Genachowski can truly be held accountable for the problems. To his credit, he has cleaned some of them up. But it shouldn’t be taking eight years, possibly more, depending on how bad this was when the program was restricted to landline phones.
I can understand why neither Republicans nor Democrats want to appeal entirely to PhDs. But could you do us a favor and try to appeal to people who don’t get jazzed with straw-man attacks like these? Most of us have at least graduated high school.