Lifeline was founded upon a noble cause – poor people need access to modern communication, including cell phones. That turned into new taxes on phone bills to raise money and a new program run through telecommunication companies to hand it out. To keep it simple a household qualified if it was involved in one of 12 different welfare programs. Well at least on the drawing board it was simple because it would mean Lifeline could piggy back on other programs to qualify participants. But the only way telecommunication companies could tell if a person qualified was to ask them – the honor system. That was abused, but what really proved hard to police was the requirement that only one subsidy be paid per household. So starting in 2012 the FCC established a “database” to police the program. It completed the task in 2014. The FCC is now the 8th federal agency to define and monitor who gets what in the welfare world (See Safety Net Program Page).
Less than ten dollars per household per month is a drop in the bucket in welfare aid. What the program really represents is welfare to the federal government. A poor household gets less than $10 a month but the FCC gets millions on new jobs, promotions, importance and power. The poverty level for a family of three is $18,522. At $10 a month it would take 167 federal agencies to move a family of three out of poverty. Perhaps they are smiling in Washington but the rest of us are shaking our heads. It could be the perfect storm of bureaucracy.