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LAT Doesn’t Know About ‘Free’ Phones?

From Andrew Malcolm’s blog at the Los Angeles Times:

Michelle Obama serves food to D.C. poor and homeless, but…

Andrew Malcolm

First Lady Michelle Obama showed up Thursday as a surprise and welcome volunteer at Miriam’s Kitchen, a soup kitchen for homeless poor people not far from the White House.

She brought with her some food donated by White House staff.

The first lady served up mushroom risotto and broccoli to a long line of homeless men and women during part of her First Lady Michelle Obama volunteers as a food server at Miriam’s Kitchen a soup kitchen for poor homeless in Washington DC 3-5-09 lunch hour and in these photos poses for a picture by one homeless diner obviously excited to be in the first lady’s presence…

Both of these news photos were widely distributed across the country and even around the world.

It doesn’t detract from the first lady’s generous gesture or the real needs she seeks to highlight to ask two bothersome journalistic questions about these news photos:

If this unidentified meal recipient is too poor to buy his own food, how does he afford a cellphone?

And if he is homeless, where do they send the cellphone bills?

Alas, Mr. Malcolm is woefully out of touch.

Of course our federal government gives poor people free cellphones, through a kindly program artfully named SafeLink:

Lifeline Benefits

Lifeline Assistance is part of a program that was created by the government to provide discounted or free telephone service to income-eligible consumers. To help bring you this important benefit, SafeLink Wireless is proud to offer Lifeline Service. Through our Lifeline Service you will receive FREE cellular service, a FREE cell phone, and FREE Minutes every month! SafeLink Wireless Service does not cost anything – there are no contracts, no recurring fees and no monthly charges.

Any Minutes you do not use will roll-over. Features such as caller ID, call waiting and voicemail are all also included with your service. If you need additional Minutes, you can buy TracFone Airtime Cards at any TracFone retailer Walmart, Walgreens, Family Dollar, etc). SafeLink Airtime Cards will be available soon.

How to Qualify

The process to qualify for Lifeline Service depends on the State you live in. In general, you may qualify if…

1. You already participate in other State or Federal assistance program such as Federal Public Housing Assistance, Food Stamps and Medicaid.


2. Your total household income is at or below 135% of the poverty guidelines set by your State and/or the Federal Government.


3. No one in your household currently receives Lifeline Service through another phone carrier.

4. You have a valid United States Postal Address. In order for us to ship you your free phone you must live at a residence that can receive mail from the US Post Office. Sorry, but P.O. Boxes cannot be accepted.

In addition to meeting the guidelines above you will also be required to provide proof of your participation in an assistance program, or proof of your income level.

Those are pretty stringent requirements.

Surely only a few hundred million will qualify.

For the record, the 2009 federal poverty guideline for a single person is $10,830, which means that a single person can get a free phone if they make $14,620 or less — if our math is correct.

This article was posted by Steve on Friday, March 6th, 2009. Comments are currently closed.

27 Responses to “LAT Doesn’t Know About ‘Free’ Phones?”

  1. Helena says:

    “2. Your total household income is at or below 135% of the poverty guidelines set by your State and/or the Federal Government.”


  2. heykev says:

    Wonder how many are saying “I”ve got the gov’t paying my cell phone bill, my food through food stamps and WIC. I’m withholding payment of my mortgage until BHO pays for it,,,now all I need is for Him to pay my car payment, and I can take that all-inclusive vacation to Tahiti I’ve always wanted”

  3. proreason says:

    After they get done collecting their free housing, free food, free medical care, free transportation, free cell phones, tax credits and stimulus rebates, what’s left to spend $14.6 a year on?

    oh wait, I forgot, drugs aren’t free

    • Colonel1961 says:

      Good point, PR – that leaves over a grand per month for the goodies. But wait, how are they expected to keep a good buzz on for only $35.00 a day? Kush Kredits, Crack Coupons and 44-Freebies should be the next entitlements. And I have no idea what ‘kush’ is…

  4. BannedbytheTaliban says:

    Ever notice how few thin people there are at soup kitchens?

    • catie says:

      Excellent observation! Thanks for the laugh! :)

    • jobeth says:

      Must be all that arborio rice in the mushroom risotto. Not to mention the wine in the dish.

      Another thing they can complain about to the gov. They lost their girlish figures because the first lady fed them too much starch. And wine. LOL

  5. jcheney says:

    Seeing Michelle Obama serving food to the homeless makes me want to puke. She is such a hypocrite.

    Michelle Obama’s Patient-Dumping Scheme


  6. bousquem says:

    One would think that if the reason for getting the cell phone was so you could contact someone if you needed to, ie no land phone, or an emergency. I don’t get call waiting, Caller ID, or roll over minutes for free with my plan, I have to pay for it on top of paying for the plan. I don’t see how it is right to give people these phones on the tax payer dollar. Of course these are probably the same idiots who come into my pharmacy with a cart load of junk food and other items demanding they are on “clearence” or “sale” and therefore should be free or near free for all of them instead of the 100 or so dollars the total is. They also love complaining and demanding I waive their medicaid copays (which I am required by law to do). They seem to think that they are paying too much for a $1 copay on a med that would have a cash price of $190. The one that pissed me off was the one that did the things above, was decked out in all designer clothes, a blackberry and I-phone, and then had the gaul to complain about a total of $3.00 copay for about $1000 worth of medications.

  7. Celina says:

    That looks like a much nicer phone than the government issued one my husband has for work (he is an operations NCO in the Army).

  8. Reality Bytes says:

    Did someone make sure Michelle washed her hands. It’s the law you know.

  9. gipper says:

    “The first lady served up mushroom risotto and broccoli…”

    What? No arugula? What a shame. These homeless are entitled to arugula. Michelle and The Man (Obama) need to keep these people down. Make them think they can’t rise above their current situation. And, after the meal, make sure the homeless get their ENTITLE-MINT.

  10. jrmcdonald says:

    Giving away food I paid for. Same-o, same-o.

  11. Barbie says:

    Michelle Obama makes me ill.

  12. Clarissimus says:

    And if he is homeless, where do they send the cellphone bills?

    It could be a prepaid phone. You can rely on cash alone for those.

    a single person can get a free phone if they make $14,620 or less

    Wow, even I could qualify for that. I never even realized I was poor — I figured since I can pay for rent, food, clothing, car, insurance, student loans, and still have enough left over to waste money on things like occasional fast food or movies that I was doing pretty well for myself. How helpful of the government to set me straight.

    I don’t get call waiting, Caller ID, or roll over minutes for free with my plan

    Sounds like you need to switch carriers :p

    • Rusty Shackleford says:

      Prepaid phones have to be activated via the internet and STILL require a permanent residence, a valid e-mail address so they can verify you are who you say you are, etc etc. So you’d have to have paid access to some form of internet access, along with an e-mail account. I don’t see too many modems hooked up under the bridge.

      And, get a load ‘a the “first…..uh…..’lady’ hamming it up for the photo op.

      I wonder if any of the so-called homeless complained about the lack of arugula or lobster bisque.(Hard to prepare that in a box)

      Over and over, people. Up is down, wrong is right and so on. I had to go outside today to make sure that the sun still shone and that most other laws of physics were still in force.

    • Clarissimus says:

      I can get free internet at any free library. Cash can rent a PO Box.

  13. Colonel1961 says:

    Please, for the love of God, tell me that this is an article from The Onion! Our Government is not giving away free cell phones?!?!

    Mushroom risotto and broccoli? Is this a soup kitchen or The French Laundry? To crib from P. J. O’Rourke – the Biblical injunction is to feed and clothe the poor, not to style and indulge them…

    • MinnesotaRush says:

      Colonel .. I share your shock and disbelief. But alas .. it is true. Free phones AND service AND features.

      I wonder what their choice of vintage wines were with their White House Mushroom Risotto and broccoli??? … and for dessert???

      Can’t forget the new mandatory turn-down service at the shelter ….

    • Colonel1961 says:

      Turn-down service, of course – anything less would be undignified! Glad you caught the oversight!

  14. U NO HOO says:

    Let me get this right.

    Cell phones for the homeless?

    Where the heck do they charge them overnight?

  15. southern says:

    I thought food servers were required to wear a hair net or at least a dew rag.

  16. canary says:

    Michelle is doing this for the recent bad PR on the tax reports on Obama’s and Joe Biden, with little charity tax deductions. There’s the security guard behind her, so it would make more sense to take that money, and buy more food, then protection. We allready know that Obama has more security than any other President, and he’s taking full advantage of it. This only caused people who really needed the food not to get any.
    Michelle, should take up Laura Bushe’s cause and help those poor middle eastern woman who get executed, their heads chopped off, their female parts mutilated, acid in little girls faces, and all that.

    Dang in our state, you have to show you are a domestic crime victim, and you get a phone that will dial 911. No wonder the gangs and drugs in DC are growing.

    • canary says:

      I may have this wrong; Michelle’s PR in a bad dangerous drug ridden neighborhood. Their expensive Valentine day short expensive trip; Air Force 1/ w/cargo plane) to dine at their old haunt diner in Chicago? Ya know, might be difficult leaving the hood and connections. I mean who’d talk about it, and risk ticking off the hood. It’s just a sign of these times.

  17. Confucius says:

    I think I’ve been disenfranchised.

    I have the exact same SafeLink phone, but mine wasn’t free! (And it certainly doesn’t take pictures.)

    Can I get a little social justice over here?

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