The Lifeline Program And Political Lies
Federal regulators were instructed to keep a massive fraud investigation under wraps until a day after a controversial vote to expand a program that was allegedly used to bilk taxpayers of tens of millions of dollars, one those regulators claims.
The Federal Communications Commission on Friday announced that it would seek $51 million in damages from a cell phone company that allegedly defrauded the federal Lifeline program of nearly $10 million.
You read that correctly. It was more important to grow a giveaway program than to make sure the giveaways weren’t wasted. That’s a pretty egregious example of the federal government at work, but virtually every program is like this.
FCC spokesman Will Wiquist insisted that the timing was completely coincidental. “The timing of the enforcement action was in no way related to the timing of the vote on the program modernization,” he said in an email.
Lifeline has faced controversy over enrollment requirements that its critics say are too lax and vulnerable to fraud. The service, which subsidizes cell phone plans for low-income Americans, allows beneficiaries to enroll using cards issued for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a welfare program that has also faced fraud allegations.
Critics of the Lifeline program began calling its subsidized cell phones “Obamaphones” early in the Obama administration in response to viral YouTube videos of beneficiaries thanking the president for their free phones. The program was actually created under President Ronald Reagan.
The FCC’s NAL last week accused cell phone provider Total Call Mobile, which provides Lifeline services in 19 states, of “systematic and egregious misconduct” and “widespread enrollment fraud.”
According to the commission, Total Call employees enrolled tens of thousands of duplicate Lifeline beneficiaries and pocketed the extra subsidies. The FCC caught onto the scheme when the company enrolled an undercover FCC investigator in the program without asking for any eligibility documentation.
“Since 2014, Total Call has requested and received an estimated $9.7 million dollars in improper payments from the Universal Service Fund for duplicate or ineligible consumers despite repeated and explicit warnings from its own employees, in some cases compliance specialists, that company sales agents were engaged in widespread enrollment fraud,” the FCC said in a news release.
A common means of fraudulent enrollment was the repeated use of a single SNAP identification card, according to the FCC. That drew the ire of Commissioner Michael O’Reilly, who said the use of SNAP cards as Lifeline verification mechanisms is woefully inadequate.
The FCC has five members, and three of them are currently Democrats. That majority will insure whatever penalties arise from stealing your tax dollars in order to promote runaway growth of the Obamaphone program will be minor, and far less than the abusers of the program will have profited by their misdeeds.
Because growing the government is what’s important. Waste, fraud and abuse are an asset, not a liability. The more waste means the more inadequacy of the current amount of resources devoted to the “problem” the government is tasked to solve.
Written by MacAoidh at https://thehayride.com.