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What constitutes an emergency?

T. Gamble

T. Gamble

I saw recently where Congress and the president have agreed to continue the current program of providing cell phones, free of charge, to anyone who is receiving food stamps.

This program has been in place for several years and in 2008 was costing the taxpayers approximately $650-$700 million dollars a year. It is now costing taxpayers approximately $1.5 billion dollars per year.

I could probably write an essay on whether or not, taxpayers should be paying for cell phones for anyone. But even if for some reason I believed taxpayers should be paying for cell phones, the most extraordinary part of providing cell phones is the fact that they come with 200 free minutes per month.

The stated purpose of providing the cell phones is to provide cell phone service for those who do not have enough money to purchase a cell phone so that in the event of “an emergency” those who normally would not have access to cell phones would have them available.

I do not pretend to be in a category that currently requires me to obtain food stamps. I am not begrudging those who do find themselves in such a category. What I need to know, however, is what in the world does one do in their life to require the need for 200 minutes of phone calls every month for emergencies? That’s almost seven minutes a day for emergency calls. It could simply be that I do not understand what constitutes an emergency.

Case in point. I was recently at my barn feeding the horses with the 7-year-old hurricane boy and the 8-year-old princess girl. We were nearly through when the princess announced she needed to go to the bathroom. I asked if she could go outside at the barn but got a response that let me know this was one of those situations that would require a trip back home. We are about 10 minutes from the barn. So, I gathered everyone up and began to hurry home.

The hurricane then asked me if I was going 100 mph and did I have my lights on? It was dark and I replied that, no, I was not going 100 mph but I was hurrying and the lights were on. He said, “No, I mean the emergency lights because this is an emergency.”

The little girl replied, “You don’t need to turn on the emergency lights. Having to go to the bathroom is not an emergency!”

The little boy replied, “What! ... You don’t call going to the bathroom with an explosive poo-poo in the back seat of a car an emergency?”

I must admit the hurricane had a point.

I immediately turned on the emergency flashers and mashed the gas pedal to the floor.

I suppose it is possible that I do not understand emergencies in other matters as well. Perhaps, six or seven minutes a day are needed for emergency phone calls. I have run out of beer right before midnight on a Saturday night. With a cell phone, I can call a friend to rush to the store and pick up a six pack before midnight.

There are also other important matters that must be addressed, such as forgetting to buy toilet paper at the grocery store, running out of cigarettes, forgetting the baby’s formula or needing to tell someone that you just found out Susie is having an affair with Freddy, even though she’s married to Freddy’s brother.

People can’t possibly be expected to do without this basic service that ensures they are never without the ability to provide such important information to their neighbors.

I don’t know. Maybe I’ll call the president. See, there’s another five minutes needed on the cell phone. I want to see if he’ll pay for OnStar in my car. You know, might be an emergency!

Contact columnist T. Gamble at t@colliergamble.com.

Comments

Abytaxpayer 2 years, 2 months ago

It is called buying votes. Back in the day you could get a “pint” for your vote. Then they outlawed paying for votes BEFORE you voted. Now they promise to “Give you a easier life with trimmings if you vote for me“. So now we find a group has sold their souls for some beads and bangles and to keep buying more votes the politicians must keep sweetening the pot. So the check takers are out growing the check makers because it is becoming increasing easier to signup for a check than work for it.

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waltspecht 2 years, 2 months ago

I would have loved to have heard you explain that speeding to Frank? Or would it have been John? Either way it would have been interesting. I remember one of Terrell County's finest picked up a guy going thru Sasser at 65. He hit the lights and siren, that's 20 over afterall. The guy pulled over by the big curve, and ran into the bushes. The Deputy called for backup and bailed out of his car and took up the persuit. After a few short minutes he called off the backup. Once he got close to the noise and smell, he knew why the guy had to run into the bushes. That guy was just trying to make it home, and didn't.

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agirl_25 2 years, 2 months ago

Are you aware the goal of universal access to telephone service began in the 1930s for rural Americans and expanded to low-income individuals in 1997. The FCC approved the subsidy for cell phones under President Bush in 2008. Check your phone bill for a Universal Service Charge.....it is the money you contribute to the fund each month for the free cell phones that the welfare recipients receive. All individuals that qualify for state or federal welfare–food stamps, Medicaid, etc.–and have an income at or below 135% of the poverty level, are eligible. The program, through a tax on all home phones and cell phones known as the Universal Service Charge, exceeded $1 billion in 2010. But you are correct...what qualifies as an emergency....certainly not flapping your gums while you are walking down the street talking to your BFF about what you did last night with your baby daddy or what time you have to go get your hair done or your nails fixed....right? An emergency is when your house is on fire, or the person next door is having a heart atttack and you have sense enough to call 911.....and lordy lordy i hope you are not dyslexic!!!!! ... then what?

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whattheheck 2 years, 2 months ago

Atta boy, agirl_25. Your are the first person I have seen make a post on this subj that seems to understand 'sup. Supplementing what you wrote, the whole USF process started under Reagan, based on land lines. The government set up the Universal Service Administrative Co to manage and distribute these funds. Look at this link as a start to learn how you are being fleeced by the govt on this baby: http://www.usac.org/default.aspx

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Shinedownfan 2 years, 2 months ago

Can't they program phones to call 911 only? That's what they need to do with these "free" phones.

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TrixibelleBento 2 years, 2 months ago

THANK YOU. My thoughts exactly. Phone service is not a "right". It is a privilege, one that you must pay for!

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waltspecht 2 years, 2 months ago

When cell phones first came out, you could get an emergency only one for $10 / month. I know, my wife had one. You could make other calls on it, but you got billed for them. The problem is apparently we don't want to hurt anyones feelings, so we provide them with a talk phone. I never cease to be amazed at some of the stuff we allow the Government and it's minions to con us into. I remember the rural phones, but we paid for them ourselves. The number at our Farm was 19R2 and it was a party line of everyone along the road to Strausstown. Our ring was 2 shorts.

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Outtahere 2 years, 2 months ago

It never ceases to amaze me when I read OPINIONS of people regarding government assistance, when they have NEVER needed it themselves. See there is something you all are forgetting - not ALL people with food stamps or free phones are abusing the system!! I had a free phone when they first came out (back then you only got 90 min) and I used it for a few months. Once I began working again I didn't need it anymore and got my own. See my point is that when I needed that phone it was because I was unemployed (not by choice). That phone enabled me to put a phone number on job apps and an emergency number for my day care to reach me if needed. Just because someone is poor and in need of assistance does not mean that they do not have everyday needs that have to be meet. That phone is not just for emergencies but for every day life NEEDS!!!! I needed a contact number and that is what it provided me. I am so sick of everyone WHINING about people on assistance!!!!!!! I do NOT envy that lifestyle NOR do I want to be in a situation that I need to ask for it again. So why doesn't everybody JUST GET OVER IT!!! People abuse the system (NOT EVERYONE) and live their life off of the system - IT SEEMS LIKE EVERYONE IS SO JEALOUS THAT THEY CANNOT HAVE THAT AS WELL!!! NOT SOMETHING I WANT!!!

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boyoboy 2 years, 2 months ago

You are in the one percentile that actually used it the way it was intended to be used.

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TrixibelleBento 2 years, 2 months ago

People just get tired of seeing people abuse the system. I stood behind two young ladies yesterday at Publix who bought over $100 worth of groceries (Capri Sun, Fruit Loops, Mountain Dew, steaks, snacks) and them slapped a GA Peach card to pay. They were not destitute looking. One of them looked like she just came home from the club. What car did they get in? A very nice Honda Civic. That is not a needy family. The little boy that was with them was dressed better than 90% of the kids in Albany. THAT'S the stuff that makes my blood boil. I'm working hard so those ladies can live on the dole. They sure hadn't missed any meals...

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Cartman 2 years, 2 months ago

You had a desire for a phone. You had a use for a phone. But you did not have a need for a phone. You have a need for air, water, food, housing, etc. Many people have lived with no cell phone. But conceding for a moment you had such a need; why must your neighbors be forced to pay for it? It's not the role of government to provide food, water, housing, medical insurance, flood loss replacement, or cell phones. I don't care if it started in the 1920s, or under George W. Bush, or Millard Fillmore. It is not generous to take other people's money even if you use it for benevolent purposes. It is generous to take your own money and use it for benevolent purposes.

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Outtahere 2 years, 2 months ago

Again, I am baffled by your comment!!!!!!! All the needs you listed, guess what - THEY COST MONEY!!!!! I needed a phone to move on with my life even though I hit some "road bumbs" and that is exactly what I did!! And guess what else - if I had of had my own money I wouldn't have needed assistance! And to top it all of Cartman (better name would be Clueless) once I endured going without a lot of things (including employment) it opened my eyes and now I work helping other people. Compassion is helping someone who doesn't necessary deserve it. I hope one day you don't find yourself in a situation where you need someone to show you compassion. Oh, but I guess you have lived a perfect life and the great Cartman would never be in a situation where he has a need that he can not meet without asking for assistance!! So, Cartman, if a person is in need - who should help??

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reb_arty1863 2 years, 2 months ago

I guess you would have died or been seriosly maimed in the 1960s and before then???? Before governmment redistribution of wealth and CELL phones?? Give me a break dole dippin outtahere. You evidently are not so destitute that you cannot afford a computer and internet services either. Does odumma pay your isp access and computer bill also???? Get a job instead of being a keyboard liberal. Who helped people before government dole??? Family,other peopl, church's. But it was not an entitlement like you now enjoy.

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waltspecht 2 years, 2 months ago

No jealousy, just a heartfet desire to stop a program that the GAO says is so badly riddled with fraud that the only way to correct it is to stop it completely. Growing up, many people used a neighbors phone number as a contact point when they didn't have a phone. Plus, I believe the Department of Labor has phone numbers you can use for a contact point. At least they used to.

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agirl_25 2 years, 2 months ago

I have an aunt who is in her late 80's and was in the industrial north during the Great Depression and I have aunts who are in their late 80's and are here in the south and they both tell stories of what life was like for them back then. The northern aunts had it a lot harder than the southern aunts because they were in the industrial north where they were more dependent on factory jobs and the southern ones had farms where they grew most of their own food and had cows and chickens, hogs, etc. The interesting thing is how they neither had a lot of, if any, government help and I wonder what the people today would do if they didn't have all the government help they have. I don't know if any of you have people in your lives who can tell you the stories of what it was like back then but it is fascinating and something you should not let pass if you do have someone who can tell you those stories. And no, Outtahere, no jealousy at all...just a true desire to see the day when the majority of us can stop carrying the load. I am truly glad you were able to bring yourself around and pull yourself up and become productive and hope you never have to go thru it again. Oh and btw...glad I could help. You are welcome.

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Outtahere 2 years, 1 month ago

Thanks agirl_25. You know I guess I get so angry because I KNOW how it is, first of all to be in a financial bind (and it sure don't feel good) and also how humbling it is to ask for help. It was a life experience that has helped me become a better person. Anyway, when all you hear is negativity surrounding government benefits it makes people who qualify and use it as needed embarassed and ashamed. Again, it is a humbling experience but also one that has taught me compassion for others.

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reb_arty1863 2 years, 2 months ago

Humorous, and to the point as usual

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TrixibelleBento 2 years, 2 months ago

When I was a teenager, my father lost his job and we received food stamps for about 6 months. When we went to Family Mart (remember that place) to pay for groceries and when my mom got in line to check out, I went to the car. I didn't want anyone to see my family having to use food stamps. I was embarrassed. Nowdays, people don't really care and almost rub it in your face.

My father felt deflated too. As soon as he could get off food stamps, he did. He felt bad for not being able to provide for his family. He took a job that he didn't like so we could stop living on the dole. I respected him deeply for that and have never forgotten how it felt to need public assistance. I will do everything in my power to never need public assistance. That's not to say that it won't ever happen to me, but I'm going to fight to ensure that I can support myself.

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agirl_25 2 years, 2 months ago

Thank you for sharing that Trixibelle and may I suggest you copy and paste it, print it out and tuck it away someplace for your children to read for when you are gone. Those are the kind of things they need to know you felt somewhere in time when you were growing up. Oh man, the things my kids are going to read.....hahaha.....it will keep them busy for years....

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TrixibelleBento 2 years, 2 months ago

Thanks for the idea agirl! I don't have any kids though and doubt I will. I'd be the most strict parent ever and my kid would probably call DFCS on a weekly basis. I'd want to be such a great parent that I'd probably screw up my child's psyche. The world is such a scary place that I don't know if I could raise a responsible contributor to society with the way things are.

I do know one thing though: I'd send my child to private schools even if I had to eat PB&J sandwiches forever!

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agirl_25 2 years, 2 months ago

awwwwww don't be so hard on yourself.......my kids survived me and lived to tell and still laugh at some of the antics I pulled over the years......and were shocked I actually got away with them....but I knew I was right or I would not have pursued each cause.

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whattheheck 2 years, 2 months ago

With the free phones, anyone can be called so the poor old worried Mama can keep up with her daughter, who doesn't really care or she would provide a phone, and her grandson's drug dealer, if desired. There are no restrictions on who can be called or when Very timely that so many phones are being distributed just in time for a vote of thanks to those who shower the poor with benefits. However, it is those who pay for the phones that should be thanked rather than the politicians who stole the money from us.

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Trustbuster 2 years, 2 months ago

According to the federal govt. anything can be considered an "emergency." Unfortunately our politicians have fallen for the 19th century Utilitarian philosophy which promotes the "greatest good for all." The Utilitarians believed in govt. intervention and assistance to help out anybody that is in trouble whether it is their own fault or not. This philosophy is very prevelant in contemporary society especially since the "Me" generation. Another name for entitlement. One any govt. subsidized program becomes an entitlement it becomes very hard for politicians to eliminate it from the budget.

I am trying to change this philosophy by joining the local Tea party. I agree with Jefferson's position "the best govt. is the one that governs the least."

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albanyherald1 2 years, 1 month ago

Outtahere, I don't understand why you feel embarrassed and ashamed when people fuss about others abusing the systems, fraudulently obtaining welfare or foodstamps, or feeling entitled to government assistance. You obviously are in the very small percentile of those who use this assistance for what it was originally intended for...to use when you are down and out until you can get back on your feet. Not continue to stay on it, generation after generation riding the coat tails of those who work hard for a living. These comments are directed at THOSE people, so don't feel ashamed, feel proud that you have morals and values, unlike those other folks who abuse the system. I agree with the other poster who commented that needing a phone for seeking employment is nice to have but not an emergency. Hold your head up and don't take offense when people fuss knowing they are not referring to you.

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Outtahere 2 years, 1 month ago

Thanks for the comment. I guess at times I did feel ashamed to be on assistance because I had never been in that situation before. It was a learning lesson for me and it taught me a lot about people in general. And during the time of my unemployment, when I was searching for work, there is no way you could get me to believe I didn't need a phone for finding a job. See I had NO FAMILY or friend around and I was all by my self. I had no one to ask to borrow one. But, that is all in the past and I am gainfully employed and loving it!!!!! Because of the phone I got from gov assistance I was able to find a job and start my life over!! Now, I love to help people and feel I have something valuable to contribute because of the things I went through. Anyway, thank you for your comment and I will make an effort to not be offended - I mean I shouldn't be offended after all, right?

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