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.
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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 email@example.com.