Here’s some money. Now ban cellphones in cars.

by Walter Olson on June 21, 2012

The federal government should keep its busy hands off local traffic laws — and that goes for bribing states to its will, as well as issuing direct orders. Today the House will debate a measure that would make that point by cutting off a fledgling program that would pay states for doing what “distracted driving” crusader and DoT secretary Ray LaHood lacks the constitutional authority or political capital to do directly. I explain in my new post at Cato at Liberty.

{ 2 comments }

1 William Nuesslein 06.21.12 at 10:38 am

Mayor Bloomberg and Ray LaHood drive me nuts too. But I think the well written Cato article is in error as to the real problem. We want vaccination programs and some uniformity in highway construction.

The problem is that the two gentlemen are so damn stupid as shown in the recent Toyota fiasco and the war on soda drinks. “Sugary”

2 wfjag 06.21.12 at 12:17 pm

It would be cheaper, and possibly as or more effective to eliminate free cell phones under the Federal Liftline Benefit Program. One site advertises:
“FREE Cell Phone
Up to 250 FREE Voice Minutes Added Automatically Every Month
No Annual Contract
No Bills Ever!
Voicemail Account, Call Waiting, & Caller ID included
Nationwide Network Coverage ”
http://www.qlinkwireless.com/

Who qualifies for the benefit? According to the FCC, anyone qualifying for
“Medicaid;
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps or SNAP);
Supplemental Security Income (SSI);
Federal Public Housing Assistance (Section 8);
Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP);
Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF);
National School Lunch Program’s Free Lunch Program;
Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance;
Tribally-Administered Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TTANF);
Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR);
Head Start (if income eligibility criteria are met); or
State assistance programs (if applicable).”
http://www.fcc.gov/guides/lifeline-and-link-affordable-telephone-service-income-eligible-consumers

But, don’t worry, it’s not funded by tax dollars. Rather, “All telecommunications service providers and certain other providers of telecommunications must contribute to the federal USF based on a percentage of their end-user telecommunications revenues.” Id. [With just a small caveat: "Some consumers may notice a “Universal Service” line item on their telephone bills. This line item appears when a company chooses to recover its USF contributions directly from its customers by billing them this charge. The FCC does not require this charge to be passed on to customers. Each company makes a business decision about whether and how to assess charges to recover its Universal Service costs." Id. I'm sure I can depend on the phone company's generosity in deciding whether to pass along this fee.]

Who is responsible for this? Some call it “Obamaphone”. That’s not completely fair. True, the vast expansion of people now receiving Food Stamps has increased eligibility. However, the program was enacted in 1996. So, maybe it should be called the “Clinton Callers” program. Still, remembering who was House Speaker, it can be called “Newt Cells”, and remembering who was Senate Majority Leader, it can be called “Dialing for Dole”.

So, it’s not a tax, but you can be sure that the taxpayers pay for it. So, instead of raising my costs (or taxes) for paying states to stop people using the phones that I pay for because of a law you passed while they drive, why not eliminate the program and the Universal Service Fee I pay the phone company so it can pay it to you as a non-tax? And, if someone pays for their phone (and car and car insurance), maybe they’ll be more likely to be more careful when using them.

Just a thought.

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