The free Obama phones are no joke, incidentally. It was a rather obscure federal benefit for low-income Americans until Obama became president.
The program is called Lifeline, established in 1984 was originally created to subsidize landline phone service for low income Americans, funded by government-collected telecommunication fees, paid by consumers.
In 2008, the program was expanded to support cell phones which quickly escalated the cost of the program. In 2008 the program cost $772 million, but by 2011 it cost $1.6 billion.
A 2011 audit found that 269,000 wireless Lifeline subscribers were receiving free phones and monthly service from two or more carriers. Several websites have been created to promote “free” government cell phones, including the”The Obama Cell Phone” website at Obamaphone.net.