Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Affordable Cell Phone Care Act

Groucho Marx had many great monologues and spiels, but this is one of his finest:

The nickel today is not what it was fifteen years ago. Do you know what this country needs today?…A seven-cent nickel. Yessiree, we’ve been using the five-cent nickel in this country since 1492. Now that’s pretty near a hundred years’ daylight saving. Now, why not give the seven-cent nickel a chance? If that works out, next year we could have an eight-cent nickel. Think what that would mean. You could go to a newsstand, buy a three-cent newspaper and get the same nickel back again. One nickel carefully used would last a family a lifetime.

Note the absurd application of a Keynesian Money Multiplier effect, where inflation allows a carefully spent nickel to last a lifetime. Of course, the gentleman falls for the muddled logic and obfuscation, responding, “Captain Spaulding, I think that is a wonderful idea.” One wonders if the Chandler character isn’t simply a composite sketch of the typical congressman.

When the foil, Chandler, apparently a very rich man (or a well-off politician), says it sounds like a wonderful idea, Marx replies, "You do, eh? Well, then there can't be much to it. Forget about it."

Here's another wonderful idea, the Affordable Cell Phone Care Act (ACPCA), which would work similarly to the way the Affordable Care Act works (or doesn’t). And here's how it would work, once it has enough sponsors in the House to push it through, with a new official House rule that reading it would be optional. And there would be more than enough seasoned, glib salesmen in and out of office who could promote it across the nation.

You own a cell phone. You pay a monthly fee for the service. You're happy with it. You may or may not think you're paying too much, or perhaps you think it's a bargain. But, wouldn't it be wonderful if you didn't have to pay anything at all? If it were free?

One of the big selling points of the ACPCA would be the hundreds of thousands of Americans who don’t own cell phones, who are still relying on land lines and other outmoded means of communication with their friends, employers, lawyers, bail bondsmen, and others.

Owning a cell phone would, of course, be mandatory. This is necessary if the plan is to work.  If you didn't own a cell phone, you would need to purchase one. If you choose to not purchase a cell phone, you may be penalized an amount to be determined by an ACPCA regulatory and policing panel. That's only right. If we're all one big happy family, we look out for each other, watch each other's backs.

But, not to worry. Great bargains in cell phones and cell phone maintenance would be offered through the ACPCA.  The ACPCA would establish cell phone purchase exchanges throughout the nation, or several in each state. Here one could shop for the best cell phone deal available according to one's income, age, and communications requirements. Cell phone providers would offer a spectacular range of programs covering intrastate and interstate rates, international rates, special family plans, discounts on purchases made through your cell phone, your income level, and so on.

Of course, like any bargain, restrictions would apply. But you needn't bother yourself with the way the ACPCA works in the way of availability rules and the like. That's all just tech-talk for boneheads and "experts." You can gloss over these funky details just as our politicians did when "reading" the ACA before passing it. I mean, get serious. Who has time to read through tens of thousands of pages of small print? Certainly not your Congressman, nor your Senator. An easy to read digest of the ACPCA will be made available soon.

For example, if your present cell phone provider offers you a 1,000-minute package with a premium that increases a minimal percent of the contract rate in excess of 1,000 minutes, you will not likely find a better package in any cell phone exchange that would offer better than between a 5 and 15 minute basic allotment, with usage rates surpassing that minimum increasing between 50 to 200 percent. Cell phones that feature picture-taking abilities and web access would need to be priced at slightly higher minimal rates. Ipads and other communication devices would be treated as cell phones and their rates have yet to be ironed out. But you can count on them being dear.

You can avoid enrolling in the ACPCA if you can prove that your only means of communication is with a Navajo-embroidered blanket and smoke signals. This would require extensive documentation proving that you are at or beneath the Federal Poverty Level, and that you have EPA approval to engage in such polluting activities.

If you like your current cell phone plan, you may keep it – provided it meets all the federal criteria for just and fair cell phone service. If your current plan does not meet those criteria, it will be automatically cancelled, and you must shop for a similar plan on the cell phone exchanges. Good luck!

If your employer pays for your cell phone because your device is critical to your job, he may drop it entirely or pass on the increased costs to him over to you. Or he may drop you entirely. This is a risk everyone faces. The new cell phone coverage plan is complex and in many respects incoherent and unintelligible, but these are facets of the new plan that experts are still sorting out.

Okay. You're a young person. You're groovy and semi-literate enough to have a driver's license. You talk and text a lot. You've developed "cell phone elbow" and a "plastic ear" and you're always bumping into things and people because you're focused on that LED screen.  You use that cell phone a lot! So, it would only be fair to the millions and millions of older folks if you paid more for cell phone service than they. You would not, of course, be eligible to have your new cell phone service costs be subsidized by the federal government via MegaPhone, because, thankfully, you're not old enough! After all, those older folks have already put in their time and paid into the system, but it's not their fault that they can no longer be able to eat well except when they get the Senior Special Breakfast at McDonald's (Yeech!). It's your patriotic duty and humanity to help these older folks. They'd do the same for you, if they could.

But, help is on the way. Beginning at the end of next year, if the bill passes, the federal government and the states would split the subsidized costs of MegaPhone and PhoneAid to better help our seniors pay for cell phone coverage they need, or don’t need (that's not up to them).

Don’t worry if you lose your current plan and wind up paying more for a cell phone program that offers less. You know what that guy said a long time ago: There's no such thing as a free cell phone!

To make the various cell phone plans more attractive, they have been divided into five main standardized groups or tiers, graded from the lowest cost to the most expensive: the Henny Youngman, the Jerry Seinfeld, the Moms Mabley, the Vaughan Meader, the Jonathan Winters, the Phyllis Diller, and the Rodney Dangerfield. No, wait. That's seven. No, eight, including the Jack Benny plan, which is the stingiest. These plans correspond to the ACA's iron, zinc, silicate, bronze, cupra-nickel, silver, gold, and platinum plans.

As for cell phone repair and maintenance, choices will be limited or nonexistent. This is economics and you needn’t bother your head with such confusing, double-talking rocket science. If Cox or Verizon or AT&T once subcontracted repair or onsite services, you may have to settle for what your new provider has to offer, which may mean long waiting times or no waiting time at all (i.e., no services), incompetent technicians or gruff help lines, and limited or no warranty on the cell phone.

Just remember: Scarcity is good. It saves resources, and protects the environment.

Did we discuss another benefit of the ACPCA? You will be allowed to keep your old cell phone number! This will allow the NSA, the DHS, and the IRS to keep track of your cell phone usage to better serve you in the future. Universal service for unity! That's our motto!

If you go onto the ACPCA website to enroll in the new national cell phone program, and you find yourself looping back to page one over and over again, or okaying plans you haven’t even seen yet, don’t feel like you’re a duck in a dry hole or that you're as thick as a brick. The kinks and bugs are being worked out and eradicated with the best expertise the government can buy. Have patience. The site will work, someday.

If you have ideological objections to the ACPCA, don’t bother voicing them. The Supreme Court has settled the matter. It's constitutional. Besides, if you voice any criticisms of the new program, you don’t really want to red flag yourself for official scrutiny. Protesting the ACPCA means that you think you're smarter than Chief Justice John Roberts.

And there you have it. A program designed with you in mind. Never mind the naysayers and doomsayers who cry that the ACPCA will just bankrupt the country and leave us in perpetual debt to the Chinese and Patagonians. That's racist talk. Ignore the doubters who write that the new cell phone program is, what one snarky pundit called it, a "sump for suckers" (he's being audited for expressing unpatriotic views and encouraging sedition). There are downsides to every worthwhile plan that you can only benefit from, because it's…free! Free for you and me! So, rally 'round that flag, and enroll today! Call your family and friends! Spread the word!

Cell phone paradise is here!

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