What if you could make money just by owning a phone?

Raise your hand if you think there is nothing more annoying than getting a random phone solicitation call in the middle of dinner.

You’re sitting around after a long day of work with your feet propped up and dinner resting on a TV tray in your lap with the best television show of the week about to start, and invariably the phone starts ringing. If you’re lucky enough to have caller ID on the TV screen, or if you’re phone is nearby, you can choose to simply ignore those nuisance sales calls.

That usually is not the case when I’m kicking back. Normally I’m stuck with my feet up on a stability ball and the phone is a long way away.

So the other day while I was thinking about ways to take the financial burden off the middle-class, and I came up with a notion that would put the onus where it belongs — big business.

If Big Brother can watch every move we make, why can’t we turn our telephones into profit centers? Genius, right? We’ve all got phones. We all get random sales calls and charities inquiries at the least convenient times. So why can’t we start charging people to call us? With a little help from the phone and cable companies and the government this could put a little coin back in our pockets and help stimulate the economy.

Here’s how. First, each person who owns a phone could create a friends and family list that would allow them to register the incoming numbers that you want to receive. These folks would not be charged.

Next would be your own version of the “no-call” list. These would be all the others who are not on your list. The first call would be charged say 50 cents. The number of this incoming call would be recorded through the magic of digital technology and eventually a sliding scale would be created so that repeat offenders on the no-call list would have to pay an increasing amount of money the more times they tried to call.

For example, let’s say XYZ insurance company has you on its robo-call list, and they repeatedly call around 9 p.m., just when you’re starting your favorite show or some other leisure activity. First call, 50 cents, regardless of whether you answer or not. Next call from XYZ will cost them say a dollar for your inconvenience. And so it would go up to whatever level we cap the system at.

The trick would be the “limbo” people — those callers who you’re not sure whether you want to talk to or don’t provide information. I’d say charge them the first 50 cents and then find a way to waive the fee if you want to add them to your “OK to call” list.

The beauty of the plan would be that folks who receive the majority of these unwanted calls — Joe and Jane Six Pack — would benefit the most. They could receive either a lump sum check at the end of each month from their phone provider, or the money could be used directly to pay their phone bill.

Think of it as TARP money for the middle-class. We’ve all got phones, so this project is beyond shovel-ready. What better way for politicians on both sides of the aisle to put a little money back in the economy than by this simple pay-to-play plan?

But I’m not greedy. I’d be willing to share some of the wealth by cutting the phone company in on a small portion of the money — emphasis on small — to cover the cost of data mining the incoming calls and setting up the system. Let’s say 10 percent. And of course the government could have its 5 percent (with the majority earmarked for education spending and not pork projects). So the average family would be getting 85 percent of the net.

This all makes too much sense, so it will never work, you say. Of course, you’re probably right. But just once, wouldn’t you like the folks who disturb your dinner to have to pay up? I know I would.


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