He’s African-American, was born poor and raised in inner-city Detroit, but managed to rise to the heights of his profession through the life-saving industry of his skilled neurosurgeon’s hands.
Last year Republican candidates fought to become their party’s presidential nominee. Dr. Ben Carson, who had no prior elected public office experience, found himself in Iowa for a very short period of time leading the rest of the GOP pack in polling, including Ohio Gov. John Kasich and the ultimate winner, Donald John Trump.
The soft-spoken pediatric surgeon, who seemed out of his depth from the time he entered the race until his endorsement of Trump after suspending his campaign after losing in New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary, underwent a vetting Thursday for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development [HUD] before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. The committee will decided whether Mr. Carson is qualified to run the cabinet-level federal agency President Lyndon Johnson created in 1965 as part of his “Great Society” administration.
The ranking Minority Member on the committee is Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, who has a long history of showing he knows a thing or two about poor people and how important affordable housing is to their lives, used the hearing highlight conflict-of-interest challenges that a Trump presidency will bring to governing, according to reports.
In his opening statement, Sen. Brown asked a fundamental question that touched on the mission of HUD and engaged Carson on his own biography. For those who cannot overcome the odds on their own, Brown said, “should we help them or not?”
On fair housing, Sen. Brown confronted Carson with a 2015 Washington Times opinion piece he authored that criticized an Obama administration rule, Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing. The rule requires cities and towns to look for and reverse patterns of racial bias in housing.
Carson said his problem with HUD rests with his belief that Washington bureaucrats decide how things should be done instead of looking at the problem from the bottom up.
Notwithstanding endorsements from three Bush White House HUD secretaries and one from President Bill Clinton’s HUD pick, Henry Cisneros, an open letter was sent to committee chairman, Idaho Senator Michael Crapo and Brown, from professors, experts, and academics who requested the committee to not confirm Carson’s appointment.
Sen. Brown challenged Carson on his repeated claims that government assistance programs are harmful. Commenting in the wake of the civil rights, Carson said, “[R]acist people from both parties adopted a paternalistic attitude toward African-Americans and enacted federal and state programs designed to take care of people who couldn’t take care of themselves – people who were ignorant, stupid, or just plain lazy.”
According to Sen. Brown’s introductory statement, Dr. Carson said, “The only reason I can imagine that it would be a good idea for government to foster dependency in large groups of citizens is to cultivate a dependable voting bloc that will guarantee continued power as long as entitlements are provided.”
Earning his stripes as the heir apparent to Ted Kennedy as the next liberal lion of the Senate, Brown quoted Dr. Carson suggesting that all assistance programs should be cut by 10 percent a year until the budget is balanced, without exception and without regard to whether the population served is vulnerable. “Even social insurance programs like Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare, which he believes are “socialist-leaning,” should be subject to cuts, said Carson.
Meanwhile, Carson was caution, saying his philosophy on entitlement programs is that it’s cruel to remove them without providing an alternative
Ohio’s senior senator observed that in one of the few statements Carson has made on housing policy, Brown notes that the author whose autobiography is called “Gift Hands” called into question more than four decades of civil rights law, as he disparaged HUD’s efforts to reduce segregation as “social-engineering schemes” designed to “legislate racial equality.”
Sen. Brown, one of the Senate’s 48 Democratic senators who will run for reelection in 2018, cited one study of medical students showing that less than 5.5 percent came from households with incomes under roughly $20,000. Moreover, to put Mr. Carson’s rise from a hardscrabble life to one of fame and fortune only happens to one in 13 Americans who will be fortune enough to move from the lowest income quintile to the highest over a lifetime.
“If confirmed, I look forward to listening to the concerns of the American people in order to develop new solutions to age-old problems, especially increasing opportunity, and making America’s neighborhoods stronger,” Dr. Carson told the committee.
Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey questioned Carson on whether he supports the concept of rental assistance. Carson assures him that rental assistance is “essential,” the AP reported.
HUD has a $48.3 billion budget to pursue disaster relief, reducing homelessness, working with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, combating housing discrimination, and building and maintaining single- and multi-family housing across the U.S.