Two more candidates joined the race for the Republican presidential nomination on Monday. Of the two, retired brain surgeon Ben Carson is the one likely to have the most impact. That makes it frightening how much Carson just doesn’t get.
Carson went back to his roots to announce his candidacy for the nomination. On an auditorium stage in Detroit — his estranged hometown — he recounted his troubled, poverty-stricken childhood and then launched into a speech that revealed just how much he doesn’t get, for a guy who wants to be president.
What Ben Carson Doesn’t Get About The Safety Net
Carson’s humble upbringing is an important part of his narrative. His rise to becoming one of the top neurosurgeons in the country and a best-selling author is impressive because it starts in the poverty-stricken streets of Detroit and a fatherless home headed by a single mother with little education. Carson attempted to preemptively rebut those who would point out that his childhood experience of poverty doesn’t seem to inform his political positions.
There were many people who were critical of me, because they say Ben Carson wants to get rid of all the safety nets and welfare programs, even though he must have benefitted from them. I have no desire to get rid of safety net programs for people who need them. I have a strong desire to get rid of programs that create dependency in able-bodied people.
This is a blatant lie. Carson pointed out that his mother worked “extraordinarily hard,” often at two or three jobs, “trying to stay off welfare. And the reason for that,” Carson said, “was that she noticed that most of the people she saw on welfare never came off of it.” Carson either forgot or neglected to mention that his mother turned to the welfare system to meet family needs her earnings could not.
In his book "Gifted Hands," Carson writes that his grades improved after he got free eyeglasses from a government program:
By the time I reached ninth grade, mother had made such strides that she received nothing but food stamps. She couldn’t have provided for us and kept up the house without that subsidy.
What Carson doesn’t get about the safety net is that there are plenty of “able-bodied” people who receive some form of government assistance, and it doesn’t make them any more “dependent” than it made his mother. There are plenty of people who work “extraordinarily hard,” who have to rely on the safety net — not because they’re “dependent,” but because they don’t earn enough to afford essentials like shelter, food, medical care and transportation without assistance.
If Carson is really concerned about “dependency,” he should take on the $70 billion per year we spend subsidizing the oil industry, or the $20 billion a year we spend on farm subsidies, before taking assistance away from families who are where he used to be.
What Ben Carson Doesn’t Get About The "Turmoil In Our Cities"
Carson alluded to the unrest in Baltimore; Ferguson, Mo., and other cities where unarmed black men have been killed by police.
The past couple of weeks, there has been a great deal of turmoil in Baltimore. I spent 36 years of my life there, and we see the turmoil in cities all over our nation. We need to start thinking about how do we get to the bottom of this issue. I believe the real issue here is that people are losing hope, and they don’t feel life is going to be good for them no matter what happens. When an opportunity comes to loot, to riot, to get mine, they take it — not believing that there is a much better way to get the things that they desire.
What Carson doesn’t get about “turmoil in our cities,” is that in cities like Ferguson, Baltimore, and Detroit, people lose hope because their isn’t much of any way to get the things, or the life, they desire. That’s because jobs have disappeared from these cities, in large part due to economic policies and trade deals that made it easier for businesses and corporations to ship jobs overseas, where labor was cheap and unorganized, and environmental protections were few or non-existent.
In cities like Detroit and Baltimore, the loss of manufacturing jobs hit black communities the hardest — and black men in particular — because they were disproportionately represented in those jobs. Those jobs didn’t require a college education, but provided good wages and benefits that lifted many families into the middle class.
Not only are those jobs gone, but they have been replaced by low-wage jobs that provide no pathway to the middle class. That’s unlikely to change as long as we subsidize businesses and corporations that don’t pay their employees a livable wage.
What Ben Carson Doesn’t Get About Health Care
He didn’t dwell on it in his announcement speech, but Carson is so opposed to the Affordable Care Act, a k a Obamacare, that he’s compared it to both slavery and 9/11.
● In a speech at the 2013 Values Voter conference, Carson said: “You know Obamacare is really I think the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery. And it is in a way, it is slavery in a way, because it is making all of us subservient to the government, and it was never about health care. It was about control.”
● Later, in an interview with the Daily Beast, Carson said that Obamacare was the worst thing to happen to the U.S. since the 9/11 terrorist attacks: “Because 9/11 is an isolated incident. Things that are isolated issues as opposed to things that fundamentally change the United Sates of America and shift power from the people to the government. That is a huge shift. You have to take a long-term look at something that fundamentally changes the power structure of America.”
● The health care plan on Carson’s website is about as sparse and vague as the GOP plans for Obamacare “replacements.” Beyond re-establishing “a strong and direct relationship between patients and their physicians,” the only idea he has is an old one: health savings accounts, which by definition favor the well and wealthy. Republicans have been pushing health savings accounts since 2006.
What Carson doesn’t get about Obamacare is that, despite its imperfections, the health care reform law is popular with the majority of Americans. A recent Bloomberg poll showed that 63 percent of Americans think the law should be left alone, or allowed to work in order to find out how it should be changed. Only about 35 percent want Obamacare repealed, and most of them are people the who aren’t impacted by the law.
That's because it lowered the number of uninsured Americans, and increased the number of Americans with access to care without increasing spending on medical care. In fact, it's coming in 20 percent under projected costs. The number of uninsured has fallen by more than 11 million since the law’s passage, and is now at a seven-year low. More than 16 million Americans now have affordable, quality health insurance thanks to Obamacare — including presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who once swore to repeal “every word it.”
What Ben Carson Doesn’t Get About Climate Change
For a man of science, Ben Carson doesn’t get what the big deal is about climate change. “As far as I’m concerned, that’s irrelevant. What is relevant is that we have an obligation and a responsibility to protect our environment,” he said in an interview in Des Moines, Iowa. “You can ask it several different ways, but my answer is going to be the same. We may be warming. We may be cooling.”
What Carson doesn’t get about climate change is what the GOP doesn’t get. Not only is there a consensus in the scientific community, but (as with the next issue) Americans have moved past the GOP on this issue. A Yale/Utah State University poll showed that 63 percent of Americans think climate change is happening, along with 99 percent of the counties in the country.
What Ben Carson Doesn’t Get About Marriage Equality
Despite the issue currently being before the Supreme Court, Ben Carson didn’t mention marriage in his announcement speech. Perhaps he finally learned his lesson. Carson managed of the biggest gaffes so far this campaign season when he told CNN’s Chris Cuomo how he knew that being gay is a “choice.”
Ben Carson, the prospective 2016 presidential hopeful beloved by Tea Partiers, told CNN host Chris Cuomo on Wednesday that he believes homosexuality is “absolutely” a choice—because “a lot of people who go into prison, go into prison straight, and when they come out, they’re gay.”
The former neurosurgeon went on, “So did something happen while they were in there? Ask yourself that question.”
While the rest of the country cringed, the scientific community called Carson out, noting that decades of research shows that sexual orientation is inborn, not chosen. (Something so obvious that even Florida Sen. Marco Rubio can grasp it, or at least pretend to.)
After becoming the focus of near universal ridicule, Carson decided that he just wouldn’t talk about the issue anymore. What Carson doesn’t get about marriage equality is that he won’t get away with that on the campaign trail. The GOP base is light years behind the rest of the country, and they will demand that he says something about it, especially when the court’s decision is announced this summer.