Why Trump thought that a neurosurgeon with as warped a worldview as Ben Carson’s would make a good secretary for the Department of Housing and Urban Development is beyond anybody with sense. Carson is so myopic about things like poverty that running a government department tasked with helping people in poverty that it’s disgusting. For instance, consider what he said during a SiriusXM interview released today:
You take somebody that has the right mindset, you take everything from them and put them on the street and I guarantee in a little while they’ll be right back up there. And you take somebody with the wrong mindset, you can give them everything in the world, they’ll work their way right back down to the bottom.”
There would be a degree of truth to that if the playing field were perfectly level for everyone, and everyone ended up in poverty or was able to claw their way out of poverty in the exact same ways.
But that’s not the world we live in. Poverty has a variety of causes, including things like systemic racism and gentrification. Single parent households are more likely to be poor because the cost of living is so high in many areas that a single income doesn’t cover what it used to.
The failed trickle-down theory of economics is also a major cause – cutting taxes for the rich, along with other so-called business-friendly policies that are supposed to send prosperity “trickling down” from on high, have sent most of the money from productivity gains to the top. They’ve concentrated wealth up there, which has sent more people spiraling into poverty here. Too many jobs these days are considered low-wage, even if they pay above the federal poverty line and require specific skills, and it’s why the minimum wage has become such a hot-button topic.
Then there’s the fact that the people Carson believes would be able to climb right back to where they were if they lost everything can’t actually lose everything. If they weren’t impoverished to begin with, they’re more likely to have a college education and a skill set that’s attractive to employers. They might find things harder without a permanent address, but they’ve got things that nobody can take away no matter what.
Take away their skills and their education, so they can’t qualify for jobs that pay well, and they’re stuck at the bottom.
The people Carson thinks would simply sink back down into poverty if they were given everything? That’s his ridiculous idea that everyone’s playing field is already level and certain people just choose to be irresponsible. He can’t speak with any authority to what every poor person would do if they were handed a good job, a decent house, and a pile of money.
To Carson, everyone has bootstraps, those bootstraps are all the same length and same strength, and you either choose to pull yourself up or you don’t. If you don’t, then it seems, on his planet, that you deserve to continue living in poverty. Being poor is due to a character flaw, so “you made your bed,” as it were.
Someone who sees the world this way has zero business being in charge of HUD.
Featured image via Larry French/Getty Images for SiriusXM