Conservative hero du jour Ben Carson went on The View and displayed his rather obvious hypocrisy by talking about how things like food stamps and housing assistance rob people of their incentive to work. You know, like it did him and his mother growing up.
When you rob someone of their incentive to go out there and improve themselves, you are not doing them any favors. When you take somebody and pat them on the head and say, ‘There, there, you poor little thing. … Let me give you housing subsidies, let me give you free health care because you can’t do that.’ What would be much more empowering is to use our intellect and our resources to give those people a way up and out.
The problem: In his own autobiography he talks about the fact that his family was on welfare, that it took his family many years before they were only on food stamps and not other forms of assistance.
No doubt, Mother Carson deserves tremendous credit, but – in the words of a political sound bite from the last presidential election – she didn’t do it alone. Carson, in his book, tells how his grades improved tremendously when a government program provided him with free eyeglasses because he could barely see. Not only that, in “Gifted Hands” we read this nugget: “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.”
He writes elsewhere, “As I’ve said, we received food stamps and couldn’t have made it without them.”
But that’s totally different:
Such a plan, Carson said, is about personal responsibility—an ethic that’s in danger, he thinks. “We take the downtrodden in our society and we pat them on the head,” Carson said. “We say ‘There, there, you poor little thing. I’m gonna give you health care. I’m gonna give you housing subsidies, I’m gonna give you food stamps. You don’t have to worry about anything. What that has done is create generation upon generation of people who just live that way, waiting for government handouts.”
It’s hard not to see Carson’s own upbringing coming into view here. He grew up in meager surroundings in Detroit and Boston, in a family that made use of public assistance programs like food stamps. The culture was different then, Carson insists. “I think there was a time when people were not proud of taking handouts,” he said. “There were more people who did have that drive and determination. You do what you have to do. Did food stamps allow me to achieve my dream?” He laughed. “Of course not.”
Oh yes, of course. For magic, special, unstated reasons, people are totally different now than they were back in his day when he was on the dole and somehow managed to not be robbed of his initiative and desire to work. This reminds me very much of Clarence Thomas, who went to law school on an affirmative action program and then immediately, and constantly ever since, sought to deny that same opportunity to any other poor, minority student.
The reality is that Ben Carson should be the poster child for public assistance just as Thomas should be the poster child for affirmative action. Carson is a perfect example of the entire rationale for such programs, especially those aimed at families (single mothers in particular) with children. But no, once these men struck it rich they suddenly decided that anyone else in the same situation is lazy and shiftless, while they pulled themselves up by their bootstraps all on their own.