Ben Carson’s Hypocrisy

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.

POPULAR AT PATHEOS Nonreligious
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • culuriel

    I have been lucky enough that the only government assistance I’ve needed were Pell Grants, student loans (paid back with interest), and some brief unemployment assistance. Nothing needed during my childhood to eat or have a roof over our heads, or heat in winter. So, I guess it’s rude of me to ask others, who did need this help, to step up and out and point out that lots of people have received help without becoming lifelong dependents, and this government help enabled them to leave poverty behind. But I’m asking anyway, because the world is full of Ben Carson’s and Paul Ryan’s and Rush Limbaugh’s, who received government help but don’t want anyone else to.

  • http://www.ranum.com Marcus Ranum

    You know what really kills incentive to work? Inherited wealth. Why don’t these guys support wealth redistribution? It’s, I dunno, as if they don’t really believe what they say, or something!

  • Jeremy Shaffer

    Reminds me of a former acquaintance*. Many years ago he and I both lost our respective jobs (the company he worked for folded and mine was bought out) and went on unemployment. Independently, we both used the opportunity to go back to school, though in different programs. However, he insisted that I was being lazy since I was a liberal (who are all lazy) and shouldn’t have taken the unemployment and simply gotten another job. Conversely, he had worked hard to earn his unemployment since he had been at his job a full six months longer than I had been at mine. Nevermind that he had received government benefits his entire life at that point since his mother raised him alone on very low-paying jobs and he was legally deaf and blind.

    *What follows is one of the many reasons I use the “former” qualifier.

  • arakasi

    Food stamps and public assistance do not provide a comfortable living. When sufficiently funded, however, it allows the recipients to do something other than root for the bare minimum to survive. Because of that, Ben Carson (among many others) had the opportunity to go to school, rather than spend his life rooting through trash heaps looking for stuff to sell

    And if Carson had made the decision to stop trying to improve himself and did the bare minimum just to get by? Then I would gladly pay taxes to ensure that he doesn’t starve or freeze to death. I would do this for anyone, because my view of what this country could be does not include letting people die in order to teach them a lesson

    I do commend Dr Carson for what he managed to accomplish – it must have taken a lot of talent, dedication, and luck to get to where he is today with his background. I wonder if he thinks that his own accomplishments would be somehow diminished if more people could follow the same path that he did. For every Ben Carson, there are dozens or hundreds of kids who who couldn’t quite make the same leap – maybe they are just as talented and driven, but they never got the pair of glasses that allowed them to succeed at school. Would Carson consider this a tragedy that this kid lost out due to a bit of bad luck, or would he be grateful that there was one less person competing for his spot at med school?

  • colnago80

    Clarence Thomas went to Holy Cross College, a fairly reputable school but hardly Ivy League. I don’t know what his class ranking was there. He then went to Yale and finished in the middle of his class. Compare this with his colleague on the court, Sonya Sotomayor who went to Princeton as an undergraduate hardly speaking English and finished 2nd in her class. At Yale, she was an editor of the law review. Quite clearly, she is a far better argument for affirmative action then is Thomas.

    Ben Carson has had a distinguished career as a surgeon. However, as I have argued previously, surgeons are like automobile mechanics. Just as automobile mechanics don’t have to know anything abut the physics of internal combustion engines, surgeons don’t have to know much about biology. This explains why schmucks like Carson and his good buddy and fellow surgeon Michael Egnor can spout of so much ignorance about biological theories such as evolution.

  • MyPetSlug

    It amuses me that the current Republican orthodoxy is that taking public assistance is not shameful enough. And it’s ok that he received assistance because he felt the requisite amount of shame while doing so. Apparently, so many others now are so proud to receive assistance that we have to burn down the bridge.

    Actually, this reminds me of PED use among professional athletes. An athlete will take the PEDs and then when they are caught, deny that it actually helped them. They’ll often say that worked incredibly hard to be as good as they are and *that’s* the reason they succeeded. Which completely ignores the fact that it’s the PEDs that enabled them to work so hard in the first place. They could lift every day while others couldn’t precisely because the steroids allowed their muscles to recover faster. Or they could train harder because their injuries would heal faster.

    It’s similar with Republicans and public assistance. Food stamps didn’t help me, they say. They succeeded because they pulled themselves up by their bootstraps. Which again, ignores the fact that they might only have been able to do that because they weren’t worried about actually starving or searching dumpsters for food just to get by or living on the street.

    There has to be a name for this psychological phenomena where you overvalue your contribution to a success and minimize others’ contributions.

  • Mike Morris

    Carson’s hypocrisy may have a wholly self-serving source. (Surely I jest.) As a black man who used the offered government help to bootstrap himself, he is admirable but not noteworthy. In order to attain the level of notoriety required for public office/adulation, he must take a stance so absurd that we now note him and his inane comments and ideas on a regular basis.

    And as Colnago80 points out, Clarence Thomas has proven the pathway to success and power.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    “Personal Responsibility, for other people” ~ GOP motto

  • http://artk.typepad.com ArtK

    Yet another version of “I got mine — sucks to be you.”

  • http://festeringscabofrealityblogspot.com fifthdentist

    @ MyPetSlug,

    Awesome analogy. I may have to steal it.

  • busterggi

    Carson is a white conservative Christian as such he deserved government help – its all THOSE people who don’t deserve it.

    What else was going to help him? Praying to Jesus?

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    busterggi “Carson is a white conservative Christian…”

    I’m sure it will come as quite a surprise to Ben Carson to discover that he’s white.

  • http://cheapsignals.blogspot.com Gretchen

    There has to be a name for this psychological phenomena where you overvalue your contribution to a success and minimize others’ contributions.

    Just world bias?

  • http://www.facebook.com/cosmicaug augustpamplona

    There was an amusing clip of actor Craig T. Nelson on Glenn Beck’s show a few years back where the talks, with a straight face, about how when he was on welfare and food stamps nobody helped him out.

  • Ellie

    It was different for Mother Carson because she was ashamed of being on the dole, so the welfare and food stamps she received were the good kind. The problem with people who are not Ben Carson’s mother is that they are not appropriately shamed in public, although Fox does its best.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cosmicaug augustpamplona

    arakasi writes:

    Food stamps and public assistance do not provide a comfortable living. When sufficiently funded, however, it allows the recipients to do something other than root for the bare minimum to survive. Because of that, Ben Carson (among many others) had the opportunity to go to school, rather than spend his life rooting through trash heaps looking for stuff to sell

    The New York Times had a piece related to this in January:

    http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/01/18/what-happens-when-the-poor-receive-a-stipend/

  • Pingback: Holistic Herpes Treatment for All Types of Herpes … – SBWire | Herpes Survival Kit()

  • Matrim

    @2, Marcus

    You know what really kills incentive to work? Inherited wealth. Why don’t these guys support wealth redistribution? It’s, I dunno, as if they don’t really believe what they say, or something!

    QFMFT

    More so than the well-off who used to be on assistance, I’m more shocked by the blue-collar Republicans, some of whom are on assistance RIGHT NOW who bad mouth social welfare.