Is Ben Carson Qualified to be Secretary of HUD?

Ever since Donald Trump made the announcement of his pick for Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, there has been debate surrounding whether or not Ben Carson has the qualifications to take on such a position; a position previously held by Julian Castro, the former mayor of San Antonio, Texas.  So what exactly are the qualifications to be the head of HUD? Is it your experience living in subsidized housing? Or maybe it’s just your mere ability to connect with people. These two things are exactly what makes Ben Carson qualified, at least to his longtime advisor and friend, Armstrong Williams[1].

Ben Carson pioneered the first successful neurosurgical procedure on a fetus inside the womb, developed new methods to treat brain-stem tumors, and became the youngest chief of pediatric neurosurgery in the country at age 33[2]. Although all great accomplishments, none of these aforementioned events make him qualified to run a government department designed to develop and execute policies on housing. As Armstrong Williams stated, it’s the fact that Ben Carson grew up in subsidized housing and has never been disconnected from the people who live that lifestyle[3].

In 2013, Ben Carson was quoted as saying, “having grown up in dire poverty, the thing that I hated the most in life was poverty. I just hated poverty. But as I began to read those books, particularly about people's accomplishments, I began to realize that poverty was really more of a choice than anything else and that I could change that. And it really just depended on how hard I wanted to work”[4]. It is hard to imagine how a person with such a narrow mindset can have a positive impact on an agency that provides affordable housing and rental assistance to low income families; families who have not chosen to be in poverty, but rather have circumstances that won’t allow them to be in any other position. Once again convoluting the difference between choices and circumstances, this year, Ben Carson referred to slaves as immigrants[5]. Following Ben Carson’s line of thinking, this rhetoric suggests that there was never an issue between slave owners and their slaves. Why would there be? The people on the bottom of the slave ships chose to be there. You cannot run an agency that seeks to reduce long standing histories of residential segregation, and not understand the very premise from which that segregation comes from. This entire notion disconnects Ben Carson from African Americans, a group of people that make up 48% of the people in public housing[6].   

Ben Carson does not understand the people living in subsidized housing, nor the reason why we need or have subsidized housing in the first place. His purported qualifications are devalued by his own rhetoric and I can’t help but be nervous for the future of HUD.