There has been much speculation regarding the role of Ben Carson in President-elect Donald Trump’s new administration. But now, it seems the time for conjecture has drawn to a close. Sources close to the appointment confirm that Carson will accept a cabinet spot as secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
Last week, Carson, once Trump’s rival for the GOP nomination, cryptically tweeted about his possible future position.
“An announcement is forthcoming about my role in helping to make America great again,” he wrote last Wednesday.
New York Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, a member of the Trump transition team’s executive committee, said that either the job of Health and Human Services secretary or surgeon general “would be great for Ben Carson.” Carson was allegedly on Trump’s short list for both. Rumors even suggested that he could become secretary of Education.
Former President George W. Bush once offered the retired neurosurgeon the position of surgeon general. However, Carson wasn’t interested in the appointment then, nor is he interested in serving the Trump administration in that capacity.
In fact, Carson repeatedly stated that he had no intention of working with Trump’s administration in any official capacity whatsoever. During a July interview, he restated his intention.
“I will certainly continue to talk to and advise him, but I do not want a government position,” he said.
Earlier this month, Carson’s longtime friend, Armstrong Williams, also indicated that Carson had no interest in a cabinet spot.
“Dr. Carson feels he has no government experience; he’s never run a federal agency. The last thing he would want to do was take a position that could cripple the presidency,” Williams told The Hill during a phone interview.
Carson’s views on the matter have dramatically changed in the past few days though. He now feels confident his experiences growing up in Detroit will help him properly oversee HUD.
Carson’s mother raised her two sons alone and often worked two or three jobs at a time to make ends meet. Periodically, his family depended on food stamps to survive. He shared this plight with many of his neighbors.
“I know that I grew up in the inner city,” Carson said. “And have spent a lot of time there. And have dealt with a lot of patients from that area. And recognize that we cannot have a strong nation if we have weak inner cities. And we have to get beyond the promises and start really doing something.”
However, since Trump’s tweet about “seriously considering Dr. Ben Carson as the head of HUD,” several affordable housing experts raised issues about the appointment.
In a statement released last week, Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, called the news “concerning.” She went on to say that Carson has a “fundamental misunderstanding of obligations” regarding fair housing issues.
Terri Ludwig, president and CEO of Enterprise Community Partners, an affordable housing advocacy agency, worries about the future of low-cost housing. She’s concerned it won’t be part of Trump’s infrastructure plans unless the new HUD secretary champions affordable options.
“Investments in quality, affordable housing must be a part of that agenda,” Ludwig said. “Today more than one in four families who rent their homes — 11.4 million households in total — are ‘housing insecure,’ spending at least half of their monthly income on housing. This unprecedented affordable housing crisis not only damages the health and economic prospects of millions of people in America, it’s also a drag on our country’s economic growth.”
Carson though is critical of some of the very legislation aimed at fair housing initiatives. In 2015 he penned an opinion piece published in The Washington Times. In it, Carson called some of these measures nothing more than “mandated social-engineering schemes.” He believes the policies only ended up hurting the very people that should have been protected by them.
Carson noted that there were “reasonable ways to use housing policy to enhance the opportunities available to lower-income citizens.” However, he wasn’t confident that government mandates were the way to go.
“Based on the history of failed socialist experiments in this country, entrusting the government to get it right can prove downright dangerous,” he wrote.
As the future HUD secretary, Carson will become the very person making sure that the government does get it right.