The progressive Left’s opposition to President-elect Donald Trump’s nomination of Ben Carson to be the next Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is predictably condescending, biased and hypocritical. For example, out-of-touch Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called Carson a "disconcerting and disturbingly unqualified choice." Democratic Senate Minority Leader-in-waiting Chuck Schumer said he had "serious concerns about Dr. Carson's lack of expertise and experience in dealing with housing issues. Someone who is as anti-government as him is a strange fit for housing secretary, to say the least."
It is incredible how progressives such as Pelosi and Schumer, neither of whom experienced real poverty first hand, are ready to demean Ben Carson, who grew up in abject poverty. They cannot deal with the fact that an incredibly accomplished African-American, who does not buy into the failed progressive ideology of big government social engineering, is poised to take over the leadership of a failing government bureaucracy that would rather dabble in social engineering than get its own house in order. Ben Carson simply does not fit the progressive image of how an African-American should think and act.
"I think the way that I'm treated, you know, by the left is racism," Ben Carson has said. "Because they assume because you're black, you have to think a certain way. And if you don't think that way, you're 'Uncle Tom,' you're worthy of every horrible epithet they can come up with,” he added.
Ben Carson’s credentials for reforming the bloated, mismanaged Department of Housing and Urban Development come from his real life experience. "I grew up in Detroit, and I grew up in Boston. In Boston, we lived in the ghetto. There were a lot of violent episodes there. There were rats, there were roaches. It was dire poverty," Carson said.
Carson’s opposition to government-imposed dependency is not based on some abstract conservative theory. He is not anti-government per se, but rejects the vicious circle of the dependency culture that progressive big government policies have fostered. “I'm interested in getting rid of dependency, and I want us to find a way to allow people to excel in our society, and as more and more people hear that message, they will recognize who is truly on their side and who is trying to keep them suppressed and cultivate their votes," Carson said in a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2015.
Carson’s views are informed by what he saw first-hand growing up, including his own mother’s willingness to work at multiple jobs while raising her children as a single mother. She refused to simply rely on government handouts and instilled her work ethic in Ben Carson himself, which helped him escape the black hole of dependency. As a friend of Carson’s tweeted on Monday, "Dr. Carson's mother worked 3 jobs at a time to keep them out of public housing, but he grew up around many who utilized housing programs."
HUD is a failing government bureaucracy, which needs the kind of thorough overhaul that Ben Carson has the analytical skills to deliver, and the life experience to draw upon. He will not be trapped inside the bubble of conventional bureaucratic thinking that has led to gross financial mismanagement of HUD’s $50 billion annual budget during President Obama’s time in office, as well as poor performance. The fact that this renowned neurosurgeon, now retired, is willing to enter public service and bring a fresh outsider’s perspective to an entrenched government bureaucracy is to be lauded, not ridiculed.
During the tenure of the current HUD Secretary, Julián Castro, HUD’s own Office of Inspector General identified in its audit for fiscal years 2016 and 2015 eleven “material weaknesses,” seven “significant deficiencies” in internal controls, and five instances of “noncompliance” with applicable laws and regulations. “Overall, we determined that HUD’s financial management governance remained ineffective,” the Inspector General’s audit report concluded.
HUD’s management ignored over 60 prior recommendations on financial management presented by the Inspector General since 2012. Julián Castro became HUD Secretary in mid-2014, doing nothing since that time to fix the systemic problems at HUD. As Curtis Kalin, spokesman for Citizens Against Government Waste said to the Daily Caller News Foundation, “HUD’s failure to properly maintain basic financial documents calls into question the department’s commitment to safeguarding taxpayer dollars.”
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a separate blistering critique in July 2016 of HUD’s overall management and operations. “GAO and others continue to find deficiencies in numerous aspects of HUD’s operations,” the report said. “HUD has not fully met some requirements or implemented a number of key practices for its management functions, including performance planning and reporting and information technology (IT), human capital, financial, and acquisition management. In particular, some HUD plans for executing critical management functions are missing key elements…HUD also has not always maintained current and complete policies and procedures, an important component of agency governance.”
Perhaps Secretary Castro was too busy sucking up to Hillary Clinton, even to the point of violating the Hatch Act when he expressed support for her presidential candidacy in an interview last April, to be bothered about mismanagement and poor governance in his own agency. Castro was also preoccupied with his social engineering schemes to force so-called “affordable housing” into suburban communities. Never mind about the effect on resources for providing quality government services and on public safety. Castro also introduced other policy changes designed to placate the Left. This included replacing a market-driven process to get the best prices from investors for nonperforming loans with a government winner selection process where "approved" buyers based on “social” criteria would receive steep discounts in lieu of competitive bidding. This is an indirect subsidy funded by the taxpayers.
Meanwhile, from July 2014, when Secretary Castro assumed his responsibilities at HUD, through the third quarter of 2016, the home ownership rate in the United States declined from 64.7 percent to 63.50 percent. Note that this is significantly below the all time high of 69.20 percent achieved in the second quarter of 2004 during the administration of former President George W. Bush.
In other words, HUD’s administration under Obama’s HUD Secretary, Julián Castro, has been an utter disaster that will require a person of Ben Carson’s analytical skills and life experience to remediate.
Since the progressive Left is quick to criticize Ben Carson’s “lack of expertise and experience in dealing with housing issues,” as Chuck Schumer put it, it is fair to ask what qualifications Julián Castro had before becoming HUD Secretary that endeared him to the progressives other than his Latino background. He was, to be sure, the mayor of San Antonio, Texas. That sounds impressive until one learns that the mayoralty position in San Antonio is mostly ceremonial. The real day-to-day responsibilities are vested in a city manager, who is chosen by the city council. Moreover, in a sign of the financial mismanagement problems that Castro would continue to tangle with at HUD, a 2012 report from HUD’s Inspector General identified some troubles in the way San Antonio was spending federal money on housing. The audit found that starting in 2009, when Castro became the mayor of San Antonio, through 2011, San Antonio “did not administer its Neighborhood Stabilization Program Grant in accordance with requirements” of the federal Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 and associated regulations.
In short, Julián Castro’s record was thin at best, accompanied by a warning sign from HUD of financial irresponsibility during his tenure as a city mayor. Yet the Senate vote to confirm Castro as HUD Secretary was 71-26. He faced little to no opposition on the way to his bipartisan confirmation. Any attempts by Democrats and their progressive Left supporters to throw roadblocks in the way of Ben Carson’s smooth confirmation to succeed Castro will prove their double standard partisanship and racial bias against free-thinking African-Americans.