Perverse: America's HUD Secretary Ben Carson Unabashedly States That Public Housing Is Too Good for Poor People

As secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Ben Carson has been traveling throughout the U.S. for a number of weeks on a listening tour for low-income citizens relying on the government for assistance. Only, to some, the tour was more of a photo-op than an integral conversation with a powerful government official.

“It was staged. It was so fast,” said 87-year-old Alzene Munnerlyn, according to the New York Times. Carson paid a visit to her apartment complex in Columbus, Ohio, on the second day of his tour. After she was priced out of her apartment, Munneryln now lives in senior housing, paid in part with a voucher.

“There needs to be a forum where you can just sit and talk with him, and he could ask you how you feel and then you could express yourself,” she said, frowning, according to the Times. Munnerlyn was upset and she felt as if she was used, as Carson and many other local housing officials took pictures in her living room.

“She had wanted to tell Mr. Carson that President Trump’s plans to cut funding for housing vouchers might make it harder for other seniors to keep their homes,” the Times reported.

Carson, a former neurosurgeon with no prior experience running a federal agency, acknowledges that government-housing is a necessity for some Americans, but he doesn’t want them to get too comfortable. He told the Times that compassion means not making people dependent, or providing them with “a comfortable setting that would make somebody want to say: ‘I’ll just stay here. They will take care of me.’”

Carson has a worldview that is typical amongst many conservatives — that people need to work for a living and those who work harder will achieve greater success. In January, the Times noted that Carson “embraced standard conservative views that too much government help — both in desegregating neighborhoods and in lifting people from poverty — can discourage people from working hard.”

While touring various facilities in Ohio last week, Carson said in jest that one apartment complex that houses veterans lacked “only pool tables,” according to the Times. As he continued his tour he had nothing to say, except nod his head, to officials that described to him an overcrowded homeless shelter stacked with dozens of bunk beds where the people were purposely deprived of televisions.

“We have some people who are mentally ill. We have some elderly and disabled people,” Carson told the Times. We can’t expect in many cases those people to do a great deal to take care of themselves,” he continued. “There is another group of people who are able-bodied individuals, and I think we do those people a great disservice when we simply maintain them.”

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

DonateDonate by credit card


Don't Sit on the Sidelines of History. Join Alternet All Access and Go Ad-Free. Support Honest Journalism.