One after another, President-elect Trump's cabinet picks have been setting off outrage from the forces of progressivism. The latest is Dr. Ben Carson, the apparent nominee to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Wait a minute! This guy is a neurosurgeon! What "experience" does he have in the field of government subsidized housing?
And thus the people who recently thought it was no problem at all to have someone with a background as "community organizer" and two years in the Senate as President now seem to think that experience specific to subsidized housing is critical to running one little department of the government. Here's a small sampling:
The New York Times (one of the more moderate comments):
President-elect Donald J. Trump has picked Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon with no housing experience, as his nominee for secretary of Housing and Urban Development — and high anxiety has set in. . . . [Former Philadelphia Mayor Michael] Nutter, who is African-American . . . calls Mr. Trump’s characterizations of cities “a general insult. . . .” “I’m proud that I had seven years with President Barack Obama, who actually knew about community development because he was a community organizer,” Mr. Nutter said.
Kevin Drum in Mother Jones (warning: vile left-wing racism):
[Carson] has no qualifications at all. I suppose Trump finally found the one thing Carson wouldn't mind crippling. The whole thing is kind of weird. My guess is that Trump is pretty desperate to get Carson on his team because he doesn't want the press to be able to say that his cabinet is all white. And Carson is probably the only black person Trump knows aside from Mike Tyson and Don King. But if that's the case, why not offer him HHS? That would make at least some borderline sense since Carson is a doctor. Or maybe Surgeon General. Or the Department of Commerce, since Carson has lots of grifting experience.
Melanie Carlson in The Hill, making a pitch for widespread permanent government dependency:
[The Carson nomination] continues Trump’s pattern of appointing dutiful sycophants that do not have tangible expertise for their given cabinet positions. . . . Given my area of expertise [as a former shelter based social worker] I would never attempt to do neurosurgery without a few tips. . . . I would like to provide Carson a little primer from my experience working in shelters and transitioning people to permanent housing. So the truth: not everyone can even successfully complete current shelter programs; much less have the ability to transition to permanent housing.
Well people, here's the thing: HUD operates mostly outside of the consciousness of most of the public. But you only have to look into it for a few minutes to realize that the business of HUD is creating poverty traps to make the supposed "beneficiaries" into government dependents for life. HUD is not merely a failure as an anti-poverty program; it is a disaster. It operates substantially on the model of socialism ("to each according to his needs"; assets in public ownership), and it achieves results that would make Cuba or Venezuela or East Germany proud. Readers here know that HUD's flagship, the New York City Housing Authority, is an unspeakable disaster at every level. Its properties, housing about 7% of New York City's population, sit on vast acreage of prime real estate -- some of it (e.g., miles of Manhattan waterfront) among the most valuable in the world -- and its residents receive subsidies in many cases worth $50,000 and $100,000 per family per year, and yet the poverty rate in its projects exceeds 50%, turnover is almost non-existent as residents remain in poverty for life, the rents cover barely a third of operating costs and nothing for capital projects or property taxes, and HUD throws some $2 billion down the rathole every year only to maintain the poverty and dependency.
And then there's HUD's latest big initiative, the program known as "Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing," by which the Obama HUD has sought to force middle-class and wealthy communities around the country to build more subsidized public housing. Supposedly the theory is that the thing holding back the poor from entering the middle class is isolation in poor inner cities, and once such people are placed in wealthier areas they will begin to rise up. That's right: the geniuses at HUD seem not to have noticed that the 120,000 or so of the residents of certain existing projects, otherwise known as the NYCHA residents in Manhattan, despite living in the midst of the wealthiest county in the country, and many of them directly next door or across the street from the very most expensive condos in the country, nevertheless remain mired in poverty for life. The glaring disproof of the whole theory behind AFFH is right in front of their eyes, and yet they refuse to look and they march forward pushing more of their disaster by force and coercion.
Well, that's what "expertise" and "experience" in the field of publicly-subsidized housing will get you. It gets you a bureaucracy firmly committed to the socialist model, to be run by themselves of course, in which they can earn cushy life-time salaries while they keep their inferiors trapped in poverty for life. It gets you a bureaucracy with absolutely no concern or interest whatsoever in ending dependency and getting people out of poverty, but an overriding concern for one thing and one thing only, which is growing their own budgets and staffs and empires year over year. Are you surprised that the only head of agency they would find acceptable is one of their own -- i.e., someone with the right "experience"?
We know what the people who have "experience" with existing subsidized housing programs will inevitably achieve for us: the same thing that they have always achieved, which is demanding more money to keep failing by doing the same thing and continuing to trap more people in poverty and dependency.
Where is Carson on any of this? He hasn't had a whole lot to say specifically on the subject of subsidized housing, but here is a relevant statement from a 2015 speech:
Dr. Ben Carson kicked off the Conservative Political Action Conference, telling an attentive audience that the next President must "get rid of dependency" that some Americans might have on the U.S. government. "We need to understand what true compassion is to reach out to individuals who think that being dependent is reasonable as long as they feel safe," said Carson, the first speaker to address this year's annual keynote conservative conference. "It's not compassion to pat them on the head and say, 'There, there, I'm going to take care of all your needs, your health care, your food.' That's the opposite of compassion."
You can see why The Blob would hate and fear this guy. Sounds like a good appointment to me.
At the Manhattan Institute's City Journal Online, Howard Husock calls Carson "just the man for that job," and lays out a program for Carson to implement on taking office. The program includes things like time limits for living in public housing, bringing private management to projects, and ending the ridiculous AFFH. Fair enough, as far as it goes. But even Husock stops short of calling for radical surgery. How about just giving away the projects to the residents and getting out of the business?