Dr. Ben Carson, a celebrated neurosurgeon and former presidential candidate who took himself out of the running for a cabinet position in November because of his inexperience, became the newest head of the Housing Department Thursday. The Senate voted 58–41 to confirm Carson, with seven Democrats voting in favor of him, along with all but one Senate Republican: Georgia’s Johnny Isakson didn’t vote.
The 65-year-old with no experience in housing policy will now oversee a federal agency charged with assisting low-income renters, combatting homelessness and preventing foreclosures. Last November, he explained his qualifications to Fox News: “I know that I grew up in the inner city and have spent a lot of time there, 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.”
Even without his fringy opinions, history of endorsing questionable “nutritional supplements,” and bizarre tales of stabbing people, Carson’s appointment to lead HUD is causing concern on the left given his generally conservative position on government spending and opposition to public assistance. Some fear he will dismantle HUD’s “affirmatively furthering fair housing” rule, which seeks to end racial and income segregation in housing. Last year, Carson called the rule a “mandated social-engineering scheme.”
Others see Carson’s views on poverty as a threat to the families who most rely on HUD. As New York City Councilman Jumaane D. Williams wrote in an op-ed last month, “Let’s be clear: Poverty is not a lifestyle decision. Rather, it is a socioeconomic status that is impacted by a number of multilayered factors. Carson’s view that poverty is somehow chosen represents a threat to the millions of people who depend on assistance from the government for housing.”