The Republican candidates for president in 2016 are entering the race thick and fast, with two no-hopes– Carly Fiorina and Dr. Ben Carson– announcing today and Mike Huckabee scheduled to announce tomorrow.
I can’t claim to know much about Fiorina, other than that she is the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, that she left the company under less-than-amicable circumstances and that she ran unsuccessfully for the US Senate from California in 2010.
Carson, an African-American, grew up poor in Detroit, the child of a single mother. He went on to graduate from Yale and the University of Michigan medical school, and became the director of pediatric neourosurgery at Johns Hopkins University Hospital. He has since become a popular figure among rightwing activists by denouncing the Affordable Act as “the worst thing” in America since slavery. He has a lot of other strange ideas.
What bugs me most about Carson is that he is a fierce critic of the welfare system (saying it robs people of their incentive)– even as he and his family deservedly benefited from it for much of his life.
Even Carson himself is willing to acknowledge this sometimes.
Carson, in his book [“Gifted Hands”], tells how his grades improved tremendously when a government program provided him with free eyeglasses because he could barely see. Not only that, in “Gifted Hands” we read this nugget: “By the time I reached ninth grade, mother had made such strides that she received nothing but food stamps. She couldn’t have provided for us and kept up the house without that subsidy.”
He writes elsewhere, “As I’ve said, we received food stamps and couldn’t have made it without them.”
He and his mother also lived in public housing and depended on government-provided health care. It’s unclear how much, if any, help Carson got from the government to pay for his education, but it’s hard to believe he managed entirely without it.
None of these facts diminish the admiration that Carson’s remarkable mother inspires, or his native intelligence and hard work. And I don’t begrudge his family one bit the public assistance they received. But I can’t help contrasting his essentially hypocritical political outlook with that of Dr. Joseph Giordano, another surgeon who came up the hard way and who helped save President Ronald Reagan’s life in 1981.