Ben Carson

Is the GOP Ready for For-Profit Insurance Hater and Six-Day Creationist Ben Carson?

|

Hmmm, Armstrong Williams. That name sounds so familiar! |||

Last weekend, Dr. Ben Carson broadcast a new campaign infomercial in 22 states titled "A Breath of Fresh Air: A New Prescription for America." Concurrent with the Armstrong Williams-produced sales pitch, Carson has finally joined the Republican Party, and lost his contributor contract with Fox News. The decision won't come until April, but Carson is running for president. So what's his selling proposition to either big-R Republicans or small-l libertarians?

Mostly, that he's a wildly successful and decorated pediatric neurosurgeon, with an inspiring rags to riches story, who became an overnight conservative sensation after using a National Prayer Breakfast in February 2013 to criticize Obamacare in President Barack Obama's presence. So a guy who warns against the national debt, preaches individual responsibility and agency, and has relevant personal experience in the one policy question that modern Republicans criticize most? What's not to like!

Who's ready??? |||

Well, a more thorough search of the political novice's statements quickly produces a potential conundrum for a political party running against Obamacare: Carson has even more antipathy to health insurance companies than Barack Obama does, and he has previously advocated policies that look an awful lot like death panels.

In a 2009 interview with the trilingual Web magazine Mega Diversities, Carson said "The first thing we need to do is get rid of for profit insurance companies." Here's the quote in context:

What do you need for good health?  You need a patient and a health care provider.  Along came a middle man to facilitate the relationship.  Now, the middle has become the principal entity with the patient and the health care provider at its beck and call.  The entire thing is completely out of control.  The entire concept of for profits for the insurance companies makes absolutely no sense.  "I deny that you need care and I will make more money".  This is totally ridiculous.  The first thing we need to do is get rid of for profit insurance companies.  We have a lack of policies and we need to make the government responsible for catastrophic health care.  We have to make the insurance companies responsible only for routine health care.  The fact that a fraction of the American population has no health care insurance creates a situation in which some end up in emergency rooms, which results in even greater expenses for the US.  If insurance companies are responsible only for routine health care, you are able to predict how much money they are going to need, which facilitates regulations.  For instance, if we didn't regulate utilities nobody could afford electricity or water.  You can't depend on the goodness of people's hearts, particularly when you're dealing with something which is essential.

Even in Carson's reputation-making National Prayer Breakfast speech, he launched into his Obamacare section (with its focus on Health Savings Accounts and consumer-driven decisions) with the throat-clearing phrase, "We've already started down the path to solving one of the other big problems, health care."

Might be an exaggeration. |||

Now, Carson also said eight months later at a Value Voters Summit that "Obamacare is really I think the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery," so maybe his positions are evolving. (Conversely, maybe he talks more like a serially hyperbolic motivational speaker than someone prepared for the crucible of having his policy statements taken seriously.) In a June 2014 Megadiversities interview, Carson distanced himself from the slavery remark, and put his more recent positioning this way:

I would much prefer to replace the Affordable Care Act with a program that put healthcare in the hands of the people, and not the government. […] [W]ith Obamacare, we have a turning over to the government your most valuable resource, which is what Marxists said had to happen to change America from a free and open society to what they call a "utopian society" where the government controls everything, but no one suffers, at least according to them. What you do see in every society undergoing a transition of that type is the development of a small, elite class which controls everything and lives in total luxury, a rapidly-disappearing middle class, and a just as rapidly-expanding dependent class. We're witnessing the beginning of that phenomenon, and it's exactly what the neo-Marxists have prescribed for America. The reason I know about that is because I've spent a great deal of time reading and understanding what's going on. This type of transition depends on the fact that people will not be well-informed and thus easy to manipulate. What I've proposed is a system of healthcare which will cover all Americans in which no one will be a second-class citizen. Everyone will have the resources to see whomever they want to see. But more importantly, it will bring the entire healthcare system into the free market. That's what controls quality. That's what controls price.

So now we're throwing more Rules for Radicals and The Naked Communist into the mix, but are we closer to understanding a throughline on Carson's health care ideas? In his Prayer Breakfast speech, he said that his HSA-based plan would mean that "nobody is talking about death panels" anymore. Which is interesting, because one of the people in the past who was talking about concepts that sounded a lot like death panels was…Ben Carson.

His personal story is totally awesome, BTW. |||

Via an excellent American Thinker post, here's an excerpt from a 1996 Harvard Journal of Minority Public Health article from Carson, entitled "Health Care Reform-A Paradigm Shift":

The most natural question is, who will pay for catastrophic health care? The answer: The government-run catastrophic health care fund. Such a fund would be supported by a mandatory contribution of 10 to 15 percent of the profits of each health insurance company, including managed care operations[….]

As our general population continues to age and as our technical abilities continue to improve we will find ourselves in a position of being able to keep most people alive…well beyond their 100th birthday. The question is "Should we do it simply because we can? It is well known that up to half of the medical expenses incurred in the average American's life are incurred during the last six months of life….rather than putting them in an intensive care unit, poking and prodding them, operating and testing them ad nauseam, why not allow them the dignity of dying in comfort, at home, with an attendant if necessary?…Decisions on who should be treated and who should not be treated would clearly require some national guidelines[.]

Pass. |||

Bolding mine (as it will be below). In his 2011 book, America the Beautiful, Carson again talks about seeking cost-efficiency in the face of human aging:

[H]ow can we provide universal health care in an efficient and cost-effective way?

Compensation has to be fair…compensation cannot be determined by insurance companies, who make more money by elbowing their way in as the middleman and confiscating as much of the transaction between patient and  caregiver as they can. […]

When a society faces major changes, such as drastically increased life expectancy, its people should examine the effects of such a change and make logical, appropriate adjustments…we should…devise compassionate methods of easing the burden of aging both on the individual and the family.

I can hear some people screaming after reading this that I am advocating for "death panels"….some people like to put forth terms like this because they stir up emotional responses.

Another potential sticking point among both Republicans and libertarians are Carson's stated beliefs emanating from his Seventh Day Adventist faith. Now, I for one am always pleased when a potential presidential candidate becomes part of mainstreaming a newer and frequently disfavored religion, and I generally don't care if people (let alone politicians) believe in creationism, even the strict version that Carson emphatically defends in this 2013 interview ("If they want to criticize the fact that I believe in a literal, six-day creation, let's have at it"). The man's faith certainly didn't hinder his ability to separate the craniums of conjoined infants, after all.

Big book titles, anyway. |||

But what's concerning to me is Carson's prejudices against those of us who do not share his beliefs. Take this 2004 interview with Adventist Review:

Ultimately, if you accept the evolutionary theory, you dismiss ethics, you don't have to abide by a set of moral codes, you determine your own conscience based on your own desires. You have no reason for things such as selfless love, when a father dives in to save his son from drowning. You can trash the Bible as irrelevant, just silly fables, since you believe that it does not conform to scientific thought. You can be like Lucifer, who said, "I will make myself like the Most High." […]

By believing we are the product of random acts, we eliminate morality and the basis of ethical behavior. For if there is no such thing as moral authority, you can do anything you want. You make everything relative, and there's no reason for any of our higher values.

In addition to being prejudicial and factually suspect, this kind of slippery-slope-on-steroids argument–taking you from "evolutionary theory" to "Lucifer" in just 73 words!–translates far too easily into public policy that adversely affects those on the other side of his faith. Carson's opposition to gay marriage springs from an openly stated fear that the "neo-Marxists" are trying to undermine the very bedrock of America's uniquely successful project by changing the definition of family. It was not entirely a slip of the tongue when Carson told Sean Hannity in March 2013:  

My thoughts are that marriage is between a man and a woman. It's a well-established fundamental pillar of society and no group, be they gays, be they NAMBLA, be they people who believe in bestiality, it doesn't matter what they are, they don't get to change the definition.

Though he later apologized, the sentiment behind the quote remains; now he just says that gay-marriage advocates are basically "a new group of mathematicians who say 2 + 2 is five."

Definitely has more Presidential Medal of Freedoms than the GOP field. |||

Carson is arguably a larger figure within Seventh Day Adventism than Mitt Romney has been with Mormonism. (Or at least, Carson was, until he became such a high-profile political figure, which has led to some wings of the church urging more of an arm's-length posture.) Ex-Adventist friends tell me of church gatherings where the prize at the end of the meeting was to shake the great orator's hand and get a signed copy of one his motivational books.

As Advent Truth Ministries pointed out earlier this month, the "one aspect of Dr. Carson's identity that has thus far evaded scrutiny is his religion." And what would that scrutiny reveal?

[T]here is one element of his beloved religion that would certainly pose a challenge to the electorate, and perhaps obstacle, to his presidential ambition, i.e. his church's Eschatology (View of end-time events).

According to Seventh-day Adventist theology, this very America, which Dr. Ben is so passionate about improving, will form an alliance with the Roman Catholic Papacy, one that will deprive Americans and others around the world of their highly cherished Civil and Religious Liberties. Specifically, the Seventh-day Adventist church teaches that this alliance of America and the Papacy will force the world to honor Sunday as a sacred day of rest and worship in opposition to lovingly and voluntarily allowing men and women to choose the Bible Sabbath which it believes God ordains. The church believes that this controversy will ultimately develop into a tectonic struggle of apocalyptic proportions in which millions will be killed who do not go along with the requirements of the alliance's call for Sunday sacredness (Revelation Ch. 13). Many believe that this alliance is being formed before our very eyes.

I am a religious pluralist and longtime fan of the Book of Revelations, so this kind of stuff doesn't trouble me much. But it's it at least worth asking how Carson's eschatological notions color his view of current and near-future events. 

Even agnostics? |||

Real Clear Politics this week ran the headline "Ben Carson Making Case to Be Taken Seriously in 2016;" the Bloomberg Politics respectful cover line was "Ben Carson's Longshot Presidential Bid Suddenly Looks a Lot More Realistic." He has been given policy real estate in National Review, and had his charity hyped by Breitbart News.

In presupposing the seriousness of his candidacy, Republicans and other supporters are declaring ready for prime time a man considerably less experienced than the current naif in the White House; a man who plays fast and loose with the Nazi analogies, who has warned darkly as recently as seven weeks ago that President Obama might just cancel the 2016 elections, and who maintains a hard-to-pin view on Obamacare reform that involves open hostility to the very existence of private insurance companies. Are conservatives really ready for a 2016 presidential who, when talking about late-life health care, sounds more like Ezekiel Emanuel than Sarah Palin? The first step is to look behind the gilded oration and Iowa networking, and try to understand what the man actually thinks.

NEXT: WATCH: Why You Still Can't Ship Your Favorite Wine Across State Lines

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Nine nine nine.

    1. This proves that presidential politics ain’t brain surgery.

  2. Well, thanks for the heads up that Carson is a moron. This should stand as a lesson that just because you are a technical expert in a field doesn’t mean you understand economics or policy.

    The most disappointing single thing here is Carson buying into the idea that people going to emergency rooms rather than doctors raises the cost of health care and therefore giving them insurance will somehow lower it by keeping them out of the emergency room. That is utterly counter factual and ridiculous on about ten levels.

    1. The Rs are still looking for their Great Black Hope. That hasn’t worked out very well for them so far. (see: Herman Cain, Alan Keyes…)

      1. And Carson is a firm Drug Warrior.

      2. Ahem, Janice Rogers Brown

        1. She hasn’t ever run, IIRC. Doubt she ever will.

          1. The good ones rarely run. Just the people who are sociopathic enough to humiliate themselves in the quest for power.

            1. “The good ones…”

              RACISSSSSSST!!!!!!

      3. Because Obama set the bar so high?

      4. Are you kidding me? Herman Cain is up there on the list of most awesome candidates ever. His commercials were awesome and he quoted the Pokemon movie verbatim in his farewell speech.

        1. His pizza sucks.

        2. His tax code plan was from SimCity!

          1. Doesn’t make it wrong.

        3. Actually, Herman Cain’s website, CainTV, is pretty good. He wasn’t a very polished candidate, but he’s a smart person and even if he’s a social conservative, there’s plenty that he believed in for libertarians to like.

          Carson, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to have anything about him that says he’s a good candidate for President. He’s intelligent and worked in a demanding profession, but his experience is about as irrelevant to the Oval Office as any job you could name. He worked in medicine, but not in the economics of medicine. And his primary claim to fame is that he insulted the President during a public event, which makes him about as qualified for office as Bill Maher.

          He’s certainly no moron, but his candidacy is a sign of just how desperate social conservatives are.

    2. Glad you picked that up, and totally agreed.

    3. We have a lack of policies and we need to make the government responsible for catastrophic health care. We have to make the insurance companies responsible only for routine health care.

      So, Dr. Ben doesn’t understand the concept of insurance.

      1. On the other hand, he doesn’t seem to understand the purpose of government, either – so there’s that.

        1. He’s a neurosurgeon…his job was to cut things open. That’s certainly a difficult job, but it’s got nothing to do with government, so it’s no surprise he doesn’t understand how government works.

          Carson seems to fall prey to the same fault as Albert Einstein…because he’s brilliant in one field, he assumes that means that other people can’t be smarter than him in other fields. Simple arrogance.

  3. How about you do away with state legislated insurance monopolies. Then you put the power back in the hands of the consumer. Putting the government in charge sure as hell isnt going to do that.

  4. “According to Seventh-day Adventist theology, this very America, which Dr. Ben is so passionate about improving, will form an alliance with the Roman Catholic Papacy”

    Don’t you love feel-good scenarios?

    1. Which will signal the rise of the Holy Roman Empire, and then SATAN!!11!!!

    2. this very America, which Dr. Ben is so passionate about improving, will form an alliance with the Roman Catholic Papacy”

      Laugh or sneer at that if you like, but if the country gets filled with enough Latinos – most of whom are Roman Catholic – that “alliance” is certainly not beyond the realm of possibility.

      And no, I am not an Adventist.

      1. Laugh or sneer at that if you like, but if the country gets filled with enough Latinos Irish – most of whom are Roman Catholic – that “alliance” is certainly not beyond the realm of possibility.

        Yeah, no doubt President Jose Francisco Kortajarena will be taking orders from the Pope

  5. like anyone else, the longer he’s on the national scene, the more he will either say something profoundly stupid OR try to run away from the profoundly stupid he thing he said before becoming a national figure. I no more want Carson to be president than I want Hillary to be. The sooner folks like him self-vet, the sooner we can get around to bitching about people likely to be nominees.

    1. I think you need to be a bit more thoughtful here.

      I would literally prefer a syphilitic camel to Hillary as president.

      Whatever his faults, I have to place the good Doctor above such a camel.

      Would prefer to have still-better choices, though.

      1. Yeah? Back in 2007 I was fond of saying “anyone but the Bitch.” Look what we got.

        1. Better than Hillary by miles.

    2. He’s already said many things that are profoundly stupid.

  6. Conversely, maybe he talks more like a serially hyperbolic motivational speaker

    You know who else talked like a serially hyperbolic motivational speaker?

    1. Your mother?

      1. Clearly you don’t know my mother. Her specialty was demotivation.

        1. Just flowing with the meme, man.

          Props to your mom.

    2. Savonarola?

  7. He probably doesn’t think millennials are the wave of the future, either.

    1. And does he have a definitive view on Mexicans, pot, and buttsex?

    2. has he done a poll on that?

    1. You were the one that commented about the DeMaio allegations the other day with something like “yawn. call me when it’s something more than allegations” no?

      Did you see that the accuser was just arrested for getting into a domestic dispute where he threw glassware at her?

      SDPD Lt. Mayer says during an argument with his mother, Bosnich allegedly pushed her, threw a drinking glass at her and disabled her phone.

      Court records show a domestic violence case was filed against him Monday, and he was booked into jail Tuesday for battery, disabling a telephone line and assault with a deadly weapon.

      1. It really is too bad DeMaio lost to this kind of utter BS.

      2. Yup that was me.

        This guy sounds like a peach.

  8. You have no reason for things such as selfless love, when a father dives in to save his son from drowning.

    Mencius would like a word with you, Dr. Carson

    ‘When I say that all men have a mind which cannot bear to see the sufferings of others, my meaning may be illustrated thus:– even now-a-days, if men suddenly see a child about to fall into a well, they will without exception experience a feeling of alarm and distress. They will feel so, not as a ground on which they may gain the favour of the child’s parents, nor as a ground on which they may seek the praise of their neighbours and friends, nor from a dislike to the reputation of having been unmoved by such a thing.

    It’s weird how parents have successfully cared for their children outside of the Judeo-Christian milieu even though it’s apparently impossible to have ethics…

    1. Where am I supposed to get my ethical system from, if not religion? I have a hard enough time with all the options at the grocery store; I just need someone to tell me what to think!

      1. What about Niccol? Machiavelli? He sounds like a nice boy.

        1. He was Catholic, if I remember right.

        2. It’s a common misconception that, because Machiavelli wrote “The Prince”, that he believed that’s how a ruler *should* act. It wasn’t.

          The Prince was an application for a job by Machiavelli. He lost his job when Florence’s government was overthrown by the Medicis and his book was an attempt to ingratiate himself to the new rulers so he could get rehired. He was more supportive of a republican form of government (the type that got overthrown by the Medici)…he just didn’t want to be unemployed.

  9. This is a fairly long H&R article for someone who won’t actually make it past the Iowa Caucus.

    1. Someone’s gotta go first!

  10. There’s this repeat pattern where someone goes on a crazy rant, part of which includes telling Obama to f-off. Everything but the “Obama, f-off” gets cut out and the clip gets passed around as example of the American hero. A big chunk of Team Red goes “hey, I ALSO think Obama should f-off! That guy should be the next president!”

    The next election cycle roles around and when their new hero stand up to speak, he repeats the rest of his crazy rant and suddenly everyone is shocked to discover he’s a nut.

  11. who became an overnight conservative sensation after using a National Prayer Breakfast in February 2013 to criticize Obamacare in President Barack Obama’s presence.

    So, kinda like Wendy Davis? That worked so well for her, didn’t it.

  12. For instance, if we didn’t regulate utilities nobody could afford electricity or water.

    W

    T

    F

    ?

    How did this guy end up on the *Republican* side of the aisle. Republican crazies are supposed to be ranting about sharia law, abortion, evolution, and rape.

    1. In fairness, he only became a Republican this month. No really, that’s the truth.

      1. In double-fairness, it looks like he’s transitioned from Detroit-Democrat to Reagan-Republican to ImpeachedClinton-Independent and now to RunAs-Republican.

        1. That’s what it takes to get elected up here in Alaska. A little ‘r’ by your name and some vague rhetoric.

    2. Before the rise of the modern regulatory state, the maximum human lifespan was three days.

      1. Childbirth was difficult in those days.

    3. He criticized Obama, and that’s enough for some people.

  13. I think Ben Carson is the next Sarah Palin. Most of the items listed here quite simply will not impact public policy. Sturm und drang of rhetoric aside, there has not been a serious challenge to biological evolution and education of such in this country since the Scopes Monkey Trial — to the contrary, the US is probably the world’s leading researcher in this area of study. Much was made of GWB’s evangelicalism and little of his foreign policy when he was running in 2000, but ultimately the latter was far more important to his presidency (and also a complete reversal of what he said on the campaign trail). In general, idiosyncratic personal convictions simply aren’t that important in a country as institutionalized as the US — even if one assumed that every literalist Christian were seeking to force those views upon all (which most are not).

    My concern is that Carson has no experience as a public official, and thus has shown no capacity that he can do anything but deliver a good speech (and one marred by frankly confusing rhetoric on what his vision of healthcare is). I would like to see a President with a proven capacity to dismantle bureaucracies or entrenched interest groups.

    1. In defense of the Ben Carson-type, (This particular one doesn’t scratch my itch) there seems to be an expectation afoot that presidential candidates fit a certain template: experienced in government, Ivy Leaguer, interventionist to some degree, affable, with a playful side.

      When a Ben Carson or some-such comes around in connection with a presidential run, something seems amiss because he-or-she fails to check off those boxes. Why is that? What have we gained with the PROPERLY PRESIDENTIAL types?

      1. “…with a playful side.”

        *Raises eyebrow*

      2. That is true. Social conservative types don’t bother me at all, but I would like to see one with some success in an area of public policy (“success” defined in libertarian terms rather than in “kept the chair warm and voted for more spending”-type ‘experience’ favored by the media).

        1. Social conservative types don’t bother me at all

          They should bother you. Fascism in Europe was a combination of anti-capitalist ideology and social conservatism. It was the Christians and social conservatives that voted Hitler into power, not the socialists.

          Social conservatives are prone to the same kind of social engineering that progressives engage in, they just justify it with Jesus and fake history rather than bogus scientific studies.

          1. It was the Christians and social conservatives that voted Hitler into power, not the socialists.

            Social conservatives are socialists – they just tend more toward fascism than Marxism. Take someone like Rick Santorum for instance, a notorious social conservative who would be only too willing to use government to enforce his religious and social views on people for the good of “society” – including in the economic sphere.

      3. I fully agree about the destructive proliferation of Ivy Leaguers in the White House.

        However, Carson strikes me as being very much like another kind of bad politician we elect…a guy with a great story instead of a great resume for the job for which he’s applying. One example of this would be the current President (even if most of his bio is overinflated bullshit)…people talked about what a wonderful story he has and failed to ask the simple question “What has he ever done that indicates he can actually handle the job of President”. And, of course, the answer to that unasked question was “nothing.”

        We need competence in office, not compelling stories. The problem with the standard candidates that we’ve had since Reagan is that we’ve also confused credentials for competence.

      4. I don’t care whether Carson is properly presidential, he seems ready to throw America under the progressive bus, and in addition to the economic harm of Obama would add his Christian social b.s. on top of that. No thanks.

    2. I would like to see a President with a proven capacity to dismantle bureaucracies or entrenched interest groups.

      I propose a quest through Fantasilia with a hearty band of elves, dwarves, and hobbits into the lair of the fairy dragons to find this fellow of whom you speak.

      1. Heh, nice.

  14. Repeal and replace. Super.

    “We can heal America”

    You know who else..

    1. Dr. Feelgood?

      I mean, he’s not what you’d call a “glamorous man”…

  15. A thought about Seventh-Day Adventists: they are, even for the Christian world, a bit strange. AFAIK, they are one of the few holdouts in the Christian world which takes a very strict view on six-day creation, and they definitely take a unique view wrt Old Testament law (considering much of it binding on Christians, unlike most Christians). They are very hard-working, smart, and successful, and you have to appreciate their sense of dedication but (perhaps a bit like Mormons) they have some very strange tendencies and beliefs which manifest in a way that rubs people the wrong way because of how dogmatically they hold to these idiosyncracies while being otherwise solid and well-adjusted people.

    1. You know who rubs me the wrong way because of their dogmatically held idiosyncratic beliefs?

      1. Yes, I did consider that this was arguably similar to how one might describe a libertarian…

        1. Huh. I actually didn’t think about libertarians. How can someone who wants to leave you alone rub you the wrong way in the first place?

          I was thinking about something else.

          1. …socialists? Perhaps of a nationalist bent…

            1. People who hate D&D 4e, actually.

              1. That was going to be my next guess.

                Heh.

  16. The first thing we need to do is get rid of for profit insurance companies.

    That alone could be enough to get him elected. People hate health insurance cos. Too many of their friends have had awful stories to tell them about their experiences. Heck, listening to Terre T on WFMU over a decade ago about her struggle with her insurer would be enough, although I’ve a friend who had a worse time that nearly killed her, but she didn’t have a radio program.

  17. You can’t depend on the goodness of people’s hearts, particularly when you’re dealing with something which is essential.

    It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.

  18. People would do well to remember that European policies are a joint effort between right wing Christians and socialists. The concept of social justice arose with Christians, not Marxists.

    In the end, Marxists, progressives, and conservative Christians all hate liberalism and are equally totalitarian. They hate each other only because they disagree about which band of thugs should get to run the country

    1. Pretty much this. ^^^

  19. What is Matt Welch smoking today?

    In presupposing the seriousness of his candidacy, Republicans and other supporters are declaring ready for prime time a man considerably less experienced than the current naif in the White House…

  20. I mean, you got the second mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that’s a storybook man.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.