Ben Carson Spends $165,000 On 'Lounge Furniture' While Making Sure Poor Aren't Too 'Cozy'
It seems like only Tuesday we were telling you the tale of longtime Housing and Urban Development official Helen Foster, who got demoted after refusing to give Ben and Candy Carson more then $5,000 to redecorate his office at HUD’s Washington headquarters, just because that was what "the law" said. Oh wait, it was! It totally was Tuesday.
Well, it looks like the Carsons had their wish granted, and rather than getting $5,000 to redecorate the suite, they are now getting $165,000 to spend on "lounge furniture." This $165,000 is over and above the $31,561 spent for Ben Carson's office dining set. Given this new budget, the struggling HUD Secretary will likely now be able to purchase a few "decent chairs," which, according to their HUD fixer, cost far more than $5000 each.
$31,561. Thirty-one-thousand-five-hundred-and-sixty-one dollars. It is a table and some chairs, funded by taxpayers -- 51% of whom make less than that in an entire year.
Among those who make less -- far less -- than that a year are those served by HUD. Coincidentally, the Trump administration is also hoping to cut the budget for that department by 14%, which amounts to $6.8 billion dollars. That is money that is supposed to go towards housing poor and homeless people.
When initially asked about Carson's redecorating budget, HUD spokesperson Raffi Williams (son of Fox News's Juan Williams) insisted that it was not true, and that HUD had only spent "$3,200 to put up new blinds in his office and the deputy secretary’s office.” After the news of this budget broke, however, he whistled a new tune.
When asked on Tuesday to explain his misleading statement, Williams falsely stated that he had been asked only about spending on improvements to Carson’s office from what he called “the decorating budget”.
“That’s what you were asking about, was the decorating budget, and no table was bought with the decorating budget,” said Williams. He then claimed he had actually been unaware a table had even been bought. “I walked over there and there was no new table there, so I did not know,” he said. “I did not find out until much later.”
While Carson believes that America's taxpayers ought to give him $196,000 to decorate his "suite," he believes firmly that the poor should be as uncomfortable as humanly possible. You know, to motivate them.
He expressed this belief last May in an interview with the New York Times:
As he toured facilities for the poor in Ohio last week, Mr. Carson, the neurosurgeon-turned-housing secretary, joked that a relatively well-appointed apartment complex for veterans lacked “only pool tables.” He inquired at one stop whether animals were allowed. At yet another, he nodded, plainly happy, as officials explained how they had stacked dozens of bunk beds inside a homeless shelter and purposefully did not provide televisions.
Compassion, Mr. Carson explained in an interview, means not giving people “a comfortable setting that would make somebody want to say: ‘I’ll just stay here. They will take care of me.’”
Ben Carson, by the way, has a net worth of $26 million. As a person who is worth 26 million dollars, he believes American taxpayers should give him $196,000 to redecorate his suite because chairs that cost less than $5,000 are for peasants, but that homeless veterans don't deserve TV. So ... huh!
The idea that making sure poor people are miserable will help to "motivate" them somehow is easily contradicted by the fact that, statistically, those who are born poor stay poor and those who are born rich stay rich. It is contradicted by the mere existence of homeless people. It is contradicted by everything except what people like Ben Carson want to believe is true because it helps soothe whatever consciences they have left.
If living comfortably were actually less "motivating" than living miserably, things would look very, very different in this country. Things would, in fact, look very different throughout the entire history of the world. Certainly the French Revolution never would have happened. The children of Ben Carson (and Juan Williams) would have turned out very differently. Amazing how they were able to grow up in the lap of luxury and still succeed in life, despite not having the motivational luxury of extreme poverty. If not helping people is Ben Carson's idea of "compassion," then why did he risk violating federal ethics laws to help his son, Ben Carson Jr., impress his business buddies by letting them all tag along on his Baltimore "listening tour"?
Ben Carson himself was lucky enough to "make it" after growing up poor. His mother, in fact, received the very welfare subsidies that he thinks are so cruel to give to others. He was able to have glasses because of government subsidies -- which probably made it a tad easier for him to do well in school than if he had to go without. But apparently the help they received was not the de-motivating kind.
$196,000 is a lot less than $6.8 billion. It's not as if it were an even exchange. It's a drop in the bucket. But to take that money from taxpayers, for fancy chairs, while acting as if homeless veterans are taking advantage of the system by having TVs in their shelters... there are just no words.
Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. In addition to her work at Wonkette, she also has a biweekly column at Dame. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse