After weeks of speculations and tweets from the president-elect, Donald Trump officially appointed Ben Carson as Housing & Urban Development Secretary. The position overseas the agency that houses programs like those that increase home ownership, fight off foreclosure, and provide public housing — an idea that Carson has publicly called "failed socialism" because it creates "dependency." If that weren't enough cause for concern, he allegedly wavered about joining Trump's Cabinet because of his political inexperience.
None of that, however, kept Trump from enthusiastically nominating Carson to head HUD, which boasts a $47 billion budget. He will, like all Cabinet members, need to be confirmed by the Senate. Trump announced his decision in a statement Monday morning:
I am thrilled to nominate Dr. Ben Carson as our next Secretary of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. Ben Carson has a brilliant mind and is passionate about strengthening communities and families within those communities. We have talked at length about my urban renewal agenda and our message of economic revival, very much including our inner cities. Ben shares my optimism about the future of our country and is part of ensuring that this is a Presidency representing all Americans. He is a tough competitor and never gives up.
Carson is a retired neurosurgeon who ran for president. Shortly after dropping out, he endorsed former rival Trump — one of the few fellow Republicans to do so. During the campaign he took Trump on a tour of his boyhood home in Detroit, which is in one of the poor neighborhoods in the "inner city" that Carson will be tasked with renewing in his new job. How he will do so without the kinds of government programs he has demonized is a valid question.
He once lived in public housing, his close friend Armstrong Williams told The New York Times — which curiously is the same friend who told The Hill that Carson didn't think he was ready to take a Cabinet-level position. In theory Carson will have more first-hand knowledge of some programs than most, but he has argued that individual effort and not the government were necessary to escape poverty. He saw success after receiving a scholarship to Yale and going on to work at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
As for his own preparation for the job, Carson seems to have come around to believe he can do it. He posted on Facebook a few weeks ago, which led many to believe the nomination would be coming soon (Carson literally wrote that an announcement was forthcoming). In the post, Carson sounded much more positive than Williams had said. "After serious discussions with the Trump transition team, I feel that I can make a significant contribution particularly to making our inner cities great for everyone," he wrote.
He also spoke with Fox News in November about how important these areas are to him. "Our inner cities are in terrible shape," Carson told Neil Cavuto. "And they definitely need some real attention. There have been so many promises made over the last several decades and nothing has been done, so it certainly is something that has been a long-term interest of mine."
The question thus will not be his motivation to help but rather how he goes about shaping HUD's policies that have such an impact in low-income communities around the country.