Ben Carson, secretary of housing and Urban development, warned that government assistance programs can’t be “too comfortable” or they won’t be successful.
He believes that too much government assistance can easily lead to too much dependence on these programs. He first points out that he thinks these programs need to exist especially for those who can’t help themselves, but there are others out there that take advantage of the system.
“We have some people who are mentally ill. We have some elderly and disabled people. We can’t expect in many cases those people to do a great deal to take care of themselves,” said Carson to the New York Times. “There is another group of people who are able-bodied individuals, and I think we do those people a great disservice when we simply maintain them.”
Carson was touring a low-income house facility in Ohio last week and joked that the only thing missing was pool tables because the complex was so appointed. While, other facilities he toured had much less amenities with bunk beds and no televisions.
Carson approves of the limited niceties approach because as he said “a comfortable setting that would make somebody want to say: ‘I’ll just stay here. They will take care of me.’”
President Donald Trump has taken a tough stance on government assistance programs and several programs like HUD and Community Development Block Grants are on the chopping block.
“I know they have been called out for elimination. My impression is that what he is really saying is that there are problems with those programs,” said Carson. “And I think it may have been someone on his staff who kind of said, ‘Well, maybe we just need to get rid of the whole program.’ No, we don’t need to get rid of the whole program because there are some extremely good things there.”
Carson plans to reward productivity and encourage individuals to “graduate” out of these programs.
“We are talking about incentivizing those who help themselves,” said Carson.
Some the individuals at the facilities where Carson visited were disappointed.
“It was staged. It was so fast,” said Alzene Munnerlyn, a 87-year-old living in senior housing to the New York Times.“There needs to be a forum where you can just sit and talk with him, and he could ask you how you feel and then you could express yourself.”
While some thought Carson was a bit harsh, other applauded his efforts.
“The best thing to do is to do what Ben Carson is doing and that’s walking through to see if programs are really benefiting people and if people are really serious,” said a mother of two who uses a Section 8 voucher to pay for an apartment. “I think you should be in school or working to try to be on your own because that’s what America is about.”
Author’s note: Carson has a point. There will always be those like the mentally ill and senior folks who can’t support themselves that need assistance. However, there are able-bodied individuals taking advantage of the system who are too comfortable not working and are being supported by the government. Efforts should instead be focused on encouraging those enrolled in these programs to make a better life for themselves.