Poverty, according to Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, is a “state of mind.”
Carson made the comment during an interview with SiriusXM Radio host Armstrong Williams, who served as a top adviser to the one-time presidential hopeful, when he was asked what could be done to reduce the number of Americans currently living in poverty.
First, the HUD secretary noted that “if everybody had a mother like mine, nobody would be in poverty. She was a person who absolutely would not accept status of victim.”
According to Carson, poverty boils down to a mental decision — a lifestyle choice.
“You take somebody who has the right mindset — you can take everything from them and put them on the street and I guarantee you, in a little while, they’ll be right back up there,” he told Williams. “And you take somebody with the wrong mindset — you can give them everything in the world — they’ll work their way right back down to the bottom.”
Carson also said a “sense of strong values” plays a central role in keeping people out of poverty.
MSNBC’s Chris Matthews immediately rebuked Carson’s claims, saying there’s “a difference between poverty and being broke.”
This, however, isn’t the first time Carson has raised some eyebrows with his comments. The HUD chief, during his inaugural address to the agency’s staff in March, equated slaves and immigrants.
“That’s what America is about, a land of dreams and opportunity,” he said. “There were other immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder for less.
“But they too had a dream,” he continued, “that one day their sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, great-grandsons, great-granddaughters, might pursue prosperity and happiness in this land.”
Liberals immediately slammed Carson for calling slaves “immigrants,” but — as it turns out — former President Barack Obama drew a similar comparison in 2015. Obama, a Democrat, made the comment when he was explaining that coming to the U.S. isn’t always “easy for new immigrants.”
Lots of nastiness directed @RealBenCarson - but in 2015 President Obama also referred to the slaves as immigrants… https://t.co/agC4NzBpQz— Charlie Spiering (@Charlie Spiering) 1488910295.0
“Certainly, it wasn’t easy for those of African heritage who had not come here voluntarily and yet in their own way were immigrants themselves,” Obama said. “There was discrimination and hardship and poverty.
“But, like you, they no doubt found inspiration in all those who had come before them,” he said. “And they were able to muster faith that, here in America, they might build a better life and give their children something more.”
Regardless, Carson later apologized for the March comment, saying immigration and slavery “should never be intertwined, nor forgotten.”