How to motivate Ben Carson

Because I’m basically a giver, I have a few ideas for Ben Carson. Specifically, I have some ideas for how to motivate him so he doesn’t remain entrenched forever in his current unsustainable, dependent lifestyle.

Carson is, of course, the kindly-faced sock puppet who boasted zero experience in public housing or government and was therefore appointed head of HUD. He is now on a fact-finding tour of government-subsidized housing to make sure it’s sufficiently horrible.

The theory, popular among folks who mistake luck, wealth, and support for personal virtue, is that, just as people catch pre-existing conditions because they didn’t take their vitamins and wear a scarf when they went out, the main reason people are poor because being poor is just so dang comfy. If we make poverty less fun, then poor people will get their act together and stop being poor.

Like so many brilliant ideas, Carson’s theory is both simple and universal. So let’s go ahead and apply it to him.

As head of HUD, his income comes directly from taxpayers; his comprehensive health insurance (which covers pre-existing conditions) is heavily subsidized by taxpayers; and he spends his days in government-sponsored housing. Does he even take the subway to work? Nope. Someone drives him around, and it’s all on your dime.

He’s a leech, pure and simple. This is a life devoid of dignity and integrity. But does he show any signs of wanting to better himself? No, he does not.

Why? Because he’s too damn comfortable. How are we ever going to get this fellow up, self-sufficient, and independent if we allow his daily life to be so cushy? Here are my compassionate recommendations for Dr. Carson:

He gets three paper clips per annum. Need more than three paper clips? Should have planned ahead. Nothing like running out of paper clips to drive home the hard lesson that paper clips aren’t free, and when they’re gone, they’re gone. If he’s really desperate to hold papers together and has already burned through the allowance that an agency who knows nothing about his daily life has decided is sensible, he can put on his thinking cap and fashion some kind of substitute out of, say, bootstraps. People in desperate situations have no end of bootstraps, and just about any problem can be solved by giving them a good yank.

No chairs. When we sit, it trains our gluteal muscles to become accustomed to rest, rather constantly tensed and engaged in work. As a doctor, Carson can surely confirm that you do more, live better, and can even be excused for existing as long as you are never at rest and feel constant stress and tension at all times. All the better if we can erect some kind of treadmill to his workspace, so he can grind grain or something as he works. Give a little back.

Walls and floors of his workspace should be concrete and colorless. If he starts to feel like he owns the place, by putting up photos of his family or choosing the color of the drapes, he’s going to start to feel like he belongs there, and he doesn’t. It’s temporary, and the sensation of security is the enemy of humanity. The best way to think clearly and make good decisions for the future is to have constant reminders that your very existence must be accounted for, and that everything that makes it possible for you to live could be yanked out from under you at any time.

Perhaps we could hire someone to follow him around chanting, “Shame, shame, shame, shame, shame” in his ear and to sigh disgustedly every time he cashes his government-issued paycheck. Hasn’t done anything to be ashamed of? So what? My sister’s husband’s aunt’s friend used to work at the white house, and there was this other guy in HUD who gamed the system left and right, and we can’t take the chance of that happening again. Fraud is rampant in the system, so it’s essential for anyone who cashes a government check to be made to feel bad, all the time. This is empowering and encouraging and extremely compassionate.

You think this is silly. You think that Carson is a man who has worked hard his whole life, has accomplished more than the ordinary man, and who is doing an important job — one which will be made more difficult if every aspect of his life is made unpleasant and difficult. He doesn’t deserve to be treated like scum. That’s inhumane, not to mention counter productive.

Well, you just described the typical poor person. You just described veteran. An elderly person. A refugee. A disabled person. A homeless person. A person whose life is already so severely proscribed that already nothing comes easy, nothing is by choice, nothing is certain, nothing is soft.

These are the people who live in government-subsidized housing. If their lives were easy, they wouldn’t be there. If their lives get uglier, harder, and less comfortable, as Carson apparently wants them to be, they’ll still be there. They’re there because they have nowhere else to go. And yet the crowds cheer as here comes a man in a tailored suit, stepping out of his limo and nodding in approval because the homeless men have no TV in the warehouse that shelters them at night.

Shame, pain, discomfort, inconvenience, and ugliness will not end poverty. Despair is not a motivator. Misery is not an engine for enterprise. I do not know how to solve the problem of generational poverty, but I do know that poverty is already ugly enough, and deliberately making it uglier will encourage fraud, not upward mobility.

Policies that deliberately employ shame and deprivation are not for the benefit of the poor. They are for the benefit of the well-off who despise the poor.

In the past, Carson has cast doubt on the relatively new policy of offering housing to low-income people even if they are not clean and sober. He believes that the morally corrupt should be excluded from government assistance.

In March of 2016, Carson candidly explained to NewsMax  that he didn’t want to endorse Trump, but Trump offered him a job.

It is a federal crime to exchange support of a candidate for appointment to a public or private position.

What was the phrase? “Drain the swamp?” Maybe we could, if the swamp were a little less comfortable for nakedly opportunistic careerists like Carson.

Image of Ben Carson by Gage Skidmore via Flickr (Creative Commons)

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16 thoughts on “How to motivate Ben Carson”

  1. At best this would be a bad argument for abolishing the office of HUD Secretary. There is nothing written of Carson that has not been true of every HUD Sec that ever was or will be (except the factual error that the job comes with government housing). When I cash a paycheck there is a certain dignity in that. When the season for my primary employer ends and I get an unemployment payment there is mild embarrassment and gratitude that the government provides when I cannot, the only dignity is in the fact that I put in enough time and earned enough on my own to qualify. To my fellow taxpayers who contributed to the unemployment fund, thank you. As to the paperclip nonsense, when I am at the office my employer usually provides what is necessary. When I am collecting unemployment I am glad for what I have, but have not come up with a good argument why he taxpayers, via the government, need to meet every need. When I am able, as a Christian, I have a responsibility to care for the poor. There is no virtue in trying to force that duty on to he government. Christ commanded us to care for the poor, not to get Caesar to do it for us.

    1. We adopted a son from foster care. He’s disabled and awesome. His Medicaid coverage will allow us to pay for caregivers. I can’t find caregivers that I am able to pay $11.50 an hour. I’ve advertised in Christian groups, asked churches for help, and the place I found help is craigslist. I used to feel like you, but now I am painfully aware that most Christians are not willing, even when paid, to serve the disabled. My experience is not unique. Do some research on what it’s like to be disabled in church.

  2. This is post is amazingly direct and sums up the hard truths of poverty and the challenges working class families face each day! Nicely done Simcha! One of my favorite pieces you’ve written!

  3. Amen, Simcha! If solving poverty were amenable to easy solutions, it would have been solved long ago. I’ve worked in social services in an urban setting and know that we have few real answers to give people to get out of poverty. The suppression of wages and an increase in housing costs calls for a government response on wages.

    DJT and BC don’t even know what they don’t know about housing and poverty. It makes their smug assurance that it’s all so easy that much more galling. Here’s hoping that BC will have an Emmaus moment in his listening tour.

  4. It really bothers me when commenters use offers to pray as a kind of passive-aggressive insult. Prayers should be genuine. Don’t use them as a weapon.

  5. This is excellent! Thank you for being a real human being and not just an idealogue. Thank you for talking about what poverty *is*. Easter peace to you and yours.

  6. Extra prayers for you and Damien “hate is a virtue” Fisher as you struggle through this dark time.

      1. It isn’t passive aggression, it’s covert aggression. I wish people would get this right.
        People with passive- aggressive personality disorder are conflicted between their desire to please and their need to stand up for themselves. They are basically neurotic, guilt-ridden Woody Allen types. The confusing behavior they exhibit arises from this internal conflict.
        Covert aggression is a tactic deliberately employed for the purpose of manipulating others, controlling them and keeping them off-balance. Unlike passive-aggressive types, people who use covert aggressive techniques are not conflicted and know exactly what they are doing. Shaming and gaslighting (like calling a person’s mental health into question) are typical covert aggression techniques. So is praying *at* someone. There are other techniques as well, familiar to anyone who has been in a psychologically abusive relationship.
        For insight about this I recommended reading In Sheep’s Clothing by George K. Simon.
        In any case, please don’t make us passive agressives feel guiltier than we already do by calling passive aggression covert agression. It’s very easy to tell the difference once you learn to recognise covert aggression tactics.

  7. Sounds like extra prayers are still needed at the Fisher house. Love you, Simcha, even when your writing is way off base. Praying you feel better soon+

    1. You disagree with her position on welfare reform, so you just assume she is not feeling well? Do you make that assumption of everyone who pens an article you disagree with, or just Catholic women writers? Is your implication she wrote something you disagree with because she’s cranky or suffering a head cold?
      Besides those pointed rhetorical questions (because I’m a bit afraid to hear your answers if you had any), honestly: what is the point of making a comment like yours?

    2. !!! This is hilarious! Extra prayers are still needed!!! Who says these things to people they disagree with? Just say you think she’s wrong. Bringing prayer into it is just rubbish and one might even say, well, antithetical to Christianity? Don’t use “prayer” to make a point.

    3. Oh dear, Suzann! It sounds like a horrible case of passive aggressive condescension has overtaken your household. Prayers!

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