Ben Carson says poverty is 'a state of mind' during radio interview

Washington Post

In an interview released Wednesday, Housing Secretary Ben Carson said that a "certain mind-set" contributes to people living in poverty, pointing to habits and a "state of mind" children take from their parents at a young age.

"I think poverty to a large extent is also a state of mind. You take somebody that has the right mind-set, you can take everything from them and put them on the street and I guarantee in a little while they'll be right back up there," he said during an interview on SiriusXM Radio with Armstrong Williams, a longtime friend.

"And you take somebody with the wrong mind-set, you can give them everything in the world, they'll work their way right back down to the bottom," he said.

The renowned neurosurgeon, who ran for president during the 2016 GOP primary, regularly speaks about his experience growing up in poverty and his road to the top of the medical field. His story made him a role model for young people of color. But his conservative politics - frequently speaking about personal responsibility and bemoaning systemic dependence on public assistance - have eroded that image as he became a right-wing icon.

On the campaign trail, Carson repeatedly pushed back against accusations that he wanted to end social safety net programs. He stressed, instead, that he believed government assistance was not always given to people who truly needed it.

"I have no desire to get rid of safety nets for people who need them. I have a strong desire to get rid of programs that create dependency in able-bodied people," he said in the 2015 speech announcing his candidacy.

During the SiriusXM interview, Carson said that "the wrong mind-set" is the product of negative parenting habits and exposure.

"There's also a poverty of spirit. You develop a certain mind-set," he said.

Carson made the comments during a town hall recorded Tuesday which will air in full on SiriusXM Wednesday night. Sirius released clips of the interview to news organizations to promote the show.

The housing secretary said that he believes government can provide a "helping hand" to people looking to climb out of poverty. But he warned against programs that are "sustaining them in a position of poverty. That's not helpful."

"I think the majority of people don't have that defeatist attitude, but they sometimes just don't see the way and that's where government can come in, and be very helpful," he said. "It can provide the ladder of opportunity, it can provide the mechanism that will demonstrate to them what can be done."

The Trump administration's 2018 budget blueprint, unveiled Tuesday, would cut more than $6 billion from HUD's budget. The cuts would end popular grants that facilitate first-time home ownership and revitalize economically distressed communities, including the Community Development Block Grant. The budget would also cut billions of dollars in funding for public housing support, gutting dollars used to fund big-ticket repairs at public housing developments around the country.

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