If you are a member of the conservative movement who has been paying even a modicum of attention, you have no doubt noticed the rise of the “Draft Ben Carson for President” movement. The group made their first major statement by coming in 3rd place in the CPAC 2014 straw poll, just 2 points behind the 2nd place finisher, Texas senator Ted Cruz. Carson beat out well organized, well known names such as Chris Christie, Paul Ryan, Rick Santorum and Marco Rubio for the third place finish. Since that point, Carson and his loyal group of followers have begun to create quite a wave within our movement, winning straw polls (on the FreedomWorks Online Straw Poll he is currently in 1st place) and raising millions of dollars in the process. Anybody who listens to Sean Hannity has undoubtedly heard the “Run, Ben, Run!” commercials on his radio show, and anybody who goes on comment threads online cannot possibly deny Carson’s reach and influence.
Despite all of this excitement around a potential Carson candidacy, there exists a major lack of knowledge about Carson’s positions on core issues. This manifested itself most famously on the Glenn Beck program, where Carson stated his preference that people who live in cities not own semi automatic weapons. Many conservatives considered this to be a dealbreaker, prompting Carson to tack hard to the right in future statements on guns. That being said, there are several examples of far less well known Ben Carson quotes which could prove to be even more damaging to his potential presidential candidacy. Indeed, one scroll through Ben Carson’s On The Issues page reveals some startling deal breakers for any movement conservative.
Perhaps one of Carson’s biggest challenges will be explaining to conservatives his proposal to implement price controls for health insurance, a proposal that is in many ways to the left of Barack Obama’s healthcare law. Carson calls health insurance “an ideal place for the intervention of government regulators”, and calls on the government to establish “standardized, regulated profit margins” for all health insurance providers. He responds to his would be critics by asking if his plan is “as radical as allowing a company to increase its profits by denying care to sick individuals?”, a line of logic no different in principle than the one given for Obamacare.
This argument seems to demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding of how price fixing creates shortages, leading us to the very death panels that many worry Obamacare will lead us towards. Carson also ignores the very core value of conservatism; the notion that free markets provide goods and services at a less expensive rate and in a more efficient fashion than the government possibly could. Could we expect a President Ben Carson to implement price controls on the health insurance market? If so, it would be one of the most progressive moves in our nations history.
Unfortunately, Dr Carson’s healthcare problems do not end there. Equally disturbing is his proposal to “remove from the insurance companies the responsibility for catastrophic health-care coverage, making it a government responsibility”. This is literally the nationalization of a significant portion of the health insurance industry, a proposal that would be far to the left of even Obamacare. Once again, Carson seems to ignore the fact that government is inherently inefficient, and as a result his plan would cause healthcare spending to skyrocket. He touts his proposal as being similar to national flood insurance, which confusingly implies that the heavily subsidized flood insurance program (which conservative senators like Rand Paul have consistently opposed) is a good thing for our economy. Does Ben Carson think that nationalized catastrophic insurance will lower the cost of healthcare? If so, where else does he think central planning is superior to the free market? Could we expect a President Ben Carson to nationalize this part of the insurance industry? If so, this too would be one of the most radically progressive moves in our nations history.
Unfortunately, Carson’s liberal attitudes towards economic policy do not end at healthcare. Indeed, Carson has made troubling statements regarding free trade as well, calling for “ a stiff tariff on products that are manufactured in other countries and are shipped here fully assembled, while reducing tariffs on products that will require assembly once they reach our shores.” Carson ignores the impact that such a policy would have on our exporters, who would likely face retaliatory tariffs, as well as on the consumers of this country who would be forced to pay higher prices.
We see another example here of Ben Carson accepting a liberal premise, the notion that the government must interfere in the marketplace to stimulate job growth, which is of course totally at odds with any free market economic theory imaginable. This protectionist line out of Carson makes this observer curious about his opinion on the Burger King tax inversions. Could we expect a President Ben Carson to crack down on companies whom he considers to be “exporting jobs”? Such a move would lead to even more economic difficulty as both American consumers and American exporters would suffer.
While we have covered several economic head scratchers out of Ben Carson, probably the most damning of all is his backwards analysis of the 2008 financial crisis. It is Ben Carson’s contention that “we decided to deregulate during the 1990s, paving the way for the economic meltdown in 2008”. In other words, the free market caused the crash. This is the line of logic that was embraced by Chris Dodd and Barney Frank when they passed the Dodd-Frank Act, as well as pretty much every progressive on both sides of the aisle in the wake of the financial crisis. It is, of course, completely distorted and ignorant of the government’s role in creating the crisis through passage of the Community Reinvestment Act, which encouraged the subprime lending.
The fact that Carson so readily embraces the notion that deregulation caused the economic collapse causes you to wonder if he would cut any regulation at all as president. The fact that he believes the free market, left unchecked, is what caused the crisis causes you to wonder about his commitment to conservative economic principles in general. Would Ben Carson rein in the IRS, or would he be too crippled by this false notion in his head that deregulation creates chaos? Would Carson make any push at all to repeal Dodd-Frank, or would his pro regulatory stance lead him to support such a bill? When a potential presidential candidate does not stand up for the core economic principles that our movement stands for, it should be a dealbreaker to anybody who values those principles.
Ben Carson’s seeming distrust for freedom extends past the economic realm, and into the constitutional realm as well. When discussing the Westboro Baptist Church’s picketing of funerals, which the Supreme Court (rightfully, for once) has ruled is protected under freedom of assembly, Carson stated that “I actually have some doubts about that legal decision, because the signs, obscenity, and noise infringe upon the rights of other Americans to assemble peacefully for the burial of one of their loved ones.” Ben Carson believes in changing the 1st Amendment in this case, saying “ if my right to free speech causes you actual harm, it becomes time to curtail my speech.” If Ben Carson does not believe the Westboro Baptist Church should have their right to assemble uninfringed, can we trust him to protect Tea Party groups who are targeted by liberal elements of their government? Can we trust him to protect any form of unpopular speech by any ideological minority? Between this callous lack of respect for the first amendment and his prior comments regarding limiting the second amendment, Carson’s commitment to constitutional principles is seriously in question.
Ben Carson’s comments on gun control caused a splash in the media because they were broadcasted over a major radio show, but should he decide to run for president he will have to answer for much more than that. His stated liberal stances on health care, government regulation, free markets and the constitution make it hard to imagine many tea partiers sticking around once they learn more about Carson’s positions. A tea party movement born in the wake of the financial crisis will not like to hear that it was the free market and not government policy which caused the crisis. A tea party movement that largely grew as a reaction to Obamacare will not like to hear that the solution to the healthcare crisis is to regulate the profit margins of insurance companies and nationalize catastrophic insurance. A tea party movement that sustains itself on constitutional principles will not like to hear that we need to restrict the first amendment rights of groups whom we find abhorrent. The bottom line is this: Ben Carson has a history of extreme liberal statements that will undoubtedly cause a problem for him should he decide to run in 2016. The question is, when will it happen, and how?