In an interview released Wednesday, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson said that a "certain mindset" contributes to people living in poverty, pointing to habits and a "state of mind" that 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 mindset, 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 mindset, you can give them everything in the world, they'll work their way right back down to the bottom," Carson said.
The retired 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. Before entering the political fray, Carson was best known as a motivational speaker. His story was turned into a Lifetime movie and made him a role model for young people of color. But his conservative politics and denunciations of government assistance eroded that image as he became more popular among right-wing voters.
Carson said during the interview that "the wrong mindset" is the product of negative parenting habits and exposure.
"There's also a poverty of spirit. You develop a certain mindset," 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 secretary said that he believes that 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.
Carson has spoken at length in the past about personal responsibility and its intersection with poverty, bemoaning systemic dependence on public assistance.
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. "And we’re not doing people a favor when we pat them on the head and say, 'There, there, you poor little thing, we’re going to take care of all your needs. You don't have to worry about anything.' You know who else says stuff like that? Socialists."
Carson did not respond to a request for comment through his representatives at HUD.
In an interview with The Post Wednesday evening, Williams defended Carson, saying his views are based not on politics, but on what is just.
"He’s a man of faith, not a man of politics,” Williams said. “Dr. Carson believes in what is righteous, what is good, what is fair and what is just.“
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