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Ben Carson on ‘The Ingraham Angle’: ‘People Are Our Most Valuable Resource’

Secretary of Housing and Urban Development joined the Fox News host for a candid interview about the public sector

Ben Carson, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development, joined Fox News host Laura Ingraham on “The Ingraham Angle” on Monday night to discuss a wide range of issues — including whether or not President Donald Trump is a “white nationalist,” as certain people on the Left have said he is.

The secretary did not hold back.

“There’s a narrative that’s being painted there, but I’ve had an opportunity to interact with racist people throughout my life. And he is not one,” Carson told Ingraham of Trump. “He is so easy to be around, so relaxed, and treats [people] with the utmost respect. And I talked with him early on about the plight of many people, particularly in the inner city, and the compassion that he showed is very impressive,” he added. “But he doesn’t wear it on his sleeve. He believes that a rising tide lifts all boats. And he doesn’t go around playing identity politics. He says, ‘Let’s just fix this so that everybody does well.'”

Ingraham asked Carson about what has happened in New York City, given that the “New York Housing Authority has been plagued with all sorts of problems: dilapidated housing, rodent infestation — it just goes on and on. There was a federal takeover of the New York City Housing Authority. [On] January 31 it became official. I would’ve thought de Blasio would’ve hammered you,” added Ingraham. “[But] de Blasio went on and on about how it’s a new path forward. He said you were very responsive. ‘What we have done today creates a strong path forward,’ he said, ‘a tangible path forward. It will change and improve the lives of public housing residents.'”

She added, “What happened there? You and he are pals now?”

“I will tell you what really happened, and I wish this would happen in our Congress, too,” said Carson. “We just decided to put the people first. We said, ‘Whatever we talk about, let’s always keep the people at the forefront and do those things that will actually benefit them.’ And that’s the approach that we’ve taken in all of our HUD projects. And … we’re looking at ways to get people out of the squalor. A lot of people say, ‘Well, why do you let people live in this dilapidated place?’ It’s because we don’t have another place to put them. As soon as we have another place to put them, believe me, we will do that.”

Carson added, “But you have to weigh all of these things very carefully. And having grown up around that, I’m very, very interested in making sure that we give people the kind of quality of life that will allow them the freedom to think about something other than, are they are going to survive the night.”

He noted that “just throwing money at the problem” is not the only solution.

“We’re looking at a lot of solutions,” said Carson. “First of all, the budget that has been proposed makes sure that we protect everybody in all the housing programs. Nobody is going to be thrown out. But we are looking at things like the RAD program — Rental Assistance Demonstration — which comes and remodels and rebuilds a lot of these dilapidated places and takes care of that deferred maintenance that’s been put off for so long because the system that we have been using just allowed it to continue to accumulate and people to get further behind. And we’re changing to a public-private partnership system.”

Ingraham said that some on the Left have declared that “current and former HUD people say you don’t have a sense of urgency, because you are very calm, unlike me. ‘You are very calm, Secretary Carson. Where’s your sense of emergency?'”

“Would you like to have a neurosurgeon who panics every time?” Carson replied. (He famously worked as a neurosurgeon for many years.) “No, they are looking at things the way they used to be. We are looking at things the way that they need to be. And we are changing things. And they can’t relate to that. And I don’t talk about them. I don’t blame them,” Carson said. “They just can’t understand. And they don’t talk to us. And when they do talk to us, they distort what’s going on.”

He added, “I just worry about doing what’s right. And the proof will be in the pudding. And we are working to get people out of poverty with the opportunity zones. People have made a lot of money over the last couple of years. Now we are providing a mechanism where they can take their unrealized capital gains, invest them in places that have traditionally been neglected, and give people a chance.”

Carson also said, “Our understanding is that our people are our most valuable resource. And if we develop them and make them productive, we only strengthen ourselves as a nation. We only have 330 million people. China and India have four times that many people. We will never be able to compete with them unless we learn to develop our people, and I think we understand that.”

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The Fox News host asked Carson to compare his current job to his former job — a neurosurgeon who worked with children. “What are you finding most frustrating and most fulfilling?”

“Of course, as a surgeon, I still have a surgical personality. Get it done … And here you have to deal with bureaucracy,” he said. “And bureaucrats tend to think that the rules are much more important than the goals. So adjusting to that — but not adjusting to the point where you can capitulate to that. Trying to change it. We brought into HUD now a CFO. We didn’t have a CFO [chief financial officer] for eight-and-a-half years.”

“Can you imagine, with the billions of dollars flowing through there?” he added. “So there was really not the kind of fiscal control that you would expect. Now we have that. We are bringing in the kinds of controls that actually will allow us to give more freedom to the various jurisdictions because we can keep track of where the money is and how it’s being used and what the timelines are.”

“I will definitely finish out the first term. And I’m open to a second term.”

“Everyone is like, ‘Oh, Ben Carson talks so slowly,'” said Ingraham. “We need people to talk more slowly if they’re making sense, in my view. But I would imagine that’s frustrating for you — the slow pace of change.”

“It’s very frustrating,” Carson replied.

“I know it is for the president,” she said.

“It is,” he acknowledged.

Carson also said he plans to stick around for awhile.

“There was this hoopla a couple of weeks [ago] that ‘Carson is leaving.’ I was asked what am I going to do. I said my preference is to go back in the private sector. It was extremely enjoyable. And you had a great deal of freedom. And you [have] a lot of influence because I was speaking a lot more at that time. But what we are doing is also incredibly important.”

He added that he “will definitely finish out the first term. And I’m open to a second term.”

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LifeZette's editor-in-chief Maureen Mackey can be reached at [email protected].