He’s a Doctor, but Does He Have a Prescription for Black America? Where Ben Carson Stands on the Issues

Meet the Candidates: The only black candidate in the race struggles to connect with his community.

Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson before a campaign event at Colorado Christian University on Oct. 29, 2015, in Lakewood, Colo.
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson before a campaign event at Colorado Christian University on Oct. 29, 2015, in Lakewood, Colo. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Before entering the political arena, Ben Carson was best-known among African Americans as “that brilliant black doctor who separated conjoined twins.” His rise from poverty was inspirational and a source of pride.

For many, that pride began to change when Carson slammed President Barack Obama and started championing conservative viewpoints.

In an interview, NewsOne Now host Roland Martin asked the retired pediatric neurosurgeon why African Americans, who are predominantly Democrat, should cross party lines to vote for him. “If they will actually listen to what I’m saying and not what people are saying what I’m saying,” Carson said. “Go back and look at my life. Look at what I do.”

In The Root’s Meet the Candidates series, which examines where the leading presidential candidates stand on some of the issues that matter most to black people, we’ve already taken a look at Bernie SandersDonald TrumpHillary Clinton and Marco Rubio. We continue now with a look at Carson.

Raising Incomes

With the economy rebounding, black people don’t want to be left behind. Early in his campaign, Carson met with community leaders last year in Baltimore, shortly after the riots, and told them that fixing the economy is the main solution to crime and poverty in black neighborhoods. Reducing taxes and regulations would lead to economic growth that would benefit everyone, he stated.

If he’s elected, low-wage workers should not expect a minimum wage increase. Carson has fallen in line (he previously held a different view) with other Republican candidates to oppose Fight for $15, the movement to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

“Every time we raise the minimum wage, the number of jobless people increases,” he said at the Nov. 10 GOP debate. “This is particularly a problem in the black community. Only 19.8 percent of black teenagers have a job, or are looking for one. And that’s because of those high wages. If you lower those wages, that comes down.”

Carson also counsels the poor not to get trapped in the welfare system. In a sharp exchange with Whoopi Goldberg on The View in 2014, Carson said that the welfare system can “rob someone of their incentive” toward self-improvement. He later lamented to Fox News’ Megyn Kelly that welfare has become “intergenerational” for too many people.

At the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2015, he said, “We need to understand what true compassion is, to reach out to individuals who think that being dependent is reasonable as long as they feel safe. … I’m not interested in getting rid of a safety net; I’m interested in getting rid of dependency.”

College Affordability

As Carson frequently points out, obtaining a higher education is an important key to escaping poverty. Scores of African Americans are pursuing that path, but they are disproportionately burdened with tremendous student-loan debt, according to the Urban Institute. Carson, however, speaks very little about a solution to the student-loan crisis, which has surpassed the $1 trillion mark.

He has blamed universities for contributing to the crisis and wants to hold them responsible for repaying the interest on student loans, as a motivation for them to find ways to lower the cost of a college education.