Ben Carson Thinks Poverty Is Just a ‘State of Mind’ Passed Down From Parents to Their Children

Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Dr. Ben Carson, secretary of housing and urban development, said in an interview released Wednesday that poverty is a “state of mind” children learn from their parents, and that a “certain mindset” contributes to people living in poverty.

Carson, who was being interviewed on SiriusXM Radio by longtime friend Armstrong Williams, said, “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,”the Washington Post reports.

“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.


Carson is a retired neurosurgeon who ran for president in 2016, and before entering into politics, he was a motivational speaker. He regularly discussed the fact that he grew up in poverty, and Lifetime found his life story so compelling, the network turned it into the TV movie Gifted Hands, starring Cuba Gooding Jr. While the biopic set him up to be an inspiration to poor kids everywhere, his conservative politics, constant denunciations of government assistance and the way his foot is always in his mouth have made most people give him an extreme side eye.

Carson’s comments were made during a town hall recorded Tuesday to air in full Wednesday night, and clips of the interview were released to news organizations to promote the show, the Post reports.

Carson said “the wrong mindset” is the product of negative parenting habits and exposure.

“There’s also a poverty spirit. You develop a certain mindset,” he said.

While Carson said he believes the government can help people looking to climb out of poverty, 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.”

From the Post:

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 the Post’s request for comment, but Williams did, and in an interview with the Post Wednesday evening, he defended Carson and said 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.“


So remember, kids, poverty is just a state of mind. When Sallie Mae/Navient calls you to collect on those student loans next month, tell them that you don’t owe them, and your monthly payment being late is just a state of mind. Remind them that if they keep this mindset, it’s going to feel as if everyone owes them money when they really don’t.

Read more at the Washington Post.

News Editor for The Root. I said what I said. Period.

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Run John Boy Run

Dr. Carson was heavily influenced by this 1983 documentary.