It’s astounding that a surgeon with zero government experience can deem himself sufficiently credentialed to run America. It’s even more astounding that grassroots Republicans — frustrated with their “insiders,” or maybe they’re just deranged — have actually elevated Ben Carson to the top tier.
I have to assume that those folks will wake up and realize that they’re embarrassing themselves, and their party, by indulging a guy who has no business running for president. For years they’ve complained that Barack Obama lacked the requisite experience for the top job … yet now they’ve embraced Carson? Go figure.
Surely, at some point, one of his outrageously stupid remarks will prompt them to reassess. Granted, it hasn’t happened yet. His declaration that he wouldn’t support a Muslim for president — which violated the Constitution’s Article VI ban on religious tests? They were fine with that. His remark this week that the Oregon students were at fault because they didn’t rush the Second Amendment shooter? Carson’s fans were fine with that, too. (An Army vet named Chris Mintz did challenge the shooter by barricading a door; for his efforts, he was shot seven times and may never walk again. On CBS News, Carson was asked if he knew who Mintz was. His reply: “No.”)
But in a rational world, Carson’s Monday gig on NPR’s “Marketplace” show would arguably do the trick. Here’s a key exchange with host Kai Ryssdal. It’s about the imminent need to raise the debt ceiling.
Ryssdal: As you know, Treasury Secretary Lew has come out in the last couple of days and said, “We’re gonna run out of money, we’re gonna run out of borrowing authority, on the fifth of November.” Should the Congress then and the president not raise the debt limit? Should we default on our debt?
Carson: Let me put it this way: If I were the president, I would not sign an increased budget. Absolutely would not do it. They would have to find a place to cut.
Ryssdal: To be clear, it’s increasing the debt limit, not the budget, but I want to make sure I understand you. You’d let the United States default rather than raise the debt limit.
Carson: No, I would provide the kind of leadership that says, “Get on the stick guys, and stop messing around, and cut where you need to cut, because we’re not raising any spending limits, period.”
Ryssdal: I’m gonna try one more time, sir. This is debt that’s already obligated. Would you not favor increasing the debt limit to pay the debts already incurred?
OK, let’s pause it right there. Either Carson is leaving the impression that he doesn’t know the difference between the debt and the budget (because he’s such a poor communicator), or Carson genuinely does not know the difference between the debt and the budget.
But let’s assume that he does know the difference. His solution to lowering the debt is oh so simple: Cut everything that the federal government does, right across the board. “Just like that.”
Ryssdal: What will you not provide in the way of government services? What entitlements will you not provide as president that will help get the budget balanced? What are you not gonna give the people?
Carson: Well, first of all, recognize that it’s not that difficult. If we simply refuse to extend the budget by one penny for three to four years, you got a balanced budget. Just like that. So this is not pie in the sky very difficult thing to accomplish. Having said that, one of the bugaboos that has kept us from reducing government in the past is sacred cows. What I would do is, first of all, allow the government to shrink by attrition. Don’t replace the people who are retiring, thousands of them each year. And No. 2: Take every departmental head, or sub-department head and tell them, “I want a 3 to 4 percent reduction.” Now anybody who tells me there’s not 3 to 4 percent fat in virtually everything that we do is fibbing to themselves.
Ryssdal: With respect, sir, you didn’t answer the question. What are you not gonna do? It’s easy to say trim fat, it’s easy to say 3 to 4 percent reduction, but rejecting the premise of the question isn’t answering the question.
Carson: What I’m not gonna continue to do is supply money for everything. If you have to cut your budget by 3 to 4 percent, that automatically answers your question.
Wait a second. Carson would cut everything by 3 or 4 percent annually? “Just like that,” he says. Really? Would he cut our military budget by 3 or 4 percent annually? Would he include Social Security and Medicare — the socialist programs that senior conservatives utilize as necessities of life — by 3 or 4 percent annually? Would he cut federal assistance to military veterans by 3 or 4 percent annually? Would he similarly cut the programs that keep our air and water clean? Would he similarly cut the FEMA money that helps the victims of floods and hurricanes? And if he carved out exemptions for some of these so-called “sacred cows,” where else would he find the massive savings?
Ryssdal: I’m really trying not to be circular here, Dr. Carson, but if you’re not gonna raise the debt limit and you’re not gonna give specifics on what you’re gonna cut, then how are we going to know what you are going to do as president of the United States?
Fortunately, we’ll never need to know.