Dr. Ben Carson became the darling of conservatives earlier this year by stridently attacking the Affordable Care Act with President Obama sitting just a few feet away. Carson, who was serving as the keynote speaker at the National Prayer Breakfast at the White House, said: “Here’s my solution: When a person is born, give him a birth certificate, an electronic medical record, and a health savings account to which money can be contributed – pretax – from the time you’re born ’til the time you die. When you die, you can pass it on to your family members, so that when you’re 85 years old and you got six diseases, you’re not trying to spend up everything. You’re happy to pass it on and there’s nobody talking about death panels.
“Number one. And also, for the people who were indigent who don’t have any money we can make contributions to their HSA each month because we already have this huge pot of money. Instead of sending it to some bureaucracy, let’s put it in their HSAs. Now they have some control over their own health care.”
Predictably, the right wing rushed to embrace him. Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and the crew at Fox News were ecstatic that a prominent Black neurosurgeon shared their world view. Jonah Goldberg, a columnist for the right-wing National Review, compared Carson to racial apologist Booker T. Washington. David Graham, writing in The Atlantic, called him Herman Cain without the “personal skeletons.” And the conservative Wall Street Journal ran an op-ed under the headline, “Ben Carson for President.”
Carson became a paid contributor to Fox News, was hired to write a weekly column for the right-wing Washington Times, and became in demand as a speaker at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) and any national event that attracts more than three conservatives.
Professionally, Carson is no dumb man. He earned his undergraduate degree from Yale University and his M.D. from the University of Michigan. At the age of 33, he became director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, the youngest major division director in the school’s history.
In 1987, he led a 70-member surgical ream that separated twins who had been joined at the back of the head. After the successful 22-hour surgery, Carson gained national recognition. His autobiography, Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story, was published in 1992. The book recounts how his mother, Sonya, reared him and his older brother, Curtis, after she and her husband, Robert, divorced when Ben was 8 years old. In 2009, TNT released a television movie with the same title as his book, starring Cuba Gooding, Jr. as Ben Carson. In 2008, George W. Bush presented Carson with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Carson has made several controversial remarks after his appearance at the White House. In March, he said on Fox TV: “Marriage is between a man and a woman. No group, be they gays, be they NAMBLA , be they people who believe in bestiality, it doesn’t matter what they are. They don’t get to change the definition.”
Under pressure, Carson withdrew as commencement speaker for the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. He also apologized for “not the best choice of words,” called his critics racist, and then apologized again.
Of all of his outrageous comments, his latest one ranks among the most egregious.
Speaking at a Voter Values Summit, Carson said, “I have to tell you that Obamacare is, really, I think, the worst thing that’s happened to this nation since slavery. It was never about health care, it was about control.”
First, the Affordable Care Act does what its proper title implies – it makes health care affordable to millions of people, including the uninsured. If making insurance more affordable, not allowing insurance companies to reject people with pre-existing conditions and allowing children to remain on their parents’ insurance policies until they are 26 years old isn’t about health care, the esteemed neurosurgeon doesn’t know the definition of health care.
Second, any idiot knows that having access to health care is not worse than slavery.
Enslaved Africans had no rights, as the Supreme Court ruled in its 1857 Dred Scott decision, “which the white man was bound to respect.” They were brutalized, degraded, whipped, killed, and raped at the whim of the slave master. Marriage was not recognized and the slave codes in various states made it illegal to teach Blacks to read or write.
The Affordable Care Act is worse than that?
It’s a ridiculous comparison. At the rate he is going, Carson’s photograph will be slapped on boxes of rice. Dr. Ben will be more appropriately known as Uncle Ben.
George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA).