On Monday, President-elect Donald Trump announced the nomination of Dr. Ben Carson as secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, a federal executive department that will oversee a $49 billion budget in 2017.
“Ben Carson has a brilliant mind and is passionate about strengthening communities”, Trump said in statement. “We have talked at length about my urban renewal agenda and our message of economic revival, very much including our inner cities.”
A massive bureaucracy of nearly 10,000 employees, HUD’s most important responsibilities include providing rent subsidies for over 5 million households, underwriting more than 15 percent of all home mortgages and the investigation of housing discrimination.
During President Obama’s tenure, HUD has attempted to address discrimination against home buyers and renters on the basis of race, nationality, religion, etc., preemptively, rather than only on a case-by-case basis. In a 2015 piece for the Washington Times, Dr. Carson was critical of the program, describing it as a “mandated social engineering scheme.”
“I feel that I can make a significant contribution particularly to making our inner cities great for everyone,” Carson wrote in a Facebook post Wednesday. “We have much work to do in strengthening every aspect of our nation and ensuring that both our physical infrastructure and our spiritual infrastructure is solid.”
Despite Carson’s seeming interest in urban issues, two top House Democrats were particularly critical of Trump’s selection for HUD secretary, Reps. Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Elijiah Cummings (Md.)
“[Trump] has now selected someone woefully unqualified to run the Department of Housing and Urban Development,” Cummings said in a statement. “During his time in Baltimore, Dr. Ben Carson was a phenomenal neurosurgeon, but he has no experience developing housing policy affecting tens of millions of households or running a complex federal agency”.
Similarly, Minority Leader Pelosi said, “Carson is a disconcerting and disturbingly unqualified choice to lead a department as complex and consequential as Housing and Urban Development.”
First rumored to be under consideration for secretary of the Health and Human Services Department, spokesman Armstrong Williams said in November that Carson would not take the offer because, “He’s never run an agency and it’s a lot to ask. He’s a neophyte and that’s not his strength.”
A retired neurosurgeon, Dr. Carson received his Doctor of Medicine from the University of Michigan Medical School in 1977. Seven years later, in 1984, Carson was named the director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital at the age of 33.
Carson is best-known for leading a surgical team that successfully separated German-born twins joined at the head in 1987, the first time such a feat had been accomplished.
Carson retired from his professional medical career in 2013.
[AP] [Reuters] [CNN]