Carson reportedly turned down an offer to run the Department of Health and Human Services shortly after Donald Trump’s election. In a rare moment of self-awareness, Carson realized that his lack of administrative experience could be disastrous. “Dr. Carson feels he has no government experience; he’s never run a federal agency,” Carson’s friend Armstrong Williams told The Hill. “The last thing he would want to do was take a position that could cripple the presidency.”
The HHS has a budget of a $100 billion and 80,000 employees; HUD, in contrast, has a budget half as large and only 8,000 employees. So, it’s possible that Carson simply did the math and decided that there were half as many opportunities to cripple a Trump presidency from HUD. (It’s also possible that this was a big song-and-dance routine to keep people from remembering that Carson and Trump reportedly made an illegal quid pro quo deal several months ago, wherein Carson endorsed Trump in exchange for a cabinet position.)
But HUD is also an enormously important agency, especially when it comes to fighting poverty. Its responsibilities include underwriting one in six mortgages, ensuring equal access to housing, and collecting data on housing. Unfortunately, we have every indication that Carson will do extremely little to use HUD to help the poor, particularly through the Fair Housing Act. Even if Carson somehow manages to survive for four years without instigating a major scandal, its highly likely that his management of HUD will be scandalous, particularly for the country’s poor and most particularly for those who live in the “inner cities” Carson and Trump are always talking about.
There is little in Carson’s background that suggests that he has any ideas about urban planning or fighting poverty, though he has cited his biography—he grew up poor in Detroit, and recently took Trump to visit his childhood home—as experience, a trick that often works in job interviews but pays little dividends on the job. Well, maybe that’s not fair—Carson has one idea about urban planning. Come 2020, 20 percent of America’s poor will be living in pyramids.