WHEN: Today, Friday, May 8
Dr. Ben Carson is among the most renowned physicians in the world. As director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University Medical Center, he led the only successful separation of Siamese twins joined at the back of the head. He achieved that success despite growing up poor in a single parent household in Detroit, excelling in high school and graduating from Yale University and the University of Michigan's medical school. Now retired from medicine, he seized attention in conservative circles for a 2013 speech at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington. Before announcing his candidacy in Detroit on May 3, he sat down with CNBC's Chief Washington Correspondent John Harwood at the Harbor House Detroit.
HARWOOD: People talk about American exceptionalism, Ben Carson is clearly exceptional. But just like you wouldn't expect Babe Ruth to be an ice skater or LeBron James to play the piano, why should should you have the confidence and feeling that you can be exceptional in this other field, which of course you've gotta do if you're gonna be president?
CARSON: We have gotten into this arena where we think the only people who can handle the kinds of decisions that need to be made at the state level are people who are steeped in politics.
HARWOOD: As I understand the message you wanna drive and the change you wanna bring to the country if you are elected is a move towards self-reliance. In Baltimore, when you look at those neighborhoods and the people who are committing violence and vandalism, do you think government should be getting out of the way and doing less, because what government has done has robbed their sense of initiative?
CARSON: Well, one of the things that I've learned as a neuroscientist is that the human brain is an amazing organ system. And if you have a normal one, you really shouldn't be thinking about what you can't do. Just be thinking about what you can do. As you probably know, in several states you can get as much or more on government assistance as you can by working a minimum wage job. I don't necessarily blame people for saying, "I can stay at home and I can make this money, or I can go and work this little chicken job that doesn't have many benefits." However, recognize that if you go and take that chicken job, you gain skills.
HARWOOD: And what about minimum wage?
CARSON: I think probably it should be higher than it is.
HARWOOD: It sounds as if your preferred alternative, both to Obamacare and to Medicare, is a system of self-reliance in which you would be responsible for your own care and that of members of your family.
CARSON: That's how you pay for it.
HARWOOD: And you could replace both the Medicare system and the Obamacare with that system of HSAs.
CARSON: Absolutely. I think when people are able to see how much more flexibility they will have I think it's gonna be a no-brainer.
HARWOOD: Obama you referred to him as a psychopath. What did you mean by that?
CARSON: I said he reminds you of a psychopath.
HARWOOD: And tell me how.
CARSON: Because they tend to be extremely smooth-- charming people who can tell a lie to your face with complete-- looks like sincerity, even though they know it's a lie.
HARWOOD: Do you think he's a liar?
CARSON: Well, I think he knows full well that the unemployment rate is not 5.5%. He knows that. And he knows that people who are not well-informed will swallow it hook, line, and sinker, even though they are sitting there in the city and can't find a job.
HARWOOD: When you look at what's going on, say, in Baltimore, do you think – the structure of racism as it inhibits opportunities for the young people in those communities is a big problem? Or do you think it's exaggerated?
CARSON: I think the biggest problem is economic. And I think if we begin to open up the opportunities again that you'll see a lot of improvement, in Baltimore and around the country. There is no question that racism still exists in our society. Of course it does. Amongst particularly liberals who think that if you're black you have to think a certain way. You-- you don't have a possibility of thinking any other way. And if you do, you're crazy. That's very racist, but they don't recognize it.
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