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Five Things Ben Carson Doesn’t Get

Terrance Heath

Two more candidates joined the race for the Republican presidential nomination on Monday. Of the two, retired brain surgeon Ben Carson is the one likely to have the most impact. That makes it frightening how much Carson just doesn’t get.

Carson went back to his roots to announce his candidacy for the nomination. On an auditorium stage in Detroit — his estranged hometown — he recounted his troubled, poverty-stricken childhood and then launched into a speech that revealed just how much he doesn’t get, for a guy who wants to be president.

What Ben Carson Doesn’t Get About The Safety Net

Carson’s humble upbringing is an important part of his narrative. His rise to becoming one of the top neurosurgeons in the country and a best-selling author is impressive because it starts in the poverty-stricken streets of Detroit and a fatherless home headed by a single mother with little education. Carson attempted to preemptively rebut those who would point out that his childhood experience of poverty doesn’t seem to inform his political positions.

There were many people who were critical of me, because they say Ben Carson wants to get rid of all the safety nets and welfare programs, even though he must have benefitted from them. I have no desire to get rid of safety net programs for people who need them. I have a strong desire to get rid of programs that create dependency in able-bodied people.

This is a blatant lie. Carson pointed out that his mother worked “extraordinarily hard,” often at two or three jobs, “trying to stay off welfare. And the reason for that,” Carson said, “was that she noticed that most of the people she saw on welfare never came off of it.” Carson either forgot or neglected to mention that his mother turned to the welfare system to meet family needs her earnings could not.

In his book “Gifted Hands,” Carson writes that his grades improved after he got free eyeglasses from a government program:

By the time I reached ninth grade, mother had made such strides that she received nothing but food stamps. She couldn’t have provided for us and kept up the house without that subsidy.

What Carson doesn’t get about the safety net is that there are plenty of “able-bodied” people who receive some form of government assistance, and it doesn’t make them any more “dependent” than it made his mother. There are plenty of people who work “extraordinarily hard,” who have to rely on the safety net — not because they’re “dependent,” but because they don’t earn enough to afford essentials like shelter, food, medical care and transportation without assistance.

If Carson is really concerned about “dependency,” he should take on the $70 billion per year we spend subsidizing the oil industry, or the $20 billion a year we spend on farm subsidies, before taking assistance away from families who are where he used to be.

What Ben Carson Doesn’t Get About The “Turmoil In Our Cities”

Carson alluded to the unrest in Baltimore; Ferguson, Mo., and other cities where unarmed black men have been killed by police.

The past couple of weeks, there has been a great deal of turmoil in Baltimore. I spent 36 years of my life there, and we see the turmoil in cities all over our nation. We need to start thinking about how do we get to the bottom of this issue. I believe the real issue here is that people are losing hope, and they don’t feel life is going to be good for them no matter what happens. When an opportunity comes to loot, to riot, to get mine, they take it — not believing that there is a much better way to get the things that they desire.

What Carson doesn’t get about “turmoil in our cities,” is that in cities like Ferguson, Baltimore, and Detroit, people lose hope because their isn’t much of any way to get the things, or the life, they desire. That’s because jobs have disappeared from these cities, in large part due to economic policies and trade deals that made it easier for businesses and corporations to ship jobs overseas, where labor was cheap and unorganized, and environmental protections were few or non-existent.

In cities like Detroit and Baltimore, the loss of manufacturing jobs hit black communities the hardest — and black men in particular — because they were disproportionately represented in those jobs. Those jobs didn’t require a college education, but provided good wages and benefits that lifted many families into the middle class.

Not only are those jobs gone, but they have been replaced by low-wage jobs that provide no pathway to the middle class. That’s unlikely to change as long as we subsidize businesses and corporations that don’t pay their employees a livable wage.

What Ben Carson Doesn’t Get About Health Care

He didn’t dwell on it in his announcement speech, but Carson is so opposed to the Affordable Care Act, a k a Obamacare, that he’s compared it to both slavery and 9/11.

● In a speech at the 2013 Values Voter conference, Carson said: “You know Obamacare is really I think the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery. And it is in a way, it is slavery in a way, because it is making all of us subservient to the government, and it was never about health care. It was about control.”

● Later, in an interview with the Daily Beast, Carson said that Obamacare was the worst thing to happen to the U.S. since the 9/11 terrorist attacks: “Because 9/11 is an isolated incident. Things that are isolated issues as opposed to things that fundamentally change the United Sates of America and shift power from the people to the government. That is a huge shift. You have to take a long-term look at something that fundamentally changes the power structure of America.”

● The health care plan on Carson’s website is about as sparse and vague as the GOP plans for Obamacare “replacements.” Beyond re-establishing “a strong and direct relationship between patients and their physicians,” the only idea he has is an old one: health savings accounts, which by definition favor the well and wealthy. Republicans have been pushing health savings accounts since 2006.

What Carson doesn’t get about Obamacare is that, despite its imperfections, the health care reform law is popular with the majority of Americans. A recent Bloomberg poll showed that 63 percent of Americans think the law should be left alone, or allowed to work in order to find out how it should be changed. Only about 35 percent want Obamacare repealed, and most of them are people the who aren’t impacted by the law.

That’s because it lowered the number of uninsured Americans, and increased the number of Americans with access to care without increasing spending on medical care. In fact, it’s coming in 20 percent under projected costs. The number of uninsured has fallen by more than 11 million since the law’s passage, and is now at a seven-year low. More than 16 million Americans now have affordable, quality health insurance thanks to Obamacare — including presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who once swore to repeal “every word it.”

What Ben Carson Doesn’t Get About Climate Change

For a man of science, Ben Carson doesn’t get what the big deal is about climate change. “As far as I’m concerned, that’s irrelevant. What is relevant is that we have an obligation and a responsibility to protect our environment,” he said in an interview in Des Moines, Iowa. “You can ask it several different ways, but my answer is going to be the same. We may be warming. We may be cooling.”

What Carson doesn’t get about climate change is what the GOP doesn’t get. Not only is there a consensus in the scientific community, but (as with the next issue) Americans have moved past the GOP on this issue. A Yale/Utah State University poll showed that 63 percent of Americans think climate change is happening, along with 99 percent of the counties in the country.

What Ben Carson Doesn’t Get About Marriage Equality

Despite the issue currently being before the Supreme Court, Ben Carson didn’t mention marriage in his announcement speech. Perhaps he finally learned his lesson. Carson managed of the biggest gaffes so far this campaign season when he told CNN’s Chris Cuomo how he knew that being gay is a “choice.”

Ben Carson, the prospective 2016 presidential hopeful beloved by Tea Partiers, told CNN host Chris Cuomo on Wednesday that he believes homosexuality is “absolutely” a choice—because “a lot of people who go into prison, go into prison straight, and when they come out, they’re gay.”

The former neurosurgeon went on, “So did something happen while they were in there? Ask yourself that question.”

While the rest of the country cringed, the scientific community called Carson out, noting that decades of research shows that sexual orientation is inborn, not chosen. (Something so obvious that even Florida Sen. Marco Rubio can grasp it, or at least pretend to.)

After becoming the focus of near universal ridicule, Carson decided that he just wouldn’t talk about the issue anymore. What Carson doesn’t get about marriage equality is that he won’t get away with that on the campaign trail. The GOP base is light years behind the rest of the country, and they will demand that he says something about it, especially when the court’s decision is announced this summer.

Tell your Senators to protect southern resident orcas and Chinook salmon today!

Defenders of Wildlife
Less Than 80 Left

Orca (c) R. Marate

Southern resident orcas have lost 10% of their population since being added to the Endangered Species List.

Take Action
Tell your Senators to protect southern resident orcas and Chinook salmon today!

by Elizabeth Ruther, Defenders of Wildlife

Endangered southern resident orcas could soon be starved to extinction.

Known as the “fish-eating orca,” these whales have relied almost exclusively on Chinook salmon for thousands of years to survive. But increased human activity has disrupted this balance and decimated the Chinook salmon population – and if we don’t act soon, southern resident orcas will be in real danger of running out of food.

ACT NOW: Tell your Senators to save the last of the southern resident orca whales!

Hydroelectric dams, over fishing and habitat destruction have all contributed to the endangered status of Chinook salmon. The Columbia-Snake River basin once produced more salmon than any other river system in the world. But today, less than 5% of the historic number of fish returns to the watershed to spawn. Without a healthy population of Chinook salmon, it is doubtful that the southern resident orca population will ever recover.

These whales are struggling against pollution, marine noise, vessel traffic and a shortage of food. With their population in jeopardy, southern resident orcas were finally added to the Endangered Species List in 2005 – since then, they’ve lost close to 10% of their population with fewer than 80 of these whales left in the wild.

That’s why it’s so important that we defend the Endangered Species Act (ESA), for animals like the southern resident orca and the Chinook salmon. Because of human activity, these two species are now forced to rely on ESA protections to survive.

Tell your Senators to take action before it’s too late!

Scientists agree that restoring abundant populations of wild Columbia and Snake River Chinook salmon must be our top priority to help save and recover the southern resident orca.

Orcas are culturally and economically important to Washington State. Southern resident orcas attract between $60-$75 million dollars per year in tourism, and healthy population levels have been linked to maintaining a healthy marine ecosystem. Yet despite their significance, not enough is being done to ensure the survival of the remaining population.

It’s up to Washingtonians like you, who care so much for our wildlife, to stand up for these amazing creatures.

Ask your Senators to step up and fight for our southern resident orcas!

Thank you for all you do.


Elizabeth Ruther Elizabeth Ruther
Northwest Program Representative
Defenders of Wildlife

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Thank a Teacher


Three Policies To Support Teachers For Teacher Appreciation Week

We all know teachers in our lives who helped us more than we could ever fully appreciate. Well, this week is Teacher Appreciation Week, the time for all of us to let our teachers know how much they are valued by their students and the communities they serve. For the occasion, the Center for American Progress released this video showing what happens when you ask principals and administrators to thank a teacher.

But we can do more than just say thank you. We also must pass public policies that support and empower teachers to do their jobs well. Here are three such suggestions:

1. Pay them more: The average starting salary for teachers across the country is $36,141, 40 percent lower than the average starting salary of workers with college degrees, which deters younger teachers from staying in the field. We should boost teacher pay so they earn what they deserve, and so that students can learn from the best teachers we have to offer.

2. Give them meaningful leadership opportunities: Teachers should always feel valued in the work they are doing, but we should strengthen that by creating more teacher leadership roles in classrooms, schools and districts. A collaborative approach between management and teachers is crucial, especially for development new teaching materials and implementing reforms such as the Common Core. And student learning will improve as a result.

3. Reauthorize a federal education bill that supports teachers instead of failing them: The federal government has an important role to play in education by insuring that our students and teachers get a proper level of support. However, early versions of the federal education reauthorization bill would have opened the door to severe budget cuts, diluted targeted funding for teachers and cut $163 million of federal spending on Title II, funding designed to support teachers. Policymakers need to make sure that isn’t the case.

BOTTOM LINE: Be sure to take a moment thank a teacher this week. But also remember that a great way to thank our teachers is to support them with policies that give them the tools to help every student succeed.

Translation: Bank of America is dumping coal mining!

After years of pressure on Bank of America, they just announced a new coal mining policy: “Our new policy … reflects our decision to continue to reduce our credit exposure over time to the coal mining sector globally.”1

Translation: Bank of America is dumping coal mining!

This is a huge moment. Bank of America has gone from being the worst bankroller of coal to having the strongest global coal mining policy of any major global bank. It’s the result of years of hard-hitting campaigning by RAN, our many front-line allies — and by you and all of RAN’s supporters in this fight. So, thank you for everything you’ve done.


Now, we have to hold Bank of America to its word by rigorously monitoring their implementation of this policy. And second, we have to push other banks to meet or exceed Bank of America’s coal mining policy. There are just a few short years left to meet the challenge of climate change. We need to build on this victory to stop the coal industry using big banks as ATMs.

Will you help RAN do that vital work by chipping in today? 

I’m writing to you from the Bank of America shareholder meeting in Charlotte, NC, where I came to hear today’s announcement in person. RAN has been at this meeting every year since 2011 to make the case that the bank should divest from coal mining. I’m thinking about the many allies whom we have stood here with throughout this campaign. Allies like Paul Corbit Brown, whose stunning photographs and eloquent advocacy have made it impossible for Bank of America to ignore the destruction that mountaintop removal coal mining has done to his home state of West Virginia. Allies like Pat Moore, who was so outraged by Bank of America funding the coal-fired power plants in her community, while her granddaughter suffered through asthma attacks, that she led a civil disobedience action here in Charlotte. I’m thrilled to share this moment with them.

When we started this campaign in 2011, most banks were basing their wafer-thin “climate commitments” around efficient lightbulbs in their branches and green-certified headquarters. Other banks felt that modest investments in renewable energy allowed them to ignore their huge investments in fossil fuels. After four years of hard work, Bank of America’s coal mining policy represents a sea change: it acknowledges that they’re responsible for the fossil fuels that they bankroll. This is a huge paradigm shift.

When we first approached Bank of America about instituting a responsible coal policy, they told us they were “diametrically opposed to our position on coal”. They said they aspired to be “number one in every sector” — including the fossil fuel sector. We took on Bank of America because they were the hardest target: they were the most resistant to stopping doing business as usual.

Today, with Bank of America’s new coal policy, we’ve reached a huge milestone. Now we have to make sure they’re as good as their word. Will you help us do that by chipping in today? 

This new policy is the strongest to date of any global private-sector bank — but it can’t be the only one. Across the financial sector, we don’t need big banks to change the lightbulbs at their corporate headquarters, we need them to stop bankrolling fossil fuels that are killing the climate. Coal, oil and gas need to be left in the ground.

We’re going to push other banks to own up to the climate consequences of their financing decisions, and meet or exceed Bank of America’s policy. Time is running out to stop catastrophic climate change. We can’t meet the challenge of our era unless the big banks profiting from fossil fuels drop their support. Along with our allies — and supporters like you — we’ll build on today’s success to turn this into a truly sector-wide change.

But we can’t do it without you. Support that work today!

In gratitude, for our communities and the climate,


Amanda_400x400.jpg Amanda Starbuck
Climate and Energy Program Director
Rainforest Action Network

P.S. To celebrate the hard work of our allies and supporters in this fight, we’ve put together a timeline of key moments in the years-long campaign against Bank of America. Check it out!


1. “BREAKING: Bank of America dumps coal mining in sweeping new policy”, Rainforest Action Network, http://www.ran.org/breaking_bank_of_america_dumps_coal_mining_in_sweeping_new_policy