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Ben Carson is not interested in politics. “People ask me,” he says to the assembled crowd at a town hall meeting in Barrington, New Hampshire, “what made you interested in politics after such a wonderful career in medicine?” He pauses slightly. “I’m not interested in politics; I’m interested in saving this country.”
His career in medicine has shown him that health is the most valuable thing we have. If you give someone the choice, “you can have a hundred million dollars, but be a quadriplegic, or you can have perfect health and no money, I think the choice is pretty obvious.” That’s why Carson speaks out against Obamacare. America is an incredible nation, founded by incredible people, to be of the people, for the people, by the people. Government is intended only to facilitate our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, Carson says. Obamacare reverses that by making government the giver of things. If we accept the government’s ruling the most important thing we have — health — then we’ll accept anything.
There’s hope, though, he says. He has a soft voice and his eyes are half-closed as he stands calmly in front of us. One senses that his would be the temperament you want in a surgeon. “Thomas Jefferson predicted this,” he says quietly. “He was a great man. He said eventually the people would become less vigilant and the government would expand to control everything we did. But just before that, people would wake up and take back control. I hope that this is that time. If this is not that, then it’s over.”
I’m back at Turbocam for the second town hall in as many nights. The crowd is only slightly smaller than the one for Carly Fiorina the night before and, to be fair, it’s currently pouring rain outside. I recognize a handful of faces, but the majority are new.
I’m sitting next to a retired couple. He’s a veteran. She’s seeing Carson for the second time today, having attended a breakfast with him this morning in Exeter. I ask them if they know Ricochet, but they don’t. He reads National Review every day online.
On the other side of them is another veteran who served in the Navy during Vietnam. “It wasn’t too dangerous, though,” he comments. “The South China Sea was only about 60 feet deep. Of course, it’s probably higher now due to climate change.” The vet sitting next to me scoffs. “There’s no such thing. I read in Newsmax this morning that a Nobel physics prize winner said climate change is all a crock.” The other vet seems unconvinced. “Nobel Peace Prize?” He asks. “Physics,” replies my neighbor. “And anything Obama says is a lie.” The Vietnam vet shifts uncomfortably. “OK,” he says. A few rows away I see a woman with a crew cut wearing khakis and a vest. If one were to follow stereotype, it would not be unreasonable to presume she is a lesbian. The crowd is overwhelmingly white, but this is New Hampshire after all.
“The jihadists want to destroy us,” says Carson. “And the pundits and the politicians are trying to divide us. We don’t need them. We need each other. Listen, if I were in charge, and I were trying to destroy America, I would try to divide people and rack up debt and cause the deterioration of our military, and allow our enemies to flourish.” The crowd chuckles, anticipating what’s coming. “Hey, that’s what I would do if I were in charge and trying to destroy America. Any similarity to what’s going on now is just coincidence.”
We’re responsible, he says. “We vote people in and vote people out. We must use the brain that God gave us to make intelligent choices. We cannot be more concerned about the soccer game or Dancing with the Stars than about the debt.”
We have $18.4 trillion in debt. To put that in perspective, if we were to pay $10 million a day toward the debt, it would take more than 5,000 years to pay off. “We cannot continue to put people in office who are more concerned about the next election than the next generation.”
Italy, he notes, faced a path similar to Greece’s. In Italy, they raised the retirement age and reduced payments to retirees by 40 percent. “That’s painful,” he acknowledges. “The longer we wait, the more painful it will be. And, you know, there’s a thing called sacrifice.”
America has the most powerful economic engine in the world. But we have the highest corporate tax rate. “How will that cause our economic engine to start up? It won’t. It will make corporations move overseas.”
Carson suggests a corporate tax holiday of six months to encourage corporations to repatriate overseas money. “That would be a gigantic stimulus to the economy.” The only caveat, he says, is that he would require 10 percent of the repatriated money to be spent on creating jobs. “I grew up poor,” he says. “A lot of poor people” — he doesn’t say all or even a majority — “are willing to work hard but they don’t see opportunity. We don’t have to give them the ladder, but we can help them to be able to realize their opportunity.”
He thinks there are too many government regulations and would like to get rid of the “vast majority” of them. That doesn’t mean he’s anti-government. “Our Founders were wise, and they said,” — and here he paraphrases from Federalist 51, which in full is — “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.”
He’d like to reform the tax code, too. “I like God’s tithing plan.” In other words, a flat rate. “If you make $10, you pay $1. If you make $10 million, you pay $1 million.” Some people may think that’s not fair. “Yes, it is.” Rather than try to tax the millionaire more, he says, shouldn’t we be doing everything we can to make it possible for him to make $20 million next year? Then he’ll pay $2 million in taxes.
What frightens him most is our failure to play a leadership role in the world. Others will fill the gap, and they will not be as benign as we are. We should use every resource to destroy the jihadists. “Our goal should not be to contain them, but to destroy them.” And he’s a dove, he says. “But a pragmatic dove.” He didn’t support the Iraq invasion because he didn’t think it was a national security issue. But Islamic jihadism is such a threat.
We are responsible, he says, repeating an earlier theme. The baton of liberty is in our hands. We are all Nathan Hale, who, when he was about to be hanged by the British, said, “My only regret is that I have but one life to give for my country.” We must be willing to stand for what we believe in. “We are the only thing that will provide freedom to those who come after us. If we don’t do it now, it’s too late.”
A woman asks him if he thinks that judges should be elected. He says he doesn’t know but thinks appointments are too political. “Judges do not have the right to create law.” We need a forceful legislative branch to counter that. When people back off of their responsibilities, other will always fill the gap. He doesn’t want to change the Constitution. “Congress has the power to countermand laws that have been created by judges.” They need to do so.
He’s asked about immigration—illegal immigration. “We have an illegal immigration problem,” he says. We have to secure the borders: southern, northern, and oceanic. We don’t have to use a fence everywhere. We have many assets. What we don’t have is the will. For those already here, he supports a guest-worker program. If they want to be citizens and vote, though, they have to go to the back of the line. One way to reduce illegal immigration, he notes, is to improve Central American infrastructure. But he doesn’t mean through government assistance. There are American companies in Cameroon right now setting up farming infrastructure—and reaping the benefits. Let’s make it easier for American companies to do business in Central America. They’ll create jobs there, and, as a result, there will be fewer illegal immigrants in America.
Kath Allen, New Hampshire chairwoman of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, asks Carson about Social Security. “It’s a big Ponzi scheme,” he says. “We’re going to run out of money.” We should offer people the opportunity to opt out of Social Security for a tax credit. For people younger than 55, we need to gradually increase the age at which you can receive benefits. “Also, if we fix the economy, a lot of these entitlement programs won’t be as big a concern. So it’s important to get our economic engine running again.” When I speak to Allen in the parking lot afterwards, she doesn’t seem satisfied with his answer. “Social Security is not an entitlement,” she says. She wants to raise the cap on taxable income and thinks it’s unfair to raise the age at which you can receive benefits.
The final question asked of Carson in the town hall is about gun rights. “There’s one thing I’m not clear on,” asks a gentleman. “Where do you stand on the Second Amendment?” Carson says, “Earlier in the campaign, when I wasn’t quite as savvy—I’m more savvy now, have you noticed?—I was asked about the Second Amendment, and I didn’t realize that with media types you have to answer the question first with ‘I support it completely.’ ” Instead, he started his answer earlier in the campaign by saying he worried about guns in the hands of mentally disturbed people, and that in densely populated areas—cities—there was a higher risk of gun violence. The Second Amendment’s an incredibly important part of our Constitution, Carson emphasizes now. “Daniel Webster said, ‘Tyranny will not happen in America, because the people are armed.” We need guns to protect ourselves from foreign invaders, and from tyrannical government. He supports it completely.