Ben Carson’s Furniture Spree and What It Means for People Desperate for Help

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Poor and homeless Americans face a significant cut to programs that help them with housing and other basic needs. The Trump Administration is proposing a $8.8 billion cut to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). That’s about 14 percent of the department’s total budget.

Programs and organizations that get their funding through HUD already feel vulnerable and are frustrated by how frugal the department is when it comes to funding their projects and proposals.

That’s the backdrop as news broke this week that HUD has agreed to spend $165,000 on “lounge furniture” for its Washington headquarters.

Additionally, HUD Secretary Ben Carson’s purchased a $31,000 dining set for his office. It took a whistleblower from within the department to call attention to this lavish spending.

What does this say about Carson’s ability to lead the department? And what does it tell us about the disconnect between people who desperately need government assistance and the people entrusted to provide that assistance?

One group was already skeptical of Carson’s ability to lead the department before the furniture kerfuffle made headlines. Carson Watch is a website created by people who have working for a long time in the field of urban housing who were wary of a wealthy pediatric surgeon being able to understand the difficulty and nuance of housing those living in poverty. 

Nationally, we have been in a housing crisis,” says Carson Watch project director Liz Ryan Murray.  “We knew we had to pay attention [to Carson’s work at HUD]. We knew we had to be right in front of it.”

Carson has raised many red flags for people working in urban housing and social work, including the secretary saying during an interview that he didn’t want poor people to be in “a comfortable setting” that would cause them to enjoy their poverty.

You put that kind of attitude connected with the actions he’s taking, it’s a real problem,” says Murray.

To hear more on Detroit Today, click on the audio player above.

NOTE: Since this episode of Detroit Today aired, Carson claims he would like to cancel his $31,000 dining furniture order.

Image credit: WDET/Laura Herberg

About the Author

Detroit Today

Dynamic and diverse voices. News, politics, community and the issues that define our region. Hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Stephen Henderson, Detroit Today brings you fresh and perceptive views weekdays at 9 am and 7 pm.

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