Dr. Ben Carson is my hero.
But not because of his controversial speech at the National Prayer Breakfast in front of President Obama.
Conservative, mostly white Republican critics of the president are praising Dr. Carson because they are ecstatic to see a black man express conservative ideas to the face of a liberal, Democrat and black president’s face.
But that is not why I consider Dr. Carson a hero.
He is a winner to me for living by the conservative principles I want young America, especially poor black and Latino kids, to see as the prescription for success.
Dr. Carson was born in one of the poorest black neighborhoods in Detroit, Michigan in 1951. His single mother often worked two or three jobs just to support him and his brothers.
And she impressed on him the power of the conservative principles of personal responsibility.
First, his mother never made excuses for his mistakes. She insisted that he take school seriously, excel and graduate from high school. That means he never got fooled by people who said serious students are: “Acting white.”
Second, he went on to best college he could get into and then kept going, to later become director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University. That means he worked hard to excel at every job, no matter what the hours so he could build connections and a reputation that is golden.
And third he did not have children until he was married, is a great father and he put his faith in God first.
For years now, I have spoken and written about the need for a renewal of exactly this kind of personal responsibility throughout American society – but especially in the black community where family breakdown and high drop-out rates leave many young people wondering if they have any chance for success.
This was the central theme of my 2006 book, “Enough.”
Just like Bill Cosby, Clarence Thomas, Condoleezza Rice and Senator Tim Scott, Dr. Carson knows full well that his life, his success in following the basic steps for success speaks louder than any speech.
That is the real reason he is inviting the wrath of the politically correct liberal establishment by speaking up for traditional, conservative values.
His answer to them: Bring it on!
“PC (Political Correctness) is dangerous. In this country, one of the founding principles was freedom of thought and freedom of expression...” Carson said.
“We have imposed upon people restrictions on what they can say, on what they can think. And the media is the largest proponent of this, crucifying people who say things really quite innocently.”
As the author of a 2011 book titled “Muzzled: the Assault on Honest Debate” about how PC is dangerous and imposes restrictions on what people can say and think, this warmed my heart.
And when it comes to public policy Dr. Carson again deserves credit for making specific suggestions. In his speech, he suggested a flat tax of ten percent and a health savings account beginning at birth
Now, this is where I part company with the good doctor. He has the right diagnosis but is recommending the wrong treatment, in my view.
His idea for a ten percent “flat tax” – something proposed by Republican Steve Forbes in the 1990s – would ensure that the wealthiest Americans pay considerably less in taxes while the poor and working class would pay considerably more in taxes. Dr. Carson likes the idea of "tithing” or giving 10 percent of income although he is open to a higher percentage which he has not disclosed.
At 10 percent the flat tax would be a boon for millionaires and billionaires like Forbes, Trump and Romney. It would drive up the debt and bankrupt the federal government. That would require drastic cuts to the social safety net programs that working class Americans depend on because there would be no revenue to pay for it.
He also favors health savings accounts for all Americans. Again, this has been a proposal floating around in Republican think tank circles for some time now.
But studies have repeatedly shown the real problem in the health care system is skyrocketing healthcare and insurance costs. What happens when a personal account can’t cover the cost of medical treatment? Lowering those costs is a central goal of the President’s Affordable Care Act. It is going to take a few years before average Americans feel the benefits but “ObamaCare” addresses the real problem.
Like the flat tax, personal health care accounts sound like a fair and common sense proposal, but when you think through the details, that is not the case.
The Wall Street Journal recently published an editorial headlined: “Ben Carson for President.” It said: “The Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon may not be politically correct, but he's closer to correct than we've heard in years.”
That’s true. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves with talk of a Carson presidential bid. For now, I’m just happy to see Dr. Carson celebrated as an example of the personal success that is possible in America for anyone willing to follow the basic steps of personal responsibility for their own future.