JEFFERSON — Republican presidential hopeful Dr. Ben Carson made a campaign stop in Jefferson Monday, with the candidate speaking to, and answering questions from, a crowd numbering nearly 200 at Abundant Life Ministries.
A neurosurgeon by trade, Carson joked that he originally had no intention of entering politics and was, instead, looking toward his impending retirement with excitement.
“I had heard that neurosurgeons tend to die early, so I did a little research and found out that many died at age 61,” he smiled. “Well, I was going to retire at 61. My wife and I had just bought a house in Florida, right on the 17th green …”
Then came, he noted, the National Prayer Breakfast on Feb. 7, 2013. His speech there, in the presence of President Barack Obama, was sharply critical of the so-called Obamacare system, and drew much national attention, especially from influential conservatives, who urged him to run for president.
On Monday Carson reiterated his call for personal medical savings accounts, which, he said “would drastically lower the costs of medicine and would slash to cost of catastrophic insurance.”
“That (Obamacare) is just one example,” Carson said, “of the government trying to force their ideas on the people instead of listening to the people’s ideas. Nobody wanted it, but that did not matter. The government just said ‘Too bad. Here is what you have to do now’ and that is totally against the idea the framers had of what role the government should have.”
The former head of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospitals said he knew many questioned why someone without political experience should be president.
“Why not?” he asked. “Right now the Congress has over 9,000 years of combined political experience and look where that has gotten us. The idea, before the professional political class took over, was to have citizen servants, not career politicians who are chiefly looking out for themselves.”
“What we have now is what Jefferson warned us would happen if the people lost faith (in government) and become disinterested or uniformed — the government would just keep growing and take more power to itself,” he added. “We must pay attention, must be involved — there is too much at stake.”
Carson decried an issue he said has not received enough attention on the campaign trail — the national debt.
“Look at the bill we are handing our children and grandchildren,” he said. “The debt is $18.5 trillion. If that number is hard to contemplate, let me put it like this: If you tried to pay it off at a rate of $10 every single day you would still be in debt after 5,000 years. That is what we are going to choke our children and grandchildren with, a debt that, if we don’t start doing something soon, is simply going to overwhelm them.”
One way to erase the debt, beyond strictly controlling spending, would be to install what Carson called “a fair for everyone” tax system. His idea? A flat tax of 14.9 percent.
“Everyone would have a stake, and we would eliminate all exemptions — every single one of them,” he said. “I know people who make a lot more money than I do who do not pay anywhere near the taxes I do. Why? Because they manipulate the system.”
“Where does the idea come from that it is fair to punish success? Should we not reward and encourage success?” he added. “More money would actually come to the government if everyone paid, starting at 150 percent of the poverty level. And with the exemptions gone there would be nothing to manipulate.”
He spoke briefly about “the continued secularization of America” which he said was tearing at the social fabric of the nation. Carson also urged the nation to but aside racial and religious differences and to ignore those “who seek to gain by dividing us.”
The candidate also touched on foreign policy and defense issues before taking questions from the audience, including one from a registered nurse, whom, Carson beamed, were “his favorite people in the whole world.”
Carson thanked the audience and those who helped arrange the town hall, and directed those present and all others to his website https://www.bencarson.com/ where several of his policies, including those on taxes and education, were available for in-depth review. A defense and foreign policy approach he said “would be available tomorrow (Tuesday).”