Dr. Ben Carson joined me on the program today:
HH: Continuing my wall to wall coverage of Campaign 2016 now with Dr. Ben Carson, candidate for president, who I’ll be sitting across the stage from on Thursday night in Houston. Dr. Carson, I look forward to seeing you then, and I hope that it goes well, and we have a good, substantive debate. But I’ve got to ask you about some process questions first and get them out of the way so they don’t mess up our debate on Thursday night. Are you game?
HH: Did you meet with Ted Cruz?
BC: Well, first of all, happy birthday.
HH: Hey, thank you. You know, everybody, Mike Allen put that in Playbook. I’ve had more emails today telling me happy birthday than I have in the rest of my life combined. Did you and Ted Cruz meet in a storage closet to discuss the Iowa problem?
BC: It was not a closet. But if it was a closet, it had a table, and there were chairs.
HH: Okay, okay. That Vanity Fair piece made it sound like you were standing in the custodian hallway or something like that.
BC: Yeah, they’re trying to be dramatic.
HH: Right, so it went on for 25 minutes. What did you discuss, and what was the resolution?
BC: Well, you know, we talked about the incident in Iowa. You know, I told him, you know, I forgave him, that I was putting that behind me. I said that’s why you haven’t heard me talking about it. Other people have been talking about it, but I really haven’t, because as far as I’m concerned, it’s done and we’re not going to redo it. I told him that I thought that there should be some, you know, some responsibility. I mean, if there’s no accountability for bad actions, it calls into question your judgment.
HH: Today, he fired Rick Tyler. Is that what you had in mind?
BC: That certainly would be a step in the right direction, yes.
HH: Now given that that has happened, he’s getting pounded by Marco Rubio and by Donald Trump. Do you think that Ted Cruz has a credibility problem, because of all the people, you and he are the guys who began the race with the reputations for straight shooting, no double talk, absolutely from the heart Evangelical Christianity honesty.
BC: Well, you know, I think he obviously has helped with that narrative by doing what he did today. And you know, hopefully that will continue to be the case. We will continue to prove that in fact he is a man who understands that there is right and wrong, and there is accountability. That would be to his credit if he does that.
HH: Now Dr. Carson, I want to talk about the path. I wrote a column today saying I see four candidates who have a path to the nomination, though John Kasich’s is very hard to see. You have a powerful message, but I don’t see a path to the nomination. What is the path, Dr. Carson?
BC: That path is, as since we’re down to five candidates, that we might actually reach a point where we start talking about the actual issues and the actual solutions and policies, and get away from the personality contest. If we are going to continue with the Roman Colosseum mentality, then there may not, in fact, be a path. The Roman Colosseum mentality, of course, everybody wanted to go see the blood and gore while Rome was burning.
HH: Let me ask you, then, a substantive question. We talked about the deficit last week, and I’ve been thinking about it since. What do you think ought to be the marginal rate on wealth above, say, $500 million dollars? Should the country have a special wealth tax upon the hyper-wealthy?
BC: Of course, not. And again, I take that from the Bible. You know, God said I want a tithe. He didn’t say if you have a bumper crop, give Me triple tithe. And if your crops fail, give Me nothing. So proportionality is the way that you even things out. You make $10 billion dollars, you pay a billion. You make $10 dollars, you pay one. And you get the same rights and privileges. What is hard about that? As soon as you change that, you enter your own ideological preferences.
HH: Yeah, you do. I worry that republics cannot endure vast concentrations of wealth. They never have been in the past. Marcus Crassus in ancient Rome was a leading indicator of that theory. Don’t you worry about vast concentrations of wealth like the trust busters did at the turn of the 19th Century and now in Silicon Valley where, you know, Apple is defying a court order? I mean, that’s just because they’re big and they can do that. Any other company would be crushed.
BC: There’s nothing wrong with wealth. The problem is if it is confined to a certain class, and other people are not capable of participating. And that is not the case in the United States of America. But there are those particularly on the left who try to convince large groups of people that they have been excluded, and that they are victims, and that therefore, they have the right to seize the assets of others. That’s not what helped America reach the pinnacle. Remember, we declare our independence in 1776, and less than a hundred years later, the number one economic power in the world, and were there plenty of rich people? Yes, there were. But they also created the factories and the sea ports and the textile mills that created the most powerful and dynamic middle class the world has ever seen.
HH: All right, now let’s talk about the Apple. This is very substantive. There is an iPhone that they cannot, the authorities, the FBI cannot get into that belonged to killers who were jihadists. There may be other targets on there, there may be other jihadis on there. Apple’s been directed to write the code to unlock that phone. They are resisting. What do you think ought to be done here?
BC: I think the Apple people should sit down with the government, and that they should hammer out a compromise, and that compromise would look something like we will do it for this case, and this case only. And the key will remain with Apple.
HH: And if they did that, would you be satisfied that the period of time it’s taken, I mean, we’re talking about terrorists operate inside of a, like you did, on an operating table. You’ve got to make decisions in a hurry. That intelligence is getting old. People could be leaving the country.
BC: No question, but once this case is settled, the precedent will be set. And I don’t think it will take that long after that. But you know, clearly I think Apple has to respond to the legal system here. And I’m very much a supporter of the 4th Amendment. But you know, this is a situation where we, I mean, we have a FISA Court for a reason, and it’s this kind of situation.
HH: All right, all right. Let me turn, then, to our health care system. Donald Trump has repeatedly said, and Mr. Trump will be on with me at the bottom of the hour, he won’t let people die in the streets, and I’m glad to hear him say that. I actually think everybody should be saying that. But have you heard from any of the candidates coherent answers to fixing our health care delivery system for the very poor?
BC: Yes. www.bencarson.com.
HH: Well, okay, I was actually a big supporter of free clinics. And you know, if we’d spent all that billions of dollars in the stimulus on free clinics, we could have had 800 separate clinics funded a billion dollars each, Ben Carson. What would you do about the very poor who don’t need insurance? They need health care.
BC: Well, recognize that right now, we take care of them through Medicaid. The annual Medicaid budget is almost $500 billion dollars, and there’s close to 80 million people participating, which is way too many, and a lot more than would be participating if we fixed the economy, which I have some good ideas on how to do that. But let’s deal with it as it is. Divide it out, it’s more than $5,000 dollars for every man, woman and child. Now what could you buy with that? A concierge practice generally costs $2-3,000 dollars.
HH: I know. I’ve gone one, yeah. Yeah.
BC: Okay, and then the, you’ve still got thousands left over for your catastrophic care, which is going to be much cheaper under the system that I’ve devised with health empowerment accounts that allow family members to shift money between themselves. So you know, that is going to actually make the indigent just like everybody else.
HH: Interesting, let me ask you about concierge medicine. I have it, because I travel all the time. And if I get laryngitis, I have to have prednisone, right? That’s what I do. And so my doc will answer my phone call no matter where I am in the country if I need prednisone. And so I can afford it, though, because I get paid.
HH: What do you think is happening to medicine that there are so many concierge practices not for people like me, but just generally speaking, to move to the front of the line?
BC: Well, you know, the problem is that the system has gotten so burdensome with regulation that a lot of the docs are opting out of the traditional system and moving to the concierge practice where they deal with just a limited number of people, maybe 1,500 or 2,000, and they give those people their full, undivided attention.
BC: And you know, it’s nice, because it makes medicine the way that it used to be.
HH: It is, yeah.
BC: But you know, the system that I’ve designed makes almost every doctor that way. And you know, 80% of your encounters, except for something that’s very, very serious, is just going to be between you and the health care provider.
HH: I have a quick question, Dr. Carson. Will you agree to serve as a secretary of HHS under a different Republican president?
BC: I’m not looking for a job.
HH: I know that, but that wasn’t my question. I gave you a substantive question. Would you agree if you were asked? Would you do it?
BC: Not necessarily.
HH: Why not? You know this system.
BC: I do know the system, and I would agree to consult with them and help them with it. But I think I would have a much wider influence if I’m independent, and I can actually say what needs to be said.
HH: Dr. Ben Carson, it is always a pleasure. I will see you in Houston, and I look forward to continuing the conversation on Thursday night.
BC: Always good to be with you, and another happy birthday.
HH: Thank you. Getting birthday wishes from presidential candidates today. I should hold this, have a 60th birthday on a president campaign every year.
End of interview.