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Ben Carson Partially Clarifies Controversial Poverty Is A ‘State of Mind’ Comment

HUD Secretary Ben Carson said the poor must have a positive mindset to get out of poverty. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images for SiriusXM)

Housing and Urban Affairs Secretary Ben Carson stood by his earlier controversial statement about poverty being a “state of mind” in a recent interview with NPR.

The retired neurosurgeon and former Republican presidential candidate sat down with NPR’s Pam Fessler before a scheduled appearance before a House appropriations subcommittee Thursday to defend President Donald Trump’s budget cuts to his agency.

“What I said is that it is a factor,” Carson said. “A part of poverty can be the state of mind. Poor in spirit. And people tend to approach things differently, based on their frame of mind.”

In May, Carson said in a town hall interview on Sirius XM with conservative Armstrong Williams, host of Urban View, that “poverty, to a large extent, is also a state of mind.”

He added: “You take somebody who has the right mindset, you can take everything from them and put them on the street and I guarantee you, in a little while, they’ll be right back up there. And you take somebody with the wrong mindset, you can give them everything in the world and they’ll work their way back down to the bottom.”

It was at the time only the latest controversial statement by Carson, who has gained a reputation for making provocative and head-scratching comments. For example, in March, the HUD secretary described enslaved Africans as immigrants who came to America with a dream.

Asked in the NPR interview what his plans are to help people gain the “right state of mind” about getting out of poverty, Carson said his department was working on creating what he described as neighborhood centers that would provide “basic skills” for residents, as well as mentoring programs.

“There are a lot of people out there who would be delighted to take people under their wings, but they don’t have a good mechanism for doing that,” he said. “[And] to provide day care for so many of the young ladies who end up getting pregnant and then their education stops. Provide them a mechanism so that they can go back and get their GED, get their associate’s degree, their bachelor’s degree, their master’s degree, take care of themselves and teach their children to take care of themselves, so that you break the cycles.”

Considering the Trump administration’s 2018 budget plans to cut more than $6 billion in funding for HUD and eliminate community development grants, such new spending seems unlikely. The president has instead called for the private sector to do more to meet community needs.

Asked in the NPR interview about the drastic cuts, Carson said that government inefficiencies and a “new model” would ensure that no one is thrown into the streets under his watch.

“The new model is the federal government seeds the project, and oversees and facilitates, along with the housing authorities, … bringing in those private partners, bringing in the nonprofits, bringing in the faith community,” he said.

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