Tag Archives: HUD

U.S. ‘President Castro’ might be in the making

I cannot stop wondering: Is the United States ready to elect a president with the name “Castro”?

Julian Castro has just announced his 2020 presidential campaign effort. He wants to succeed Donald J. Trump.

He is a former San Antonio mayor and one-time housing secretary during the Obama administration. Castro is a dedicated Democrat and a fine young man. He even has an identical twin brother, Joaquin, serving in the U.S. House from Texas.

That’s out of the way.

What about the “Castro” thing?

The United States long ago declared the Cuban dictator Fidel Castro to be one of this nation’s top foreign enemies. It imposed an economic embargo on the island nation just off the Florida coast. We had no diplomatic relations since shortly after the communists took power in Havana in 1959, but we did restore relations with Cuba near the end of Barack Obama’s presidency.

But the memories are still long. We had that Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, which followed the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion the previous year. The Soviets sought to install offensive nuclear missiles in Cuba. The CIA sought to remove Fidel Castro from power, so it landed those fighters at the Bay of Pigs.

Now an American politician with the name of “Castro” wants to become the next commander in chief.

It almost defies the imagination to think that we could elect someone who carries such a name. Then again, we did elect and re-elect a president who has the middle name of “Hussein.”

I suppose anything is possible.

HUD boss implies: I’ve got your populism right here

Let’s explore for a moment the “populism” that Donald Trump ran on to become president of the United States.

As I understand the term, a “populist” politician is one who looks after the so-called “little guy,” who is a champion for those who need a hand from others to help them.

Trump said he would be that guy. He would be their champion. He would fight for Joe and Jane Six Pack.

OK, let’s stipulate that his entire previous life prior to politics suggests nothing of the sort. He was not committed to anyone other than himself. He sought to gain massive wealth and succeeded … as near as anyone can tell.

Let’s look, then, in the current moment. Housing Secretary Ben Carson — the one-time renowned neurosurgeon — has pitched an idea that sounds quintessentially anti-populist. He wants to triple the rent that Housing and Urban Development residents pay to live.

Triple, I tell ya.

I should add that Dr. Carson, brilliant doc that he is, has about as much (or little) exposure to government policymaking as the president. Trump selected Carson to run HUD because, well … I have no reason why he selected him. Perhaps he couldn’t find someone with actual experience in government to run the massive agency.

Carson’s rationale for seeking a tripling of the rental rates is that it would provide an “incentive” for those Americans to do better for themselves. Sure thing, Doc. Someone who’s been poor all his or her life is going to say, “You know, now that I have to pay three times what I can afford to pay to keep a roof over my head, I’ll just get off my duff, get to work and everything will be all right.”

That ain’t how it works in the real world. The deepest forms of poverty so very often are ingrained in people’s psyche. They need compassion, empathy and they need their government — the one that pledges among other things to “provide for the general welfare” of the public — to step up.

A populist president and a populist housing secretary wouldn’t consider pricing someone out of public housing to be a productive and compassionate way to run the federal government.

Do I want the government to offer an endless stream of money to every American? Of course not. I am as pro-hard work as anyone.

I also am one who believes that government should be available to those who have been swallowed up by circumstances they cannot always control. Populists would as well.

What has become of the GOP?

What would Honest Abe, Teddy Roosevelt and Ike think of what’s become of the Republican Party? If only we could ask ’em.

Above is a tweet I posted two years ago wondering about the state of today’s GOP and how it was abducted by a form of “populism” that has no real resemblance to the movement that I had grown to understand.

Donald J. Trump got elected president on a pledge to do certain things, all of which he said at the time would be “easy.”

Build a wall along our southern border? Piece of cake.

Make Mexico pay for it? No sweat.

Negotiate the “best trade deals” in U.S. history? Done deal.

Craft a new health care program? Got it.

Cut taxes for everyone? Perfecto.

And so it went. How has he done? Not too well, by my way of looking at it.

As for the “populist” angle he pursued while running for office, the president hasn’t fulfilled that promise either. He continues to hobnob at his extravagant resorts. I haven’t seen him visiting housing projects, or tour squalid neighborhoods in Appalachia.

Indeed, Housing Secretary Ben Carson recently announced a desire to triple the rent paid by low-income residents of government housing. Dr. Carson then said his idea would “incentivize” residents to improve their lot in life and get them out of housing projects.

Man, that’s just so damn populist of him. Don’t you think?

Back to my Twitter message of two years ago. What, precisely, does the Republican Party stand for these days? Does it go along merely with what the president desires, even though this president had no history of political activism — let alone political experience of any kind — before he ran for the highest office in the land?

The party of Abe, TR and Ike is now the party of Trump.

President Lincoln stood for unifying the nation; President Theodore Roosevelt was an environmental champion; President Eisenhower sought to return the nation to a peace footing after so many years of open warfare in Europe, the Pacific and in Korea.

What does Trump believe? He touts his hatred of the media, he stiffs the opposing party at every turn, he is ravaged by an endless series of controversies — and a scandal or three — and he promises to “make America great again” by bullying our allies.

I’ll give him props for one potentially huge achievement, if he can pull it off: getting North Korea to back off its nuclear program.

However, a success there doesn’t erase the rest of the nastiness that has pervaded this man’s presidency.

Abe, TR and Ike are spinning in their graves.

Jackson mess seems to fit a pattern

Let’s review for a brief moment some of Donald J. Trump’s key Cabinet appointments.

I thought it would be worthwhile to look back a bit in the wake of the Dr. Ronny Jackson nomination to become head of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Dr. Jackson is a fine physician who has a good rapport with the president, which seems to be the major — perhaps the only — reason Trump selected him to lead the VA. He has no experience in leading an agency of such size and importance. His nomination is in dire peril over allegations of drinking on the job and over-prescribing of medicine.

  • Dr. Ben Carson is a renowned neurosurgeon who now runs the Department of Housing and Urban Development. His experience in running a huge federal agency? None, although he said he once visited a public housing complex.
  • Betsy DeVos was educated in private schools; she sent her children to private schools. She has no direct experience or exposure to public education. Yet she runs the U.S. Department of (public) Education.
  • Rick Perry once declared he wanted to eliminate the Department of Energy. Now he is the secretary of the agency he once promised to wipe away.
  • Scott Pruitt served as Oklahoma attorney general and sued the federal government repeatedly over what he said were onerous regulations designed to protect our environment. Now he is head of the Environmental Protection Agency.
  • Jim Bridenstine had no science background before Trump nominated him to lead NASA, the nation’s space agency.
  • The Trump administration has burned through four communications directors in less than 18 months. One of them had, um, no experience in the communications field.

Is there a pattern here? Sure there is. The fellow who nominated all of them to their high offices has no political/government/public service either.

The first public office the president of the United States ever sought was the one he occupies at this moment. He has no experience in government. None in public service.

He doesn’t know a damn thing about the value of public service, nor does he seem to appreciate why people serve the public.

There will be more drama and chaos to come. Of that I am certain.

But … the president tells it like it is.

NASA boss lacks scientific credentials?

I am going to hand it to Donald J. Trump.

The president has a knack of selecting the most unusual individuals for key government posts. He told us while running for the office that he would be an “unconventional” president.

Get a load of this: The president’s selection to lead NASA has no science backgound. Jim Bridenstine is a Republican member of Congress. He once flew jets in the Navy and also ran an air and space museum in Tulsa, Okla.

That’s it. He’s a lawmaker and is the first member of Congress to be nominated for this key scientific post.

It’s a bit of a pattern. The next veterans affairs secretary is slated to be Dr. Ronny Jackson, who’s never run a government agency of any size, let alone one as huge as the Department of Veterans Affairs. Trump nominated renowned brain surgeon Dr. Ben Carson to run the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Bridenstine is now going to administer the agency with the mission of space exploration. The NASA administrator post generally has gone to people from inside the agency or those with vast military experience.

Bridenstine is a politician who has stated doubts about climate change, which NASA has researched extensively for decades.

The U.S. Senate will  vote later this week on Bridenstine’s nomination. He’ll likely get confirmed.

As Vox.com has reported: But it was never clear if Bridenstine could clear the 50 Senate votes needed to nab the job. He faced unanimous opposition from Democrats and from a few within his own party. Notably, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio was worried about giving the job to a politician.

NASA is “the one federal mission which has largely been free of politics,” Rubio said in September, echoing the same concerns as his Florida colleague Sen. Bill Nelson, a former astronaut and the top Democrat on the Commerce Committee. “I just think it could be devastating for the space program,” Rubio said.

My hope is that he doesn’t run into the ground an agency that is supposed to reach for the stars … and beyond.

‘Fickle’ describes Trump and Romney

Please don’t accuse me of being sexist, but ….

I always thought the term “fickle” was used to describe women. You know what I mean. Well, it appears two leading male political figures are rewriting the textbook definition of the word.

Donald Trump and Mitt Romney have said some really harsh things about each other.

Trump has called Romney, the Republican Party’s 2012 presidential nominee, a “loser” who once “begged” Trump for his endorsement. Trump said Romney would have “gotten on his knees” for the endorsement if the GOP candidate had told him to do so.

Romney, meanwhile, has called Trump a “fraud” and a “phony.” He has called the president a pathological liar.

Well, lo and behold! Romney is now running for the U.S. Senate from Utah; Sen. Orrin Hatch is retiring at the end of the year.

What do you suppose was the president’s reaction? He endorsed Romney, saying he will make a “great” U.S. senator.

And Romney? Why, he simply grabbed that endorsement, hugged it tight and thanked the president for the words of affirmation.

How long will this bromance last? Let’s assume Romney gets elected senator from Utah. I think it might endure right up until Romney delivers a harsh Senate floor speech denouncing a preposterous statement coming from Trump.

That, I suppose, presumes that a Sen. Romney hasn’t allowed himself to be emasculated by the GOP Senate leadership that tells him to keep his trap shut when he feels the urge to criticize the president.

Maybe I shouldn’t be too surprised that Trump and Mitt could bury the hatchet. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry once called Trump a “cancer on conservatism”; he’s now energy secretary in the Trump administration. And didn’t Housing Secretary Ben Carson call Trump a “liar” when they were running for the GOP nomination in 2016?

Still, time will tell us quite a bit about the fickle nature of the Trump-Romney political relationship.

Um, Dr. Secretary, slaves were not ‘immigrants’

U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson got off to a rollicking start as head of a major federal agency by comparing slaves to your run-of-the-mill immigrants.

They came here, Dr. Carson told HUD employees, with “dreams for their sons, daughters … ” and others who would come along.

Really, he said that.

I don’t know how to react fully to what Dr. Carson said at his HUD meeting.

I have read over many years, however, about how human beings were “sold” as cargo by slave owners in Africa; they were put on ships and transported across the Atlantic Ocean, where they would be used like, oh, farm animals. They were denied every human right imaginable; indeed, they weren’t even considered to be fully “human.”

They had dreams about a better future? Is that what the new HUD secretary said?

“That’s what America is about. A land of dreams and opportunity,” Carson said. “There were other immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder for less.”

I wish my grandparents were alive at this moment to hear these remarks. They, too, had “dreams” about forging a better life in this land of opportunity.

However, all four of them — the parents of my mother and father — came here willingly, of their own volition. They sought a new life and a safe place to rear their children.

I cannot believe that Dr. Carson would suggest — even in the remotest of terms — any kind of equivalence between those who came here as slaves and those who arrived as immigrants.

Dr. Carson approved for HUD post; more OJT for key Trumpster

OK, let’s review for a moment the nature of some of Donald J. Trump’s key Cabinet appointments.

Betsy DeVos, who has zero exposure to public education is now head of the U.S. Department of (Public) Education. She didn’t attend public schools, her children didn’t attend them, she favors vouchers that would spend public money to allow parents to send their kids to private schools.

Scott Pruitt, the former Oklahoma attorney general who has sued the Environmental Protection Agency repeatedly, is now head of the EPA. He wants to dismantle the rules and regulations designed to, oh, allow for a clean environment.

Ben Carson, whose spokesman once said is not qualified to run a federal agency, today has been confirmed to run the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Carson is a renowned retired neurosurgeon and is a former Republican primary opponent of the president of the United States.

Rex Tillerson, the former head of ExxonMobil, has not a lick of experience in international diplomacy. But there he is, serving as secretary of state.

These folks all have something in common with the person who picked them for their high-profile government jobs. The president doesn’t any experience, either, in the job to which he was elected.

Trump is holding the first public office he ever sought. He has zero public service experience. He has focused his entire adult life on one thing: personal enrichment. He doesn’t know how the government works. He doesn’t seem to grasp the complexities of governance and legislating.

Hey, that’s OK in the minds of millions of Americans who voted for him. He told it “like it is” during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Can all of these individuals learn how to do their jobs? I damn sure hope so … for the sake of the nation they are leading.

Dr. Carson’s HUD nomination: most puzzling of all Trump’s picks

Of all the people nominated by Donald J. Trump to join the new president’s administration, the one that continues to puzzle me the most is his pick for secretary of housing and urban development.

Ben Carson ran against Trump and 15 others for the Republican Party presidential nomination in 2016. He ended up in the campaign-trail ditch right along with the rest of them.

Here are two elements that trouble me greatly.

Trump said some amazingly harsh things about Dr. Carson, a noted pediatric neurosurgeon who retired from his medical practice to become a politician. Carson returned the fire to the eventual GOP nominee. They went at each other with rhetorical brass knuckles.

Second — and this came from Carson’s own mouth — was that he declared himself unqualified to lead a Cabinet agency. His spokesmen said managing a massive federal bureaucracy didn’t fit into his skill set. After the election, Carson in effect took himself out of the Trump administration mix for the most straightforward reason possible: He admitted to being unable to do the job.

But then … ?

Trump picks him to run HUD! The nomination raised eyebrows all across the nation. Didn’t this fellow just say he couldn’t do the job? Didn’t the good doctor admit to being — essentially — unfit to become a Cabinet secretary?

Now he’s going to lead an agency that, among other things, tends to the needs of poor Americans who need government-subsidized public housing.

The brilliant doctor has no knowledge of how to oversee such a massive operation.

Dr. Carson is a brilliant man. I do not intend to disparage his intelligence. But holy cow, man! His learning curve is going to be steep, as in monstrously steep.

Is the doctor up to the task of learning how this agency works? I have to wonder.

Trump trashes Carson, then selects him for HUD post

Take a look at this video.

It’s from a November 2015 campaign rally in Iowa. Donald J. Trump is talking about the man he’s just picked to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Dr. Ben Carson.

I’ll let the video speak for itself.

You are welcome to draw your own conclusions about why the president-elect would choose someone he said has an incurable “pathological disorder” to help run a major federal agency.

Go figure.