Ben Carson, a former neurosurgeon, soared to near the top of the pack of Republican presidential candidates in polling last summer, only to find his star falling rapidly after several questionable comments that sowed doubts about his foreign policy expertise. Carson was never able to recover, ultimately acknowledging after the Super Tuesday primaries that he could "not see a path forward" to victory.
Following is what he's said on key issues to date.
'Too Big to Fail'
Carson has said little that's definitive about "too big to fail" – he appears to be opposed to breaking up the largest financial institutions outright, though he's criticized government regulation as having engendered the problem.
He said during the fourth primary debate in November that "we should have policies that don't allow [banks] to just enlarge themselves at the expense of smaller entities," before veering off into a discussion about monetary policy and stock buybacks.
When asked again during the same debate whether he would support breaking up the big banks, he said that he "would have policies that wouldn't allow that to occur," adding that he doesn't want to "tear anybody down."
Carson also warned at the November debate that the country has "let the creep of regulation turn into a stampede of regulations, which is involved in every aspect of our lives."
In an interview on CNBC in October, Carson decried regulations in general but cited Dodd-Frank by name, saying consumers pick up the cost of its implementation.
Still, in that interview and others, Carson has emphasized that some regulation is important. Interestingly, he has cited the Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act, which is popular among progressive Democrats, as an example of a necessary regulation.
"Some regulations are quite good," he said in an interview in May. "Glass-Steagall, which kept the banks from playing fast and loose with money, which is one of the things that caused the crash in '29 – that was a good regulation. We kinda did it in in the 1990s and it took about 20 years for it to catch up with us. So we have to be smart in what we regulate."
Carson has said little specifically about the influence of Wall Street in Washington. But he has more generally criticized "special interests" that seek to sway politicians with campaign donations. In an interview with BreitBart News last year, he was asked about "crony capitalism" and responded: "There really is no room, as far as I'm concerned, for all these special interest groups and people who gain favors from the government utilizing taxpayers' resources. It makes absolutely no sense, at all. It's one of the reasons that, in my campaign, I have personally refused to go after special-interest-group money. I have refused to lick the boots of billionaires and beg them for their resources."
Carson has received little financial support from banks or financial companies in his campaign.
The former neurosurgeon has called the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau the "ultimate example of regulatory overreach, a nanny-state mechanism asserting its control over everyday Americans that they did not want, did not ask for and do not need."
He argues that the CFPB is harming community banks and the small businesses they serve because of the "suffocating" regulatory burden. "In fact, the cost of compliance with one-size-fits-all regulations from CFPB and other regulators is now the number one threat to community banks."
In the same op-ed, Carson opposed the CFPB's plan to regulate payday lending, arguing it would hurt consumers who rely on the service and result in a "monopoly for Wall Street banks."
Carson stops short of calling for the elimination of the CFPB, though he says he would severely curtail it if elected.
"The CFPB is an agency searching for a reason to exist, so it keeps regulating and expanding its powers to justify itself," Carson wrote. "If I am elected president, it's exactly the sort of agency I plan to rein in."
Carson has been critical of the Fed's monetary policy, but unlike some other GOP presidential contenders, such as Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, he has suggested the central bank has no choice. In a widely criticized interview on "Marketplace," Carson suggested the high level of U.S. debt somehow made it difficult for the Fed to raise interest rates. He also blamed the national debt for the low level of economic growth, something most experts attribute to the financial crisis and other causes.
During the same interview, however, Carson said he knew Fed Chair Janet Yellen and described her as "a very intelligent individual, very responsible, and obviously is trying to do what is right. But she's caught between a rock and a hard place, and I understand that." Instead of suggesting structural reforms of the Fed, Carson has said the U.S. should focus on reducing the debt.
Carson released a formal tax plan on Jan. 4 that would implement a flat tax of 14.9%. Carson had previously endorsed the idea but added more specifics. Under his plan he would:
- Apply the flat tax only to income above 150% of the federal poverty level. For example, a family of four would not pay the 14.9% tax on their first $35,375 of income.
- Eliminate deductions for home mortgage interest.
- Eliminate the alternative minimum tax.
- Eliminate the estate tax.
- Tax income only once: Carson's plan calls for eliminating the double taxation of capital gains, dividends and income at the personal level.
- Corporate income tax: No specific proposal.
Carson had earlier defended the proposal during the GOP's fourth primary debate, hosted by Fox Business in November.
"Everybody should pay the same proportion of what they make. You make $10 billion, you pay a billion. You make $10, you pay one. You get same rights and privileges," he said. "I don't see how anything gets a whole lot fairer than that. But you also have to get rid of all the deductions and all the loopholes, because that is the thing that tilts it in one direction or another. And you have to set the rate at an appropriate level."
He also defended getting rid of charitable deductions and the popular home mortgage deduction, arguing that both charity and homebuying predate the tax deductions.
At the same time, Carson said his plan would include "a rebate for people at the poverty level."
Health Care and Employee Benefits
A former brain surgeon, Carson has said he wants to re-establish a strong relationship between patients and physicians; supports health savings accounts and significantly reduce government involvement in health care. Following are some of the specific changes he wants to make:
- Carson wouldn't eliminate Medicare and Medicaid, but would instead provide HSAs as an alternative, he recently told Fox News. "Using health savings accounts starting from the time you are born until the time you die largely eliminates the need for people to be dependent on government programs like that." He would start implementing pretax HSAs at birth, he told the National Prayer Breakfast in 2013.
- He favors replacing the ACA, but does support one part of the health care law: "I think the banning of people being turned away from health insurance because of pre-existing conditions is one of very few bright spots in an otherwise horribly written law," he wrote on Facebook.
- Wants to raise the age for receiving Social Security benefits. "The age at which benefits are distributed should be gradually raised. I stress the word 'gradually' because people must be given a chance to adjust their plans and expectations. It must be forbidden by law for government to use any of the money that has been set aside for Social Security," he said in January 2015.
- Make everyone responsible for their own pension. "There is no question that people need pensions, particularly given the extended life span we are now experiencing. By changing Fed policies to allow interest rates to rise and encouraging people to put aside some of their earnings, we can hopefully re-establish the idea that each individual is responsible for their own pension and that government programs like Social Security are only supplemental in nature," he said in January 2015.
- Carson is open to negotiation on raising the minimum wage. "I think we need to get both sides of this issue to sit down and talk … and negotiate a reasonable minimum wage," he said in September 2015.
- Supports indexing the minimum wage. "And we should index [the new federal minimum wage] so that we never have to have this conversation again in the history of America," he said in September 2015.
|Top 10 Financial Donors|
|Blue Ocean Enterprise||$16,200|
|West Coast Venture Capital||$10,800|
|Affiliated Managers Group||$5,400|
|Crockett National Bank||$5,000|
Source: Center for Responsive Politics. Data as of Sept. 30, 2015