Ben Carson’s role in the Trump administration has left many former supporters feeling conflicted.

U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson made a true spectacle of himself when he confused a basic real estate term — REO, or real estate owned — for an Oreo cookie during a Congressional hearing last eek. He looked sillier when he later posted a video of himself with a package of the chocolate sandwich cookies.

It’s just another example of how laughable it is that Dr. Carson is leading an agency for which he has no expertise. Don’t get us wrong, Dr. Carson was a genius, miracle-worker neurosurgeon. Housing expert, not so much. But that’s par for the course for the Trump administration where cronyism has filled agencies with inexperienced executives.


Ben Carson, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development, thought he was being asked about OREO cookies when a congresswoman quizzed him on Real Estate Owned properties, a.k.a. REOs

What’s not so funny is the harm Dr. Carson is inflicting on poor families with his inhumane housing policies. At the same hearing before the House Financial Services Committee, he defended a plan to kick out immigrants and their U.S-born children from subsidized housing. There is long a list of “legal citizens” who have been waiting on housing for years and are more deserving of a place to stay, Dr. Carson opined. Mind you, these families aren’t breaking any kinds of rules or laws. Undocumented immigrants are prohibited from receiving federal housing subsidies, but if one member of the family is a U.S. citizen they can all live together. Only the family member who is a U.S. citizen will get the subsidy.

“It seems only logical that taxpaying American citizens should be taken care of first,” Dr. Carson said during a hearing on oversight of his department. “It’s not that we’re cruel, mean-hearted. It’s that we are logical. This is common sense. You take care of your own first.”

Actually Dr. Carson, what you are doing is mean-hearted. It is not exactly showing compassion to risk homelessness for thousands of children by throwing them out of their homes because their family members are deemed inferior to others. Last we looked, one life is not more important than another. As many as 55,000 children could be impacted, according to one analysis.

This is not the only way Dr. Carson has sought to diminish the safety net for the poor in need of affordable housing. He pushed back a deadline on a Obama era-rule meant to address segregation and discrimination in housing. He has proposed raising the rents for tenants in public housing, already living on tight budgets, from 30 percent of gross income to 35 percent. At one point, he tried to triple the rent for some of the very poorest public housing residents from $50 to $150. He said the rent increases would help push people to get jobs and pull them out of poverty. He is also a strong proponent of work requirements for those who get housing aid. Just this week his department announced plans to roll back rules that protect homeless transgender people who stay at federally-funded shelters by forcing them to stay in quarters with people of the sex they don’t identify with. This can leave transgender people open to abuse and harassment or make them avoid shelters altogether.

Dr. Carson has said poverty "is a state of mind” and that he understands poor people because he grew up in a household with little money. Somehow, as he moved up the echelons in society, he forgot the actual obstacles of being poor.

Add all that together, and Dr. Carson suddenly doesn’t look like the bumbling housing secretary who doesn’t know what he’s doing. The questioning by Rep. Katie Porter, a California Democrat, about the meaning of the term R.E.O. was certainly uncomfortable for all the rest of us, but Dr. Carson never lost his composure. While were all laughing and shaking our heads at his lack of knowledge, Dr. Carson went back to his office and created a video spoof of the incident smiling with a package of Oreos. Because he knows the truth about himself. Dr. Carson is no dummy and understands exactly the kinds of policies he’s pushing and the way he is trying to transform the department for years to come. At the end of the day, he knows the joke’s on all of us.