Ben Carson Shockingly Unable to Answer a Simple Question About Our Debt

ben-carsonOut of all the political debates I’ve had over the last few years, perhaps none infuriated me more than the “controversy” over whether or not to raise the debt ceiling. I’ve experienced plenty of mind-numbing back and forth discussions with Republicans, but the debt ceiling easily ranks atop my list as one of the subjects where many conservatives proved what sheep they are to whatever the right-wing media tells them to believe.

For those of you who might not know, the debt ceiling isn’t all that complicated. What it boils down to is basically just a procedural move that allows the government to pay its bills. It’s not a budget, it’s not about new spending nor is it “giving the president a blank check” to do whatever he wants with taxpayer money. It is quite literally just a vote that allows the government to pay the money it’s already agreed to pay.

To put it in “real word” terms, say you have a $150 credit card bill due at the end of the month but you require approval from your spouse to pay it. You’re not asking to charge more on the credit card, you’re simply asking permission to pay the bill on the debt you’ve already charged and agreed to pay. If your spouse says no, then you default on the payment and it hurts your credit score which impacts your future borrowing power. If your spouse says yes, you make your $150 payment and honor your credit commitment.

That’s what the debt ceiling is. It is in no way about new spending.

Yet, despite the simplicity of it all, it seems Ben Carson has absolutely no idea what it is. During a recent interview with Kai Ryssdal, Carson was asked whether or not he supported raising the debt ceiling, only to ramble on and on about new spending and the budget – neither of which have anything to do with the debt ceiling. Even when Ryssdal tried to point out to him that he was talking about a completely different subject, it didn’t deter Carson from continuing to prove that he has absolutely no idea what the debt ceiling is:

Ryssdal: All right, so let’s talk about debt then and the budget. As you know, Treasury Secretary Lew has come out in the last couple of days and said, “We’re gonna run out of money, we’re gonna run out of borrowing authority, on the fifth of November.” Should the Congress then and the president not raise the debt limit? Should we default on our debt?

Carson: Let me put it this way: if I were the president, I would not sign an increased budget. Absolutely would not do it. They would have to find a place to cut.

Ryssdal: To be clear, it’s increasing the debt limit, not the budget, but I want to make sure I understand you. You’d let the United States default rather than raise the debt limit.

Carson: No, I would provide the kind of leadership that says, “Get on the stick guys, and stop messing around, and cut where you need to cut, because we’re not raising any spending limits, period.”

Ryssdal: I’m gonna try one more time, sir. This is debt that’s already obligated. Would you not favor increasing the debt limit to pay the debts already incurred?

Carson: What I’m saying is what we have to do is restructure the way that we create debt. I mean if we continue along this, where does it stop? It never stops. You’re always gonna ask the same question every year. And we’re just gonna keep going down that pathway. That’s one of the things I think that the people are tired of.

Now I’ve seen Republicans play stupid about the debt ceiling when they clearly knew that they were misrepresenting what raising it means, but that’s not what Carson was doing. It seems like he legitimately had no idea what the heck he was talking about. His answers literally made absolutely no sense at all as it relates to the debt ceiling, which only solidifies my belief that Carson is woefully unqualified to be president.

And I feel it’s important to remind everyone that this is the guy who is basing his tax policy on biblical tithing

While Ben Carson might know medicine, it’s clear that he doesn’t know much about anything else.

Allen Clifton

Allen Clifton is a native Texan who now lives in the Austin area. He has a degree in Political Science from Sam Houston State University. Allen is a co-founder of Forward Progressives and creator of the popular Right Off A Cliff column and Facebook page. Be sure to follow Allen on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to his channel on YouTube as well.


Facebook comments

  • OMGface

    This is only of infinite distorted convictions this man puts forth…and, and here’s the part that needs illuminating: with the absolute and in his case, quiet conviction of the addlepated True believer simpleton he is.

    He made identical case to Andrea Mitchell for the entire citizenry MUST be armed to PRECLUDE government takeover and TYRANNY…..with identical affect, including his version of historical examples worldwide, including Germany in the 30s.

    Pitiable Ms. Mitchell, who, it seems can’t think on her feet, incredibly, did not, immediately raise THE REALITY OF ALL OF THE UK….where guns have been banned for a very long time.

    Too much of the fourth estate comprises dilettantes like Ms. Mitchell.

  • strayaway

    “To put it in “real word” terms, say you have a $150 credit card bill due at the end of the month but you require approval from your spouse to pay it. You’re not asking to charge more on the credit card, you’re simply asking permission to pay the bill on the debt you’ve already charged and agreed to pay. If your spouse says no, then you default on the payment and it hurts your credit score which impacts your future borrowing power. If your spouse says yes, you make your $150 payment and honor your credit commitment.”

    Ok, I’ve got it! How about if say you family has run up $117,000 of credit card tabs and, well, you just needed permission to put some new bills on the debt? Spouses should just agree. The kids can pay for their own darn college.

    Laissez le bon temps rouler!!!

    • noah vail

      really dude??? surely you can find a better example to make your point because this one SUCKS

      • strayaway

        It probably only “SUCKS” to readers who didn’t realize that the federal government’s federal debt equals about $117,000 per average US family. It was the part of the equation omitted in the breezy example found in the article.

      • Louis Navarro

        strayaway, you’re a perfect example of the point the author is trying to make. you have little understanding of federal global economics. the FED doesn’t operate like your family checking account. the FRB doesn’t have any “debt”, rather, it holds deposits from creditors and distributes treasury securities. totally different and opposite than debt. your metric: “117,000 per average US family.” is not what’s owed by our government, rather, it’s what has been DEPOSITED by creditors into our Federal Reserve Banking system and every dollar is accounted for. That means, it’s not debt. your fear is misaligned and you don’t understand the FRB.

      • strayaway

        Louis, you are spouting high sounding nonsense. The argument the article made was that Congress is obligated to pay debts it has incurred. I wasn’t arguing with that. I was arguing that increasing the debt was benign. I’m not sure what the Fed’s actions have to do with what Congress decided to spend but although the Fed is able to print money while it is illegal for the rest of us to run a counterfeit machine in our basement, the money electronically printed by the fed goes on the tab of the rest of us and our children. The rest of us have to pay the interest on the the $117,000 that our government has decided to put on our tab. That is money that will be unavailable for infrastructure, defense, education, supporting Syrian refugees, or whatever else the federal government would otherwise spend it on.

      • Louis Navarro

        am I? look at the 2014 numbers, total US gdp in 2014 was $17.914 trillion and out annual interest paid was $402 billion or 2.2%. from a simplistic approach, we aren’t close to the point of no return yet. from a dollars and sense perspective, $402 billion is still a lot of greenbacks. However, given the value of the dollar floats on the market and the FRB has total and unabated control over its value, thereby controlling interest and allowing default to remain an intentional act, every dollar of “debt” that is paid down actually shrinks the economy. Every tax dollar the FRB takes out of the economy (via corporate, income, capital gain, luxury taxes, etc.) has a negative impact on our economy so what is the incentive to pay down the debt? While I understand there is a point of diminishing returns and we should not spend to the point that the interest payment is 2x the annual GDP, we have a long, long way before there are any problems.

      • Louis Navarro
      • strayaway

        Louis, I don’t think that discussion about the Fed is particularly relevant to the amount that Congress has decided to spend. My contention is that no debt is better than any debt. We do, however, have the $18.3T federal debt ball and chain. If your figures are correct, the $402B annual interest on the debt is at near record low interest rates. it is about half of the Obama stimulus but buys us nothing. It isn’t good for retirees needing to live off of the interest of their savings. I also doubt that the Fed “has total and unabated control over its value, thereby controlling interest.” While creating money out of thin air reduces interest rates, the game can’t be played forever. Or if the dollar stops being the reserve currency, foreign dollars will create an additional flood of dollars driving up prices (supply/demand). Should the interest rate, for whatever reason, go back to average historical rates, that $402B annual figure could double or quadruple in short order. Then we would be in a horrible budget situation.

      • Louis Navarro

        there will never be zero debt and many times, in business and economics, debt is a good thing as it is a result of sound fiscal positioning and implies taking advantage of the circumstances.

      • strayaway

        No offense intended but you were probably raised differently than I was. My grandparents regarded debt and bankers as evil. I realize that some people get rich finagling but others lose everything. Those who win playing such games think they are smart. Those who lose think they were unlucky. I have never been convinced that the universe works differently for nations as it does for individuals with regard to economic choices. China has had a trade surplus to buy natural resources for its next generation while we saddle our children with a national debt. My guess is that the next generation of Chinese will be better positioned to call the shots.

      • Louis Navarro

        no offense taken strayaway but thanks for saying so. I agree with you that debt for an individual is rarely a good thing and in our country/culture, it is actually a sickness that wreaks havoc on families, induces stress and can even lead to some dangerous and deplorable outcomes. However, that is the most salient point of this entire conversation. Your perspective is 100% correct when applied to a consumer but it falls short of one aspect that is a game changer for the federal government and by extension the debt ceiling and spending habits of congress. When you think about it, it’s tragically convenient how when the US went off the gold standard, thereby maximizing the sovereignty of control of the USD by the FRB, our government basically made it impossible to go broke, run out of money or become insolvent (unless, of course, our shortsighted legislators actually DECIDE to force the Federal Government to become insolvent but that’s a different matter entirely). What is unfair is citizens like you and I, state governments and local municipalities must balance our checkbooks but the FED can do as they please with little/no impunity….

      • javadavis

        RE: Debt – just read an article recently, linked through the C&L site, praising Thatcher for snookering the average Brit into settling for accumulating debt by buying, I think, a house (forgot the Brit term. plot or something) instead of holding out for real support for the lower classes. So Thatcher and her buddies pushed debt for those who cannot afford it in order to control the masses – fear of economic failure and the attendant starvation of their families is a powerful motivator.

      • Louis Navarro

        How has inflation changed over the last 30 years? even after the US dollar was taken off the gold standard, inflation has not been an issue. This is partially because the actual circulation of fiat currency has been regulated and the FRB has done well in managing the value of the dollar.

    • javadavis

      You are mixing conversations. Paying the bill – one conversation. What do we need to buy now and how much will that cost us – a second conversation. In our household, how much interest payment will make borrowing worth it – yet a third conversation.

      • strayaway

        In my household, we avoid borrowing and live with less in the short term although we have borrowed for a house. When federal borrowing rates return to their average levels, and they will, our government will have the choice between trimming and cutting federal programs and printing like the Weimar Republic. Both choices will be painful.

      • javadavis

        First – beside the point, as this is still separate conversations.
        Second – even if I bite on the household comparison I can STILL point out that you are missing at least one other opt6ion – raising income. We have several corporations in the US that are dodging taxes so successfully that the Treasury Dept. is giving them refunds for making tons of money. You don’t have to print it to make more.

      • strayaway

        It wasn’t a “comparison” of household income. It was the amount of federal debt Obama has already billed the average American household.

        I’m all for ending corporate welfare and raising taxes on the rich. However, I am not so naive as to imagine that corporations aren’t going to pass along those taxes. Another way of raising American wages would be to end trade agreements that have put US workers in hourly wage competition with Asians. The corollary is to reduce immigration; legal and otherwise to reduce competition for remaining US jobs. Create a situation in which US workers could demand a larger slice of the national economic pie. The 1% would have to settle for less.

      • javadavis

        OK, but still a change of the subject. Let me try again, In our household, if we have a bill we go ahead and pay it – any conversation we have about ‘raising the debt ceiling’ to pay it is along the lines of when should we write the check, their office is in town so do you want to just drive over there to pay it or, why don’t I pay this one online this month? We don’t have the conversations this author is alluding to of ‘What? Pay that bill? But I am still trying to [get more of a share of the money from the loan, impress my constituents with my frugality, use this to provide PR for my campaign for re-election – take your pick], I won’t agree to have us pay it back!
        I don’t care about the debt in the same way that I would care about my credit card debt unless (!) I was actually using that credit card for business, like to set up an office, keep it running, bring in materials for manufacturing or bring in goods for sale. That is a much more similar comparison than the one that you are (yes you are) putting out there – if you had no comparison why the heck are you talking about your personal finances?

      • strayaway

        I offered more of an analogy than a change of subject. This week, the president vetoed a defense bill. The Constitution also requires that the Country be defended. However, I respect the president’s right to veto a bill as part of the process of negotiating with Congress and trying to get it to compromise. That’s another analogy. Yet Democrats see this as a one way street. The last time the government shut down was when Senate Democrats refused to budge on excluding one item; the new (un)ACA tax on medical equipment. Eventually, Republicans caved and gave Democrats everything they wanted. You should be happy about the news that Boehner again capitulated and added $1.5 or was it $1.6T to the budget ceiling perhaps allowing the president to spend away although I don’t think Boehner cares.

        Unlike you, I do care about federal debt in the same way as paying off my monthly credit card bill because we also have to pay for at least the interest on the federal debt. In practice, federal debts mean that choices have to be made. To pay the expanded debt, or at least the interest on that debt, do we put more kids in a classroom, raise taxes, cut government services and programs… That is exactly the sort of decisions people and businesses make when they pile up personal or business debt.

  • cruisersailor

    It’s unrealistic to expect any Republican politician to answer a “simple question”. They’re not used to dealing with reality.


    Again, and again, Ben Carson demonstrates that he is frighteningly unprepared to be President of the United States. Being a neurosurgeon is no more relevant to the presidency than being a truck driver.

  • Sanity Please

    Carson reminding us all once more why he’ll never be president.