By Quin Hillyer, National Review
September 24, 2015 4:00 AM – The neurosurgeon-turned-candidate discusses foreign policy, health care, and himself.
Dr. Ben Carson may be soft-spoken, but that doesn’t mean he’s reticent about discussing policy. Provided a supposedly strict 15-minute window for a private phone interview with the famous neurosurgeon and presidential candidate, I thanked him for his time once 16 minutes were up — only to have him say (the quote is approximate): “But you haven’t asked me anything about foreign policy! Can we talk about that for a few minutes?”
And then the good doctor was off and running. While Carson is known for a Colin Powell–like reticence to use conventional forces in major operations, his “peace through strength” message sounded entirely Reaganesque:
The biggest problem is that we don’t have a foreign policy. We wait until other people do things and then we react to it. That is exactly the wrong thing to do when we are the pinnacle nation in the world. We should be leading . . . [and to do that, we must rebuild] a military that should be by far the most powerful in the world. Our Navy right now is at 1917 levels; we’ve cut our Air Force to 1940 levels. The [budget] sequester is cutting the heart out of our personnel levels, and we’re also not doing the kind of warfare research we need to do to stay ahead of the rest of the world.
Carson added an aside about how we also should reinvigorate NASA, as much (or more) because of the technological advances that NASA produces as because of a desire to put men on Mars. And then: The first thing is to reestablish a very, very strong military and that will in turn give greater confidence to our allies, who will become much harder to be intimidated by the Putins of the world. . . . We have the appearance of weakness and therefore we are losing respect and therefore we are encouraging others to take leadership. . . . There is a very close correlation between peace and strength.
Voters sense this.
On health care, for example, Carson might not have laid out anything as comprehensive as have Jindal, Scott Walker, or Marco Rubio. But once a questioner gets him wound up on his proposal to vastly expand health savings accounts as a cradle-to-grave option, the doctor is hard to stop:
We pay almost twice as much for health care per capita as other nations. We can use those same dollars. If people control their own health savings accounts, rather than hundreds of bureaucrats . . . it makes every family the monitor of those dollars, with no middle man in between, which stretches your dollar. This will cover everything for medical care except for a major, catastrophic issue. We would still have insurance for catastrophic care, but it will cost much, much less. That will take care of 75 percent of our population without increasing costs. But for the 25 percent of the population which is indigent, how do we take care of them now? With Medicaid. Well, we spend $400 billion a year on Medicaid, and even if we’re talking 80 million people, 80 million goes into 400 billion 5,000 times, or in other words $5,000 each. Well, even for wealthy people using “concierge” medicine, those practices generally cost two to three thousand dollars per year. Obviously, we can run Medicaid more efficiently.
Carson wasn’t done, not even close, but that gives you a taste of his verbal dissertation. He ended the subject by insisting that critics are wrong if they say that poor or uneducated people will not be able to manage their own accounts. “Yes,” he said, “they will learn how to use the accounts, and learn not to go to the emergency room that costs four to five times more when they can go to a clinic.”