A Perfect Contrast
Contrast can bring clarity. And I do not think that the two warring political ideologies in America have never been personified, juxtaposed, and as clearly defined as the contrast we witnessed at this week's National Prayer Breakfast.
Dr. Benjamin Carson, the famed director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University, was given the unique opportunity to share his beliefs before a distinguished audience, including President Barack Obama. He did not waste the opportunity, and courageously expressed his beliefs with conviction, contrary though they are to those of the president.
Much has been made of Dr. Carson's alternative solution to make healthcare more efficient:
Here's my solution: When a person is born, give him a birth certificate, an electronic medical record, and a health savings account to which money can be contributed - pretax -- from the time you're born 'til the time you die. When you die, you pass it on to your family members, so that when you're 85 years old and you got six diseases, you're not trying to spend up everything. You're happy to pass it on and there's nobody talking about death panels.
Number one. And also, for the people who were indigent who don't have any money we can make contributions to their HSA every month because we already have this huge pot of money. Instead of sending it to some huge bureaucracy, let's put it in their HSAs. Now they have some control over their own healthcare.
We must admit -- there is something amazing about this. In two paragraphs, Ben Carson has offered a free market solution to create competition and reduce healthcare costs that is feasible, understandable, and compassionate. (And one that has already been tested -- it is very similar to the system used in Singapore. ) Its relative simplicity alone stands in stark contrast to Obama's healthcare solution pitch, the mechanics of which were so confusing that after two years of explaining it, Democrats entreated Americans to not even try to understand it. Just accept it and see what happens, as Nancy Pelosi suggested.
But to focus on the contrast between their healthcare approaches alone is to miss the deeper contrast on display. That is, the contrast between Dr. Ben Carson and Barack Obama, the ideologies that have driven their life's work, and the results of that work.
Years ago, I remember my mother asking if I had ever heard of Dr. Ben Carson. She explained that he was a pioneer in neurological medicine, and that he had an amazing and inspiring story. She had a copy of Dr. Carson's book, Gifted Hands, and began to read passages that she had selected. I was captivated, committed to reading more about him, and later watched the film of the same title starring Cuba Gooding, Jr. Indeed, his story is one of the most amazing and inspiring I'd ever heard, from his unique upbringing to his design of a groundbreaking procedure in 1987 which successfully separated two cranially conjoined twin babies. His life, his work, is nothing short of miraculous.
Dr. Ben Carson was one of two sons born to Sonya Carson, a single mother who had married Ben's father at thirteen years of age. Ben's father was a bigamist, and after learning of his other family, Sonya resolved to raise her two sons alone. Though in poverty, and though she herself had no formal education beyond third grade, she insisted that her sons devote diligent efforts to their education. She required that the boys read books from the public library each week and write lengthy reports for her (which she would review for them to support their effort, despite being unable to read). She worked hard to support them financially, in staunch determination that she would not be a victim, and neither would her children. In short, the Carson family is a testament to personal perseverance and the success that follows.
One story of Dr. Carson's childhood that particularly stood out to me is an instance where he, an admittedly angry child, attempted to stab his friend in the stomach, only to have the blade of the knife blocked and broken by the other child's belt buckle. This was a moment that shaped his worldview thereafter, and he has expressed a belief that it was divine intervention. And I could not help but agree. Could it be anything but Providence that this good fortune, without which he may have been incarcerated and set on a different path, became the good fortune of the world, allowing Dr. Carson to touch and save so many lives?
Knowing of his background, it came as no surprise when I reviewed the entire speech at the National Prayer Breakfast that nearly everything Ben Carson said was a perfect contradiction of the values expressed by Barack Obama.
Dr. Carson began his speech, even as he shared the stage with the world's most renowned spokesman for political correctness, by decrying political correctness as a "dangerous" concept. He argued that political correctness acts as a "muzzle," keeping people from "discussing important issues while the fabric of their society is being changed," even as the architect of that "change" sat just a few feet to his right.
He related the admirable tale of his mother's unwillingness to be a victim, as he was in the presence of our president who unequivocally demands that women in such circumstances be viewed and treated as such. Dr. Carson told the audience about his revelation that poverty is a "temporary" condition, one which people could personally alter. And he said this in the presence of a man whose political ideology is founded upon the notion that poverty is an institutionally applied condition, and that it is the responsibility of society, not the individual, to alter that condition.
Dr. Carson went on to destroy the notion of the progressive income tax, arguing that "God has given us a system" that would work. He argued that because God requires tithing regardless of outcome:
There must be something inherently fair in proportionality. If you make ten billion dollars, you put in one billion. If you make ten dollars, you put in one. Of course you gotta get rid of the loopholes. [Laughter] But, now some people say, "Well that's not fair, because it doesn't hurt the guy who made ten billion dollars as much as the guy who made ten." Where does it say you have to hurt the guy? He just put a billion dollars in the pot!
Is it possible to say anything more contrary to Barack Obama's insistence on the moral imperative to take disproportionately more from the wealthy to redistribute among the collective?
And this is where the contrast between the two men becomes most apparent. Barack Obama rejects the notion of fairness presented by God, because his devotion to God, if it was ever a driving motivation in his life, has become supplanted by his devotion to the government administration of fairness. That much is abundantly clear. Consider that Dr. Carson carries himself with a pious humility, crediting God and family for giving him the strength of will to succeed. President Obama, whose name would rarely collide with humility in a sentence, insists that the government is responsible for people's success.
The revelation here is not that Barack Obama is a PC thug who intends to transform the fabric of America, or that he makes victims of women rather than empowering them, or that he subscribes to a Marxist's notion of fairness by coercion, or that his healthcare solution is a muddled, hopeless mess sold on Utopian dreams. We already knew all that.
No, the real revelation is that at this year's prayer breakfast, so often only a pious ritual, his exact opposite stood and spoke in sharp contrast to our president. And Dr. Ben Carson owns a legacy as an innovative pioneer of his field and philanthropist whose life and work have personally touched, and even saved, countless others. Barack Obama, on the other hand, despite all his celebrity, owns a legacy that amounts to little more than stirring fear and outrage on the premise that others are not doing enough to help people.
Which ideology has produced the more effective, positive outcome?
William Sullivan blogs at http://politicalpalaverblog.blogspot.com/and can be followed on Twitter.