The most-liked U.S. Presidential candidate believes that it’s okay to be born poor, but that anyone who stays poor is remaining poor because he or she is lazy. He also says that those poor people are trying to find excuses for their own laziness when they blame their adversities on other causes than themselves, such as the prejudices of others, or wrong governmental policies, or bad luck; and he is especially opposed to governmental policies that aim to provide special advantages to poor people: he believes that this liberalism only encourages the laziness of those people. He was born dirt-poor and now draws tens of millions of dollars in annual income; and he thinks that the reason he’s successful is that he’s terrific – and he wants all Americans to try to be terrific like he feels that he is; so, he’s on a campaign to make it happen by his becoming America’s President. And he’s turning out to be remarkably successful at this campaign, too.
Among the entire U.S. electorate including both political parties and also independents, candidate Ben Carson’s “Net favorable” rating is +21%. The second-most-popular candidate is Carly Fiorina, at +6%. The third-most-popular is Marco Rubio, at +5%. The fourth-most-popular, and the only Democrat whose net-favorable rating is positive rather than negative – i.e., who is more popular than he’s unpopular – is Bernie Sanders, at +4%. Based on the crucial predictive factor of net-favorability (or more-commonly refered to as “popularity”), the 2016 general-election campaign will thus likely be between Ben Carson and Bernie Sanders. That will probably be the ultimate contest.
This is the latest poll, issued on November 5th by Gallup; which says, “Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Oct. 19-Nov. 1, 2015, on the Gallup U.S. Daily survey, with a random sample of 7,121 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.” So: this is more than just the typical national survey, which samples only 1,000 respondents.
The overwhelmingly most-popular candidate, Dr. Carson, says (8:30- here): “I hated poverty; I couldn’t stand it.” He said in that video there (at 18:00) “My role model is Jesus” and he then went into the “moral problem” of “the national debt,” and he continued, “Here’s the [Jesus] parable. A family falls on hard times” and the father in the parable says he’ll cut the allowance for some of his children but not for others. Carson concluded there: “How do you think that will go down? Not too well. Enough said.” In other words, Carson was asserting that governmental policies must not help the poor or disabled or otherwise disadvantaged, any more than they help the rich and successful and otherwise advantaged (including heirs to huge fortunes). The rich must receive as much government-assistance as the poor, he says, because otherwise it wouldn’t be “proportional,” as he sees it. Carson immediately cited the biblical 10% tithing system as providing the fundamental solution, the type of values-based approach that he would push as America’s President: (19:40-) “[God] has given us this system. It’s called tithe. Now, we don’t necessarily have to do it 10% [as in the Bible]. But it’s the principle. He [God] didn’t say, if your crop fails, don’t give me any tithe. He didn’t say, if you have a bumper crop, give me triple tithe. So there must be something inherently fair about proportionality.”
Carson thus endorses a flat-tax system that taxes billionaires at the identical, or “proportional,” rate that even the poorest person will be taxed to pay – ignoring the fact that the poor have more needs than desires, and that the rich have more desires than needs: he’s assuming that a dollar to the poor does the same amount of good (benefit to the person) as a dollar to the rich does. (Scientific studies – such as this – show that that’s not actually true, it’s drastically untrue; and that income above around $75,000 per year provides no additional happiness to a person – none at all – and that its only motivation above that income-level is a purely competitive one to become king-of-the-hill, richer than other people are, sort of like an addiction to money instead of any healthy desire for income or for additional economic security.) So, Carson, with his biblical beliefs, continued: (20:00-) “You make ten billion dollars, you put in a billion. You make ten dollars, you put in one.” (The existing U.S. system violates that biblical principle: The income-tax rate for the very poor is zero in the U.S., just as it is in every other country. Using the tithing-system as the basis for a nation’s taxation-system would be to introduce a sharp break away from the system in all modern nations, not only in the United States. It’s biblical, like the hijab is quranic.)
Carson’s basic assumption there is that everyone has the same obligation to fund the government: the homeless or disabled who sell something on the street must pay the same percentage “tithe” from that person’s meager income to the government as does a billionaire who flits from one mansion to another and who maybe inherited most of his wealth and all of the opportunities for growing it but whose stock dividends and interest-income pay for all of his or her consumption and then some.
Carson’s is a one-size-fits-all system, because “He [God] didn’t say, if your crop fails, don’t give me any tithe. He didn’t say, if you have a bumper crop, give me triple tithe.” For Carson, if your crop fails and you can’t make your mortgage-payment, and you get thrown out onto the street, it’s just God’s way of punishing you, and there is no government that ought to interfere with that. To interfere with it woudn’t be “proportional,” unless billionaire gentleman-farmers get the same government-benefits. To interfere with it would violate “this system. It’s called tithe.” Any poor person who doesn’t like it should just lump it and be forced to do the right thing and be “proportional” instead of (as conservatives might put it) ’envy’ the rich person. If Bill Gates should pay 10% (or whatever the figure will be), then so should someone in a homeless shelter. (Any ‘charity,’ such as from Gates or from Carson, would be magnanimous but never obligatory; government is only the obligatory part. And if there is no charity to fill a particular person’s need, then: it’s just tough luck – that’s God’s will, too.)
Dr. Carson’s government would be – in terms of the interests served and the obligations demanded from those interests – one-dollar one-vote, not really one-person-one-vote. He is basically advocating for the idea that property should control the government, individuals (persons) should not control it except to the extent that they represent property. He believes in God, and he interprets a person’s wealth as reflecting God’s reward to that person; and he interprets a person’s poverty as reflecting God’s punishment. (Humans are not supposed to question God’s judgments.) Benjamin Carson doesn’t want any government that would try to undo the choices, the decisions, that are made by God. To a religious person, that would be ‘evil.’
Carson believes that God has rewarded him because he deserves it; and Carson doesn’t want any government that seeks to violate God’s system: (19:40-) “[God] has given us this system. It’s called tithe. Now, we don’t necessarily have to do it 10% [as in the Bible]. But it’s the principle. He [God] didn’t say, if your crop fails, don’t give me any tithe. He didn’t say, if you have a bumper crop, give me triple tithe. So there must be something inherently fair about proportionality.”
Evangelicals – fundamentalist Christians – have been flocking to Carson’s banner. Their sky-high favorability-ratings of him are a significant reason why he tops the overall list. But it’s not the only reason: many other Americans are not consciously shaped by biblical values, or else they’re shaped by biblical values that contradict the biblical values that conservatives focus on – by liberal biblical values – and many of those voters are also drawn to candidate Carson because they, too, admire a man who takes the Bible seriously, even if the parts of it that have shaped Carson contradict the parts of it that have shaped those liberals. Any religious Scripture (not just the Bible) can be cited to support drastically mutually-contradictory values; no religion provides any internally consistent value-system, other than the essential belief for any religion: that The Almighty defines what is good or bad; that might makes right. The fundamental religious belief alone is sufficient to propel Carson to the top, in America’s popularity-contest. Religion is basically conservative; and Carson is clearly the leading religious candidate, at the present time.
Carson might find inspiration from Matthew 13:12, where ‘Jesus’ directly instructs his disciples, “The person who has something will be given still more, until he possesses more than enough; but the person who has nothing will find even that taken away from him.” It might be the hypothetical farmer that Carson referred to as having experienced a bad crop-year (perhaps even at the wrong time), but whom Carson would nonetheless require to pay tax at the same percentage as a billionaire. However, many liberals might instead find inspiration in Matthew 19:24, where ‘Jesus’ says: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” Though that fictional ‘Jesus’ ‘spoke’ out of both sides of ‘His’ mouth, both of them were appealing to the same fundamental authoritarian principle behind worship of The Almighty: Might makes right; God alone determines what is good, and what is bad.
In this deeper sense, Carson represents even religious people who disagree with him, people who draw their inspiration from liberal passages in their Scriptures. Perhaps this is the basis for his current wave of success – the wave that might carry Carson all the way into the White House. In the final analysis the billionaires who fund the Republican Party might collectively decide that he is their champion too.
Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.