The Most-Popular U.S. Presidential Candidate Blames the Poor

Eric Zuesse

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.

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  • Does anyone know how many presidential candidates are?

    focuri de artificii

  • jadan

    Back in 19th Century America: Black Hawk, Indian leader, sneered at the white man for failing to know his own mind. He must look in his black book in order to know what to think and what to do. The Indian found this contemptible. He looked within and made up his own mind. A man like Ben Carson mimics the very worst qualities of the white European destroyer of the world. He runs from his own responsibility by hiding behind some Biblical clap trap that white people used to enslave his ancestors. He has nothing inside. He is a hollow man. This man is probably the anti-Christ. Amen! Do I hear amen, brothers & sisters? This man would pull the nuclear trigger, like a Harry Truman. His righteousness is ugly and deep and completely ruthless. If he gets elected president…’s too horrible to contemplate….

  • mulga mumblebrain

    Judging by the ‘Gospels’, there was more than one ‘Jesus’. Perhaps he was schizoid. It’s a vase of pick and choose your dogma. Carson appears to be from the Gadarene school of God-bothering. The Clarence Thomas of politics. Party politics, that is.

  • Gotham Knight

    I believe Matthew 13:12 deals with the mysteries of the kingdom, not earthly goods. You should read the Bible in context. Also realize you obviously haven’t been granted much, if any, spiritual knowledge, so what little you do possess will be taken from you one day when you are judged.

    • Joseph Magil

      I agree with Gotham Knight concerning the meaning of Matthew 13:12. Another passage that would have been appropriate is Mark 12:41-44, concerning the poor widow who donated one penney while rich people donated many times more. Jesus said that she gave more than the rich because she gave all that she had, but the rich only gave out of their abundance. This verse shows that Jesus (or at least the author) likely would have sympathized with a concept like progressive taxation.

      • Gotham Knight

        Actually, there is little, if any, support in the Bible of the notion that Jesus would have sympathized with progressive taxation. His main concern was the coming kingdom He would one day usher in, and the way to enter that kingdom through Him. He also encouraged charity and love, not theft. Socialism is an evil construct of authoritarians who gain power by creating a power base of dependents through a state enforced theft of wealth from the producers. Progressive taxation funds socialism and all the corruption and crony capitalism that goes with it.

    • Army of Addicts

      Why bother reading it in context when you can dismiss the book entirely as junk?

      The mountains of atrocities that have occured over the centuries attributed to those (supposedly) taking scripture “out of context” may have not occured at all if the scripture simply did not exist.

      Conclusion: Burn your bible before it burns you.

    • cettel

      You can take the Bible to support, and to oppose, any position you wish to take on moral issues. The people who are the most deluded are those (such as Gotham Knight) who take it to mean what they want it to mean, when what they want it to mean is, itself, a reflection of themselves and not of any god. In other words: there is no guidance in the Bible (nor, for that matter in any religious Scripture), there is only propaganda for a particular clergy, to get them to be paid by their (and their Scripture’s) suckers.

  • LostInTheStars

    The point here should be that Ben Carson believes the exact opposite of what Jesus taught in the gospels. Jesus was always on the side of the poor and never on the side of the rich and powerful. That’s why he was crucified! Zuesse, who I admire, takes Matthew 13:12 out of context. Jesus, according gospel writers spoke at great length about economics – far more actually than he did about accepting him as one’s personal savior and getting a ticket to heaven, but in Matthew 13:12 he is talking only about willingness or non-willingness to see the metaphorical meaning of parables.

    Also, Jesus argued AGAINST the notion of the poor paying having to pay tithes and tributes equal to the rich. That was the whole point of many of his teachings.

    With regard to the Old Testament Carson also gets it wrong. The wealthy Hebrews were required, according to Jubilee mandates to periodically share their wealth with the poor. And there are endless passages mandating charity towards the poor.

    My source is virtually every living New Testament scholar at a major university.

    It us unwise throw in phrases like “the fictional Jesus.” Christianity is a myth. So is secular materialism when it is taken to be a philosophy rather than a technique. Ralph Nader has suggested that progressives should target Evangelicals rather than ridicule them. They have been brainwashed by people like Ben Carson who put words in Jesus’ mouth that he never said. Jesus was a socialist. The early Christians actually rejected the notion of private property. I’m a democratic socialist, and even I don’t go that far.

  • CarolinaPride

    Another great article perpetuating the class warfare that politicians continue to use to destroy the middle class and keep poor people poor. How about federal government just go back to doing the few things the constitution allows them to do and let individuals exercise their freedom and rights bestowed on them by their creator and keep their hard earned money. Crummy article

  • CarolinaPride

    If you want a reason not to like Carson, look no further than his support for TPP. Don’t use something dishonest like this.

  • Squirrel

    Tithe means ten percent. Ten percent of the wealth that you gather. It is your first fruits, Right off the top. Not ten percent of what you MIGHT gather. If I only manage to gather ten dollars and the guy next to me gathers one hundred dollars, It works out that he pays ten dollars and I pay one. It does not work out that we both pay ten dollars!

    If you gather zero dollars, What is ten percent of zero? God knows this, And God is not petty.

    And why on earth would I ‘Tithe’ the government? They collect taxes.They are not God, Not even close.

    I wonder if Dr. Carson has not confused his hatred of poverty with hatred of the poor?