Why a Johns Hopkins Neurosurgeon Is Getting 2016 Presidential Buzz

National Journal

If conservatives are looking for a political outsider with an inspiring rags-to-riches story and who could effectively challenge President Obama’s policies on health care and taxes while also quoting Scripture and criticizing political correctness, look no further than Ben Carson.

Carson, raised by a single mother in a poverty-stricken home, who went on to become a top Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon, gave a nearly 30-minute speech at the National Prayer Breakfast last week that indirectly criticized many of the policies promulgated by President Obama -- all while the president sat just to his side.

A YouTube video of Carson’s speech has since racked up more than 1 million views. A Wall Street Journal editorial ran under the headline “Ben Carson for President.” Carson told Sean Hannity on Fox News, “If the Lord grabbed me by the collar and made me do it, I would. It’s not my intention.” Hannity replied, “I would vote for you in a heartbeat.”

In particular, Carson’s views on some of Obama’s most hard-fought-for policies –- health care and income tax levels -- have caused many on the right to talk about his political prospects. On health care, Carson said every child born in the U.S. should receive a medical savings account, which could receive pretax contributions.

"We can make contributions for people who are indigent," Carson said. "Instead of sending all this money to some bureaucracy, let's put it in their HSAs. Now they have some control over their own health care. And very quickly they're going to learn how to be responsible."

When it comes to taxes, Carson pushed for a flat income tax by citing the biblical concept of tithing. "Some people say, 'Well that's not fair because it doesn't hurt the guy who made $10 billion as much as the guy who made 10.' Where does it say you've got to hurt the guy? He just put a billion dollars in the pot. We don't need to hurt him," Carson said. "It's that kind of thinking that has resulted in 602 banks in the Cayman Islands. That money needs to be back here building our infrastructure and creating jobs."

Carson has also endeared himself to social conservatives, blasting the idea of political correctness, saying that it is destroying the nation by silencing conversations.

His life story inspired a 2009 movie starring Cuba Gooding, Jr. Carson grew up in Detroit and didn't do well in school until his mother pushed him, despite her own lack of formal education. Carson went on to become only the 11th African-American board-certified neurosurgeon in the country, and he gained national prominence for his role in a complicated series of surgeries separating five sets of conjoined twins.

Perhaps Carson is primed for a move into the political fray; he’s a regular on the lecture circuit, talks frequently about public education, and came out with a book last year entitled America the Beautiful. There’s certainly a groundswell of support for it. While on Fox News, Carson responded to Hannity’s pledge that he’d get his vote for president by saying, “I have so many e-mails from people saying that, I could probably finance my campaign if each one gave me a nickel.”

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