By Barry Rascovar
As a pediatric neurosurgeon, Ben Carson was spectacular. His extraordinary eye-hand coordination and three-dimensional skills led to the world’s first separation of twins joined at the head — a 22-hour procedure requiring an expert Johns Hopkins surgical team of 70.
As a philanthropist, he and his wife are exemplary leaders in awarding scholarships to deserving youths who strive to be the best, regardless of economic or societal circumstances.
But as a novice political commentator, Ben Carson is displaying a less admirable side.
The first glimmer of this surfaced over the winter when he embarrassed President Obama at the National Prayer Breakfast, an annual, nonpartisan event designed to be spiritually uplifting. Instead, Carson delivered a gloomy speech about “moral decay and fiscal irresponsibility” directed at the man sitting by his side.
For this deed, he became an instant hero to far-right conservatives. Fox News and the Wall Street Journal urged him to run for president.
Another outburst critical of same-sex marriages sparked a protest movement last spring among students at the place that had put him on a pedestal — the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
This uproar grew so fierce Carson stepped down as commencement speaker to avoid a nasty scene for himself and the university that had nurtured his rise to super-star status.
New career as conservative media commentator
Now that he is a retired neurosurgeon, Carson has embarked on a new career as a right-wing talking head for Fox News, the Tea Party station.
On his first day, he equated President Obama to Vladimir Lenin and equated the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) to communism.
He mistakenly attributed to Lenin the line that “socialized medicine is the keystone of the arch to the socialist state. . . . because it gives you control of the people.” (As far as the Library of Congress can glean from its research, it’s a made-up quote.)
In another outburst, he claimed to be a victim of the Internal Revenue Service’s witch hunt against right-wingers because he’s been tagged for a tax audit this year. He offered no further evidence.
Then on Friday he called Obamacare “the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery. It is slavery, in a way. It is making us all subservient to the government. . . . It [is] about control.”
Yes, Carson wins the prize for “wacko comments of the week.”
He wins in a landslide.
Defining socialized medicine
Is Obamacare socialized medicine, as Carson insists? Not really.
Socialized medicine implies a nation’s health-care system is fully controlled and paid for by the government. That’s the way it worked in the old Soviet Union:
All doctors, nurses and medical staff were state employees working in state hospitals and health facilities. Private medical services were illegal.
The Soviet government dictated the number of doctors, the number of surgeries and the amount of medicine dispersed. Cuba has a similar system today.
Other countries have a far more modest, and less dictatorial, form of universal health care run by the government — Britain, Finland, Spain, Israel and Canada.
Obamacare is a weak sister next to those socialized programs.
If Carson wants an example of socialized medicine in this country, he shouldn’t point to Obamacare but to the military medical systems, the Veterans Administration, the Tricare government program for military families, Medicare and Medicaid.
None of those U.S. programs allows private insurers to sign up millions of Americans for health care coverage. Obamacare does.
Obamacare lets individuals choose their own private insurance plans from a wide array of options. People are free to choose their own doctors, too.
Individuals who already have health insurance don’t have to change.
Government subsidies support a big chunk of Obamacare, but the choice is still in the hands of individuals as to how much of their own money they want to spend on health care.
There’s no opt-out provision in other nations’ health care programs. Under Obamacare, anyone determined to go without health care can do so, but there’s an annual fee involved.
That hardly constitutes “socialized medicine” and it hardly amounts to oppressive government control and enslavement.
U.S. vs. The Industrialized World
If universal health care coverage is so mendacious, why does every industrialized country in the world have some form of it, except the United States?
Are all those countries marching in lock-step to the drumbeat of Comrade Lenin’s ideology?
Are the VA and U.S. military health systems part of a grand communist conspiracy?
Obamacare is a modified version of Medicare, which has been around for nearly 50 years without limiting individual freedoms for seniors.
Today’s Medicare supplements function much the way Obamacare works: The government qualifies private health plans, which then vie with one another to win enough applicants to make a big profit.
Carson’s sad transformation
That’s good old American competition at work, though the rules of the game are written by our elected representatives in Washington.
In Carson’s eyes, though, this is the second coming of an Orwellian, Leninist society.
It’s sad to see Carson transform himself from a much-admired recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom into a right-wing, apocalyptic voice.
Even worse, he has abandoned the scientific method that guided his earlier career. That time-honored approach demands rock-solid, well-tested proof before sweeping assertions and hypotheses are accepted as fact.
Ben Carson has forsaken the scientific method for political pontificating.
It’s a great loss for society and for those who once held this philanthropist and man of medicine in such high esteem.