Here's a name we haven't heard very much lately: Ben Carson. Here's us using it in a sentence: Does anyone know if Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson is actually doing anything? Because according to a recent NBC News investigation, HUD-subsidized properties are failing their health and safety inspections at a rate "more than 30 percent higher" than in 2016, and the administration appears to be doing very little, if anything, about that.
With citations for exposed wiring, missing smoke detectors and bug infestations, the Infill units racked up 113 health and safety violations — including 24 that HUD deemed “life-threatening.”
But more than nine months after the inspection, federally mandated deadlines for action have come and gone, and residents say little has changed.
HUD officials say the increased failure rate is due to tightened standards, but the lack of speedy action after inspections show dangerous conditions at HUD-subsidized properties (for example, exposed wiring and bug infestations) has a less noble cause: The Trump administration locked HUD into a hiring freeze. And the results of that hiring freeze are predictably catastrophic for tenants relying on HUD to rein in would-be slumlords:
HUD has shed more than 480 staff members since the end of the Obama administration, according to government records, in part due to the hiring freeze Trump implemented when he took office.
The department’s enforcement office has been losing staff for years, but it’s reached a two-decade low of 90 employees under Carson, according to data provided to NBC News by the Government Accountability Office.
That, then, brings us to our original question: Has anyone laid eyes on Ben Carson lately? Is the man still alive? Still doing his day job? We have heard almost nothing from him since the New Furniture Incident; he popped up only briefly to announce that an underling had been dispatched to be the new inspector general of the Interior Department, after which the Interior Department had to send a spokesperson out to deny that such a thing had ever happened. And since then? Not a lot.
If HUD inspectors are finding dangerous conditions on HUD properties but then failing to follow up for months at a time because, they say, they simply don't have the manpower to manage it, that seems like the precise sort of thing that Extremely Intelligent Political Appointee Guy would want to solve posthaste. He could petition the administration to unfreeze hiring in the department due to documented life-threatening concerns. He could beg the administration to send some of those military engineers it's got roaming the southern border. He could, I don't know, issue a sternly worded statement.
Instead, Ben Carson appears to have learned the only important lesson underlings of this administration ever learn: If you want to keep your job, by God, don't remind Trump that you exist.
It should be noted that Ben Carson, personally, has not said much to indicate he himself gives a flying damn about the Americans living in housing that he now controls.
Carson, meanwhile, has other priorities: He recently suggested rolling back inspection requirements, rather than strengthening them, to encourage more landlords to participate in the Section 8 voucher program and has stressed the need to encourage “self-sufficiency” by raising rents on all Section 8 tenants.
So we might be misreading things. It might not be the case that HUD is overworked, understaffed, and suffering from a boss who is more interested in not attracting Trump's attention than he is in solving problems. Americans may instead be living in housing with faulty wiring, no smoke detectors, rampant mold, rampant rodent infestations, and ceilings that occasionally cave in on them after one too many leaks because this is the new Ben Carson-led model of what public housing should look like.
Getting electrocuted by exposed wiring builds character, little Timmy, and how are you going to get anywhere in life if you're going to whine every time you get bitten by a rat? Toughen up, ya little runt. It's either that, or I have to talk to my boss about making some changes around here, and you and I both know that's not going to happen.