Ben Carson is a retired neurosurgeon who was announced as Donald Trump's pick for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development on December 5.
Carson, 65, was reportedly not seeking a cabinet position following Trump's victory because, as his business manager told Circa shortly after the election, "his background didn't prepare him to run a federal agency." Carson sought the Republican nomination for president; he dropped out in March.
Born in Detroit, Carson moved with his brother and single mother to Boston when he was eight years old. He graduated from Yale with a degree in psychology before attending medical school at the University of Michigan.
After graduating in 1977, Carson began his career at Johns Hopkins. In 1983 he accepted an offer from a hospital in Perth, Australia, where he worked for a year as a neurosurgeon before returning to Johns Hopkins. Carson retired as a surgeon in 2013 and rose to prominence in conservative circles in February of that year when he lambasted the Obama administration at the National Prayer Breakfast. He called for lowering the national debt through tax reform, particularly a 10% flat tax based on the Christian practice of tithing. He spent the following two years writing columns for the right-wing Washington Times and appearing on Fox News.
After dropping out of the Republican race, Carson was an early supporter of Trump and often appeared on television campaigning for the property mogul.
Despite Carson's lack of public sector credentials, Trump believes he can draw on his experience growing up in neglected urban environments and attending public schools. "Ben Carson has a brilliant mind and is passionate about strengthening communities and families within those communities," Trump said in a statement after nominating Carson.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is tasked with regulating Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the federal loan agencies at the center of the 2007 subprime mortgage crisis. Ginnie Mae, a similar institution that has swollen since the crisis to overtake Freddie Mac, which plays a role in processing nearly 40% of U.S. mortgages, is part of HUD. Concern is growing that Ginnie Mae is underfunded, understaffed (over 80% of its workers are outside contractors) and increasingly doing business with non-bank lenders, which are not subject to tough post-crisis regulations and are therefore able to lend to high-risk borrowers.
In addition to its regulatory role, HUD develops programs to help struggling families and communities with schooling and housing. It provides financial assistance for rental owners and helps families deal with pending foreclosures. The department assists over five million families.
Carson has been an active critic of the Obama administration’s healthcare policy. In 2013 he called the Affordable Care Act "the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery."
Carson has written several books, including the popular autobiography "Gifted Hands," which described his troubled childhood, his Christian faith and a famous procedure in which he separate twins conjoined at the head. The book was later the title of a TNT production in which Cuba Gooding Jr. played Carson.