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Neurosurgeon, conservative activist Dr. Ben Carson talks health care, political correctness before Birmingham speech
Dr. Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon and conservative activist, speaks with the media before talking at the Alabama Policy Institute's annual banquet in Birmingham at the Cahaba Grand Conference Center in Birmingham, Ala., Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013.
-- The health care system should have less government involvement, not more of it, Dr. Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon who rose to national political prominence with his criticism this year of the Affordable Care Act, said before a speaking engagement in Birmingham Thursday night.
Carson also criticized political correctness; he urged people to speak their minds.
"I'm hopeful that I can encourage people to be courageous and stand up for what they believe in and not to submit to the forces of political correctness, the forces of secular progressivism that try to deprive people of their freedom of speech and freedom of thought and make them conform," he said before a speech to the Alabama Policy Institute's annual Birmingham banquet at the Cahaba Grand Conference Center.
Carson, a former director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins, defined secular progressives as "the people who are trying to kick God out of everything and substitute their own philosophies as the code for what is moral and what is right."
He rose to prominence in conservative media in February, after he criticized the Affordable Care Act -- also known as Obamacare -- during . At , he said he thought the law was "really I think the worst thing that has happened to this nation since slavery."
Thursday, Carson explained his solution to the nation's rising health care costs: A health savings account for every American beginning at birth, with the government contributing ,000 a year. One-third of that would be set aside for catastrophic health care, and the rest would be for routine medical needs. Carson said that would be more than enough for most people's routine medical needs, and they would slowly build up a significant amount of money for health care costs.
"It's these kinds of things that you have to do because it removes government rather than making it more important in our lives," he said. "It also brings the relationship back to the physician and the patient."
Having complete control over the health care spending -- instead of going through an insurance company -- would bring costs down because doctors would have to make their prices far more apparent and would need to compete for patients, Carson said.
"It brings the whole medical industry into the free market economy," he said. "That's where you begin to see real efficiency."
Carson also discussed his support for a flat tax, or fair tax, in which one tax rate is levied on everyone, regardless of income. The fact that it's proportional makes it fair, he said, because the government isn't deciding who should and who shouldn't pay taxes; everyone would pay taxes. He compared it to tithes in the Bible. When the government picks who should pay more, it's difficult for people to agree, he said.
"Proportionality is something that's very easy to agree on, I think that's why God did it that way. He's a pretty smart guy," Carson said.
Cameron Smith, the vice president of the Alabama Policy Institute, said the conservative think tank brought Carson in because he shares its values: free markets, limited government and strong families. Smith said Carson, who grew up in a difficult economic situation in Detroit, embodied the spirit of opportunity.
"That's a positive story," he said. "Right now in politics and public policy we see a lot of negative. We see a lot of 'this can't happen, this isn't good enough.' At the Alabama Policy Institute, we want to promote opportunity. Dr. Carson's story is one of opportunity."
API representatives said they expected around 1,400 people for the banquet, which serves as a fundraiser for the think tank. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal at the organization's Huntsville banquet next week.
Carson, who's been touted as a possible presidential candidate by some conservatives, said his plan right now is to just travel the country and spread hope.
"I think people are sleeping in the poppy fields right now, but they're starting to wake up and see what's at stake," he said. "Whether I will venture into the political arena, it's not something that I particularly want to do, but I will see what happens. I will see what the Good Lord has in store."
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