Complete Transcript: RURAL TOWN HALL with Dr. Ben Carson

Complete Transcript: RURAL TOWN HALL with Dr. Ben Carson

The following is a complete transcript of Dr. Ben Carson's appearance on RFD-TV's RURAL TOWN HALL hosted by RFD-TV's Mark Oppold.

Announcer:  RFD TV news, in association with Mediacom, present Rural Town Hall.  An hour long, one on one conversation on issues of importance to rural Americans, with the declared candidates for president of the United States.  Our guest, Republican candidate, Dr.  Ben Carson.

Mark Oppold:  And from the beautiful Stine Family Barn in West Des Moines, Iowa, welcome to the rural town hall meeting, produced by RFD TV News and Mediacom.  I'm Mark Oppold, and for the next hour we'll be spending time with just one candidate discussing issues of interest and concern to rural Americans, whether farmers, ranchers, or just folks who choose to live in small towns that make up this great nation.  The questions will come from a variety of interested parties, including most of the major organizations representing different sectors of agriculture.  Some of the questions, in fact, will be asked directly from members of our studio audience who have come to Des Moines, Iowa, and joining us today.  The focus of our discussion may be rural, and in a completely objective context, but this is also an opportunity that we see.  An opportunity to ensure better understanding, better communication between rural and urban Americans.  We'll start with key agricultural issues, extend to other topics like rural healthcare, rural education, government regulation, much, much more.  These are not debates, let's make that clear.  These are conversations.  That said, RFD TV and Mediacom welcome our Town Hall guest today, an author, political pundit, and retired neural surgeon.  We welcome Dr.  Ben Carson.  Welcome.  Good to have you here.  Welcome to Iowa doctor.

Ben Carson:  Very nice to be here.  Seems like I spend more time in Iowa than I do in Florida.  I love it here.  It's very good.

Mark Oppold:  Well we want to say first of all, on behalf of RFD TV News and Mediacom, thank you for accepting our invitation to spend this hour talking about issues important to the folks here, and those watching and listening in rural America.

Ben Carson:  Well thank you.  I'm delighted.  And I should say, you know, we have another home in Maryland, and it is a rural home.  You know, we have 48 acres, which is small compared to Iowa farms, but it's pretty big in Maryland.  We lease it out and they grow corn and soybeans, and there are horses running around.  It's pretty cool.  I like it.  But the best thing is the people, because in the rural neighborhoods, everybody knows each other.  If you need something they go, "Oh man, I've got you covered." You know, you just got no problems with that.

Mark Oppold:  You knew all about them there.  Very good.  And before we get started, again, the doctor's campaign have produced a video when he announced his candidacy.  Let's take a look.

Ben Carson (video):  People are so concerned about the future, the future for their children, the future for our nation.  Well the big message is that this country was designed around, 'we the people, of, for and by the people,' and that we need a government that actually understands that and doesn't think that it is the ruler of the people.  I'm learning from the crowds that they are hungry for some integrity, for some honesty, and for some real solutions to the problems that ail us.  Not so much interested in partisan bickering, and wise cracks, and denigration of other people.  And that's perfect because that's exactly where I fit.

Mark Oppold:  Very good doctor.  And again, Dr.  Ben Carson with us today, and we have organizations.  Before we get started with our questions from the audience, do you have an opening statement you'd like to make as a regards to issues of interest to rural America?

Ben Carson:  Well you know, America obviously, at one time, was known as the breadbasket of the world.  And we have always worked very hard, but it is risky business, and we're all in it together.  The key thing is, we have to recognize that for this country to flourish, it needs all the components to be working well, including, you know, what's going on here in the rural setting with our food production.  And once we can understand that, we don't pit people against each other, but we use our collective resources to strengthen everybody, because we're supposed to be a country where there's liberty and justice for all.

Mark Oppold:  Very good.  Our first question comes from an organization, very important to the history, a long history at RFD TV, FFA.  So go ahead please.

Michael Tupper (FFA):  Good morning Dr.  Carson.

Ben Carson:  Good morning.

Michael Tupper (FFA):  My name is Michael Tupper, President of the Iowa FFA Association.  FFA is a national youth organization with more than 610,000 members, that all are involved in agriculture.  The question this morning is about heir cultural youth policy.  The average age of the farmer in the United States is nearly 60 years old.  How would you and your administration encourage or support young people looking to get back to agriculture, production agriculture?

Ben Carson:  Uh, you know, my whole life has been centered around young people, and the welfare of young people.  Which the only reason that I've actually gotten into this race, because I couldn't settle down and put my feet up and relax knowing that the future was in jeopardy.  And I think, you know, when it comes to young people on the farm, we need to provide for them the kind of educational tools that are essential.  In a lot of farming areas, for instance, you don't have good access to high speed internet, and a lot of people have this false impression that if you're going to be a farmer, then you just have like a nobody who doesn't know anything.  And that's not true.  You know, farming is getting to be very scientific, and you need to have the resources in order to be able to keep up with all of the things that are happening on a regular basis.  So I think, you know, changing the perception of what farming is, is the best way of getting, I think, young people to go into it.  And not just to go into it, but to be enthusiastic about it, and recognize that it is a vital part of the success of not only this country, but for the world.

Michael Tupper (FFA):  Thank you.

Mark Oppold:  Very good.  Thanks for the first question FFA.  Next question comes from another organization that is important to Iowa, and the country, the American Soybean Association.

Ben Carson:  Okay.

Mark Oppold:  Go ahead.

Wayne Fredericks (ASA):  Thanks for coming to Iowa Dr.  Carson.  My name is Wayne Fredericks, and my wife and I have had the pleasure of farming for 42 years in northern Iowa, and making it our sole livelihood.  And I'm here today to represent the American Soybean Association, as a director on that board as well, representing our fellow soybean farmers.  I have a question that's a two part question, and it's one that's very dear to the soybean industry.  First of all, what is your stance on agricultural biotechnology, and GMOs?  And secondly, what is your feeling about a uniformed federal policy on food labeling? 

Ben Carson:  Well I'll answer the second part first.  I actually like for people to know what they're buying.  I like for people to know what they're eating.  And I think it's only fair for them to be able to see that, because people have different impressions about what they want to eat.  Some people like to go to Whole Foods Market, and pay, you know, a lot of money, just so that they can make sure that, you know, it doesn't have this in it, or wasn't grown in this particular way, and that's their privilege.  But they ought to have the right to do that.  As far as GMOs are concerned, you know, there are a lot of GMOs.  Like broccoli.  Broccoli is a GMO.  It's a hybrid between two different vegetables.  So, you know, there's a whole spectrum of what is a GMO, and there's a lot of hype, quite frankly, and propaganda surrounding GMOs.  The fact of the matter is, as science progresses, and you know, we learn how to, you know, inject a gene for instance that will make a plant very unpalatable for certain pests, we'll probably use that technology.  That technically is going to be a GMO.  And there's going to be a lot of things.  So what we really have to do is be logical about it, and not be hysterical about it, and recognize that we do make progress.  The foods that we eat today are actually different than a lot of the foods that people ate 100 years ago, because of the modifications that have occurred naturally, through farmers learning different ways to do things.  So I am very respectful of people who say, "No.  I don't want anything to do with this food, or that food, and that food." And I am very sympathetic with the argument that they should be able to determine which kind of food that they're eating.

Wayne Fredericks (ASA):  Thank you.

Mark Oppold:  Thank you very much.  The uh, I'll follow that a little bit up, your thoughts on how that, the GMO and the biotech subject, is being presented at the present time.

Ben Carson:  Well, it depends on who's doing the presenting, I would say.  In the food industry presenting it, you know, they're very pro GMO for the most part.  And some of the other movements say, "No.  Absolutely, we cannot have anything modified." Even though they don't recognize that a lot of the things that they think are pure, have been modified.  So again, there's so much hysteria in our society today.  Instead of people actually sitting down and having informed conversations, putting their concerns on the table, and discussing them, which is what should be done in a pluralistic society, that's how you reach reasonable and logical conclusions.  But when you have hysteria generating it, you get the 'my way or the highway' philosophy, and it just doesn't work very well.

Mark Oppold:  We have several communications and publications that are here that have a question.  One of those is Agri-Pulse Communications.  Go ahead.

Frank Holdmeyer (Agri-Pulse):  Good morning Dr.  Carson.  Frank Holdmeyer representing Agri-Pulse.  To the best of our knowledge, you are the only person running for president who is a vegetarian.  So please tell us why you no longer eat red meat, and also why cattleman should still support you in this race.

Ben Carson:  Okay, that's an easy one.  When I got married, my wife was a vegetarian, and I don't like to cook.  I love, you know, I do occasionally enjoy a nice steak or hamburger.  I don't have anything against meat, and I do eat it, but you know, when I'm at home I eat what my wife fixes.  It's as simple as that.  You know, I am very much in favor of the cattlemen having, I don't have any philosophical disagreement, in other words, with people eating meat and enjoying the wonderful dishes that are made.  It's part of Americana.  Not a problem.

Frank Holdmeyer (Agri-Pulse):  Alright, thank you.

Mark Oppold:  Thank you for the question.  We're going to follow-up in fact with a gentleman from the Iowa Cattlemen's Association.  Welcome.

Isaiah Shnurman (Cattlemen's Association): Good morning Dr.  Carson.  Isaiah Shnurman, Iowa Cattlemen's Association and family farm here in Iowa.  In respect to the generational transfer of family farming, what is your stance on repealing the death tax?

Ben Carson:  Okay well, you know, I'm not a big tax person in general, which is why, you know, I've advocated a proportional tax based on the bible, quite frankly.  I think God's a pretty fair person, and if he thinks, you know, proportionality is good, then I'm good with it too.  You make $10 billion a year, you pay $1 billion.  If you make $10 a year, you pay $1.  Everybody gets the same rights and privileges.  Get rid of all deductions and all the loopholes, and you don't tax anything twice, including estates.  And I'm for repeal of that death tax.  It makes absolutely no sense at all, and in many cases, you know, people have been working for generations to build their farm, and then, you know, it's worth a lot of money.  But now they're going to have to sell it in order to be able to pay the taxes.  I mean this is just so ridiculous.  I don't see how anybody with half a brain would even believe that you should be doing something like that.  So I would work vigorously with congress to repeal that.

Isaiah Shnurman (Cattlemen's Association):  Thank you sir.

Mark Oppold:  Thank you for the question.  And with that, we invite you to stay with us.  Don't go anywhere, we're just getting a good start.  We've dealt with some very important issues in our very first few minutes here.  We come back, questions including rural healthcare, education, and more.  Right back with Rural Town Hall, with republican presidential candidate, Dr.  Ben Carson.  Stay with us.

And welcome back to Rural Town Hall on RFD TV.  I'm Mark Oppold and we're talking, visiting with Dr.  Ben Carson who is seeking the republican nomination to be the next president of the United States.  We're giving Dr.  Carson a chance to address some of the issues that are important to you, paramount to America's farmers, ranchers, and folks who just enjoy their rural lifestyle.  We've already addressed some very important issues.  Moving on now to a new topic, America's renewable fuel and the future.  Welcome.

Monte Shaw (America's Renewable Future):  Thanks for being here Dr.  Carson.  I'm Monte Shaw with America's Renewable Future.  After over 100 years of subsidies to oil, they have a near monopoly on our market.  In the past you've talked about expanding access to renewable fuels, and I wanted to hear today your thoughts on the renewable fuel standard which would guarantee that access, and continuing it through its schedule of 2022.

Ben Carson:  I'm not a big proponent of subsidies of any type, but I do believe in fairness.  And the fact that, you know, access to fueling stations throughout the country is largely monopolized by the oil industry makes it very difficult for other types of fuels, regardless of their merits, to be able to play on a level field.  I think that's an area that needs to be examined and worked on.  But in general, I'm for getting rid of subsidies.  Not acutely.  I think you have to do it over a period of time, because you have to give all the markets an opportunity to adjust.  So, but that would include subsidies that the oil industry gets as well.  I would get rid of virtually every subsidy in the country, over the course of time, and let the free market rise and fall, because that's the way our system is supposed to work, and that's what creates the strongest sources of everything.  It eliminates the weakest sources.

Mark Oppold:  Very good.  Thank you for the question.  Our next question comes from another publication right here in Des Moines, from Gannet Des Moines Register.  Welcome.

Timothy Meinch (Gannett):  Hello Dr.  Carson.  Timothy Meinch from the Des Moines Register in Gannett Media.  I also was wondering a little bit about subsidies.  Specifically, what is your opinion on agricultural subsidies available to farmers in Iowa, and the rest of the nation?  And specifically, what type of reform, if any, would you support immediately for the ag subsidies structure?

Ben Carson:  That's an easy one.  You could probably figure out my answer from the last one.  And that is, I would gradually reduce them all.  The reason I wouldn't do it acutely is because a lot of things have been built on those subsidies, and you can't just, you know, withdraw that support immediately and expect people to be able to adjust.  But I think our nation, as a whole, will be considerably stronger when the government is not involved in picking winners and losers.  When winners and losers are picked on the basis of what they produce, their merits, and the value that they provide to the society.

Timothy Meinch (Gannett):  Thank you.

Mark Oppold:  Very good.  That, what may be kind of a follow-up on that as well, it seems to be, when I visit as a farm broadcaster, no matter what the organization is, they're also, they're all wondering about the subsidies and those years when they need some support.  Just addressing that, when mother nature kind of takes over.

Ben Carson:  Well, you know, when it comes to very large entities that have to engage in entrepreneurial risk taking, when a large segment of our society is going to be effected by their success or failure, that is a time when I think we have to be looking at certain types of insurance that we make available to them.  Because we cannot let one bad year destroy, you know, their entire operation.  But, you know, that's really a matter of insurance that can be guaranteed, as opposed to subsidies.

Mark Oppold:  You talk about a group that's important, an American farmer would say, "Anybody who eats is important to the future of the supply we have." Another question I have here, this is from the National Rural Education Association.  They have sent this question in so I will ask it on their behalf, doctor.  From your perspective, what are the unique challenges facing America's rural schools?  And how would you address those challenges?  I know education is very important to you.

Ben Carson:  Well education is the great divide in our country.  It doesn't matter where you came from, what's your socio economic status, your racial status, you get a good education, and you can write your own ticket.  No question about it.  In rural areas, I eluded to this earlier on, one of the big problems is high speed internet access.  You know, a lot of times you can tell where there is high speed access, because on school days, school nights, all the cars are parked there, and maybe McDonalds, or maybe something.  But that's where it is.  We can do much better than that because we need to take much more advantage of satellite technology.  It doesn't necessarily all have to be cabled hardwire, although we do need to have cable hardwire backup systems because one of the things that is critical to our security right now is our electrical grid.  And it is very weak, it is not hardened, it is very vulnerable.  You know, electromagnetic pulse from the sun, which comes about once every 155 years, is about due soon.  That could ruin it.  Certainly the explosion of a nuclear device in the exoatmosphere could send us back, you know, into the 1940s or before that, because we don't have a hardened grid.  So that's a real priority.  And in the process of hardening that grid, putting in alternative backup sources, including the cable networks throughout the nation, including all the rural areas.  So, you know, it's more than a matter of just education.  It's a matter of national security.

Mark Oppold:  Right.  A quick follow-up on that.  How would you address school districts that are having a hard time.  They're consolidating rural America, and they're traveling a little bit further and further, and putting schools together that were individuals, now they're consolidated.  School districts that would need some assistance.

Ben Carson:  We can do things to obviously help that.  I think that needs to be done at a statewide level though.  Funding for that can be blot granted to the states at an 80% rate.  80% of what the government would have been doing, with the understanding that if they have money leftover, they can do anything they want with it.  And that way, the people in the state will be paying very close attention to what the legislators are doing, and you'll get a lot more efficiency out of the system.

Mark Oppold:  Very good.  Alright, thank you.  Right along with FFA, a very important organization.  One of the largest youth organizations in the country is 4H, and we have members here with us.  Welcome this morning.

Grace Westercamp (4H):  Hi.  My name is Grace Westercamp, and this is Jose Salgada, and today we're representing 4H. 

Jose Salgada (4H):  4H has engaged nearly 6 million youth throughout the country since it was established in 1902.

Ben Carson:  Can't hear you.

Mark Oppold:  Get a little closer to the microphone.  Thank you.

Jose Salgada:  4H has engaged nearly 6 million youth throughout the country since it was established in 1902.  Engaging more young people will, in large part, depend on connecting with Latina youth.  As president, how would you help support this effort?

Mark Oppold:  Did you hear that doctor?

Ben Carson:  I think I got the gist of it.  What would you do to help support 4H clubs, because they've been such an important part for youth in rural areas.

Mark Oppold:  Right.  And a lot of the expanse would perhaps come from, as the question, from Latino students, and how would you support that effort?

Ben Carson:  Well, you know, I support the effort for youth in general.  You know, that gives me an opportunity to speak about something that is very important to me.  You know, I do not believe that, for instance this is a time for affirmative action.  There was a time when I think it was important, but I think that time is long gone.  But I believe in something called compassionate action, because we tend to be a compassionate society.  We tend to root for the underdog.  But the underdog is not dictated by ethnicity.  The underdog is dictated by circumstances.  So, for instance, if my son is applying to Yale, and he has a 4.0 average, and 1600 SATs, and letters that say he's the best thing since sliced bread, and then, you know, there's another kid from Appalachia who's father was killed in the coal mines when he was five years old, has been working to support the family throughout all that time, is a great kid, has a 3.9 grade point average, and a 1560 SAT.  Guess what?  I think we ought to give him some extra consideration.  He's been through a lot.  You know, my kid has traveled all over the world, met everybody, never had any financial issues, and he's still very valuable too.  But one of the things that really characterizes America is the ability for people, through their own actions and their own hard work, to rise.  And, you know, 4H Club is one of the things that helps people to realize those kinds of things.  I'm for all of those things.  I'm not for them, you know, with respect to one group or another group, but I'm for them with respect to providing the opportunities for everybody in our society, and all of the young people to become fully engaged, particularly with the farming community.

Mark Oppold:  Thank you for joining us today 4-H.  Another question I have from the behalf of their National Rural Health Association, doctor.  They've sent in a question that they'd like to have you answer.  Similar to the 1980's, we're seeing a repeat of a wave of hospital closures throught rural America.  As president, what could your administration do to ensure continued access for healthcare to millions of rural Americans?

Ben Carson:  Well for one thing, you want to make sure that the healthcare that's available to them is the kind of healthcare that people want to see.  You know, when you go to a hospital, you go to a clinic, you don't want to have some strange insurance that nobody wants to take, because that's really problematic.  Particularly, you know, when you have medical assistance, things of that nature.  Which is one of the reasons that, you know, I have proposed health savings accounts for everybody.  From the day that they're born until the day that they die, it's available to them.  And you pay for it with the same dollars that we pay for traditional healthcare with.  But you wouldn't have to use as many of them, and you give people flexibility so they can shift money within their health savings account.  So if dad is $500 short, mom can give it to him out of hers, or cousin, or uncle, or daughter, anybody.  It gives you enormous flexibility, and it makes the cost of your catastrophic insurance drop precipitously because nothing is coming out of it except catastrophic healthcare.   And that takes care of 75% of America, but what about for the indigent?   How do we take care of them?   And there are a lot of them in the rural area.   No question about that.   Uh, well, how do we take care of them now?   Medicaid.   But the annual Medicaid budget is four to five hundred billion dollars a year.   How many people participate?   A quarter of the population.   Uh, that’s about 80 million people, which is way too many, and…and, you know, we gotta work on some economic policies to change that.   That’s another topic.   But, uh, if you divide 80 million into 400 billion, that’s 5000 dollars for each one.   What could you buy with that?   A concierge practice?   That’s what rich people buy.   Two to three thousand dollars a year and still have thousands left over for your catastrophic insurance.   I’m not suggesting we do that.   I’m just saying that that’s how much money there is allocated for it.   And, uh, you know, people in Washington say, “Well, you can’t give poor people a health savings account because they’re too stupid.   They won’t know what to do with it.”  You know, that’s what – they…they think everybody’s like them.   But the fact of the matter is, that is not the case.   They said the same thing about food stamps.   They said people would go out and buy porterhouse steak the first five days and be on the corner begging the sixth day.   That didn’t happen.   People learned how to use it.   And they would learn how to use that health savings account as well.   When Mr.  Brown has that diabetic foot ulcer, he’ll learn very quickly not to go to the emergency room where it costs five times more than it does to the clinic.   He’ll go to the clinic and in the clinic, they fix him up just like they do in the emergency room, but they don’t just send him out.   They say, “Let’s get your diabetes under control so you’re not back here in three weeks with another problem.”  A whole ‘nother level of savings, plus we’re teaching him to be responsible for his own healthcare.   Those are the kind of policies that we need.   And when you have that and everybody is of equal value, then you will have a much more even distribution of healthcare facilities, because they tend to locate themselves in the areas where you get the most people that are paying.   But now everybody would be paying, so you’re gonna have a much more even distribution.

Mark Oppold:  Very good.   Again, thanks for the question, uh, uh, a new member here that’s coming this morning, our friends from AARP.   Welcome.

Tony Volo (AARP):  Dr.  Carson, I’m Tony Volo, a volunteer from AARP.   We know that rural America is more dependent on income from Social Security than our nation’s cities.   What is your plan to address Social Security’s financial shortfall and what place does it occupy on your personal to-do list when you’re President?

Ben Carson:  Well, actually, it’s an incredibly important place because, uh, there is something known as the fiscal gap.   Uh, you don’t hear politicians talking about it, but I’m not a politician, so I’ll talk about it.

(laughter)

Ben Carson:  You know, it…and it…it is the unfunded liabilities, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, all the departmental programs, cabinet programs, the money that we owe going forward versus what we expect to collect in revenues from taxes and other revenue resources.   Um, those numbers should be almost identical.   Uh, and when they’re not and you bring that forward to today’s dollars, that’s what the fiscal gap is.   And, uh, right now it sits at about 211 trillion dollars, which is unsustainable except for the fact that we can print money because we are the reserve currency of the world, uh, which we may not always be.   That’s a position that goes with the number one economy of the world, traditionally, which we have been since the 1870s until last year when China became the number one economy.   Would they like to be the reserve currency so that they can print money?   Absolutely.   It would help solve a lot of their problems, or at least they would think they were solving them.   They wouldn’t really be solving them, just like we’re not really solving them.   But when we lose that ability, we’re in big trouble.   So, one of the things that we’re gonna have to do is change our, um, GDP to debt ratio, and we have to change the long-term outlay of money that we need for Social Security.   Specifically, what I have proposed is that we give people the ability to opt out of receiving Social Security payments in lieu of a tax credit of the same amount of the payment that they would have gotten.   That immediately takes the pressure off of Social Security, because right now, it’s scheduled to go bankrupt in 2033.   And then for the people who, under the age of 55, we gradually begin to elevate the age.   Because, remember, when it was put in place, the average age of death in America was 63, and now we’re talking 80, and we have been very negligent in terms of adjusting, so that’s why we need to do the 20% thing.   But I think that would work very effectively.

Tony Volo (AARP):  Thank you.

Mark Oppold:  Thank you, AARP.   Uh, again, covering some very important topics thus far and again, just scratching the surface still with more to come.   We’ll cover topics including rural broadband, which the doctor’s already alluded to.   More questions about energy in rural America as well.   Dr.  Ben Carson with us.   You’re watching Rural Town Hall on RFD-TV.

Mark Oppold:  Welcome back to Rural Town Hall on RFD-TV.   I’m Mark Oppold.   A big part of RFD-TV is a legacy of Roy Rogers, including his beloved horse, Trigger, and trusty dog, Bullet, and we are proud owners of both animals on display around the country for current and future generations to enjoy.   Now back to the business at hand, talking to Dr.  Ben Carson about topics critical and important to rural America, those who choose the rural lifestyle.   And our next topic comes from our friends from Mediacom.   Good to have you here today, as well, as always.

Jeff Angelo (Mediacom):  Great to be here.   Thank you, Dr.  Carson.   I’m Jeff Angelo from Mediacom.   You’ve already mentioned the important role, the increasing role that technology is playing in the agriculture industry.   What do you think that the government could specifically do to encourage broadband and cellular development in rural areas?

Ben Carson:  Well, I think that the government needs to recognize, again, our security interests.   And our security interests are everywhere throughout our country, so fortunately, we can easily tag along with our security interests, the interests of the people in the rural communities.

Jeff Angelo (Mediacom):  Mm-hmm.

Ben Carson:  So they will be the recipients of us doing what we need to do in order to solidify our security.

Jeff Angelo (Mediacom):  Thank you.

Mark Oppold:  Thank you.   American Agri-Women, uh, have the next question for you and, uh, we welcome them to Rural Town Hall.

Ben Carson:  Okay.

Annette Sweeney (American Agri-Women):  Good day, Dr.  Carson, and thank you so much for coming.   My name is Annette Sweeney and I’m representing American Agri-Women and I don’t live very far from Des Moines and I have been a farmer all my life, and also, uh, come from, uh, generations of farmers.

Ben Carson:  Okay.

Annette Sweeney (American Agri-Women):  The EPA has come under fire in recent months because of the ruling of the Waters of the US Rule and most recently, the mine spill disaster in Colorado.   As President, what attributes would you look at for appointing a new EPA administrator to deal with such issues that have a major impact on farmers, ranchers, and rural America?

Ben Carson:  Okay, good.   Well, certainly I…I would look for somebody who had some common sense.

(laughter)

Ben Carson:  And, uh, so we probably would exclude Washington, DC immediately.

(laughter)

Ben Carson:  But you know, the…the EPA, I think, is an important organization, uh, but they’ve been used for the wrong purpose.   They’ve been used to suppress development of energy and…and other resources.   You know, they have these silly rules like, you know, you can’t cut certain types of grasses along the highway at certain times of the year because there could be pheasants or rabbits or whatever in there.   And somebody just needs to let them know that those things can move.   They…they don’t stay standing.   They see something coming, they get out of the way.   Um, and I would really change the role of the EPA from suppressing the development of our resources to working with business, industry, academia to find the cleanest, most environmentally friendly ways to do things.   And, you know, we have enormous resources if we’re willing to use them in the right way.   You know, I have nothing, uh, but goodwill for people who want to protect the environment.   I’m one of them.   All of us should be one of them because we want to pass things on to the next generation in at least as good of shape as we got them, but that doesn’t mean using environmental issues to inappropriately punish the people who are developing resources that are critical to our existence.

Annette Sweeney (American Agri-Women):  Thank you so much.

Ben Carson:  Okay.

Mark Oppold:  Thank you, American Agri-Women.   We go on to, uh, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, who have sent a question in I’m going to ask on their behalf again, Doctor.   What is your plan to ensure, and you’ve touched on this, rural America has access to reliable and affordable energy while also ensuring that this power is delivered in an environmentally responsible manner?

Ben Carson:  Okay.   Well, you know, as I’ve mentioned, we have enormous energy resources.   We have enough natural gas to last for over 1000 years if we just waste it.   And we now have the ability to liquefy it, which means we can export it, uh, and, uh, you know, really if we get rid of the silly energy exportation rules, um, we can make Europe and other places dependent on us for energy rather than on Putin.   And, uh, that can have a profound effect in terms of his adventurism, so we can use our energy and those sources.   We sit between two oceans.   Can you imagine all the hydroelectric power that is available to us if we begin to do the appropriate types of research into that?   And a lot of the money that we generate, once we get over our aversion to using our energy appropriately, can be used to fund the research into other renewable energy sources.   So, you know, these things don’t have to be polar opposites with one group on this side and one group on this side throwing barbs at each other.   We can work in a cooperative way, uh, because development of energy is critical for our future.   And, you know, I, you know, I…I think about these things a lot and all the different interlocking parts.   You know, I would bring back our space program, uh, because we discovered so many things.   It’s not so much that I’m interested in men walking on Mars, but look at all the things that – and, uh, we use in our everyday life that came out of the space program.   Your cell phone.   You know, that came out of the space program.   And new energy sources will come out of that.   A whole bunch of things will come out of that, not to mention the fact that we need to have control of space.   Not the Russians and not the Chinese, because it’s going to eventually impact upon our security.

Mark Oppold:  Mm-hmm.   You talk about energy.   We’ll take another break here, but, uh, you drive across rural America and wind power is evident all across this great nation as well.

Ben Carson:  Yes.

Mark Oppold:  All right.   Thank you for that question.   Uh, we still have more territory to cover in this edition of Rural Town Hall.   Still more to come.   Questions about immigration.   Issues about the Farm Bill all coming up.   You’re watching Rural Town Hall on RFD-TV.

Mark Oppold:  And welcome back to Rural Town Hall on RFD-TV.   I’m Mark Oppold.   Thank you so much for joining us, visiting today with Dr.  Ben Carson about some of the topics crucial…crucial to agriculture and to those who live in rural America.   And, Doctor, we appreciate your hour with us and accepting our offer to be with us today.   Moving on to our next topic, this is, uh, a question from the American Farm Bureau Federation.

Ben Carson:  Okay.

Mark Oppold:  Welcome.

Joel Heinrich (American Farm Bureau Federation):  Hello, Dr.  Carson.   My name is Joel Heinrich.   My family and I have, uh, farmed over in eastern Iowa with a very diversified livestock operation for many years and we want to talk to you about federal farm programs.   Uh, the federal farm program provides important economic tools for agriculture, such as, uh, such as, uh, federal multi-peril crop insurance.   We very much depend on these issues – on this for a safety net.   It’s been under fire even though it’s been very…it’s been reformed over the last several years.   As President, what would you do to help protect programs such as this so that we’re able to stand up and have that…that safety net for us?

Ben Carson:  Sure.   Well, you know, one of the things that…that drove the economic engine of America is, you know, people’s willingness to take risks.   You know, entrepreneurial risk taking.   That’s a key driver, along with capital investment, and, uh, people are not going to do that in the wrong environment.   The government’s role is to make sure that the risk-taking environment is one that will allow people to take those risks, and so, I, as I’ve mentioned a little bit earlier, I believe that the way we do that is with insurance programs that can be, uh, federally guaranteed.   That should be done through the private sector, in terms of the programs themselves, but the guarantee should be through the federal government.   And, you know, the more we allow the free market to work in an appropriate way, the better off we are.   Now, if the insurance companies begin to get out of hand, like they do in medic…medical arenas, then it may be necessary to…to intervene in some way, but somehow I think they won’t if they know that they’re being watched and, uh, we have the mechanism, much better mechanisms nowadays, to watch those kinds of agencies than we used to.

Joel Heinrich (American Farm Bureau Federation):  Thank you.

Mark Oppold:  All right.   Thank you to the Farm Bureau.   Uh, a question that has been sent in by the National Milk Producers Federation, Doctor, uh, I will read to you.   Many sectors of agriculture, including dairy, are dependent on immigration and immigrant workers.   Many of them are not documented.   What will you do to ensure that our farms, ranches, and food processors have an adequate workforce in the future?

Ben Carson:  That’s a very good question.   Uh, do we have a illegal immigration problem?   Yes.   Uh, can we solve it?   Yes.   We have the ability.   We just don’t have the will.   Uh, and, you know, this is all integrated together.   We have to seal all of our borders, not just the southern borders, but the northern borders, Atlantic and the Pacific borders, and, uh, that includes not just fences and walls, but electronic, uh, surveillance equipment, drones, a variety of things that are available to us.   We have the ability.   We just don’t have the will to do it.   And, um, then I think we also have to turn off the spigot that dispenses the goodies.   You know, if there are no goodies, there won’t be any reason to try to get through.   Um, that’s basic, and that will immediately stop the influx of illegals, but you still have the 11.5-plus million who are here.   And the question is what do you do with them?   Some people have suggested rounding them out and sending…sending them away.   That’s stupid because, you know, it takes 23,000 dollars per one and you’re going to end up 300 billion dollars – forget about that.   That’s not practical.   Um, but what I would do is provide them with an opportunity to become guest workers.  They have to register. They have to pay a back tax penalty and they have to pay taxes going forward.   Does not give them citizenship.  Does not give them voting rights.  If they want those things, they get in the line just like everybody else.   But that way, you don’t gut the workers for the farming industry, the hotel industry – there are a whole host of industries.   And it’s impractical to think that we can somehow weather that.  I was talking to a farmer, uh, recently in this area who has an 8000 acre farm.   He said, “I couldn’t find a single American citizen to work on my farm and I’m starting them off at 11 dollars an hour!”  We can’t, obviously, allow those industries to collapse.

Mark Oppold:  Mm-hmm.   What would be your first step, as a follow-up here, in…in addressing immigration and immigrant workers as it relates to those that are needed in agriculture, packing houses, or out in California, for example, uh, or in Florida – states like that.

Ben Carson:  Well, uh, this goes more to my long-term plan.   The long-term plan is, uh, not to have a system that encourages dependency, which is what we have in America right now.   In 30-plus states, you can actually get more from collecting government benefits than you can from working a minimum-wage job.   And, uh, after we get the economy rolling again, which we can easily do with tax reform and regulatory reform and a few other minor things, uh, so that people have options, I think you then have to make, uh, you know, government benefits contingent upon doing something.   And that’s going to, uh, take care of the workforce problem right there.

Mark Oppold:  Yeah, the guest registration is a…is a first step, as well.   This is from a viewer that have sent this in knowing that you were going to be here.   This is Tom Haydn from the state of Montana: “Doctor, do you believe all Americans should have the same health coverage?   If so, how would you accomplish that?   And if not, why not?”

Ben Carson:  No, they shouldn’t all have the same health coverage.   They should have the health coverage that they need.   You know, this one-size-fits-all stuff is a bunch of garbage, um, and is leading us to, uh, a single-payer system, which I don’t think is appropriate.   Um, not for America.   And…and, you know, let me just tell you.   America was designed around our people and around their individual needs and their ability to express themselves.   The government was supposed to be there only to facilitate life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.   Now, along comes the government, says, “This is the healthcare program that you’re having whether you like it or not.   We’re shoving it down your throats, and if you don’t like it, too bad.”  Well, that’s antithetical to the very principles of the advent of this nation.   So that’s why I don’t want that, uh, and the reason that I designed, you know, the health savings account program is so that people can do things the way they want to do it.   They’ll have the money to do it.   You’ll have a free-market system that caters to them.   That’s what brings quality and that’s what brings pricing.

Mark Oppold:  One final question here before we wrap up.   The hour’s gone fast.

Ben Carson:  It has.

Mark Oppold:  I thank you again for your time, Doctor.   Uh, from Crop Life America, and we’ve done a lot of stories on RFD-TV about honeybees and pollinators.   Pollinators play a vital role in agriculture.   Recently, the President’s Pollinator Health Task Force developed a national strategy to promote the health of honeybees and other pollinators.   If elected President, how would you work to promote pollinator health?

Ben Carson:  Well, you know, I’m a Hymenoptera fan.   I love bees and everything in that family, um, and you’d be happy to know that this year, we’ve had the highest number of bees, uh, in 20 years.   So, you know, the disaster – whatever was causing it seems to have been alleviated to quite some degree.   Uh, what we’ve seen springing up all over the place are families who take it on themselves to harbor bees.

Mark Oppold:  Mm-hmm.

Ben Carson:  And to, uh, harvest the honey.   It’s a great hobby.   It doesn’t do well in the first year, but if you can get through the first year and get it established, uh, it tends to do extremely well.   And, uh, actually, our state chairmen, uh, here in Iowa, uh, are raising honeybees in addition to, you know – uh, she’s a physician and she’s a state rep.   Uh, but, you know, just as an example of how us as Americans get involved in this and I would continue to encourage that, because you get to see that it works, that it’s profitable, and that it’s fun.   And isn’t that what…what drove America to the pinnacle in record time?   People being encouraged to do things that they liked doing, that’s fun, and that brings profit.   Everything that we can do to promote that is going to strengthen our country.

Mark Oppold:  Very good.   It’s been a fast hour.   We’ve covered a lot of ground in the last hour in our Rural Town Hall, talking with Republican Presidential Candidate Dr.  Ben Carson.   We’ll wind things down in about a minute.   We want to give you the last word, Doctor.

Ben Carson:  The last word is that, you know, a lot of people have…have said to me, uh, “Why would a neurosurgeon who’s had a wonderful career in medicine get involved in the slimy world of politics?”

(laughter)

Ben Carson:  And I frequently ask myself that, too.

(laughter)

Ben Carson:  But the fact of the matter is, it’s because of the love of our country.   This country has been very good to me.   You know, I grew up in the very bottom rungs of our society, but this is America.   This is a place where you can make decisions and where you can decide how hard you want to work.   And we need to make sure that it remains a place where that hard work will pay off for you and for your family.

Mark Oppold:  Thank you very much, Dr.  Ben Carson, for joining us today.   Again, from West Des Moines, Iowa, we want to thank the Harry Stein family and their farm here and the barn, for allowing us to use this beautiful facility today.   We’d like to, again, thank our partners, Mediacom, for helping bring this to you as well.   Don’t forget: you have a right to vote.   Use that right.   And from all of us, goodbye from Des Moines, Iowa.

(applause)

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