At LAT, "Step by step, Trump is assembling an administration far more conservative than his campaign":
Donald Trump expressed fondness during the presidential campaign for some of the big federal programs that serve the country’s most vulnerable, but whatever warmth he may feel does not seem to be shared by the people he is choosing to run them.Still more.
Monday’s selection of Ben Carson, the former pediatric neurosurgeon and Republican presidential hopeful, to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development was the latest move to fit the pattern of stocking the Cabinet with social conservatives deeply skeptical of the government agencies they will be asked to oversee.
Trump chose Carson despite the physician’s protest last month that he lacked the credentials needed to run a federal agency. As a child, Carson lived in what he has described as a housing project in Detroit. Since becoming a doctor, however, he has had little other direct experience with urban policy or housing issues.
He would assume a post overseeing an agency that was elevated to the Cabinet level as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society effort to combat poverty — something that Carson has declared an epic failure.
The job would test Carson’s management ability. The department, with an annual budget of $48 billion, oversees big development contracts and the distribution of lucrative grants to communities, and it has been historically susceptible to corruption in times of weak oversight.
During Ronald Reagan’s tenure, HUD money was regularly misappropriated to contractors with political ties, leading to multiple felony convictions. The agency’s standing in that administration seemed to be crystallized by Reagan’s failure to recognize his HUD secretary, Samuel Pierce, during an encounter at the U.S. Conference of Mayors in 1981. Reagan addressed Pierce as “Mr. Mayor.”
Carson’s first test at managing a complex, multi-state operation came in the presidential campaign. He proved gifted at raising money, building a small-donor network that was surpassed only by that of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
But Carson’s campaign and the network of allied super PACs that supported him also stood out for how little money they spent on campaigning and how much was plowed back into payments to contractors.
His lack of experience drew attacks from many prominent Democrats.
“I have serious concerns about Dr. Carson’s lack of expertise,” said incoming Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York. “Someone who is as anti-government as him is a strange fit for Housing secretary, to say the least.”
Schumer vowed Carson would be pushed during confirmation proceedings to prove he “is well versed in housing policy and has a vision for federal housing programs that meets the needs of Americans across the country.”
In Los Angeles, which works closely with the federal housing agency as it carries out a $23-million anti-homelessness initiative, one of the country’s largest such programs, Mayor Eric Garcetti was more cautious.
"Los Angeles stands at the forefront of the very challenges that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development was created to tackle,” Garcetti said in an email. “I am hopeful that as a physician, Mr. Carson will create the much-needed connection between public health and community development in neighborhoods everywhere.”
In 2014, the last year for which full figures are available, 492,000 Californians received HUD-funded vouchers to help with rent. The city of Los Angeles received $52 million in community development grants from HUD that year.
In the Cabinet, Carson would join a list of social conservatives that includes Trump’s pick to run the Department of Health and Human Services, Georgia Rep.Tom Price, and Betsy DeVos, who has been tapped to head the Education Department.
Price is a budget hawk and crusader for cutting Medicaid and Medicare, the latter of which Trump, in the campaign, said he opposed cutting. DeVos, the wealthy former chair of the Michigan Republican Party, is a strong backer of voucher programs, which provide tax money to families to spend on private schools...