Ben Carson said he “wasn’t happy” with a suggested budget cut of $6 billion to his department, the US housing and urban development (HUD). President Donald Trump’s latest budget proposal would increase the cut to $6.8 billion, or 14% of the agency’s budget. But that didn’t stop Carson’s office from splashing funds on luxury goods.
HUD, arguably the federal agency most central to fighting American poverty, has spent $165,000 on lounge furniture for Washington, DC, headquarters, and $31,000 on a dining set in Carson’s office. The set reportedly consists (paywall) of a table, chairs and a cupboard.
For context, $31,000 is thousands more than what some of Carson’s constituents make in a year; $24,600 is the maximum that a family of four can earn and qualify as “extremely low income” when being assessed for HUD support in poverty-plagued Detroit, where Carson is from. HUD helps subsidize housing for the poor, elderly, and disabled.
A senior official at HUD has alleged she was demoted for refusing to spend above legal limits for Carson’s office redecoration. Helen Foster says she was told “$5,000 will not even buy a decent chair” when she explained that it was the legal maximum the agency could spend on touching up Carson’s office suite, according to the Guardian.