Skip to main content

Why are the billionaires always laughing?

Because they know the corporate media will never call bullshit on their bullshit.

Why are the billionaires laughing?

It’s easy to laugh when the corporate press treats you as a glorious success instead of the epitome of a broken social order. Billionaires laugh because they know the corporate media prefers to fawn over them rather than hold them to account.

Today, we ask you to support our nonprofit, independent journalism because we are not impressed by billionaires flying into space, their corporations despoiling our health and planet, or their vast fortunes safely concealed in tax havens across the globe. We are not laughing.

We are hard at work producing journalism for the common good. With our Fall Campaign underway, please support this mission today. We cannot do it without you.

Support Our Work -- Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Every donation—large or small—helps us bring you the news that matters.

Ben Carson

Ben Carson, secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, is under fire for his office's pricey redecoration while the Trump administration slashes housing programs for the poor. (Photo: Gage Skidmore/flickr/cc)

While Nation's Poor Face Billions in Cuts, Don't-Make-Public-Housing-Too-Cozy Carson Spends Lavishly at HUD Offices

Trump has proposed cutting $6.8 billion from HUD, jeopardizing millions of Americans' housing—but that didn't stop the agency secretary's staff from dropping nearly $200,000 of taxypayer money on office furniture.

Jessica Corbett

Ben Carson—who infamously suggested early in his tenure as head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development that public housing for the nation's poor should not be "too cozy"—is under fire for a pricey redecoration of his D.C. offices, which comes as the administration proposes billions in cuts to his agency's annual budget, a move that could force millions of Americans out onto the streets.

For the 2019 fiscal year, President Donald Trump has suggested a 14 percent cut of $6.8 billion from HUD. Characertizing the proposal as "a shocking assault on millions of people who rely on rental assistance," George Zornick at The Nation, citing experts, said it "would be the most radical attack on federal housing aid since the U.S. Housing Act became law in 1937. If enacted, the Trump budget would be a vicious eviction notice to millions of low-income families."

Meanwhile, at HUD's headquarters in D.C., top agency staff have reportedly spent $31,561 on a new dining set for Carson's office, and another $165,000 on "lounge furniture." The furniture purchases were reported by the New York Times and the Guardian following an official complaint that Helen Foster, a career HUD staffer, filed with the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), a federal whistle-blowing agency.

Foster told OSC in a complaint obtained by the Guardian that she was demoted after refusing to comply with her superiors' requests that she work around a federal law which stipulates that any redecoration costs exceeding $5,000 need congressional approval. She says one boss remarked "$5,000 will not even buy a decent chair."

While HUD declined to comment on OSC's investigation into Foster's claims, agency spokesman Raffi Williams told the Times that the table set wasn't submitted to Congress for approval because it was a "building-wide need," despite being located in Carson's 10th-floor office suite. The Guardian noted that a federal procurement document for the set describes it as "secretary's furniture." The lounge furniture costs were revealed by another procurement document obtained by the newspaper, and Williams said further details about the purchase were not immediately available.

Critics of Carson were quick to weigh in on the reports, with some social media users pointing to the secretary's remarks to the Times last year that government assistance programs should avoid creating "a comfortable setting that would make somebody want to say: 'I'll just stay here. They will take care of me.'"

Others pointed to an interview Carson gave last April in which he vowed to make HUD "the most honest department in the government," declaring that he was "putting in place a structure so that we can monitor where every penny goes."

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) chair Norm Eisen tweeted:

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

'When We Organize, We Win': Ocasio-Cortez Joins India Walton at Rally in Buffalo

The two progressives joined striking hospital workers on the picket line at Mercy Hospital after the early voting rally.

Julia Conley ·

Fatal Film Set Shooting Followed Outcry by Union Crew Members Over Safety Protocols

"When union members walk off a set about safety concerns, maybe 'hiring scabs' isn’t the solution you think it is."

Julia Conley ·

New Whistleblower Sparks Calls to 'Crack Down on Facebook and All Big Tech Companies'

Hours after another ex-employee filed a formal complaint, reporting broke on internal documents that show the tech giant's failure to address concerns about content related to the 2020 U.S. election.

Jessica Corbett ·

'Catastrophic and Irreparable Harm' to Wolves Averted as Wisconsin Judge Cancels Hunt

"We are heartened by this rare instance of reason and democracy prevailing in state wolf policy," said one conservation expert.

Brett Wilkins ·

West Virginia Constituents Decry 'Immorality' of Joe Manchin

"West Virginia has been locked into an economy that forces workers into low-wage jobs with no hope for advancement, and after decades of this our hope is dwindling," said one West Virginian. "The cuts that Sen. Manchin has negotiated into the agenda hurt our state."

Julia Conley ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.

Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo