Dr. Ben Carson, a rising star on the national political scene who is often mentioned among the GOP’s presidential prospects for 2016, won over Louisiana business leaders with a speech Tuesday that called for less government regulation, lower taxes and an alternative to the federal Affordable Care Act.
“People have to be so concerned about all of these regulations, they can hardly breathe anymore,” Carson said, previewing what could evolve into a stump speech if he decides to run for president.
Carson’s 50-minute keynote at the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry’s annual meeting ended with a long standing ovation.
His advice for business leaders who feel pressure from the federal health care law: “Hang in there because Obamacare’s gonna get repealed.”
His take on political correctness: “It’s a bunch of crap is all it is. This country was founded on freedom of speech and freedom of expression.”
How he sees the country as being splintered over issues of race, gender, religion and other factors: “If they don’t agree with you, they’re your enemy. Give me a break.”
He said he thinks the federal tax rate could be reduced by 10 to 15 percent if the government cuts out loopholes.
“It is not fair that people who can afford fancy tax lawyers and accountants get away without paying their fair share, nor is it fair for people who don’t pay anything to have a say on those who do,” he said.
Carson neatly wove together stories from his background with his political positions, plugged one of his books and received several laughs from the audience for his often self-depreciating jokes.
It was a classic speech for a conservative running for office — though when asked by the crowd, Carson wouldn’t say whether he’s going to run for president.
Carson first launched into the national political stratosphere after addressing the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast.
“There was a lot of buzz about me running, because what I said resonated with people,” he told the LABI crowd Tuesday.
He said he thought the buzz would die down well before the 2016 field started to form.
“It just kept building and building,” Carson said. “My voice is the voice of the people, and the people have something to say.”
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, also a Republican who is weighing a run for president, wasn’t at LABI’s luncheon, though several other elected leaders were.
Over the weekend, the governor skipped the Iowa Freedom Summit, a conservative cattle call of sorts heading into 2016, for a prayer rally on LSU’s campus Saturday.
Carson was reportedly warmly received by the Iowa crowd, much like he was with the Louisiana group Tuesday.
Jindal was in Lafayette on Tuesday for a groundbreaking on CGI Group’s new information technology center at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Research Park.
Those who made it to the LABI event included Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, Senate President John Alario and other members of the state Legislature.
LABI is the largest lobbying arm for business and industry in Louisiana, so the event also drew leaders of some of Louisiana’s largest companies.
John Mingé, the head of BP America, was unable to attend but filmed a message that was played for the crowd, and Cajun Industries founder Lane Grigsby was among those seated at the head table.
Carson took a few questions from the crowd but none from the media. Reporters could not tape him speaking, aside from the opening three minutes, which TV stations could use in background snippets.
A retired neurosurgeon, Carson grew up poor in Detroit, raised by a single mother who often worked two or three jobs, he said.
“She had faith that God would help her. He did. He gave her wisdom,” Carson said.
Carson went on to graduate from Yale University and the University of Michigan Medical School. In 1987, he became the first surgeon to separate conjoined twins who were joined at the back of the head.