Ben Carson’s Schedule

The HUD Secretary's practice of treating Friday as a light-duty day is just fine by me.


NBC News (“Ben Carson’s schedule shows Friday trips to Florida, lunch with My Pillow founder“)

Ben Carson’s daily schedule from 2017 shows a HUD secretary who held senior staff meetings once a week, lunched with the author of “Chicken Soup for the Soul” and the founder of My Pillow, and left work before 2 p.m. on some Fridays to fly to his Florida mansion.

A list of appointments for a 31-week period shows that for about half of the Fridays Carson worked a traditional eight or nine-hour day. For five of the Fridays he was off or had no appointments. For five more Fridays he left before 2 p.m. to get to the airport to fly to South Florida, where he owns a house valued at $4.3 million. For the remaining six, he had no scheduled appointments past 3 p.m. In all, he made a dozen weekend trips to South Florida during the 31 weeks.

The calendar also indicates that in 2017, HUD’s senior staff huddled just once a week. Calendars previously posted by three other federal departments — Transportation, Treasury, and Labor — during the Trump administration show daily senior team meetings or multiple meetings a week.

The main focus of these, on both Twitter and the reports’ subhed (“For 5 Fridays out of 31, Carson was off or had no appointments. For 5 more he left before 2 p.m. to fly to South Florida, where he owns a mansion.“) is on the Friday issue. As I noted on Twitter,

Even Cabinet secretaries should take time off and taking every sixth Friday seems more than reasonable. And knocking off in late afternoon every sixth Friday is, well, a policy other executives should emulate. Hopefully, it’ll send a message to subordinates that they, too, are allowed to maintain a reasonable work-life balance.

Nor do I find it problematic that a renowned neurosurgeon owns a nice house in Florida. That seems a more-than-reasonable reward for a career saving lives after many years of poverty wages learning the trade.

Nor, absent evidence that he’s doing something untoward vis-a-vis his official duties, does it concern me that he’s meeting with popular authors or pillow executives. There’s no insinuation in the story that this is the case.

The real story, then, is twofold.

First, it appears that Carson is only half-ass doing his job when he’s in the office. I can’t imagine that HUD can’t be run by a competent executive putting in 8-9 hour days Monday through Thursday and averaging half days on Friday. But, while I absolutely dread meetings, it’s hard to see how a CEO gets by with just one a week.

Second, Carson and/or his team seems to be part of a larger problem in this administration in terms of transparency—doing their level best to keep their daily schedules and other information that was routinely public in past administrations from the press. I don’t like that one bit.

That a retired neurosurgeon with no experience in housing, urban development, or government holds this particular post is also problematic, of course. But that’s not new news.

As an aside, the complaint here reminds me of the old joke, “The food here is terrible, and the portions are too small.”

FILED UNDER: Government
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. A semi-side note: the fact that the My Pillow guy keeps popping up in current conservative circles (see, e.g., CPAC) is an indictment, it seems to me, of the current conservative movement. (I realize I am being a simplistic, but he hawks pillow in what reminds me of UHF ads from my youth–why is he becoming a minor celeb in some political circles?).

  2. Mikey says:

    If Carson’s still a practicing Adventist, it’s possible he’s trying to get to his Florida place before sundown Friday, as that’s when Adventists consider the start of Sabbath.

  3. James Joyner says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: One of the many virtues of no longer watching Fox or listening to Limbaugh and company is that I’m blissfully unaware of these sort of connections these days. One presumes gold is still the smart investment plan, though.

    @Mikey: Also an interesting point I wouldn’t have considered. I was only vaguely aware of his faith and know little about the group.

  4. @James Joyner: Apart from seeing a muted version in the dining hall, I do not partake either (but yes, gold is hot!). Still, I somehow keep noticing the My Pillow guy cropping up. It just seems both strange but also in line with the moment.

  5. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    With all of these clowns…the less time they spend doing anything minimizes the damage they can do.

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  6. Argon says:

    I can’t imagine that HUD can’t be run by a competent executive putting in 8-9 hour days Monday through Thursday and averaging half days on Friday.

    Assuming they work at home too. But otherwise, no. I don’t think a competent executive would find a 40-ish hour work week sufficient time to do a good job.

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  7. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    OT…

    Vladimir Putin has approved strict new internet laws that would allow Russian authorities to jail or fine those who spread fake news or disrespect government officials online.

    Gee…who else do I think would like to do that?

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  8. Kathy says:

    I hate, and I mean loathe, bosses who think hours worked equals productivity. I’ve had a few of those. One even got mad when I devised a means of compiling a very long, very tedious, and very necessary monthly email list in about half the time. She told me I was being lazy and trying to work less time.

    So I don’t object to a boss that keeps, and more important, allows their staff to keep, reasonable working hours. Right now, I work under one of those. We have a nominal 7 pm quitting time, but if we can leave early because we’re done for the day, that’s cool.

  9. Tyrell says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I know some people who have tried those pillows. They were not impressed with the pillow or the price.
    There are many professional and small businesses that close up at noon on Fridays. Other places of work generally loosen up in terms of dress and pace. Getting a head start on the weekend or a trip is very common. Are we close to a four day work week? I would say no. Many people who get off early head to stores, tire shops, get haircuts, the car wash, and other places, so those sort of places see business pick up on Fridays.
    Back during the 1970’s recession I worked for a construction company that cut back to four days a week because things got real slow. When we went back to forty hours it took forever to adjust.

  10. SenyorDave says:

    @Argon: Assuming they work at home too. But otherwise, no. I don’t think a competent executive would find a 40-ish hour work week sufficient time to do a good job.

    Agreed. I worked as financial analyst for a couple of companies where I saw the compensation of literally everyone in the company except the other finance people. The one of the reasons that people senior exec’s were paid $400k+ and their direct reports were paid $150k+ is it was assumed the senior exec’s were working enough hours to be available for their department’s main job functions, which required at least 10 – 12 hours per day Mon – Fri. Ben Carson is a somewhat unique story. He seems to have no qualifications for the job, no apparent knowledge of the job, and an astonishing lack of knowledge of anything relating to the functions of government (this is the guy who rather clearly did not understand the difference between the deficit and the debt).
    I do have a problem with his work habits given that I help to pay part of his damn salary.

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  11. Jen says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: The Pillow Guy, IIRC, is a minor celeb because he’s a reformed crack addict who started the pillow company because of a message from God.

    I’ll let you make the remaining nouveau-GOP connections.

  12. Teve says:

    @Argon:Two idle thoughts with no point to make:

    1 I had a German boss one time who insisted that 60 hours per week was the minimum amount of work required for any career. He did this, and he was a success in his field of polymer physics.

    2 I was at a party one time in Cary, NC and happened to find myself chatting with the head HR person for the biggest privately-held software company in America. Somehow the topic came up, and she said that her company demanded that people work no more than 40 hours per week. The people at the top, she said, were of the philosophy that “after 8 hours of coding in a day, you’re just adding bugs.” This company was very successful too.

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  13. Teve says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: one of Trump’s 32 tweets yesterday said that Saturday Night Live was in collusion with Democrats and Russia.

  14. gVOR08 says:

    As @Daryl and his brother Darryl: notes, and as with Trump himself, the less diligent these people are about screwing up their agencies and screwing over the country, the better.

  15. Mikey says:

    @Teve:

    I had a German boss one time who insisted that 60 hours per week was the minimum amount of work required for any career.

    Interesting, considering the general German view of working a lot of overtime is that a worker who does so is a bad worker because they aren’t efficient enough to get the work done within the normally scheduled workday.

  16. Mikey says:

    @James Joyner:

    I was only vaguely aware of his faith and know little about the group.

    I grew up in that church. Ask me anything about weird dietary rules and why I’m a crappy dancer and have no idea about any of the Saturday morning cartoons that aired during my childhood.

  17. Mister Bluster says:

    @Mikey:..have no idea about any of the Saturday morning cartoons that aired during my childhood.

    You have truly suffered unspeakable abuse.
    Is it the 7th Day Adventists who refuse to salute the American Flag and refuse to vote or is that the Jehova’s Witnesses…or maybe the Amish?

  18. Moosebreath says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    “have no idea about any of the Saturday morning cartoons that aired during my childhood.

    You have truly suffered unspeakable abuse.”

    On the other hand, he may have avoided the horrors inflicted upon American youth by Sid and Marty Krofft (yes, I know I am dating myself).

  19. An Interested Party says:

    That a retired neurosurgeon with no experience in housing, urban development, or government holds this particular post is also problematic, of course.

    Black guy=HUD…I’m sure that’s what President Simpleton was thinking…

  20. Mister Bluster says:

    test

  21. EddieInCA says:

    It depends on the job, the person, and the team.

    In my world, I’ve had jobs where I’ve hired such a good team, that most days, I had very little to do except be there in case there was an actual problem. I remember one particular week in South Florida where the team was working nearby, and my boss and I were on the golf-course, listening in via walkie talkie to everything happening on set, and everything was going super smoothly. Knowing how hard we work most of the time, no one on the team thought less of us for doing so. We had a great group. (wr – you’ll know him as our former boss in 2010, I think).

    I’ve had other jobs where I worked 80-90 hours a week for 10-14 weeks at a time, and suffered horribly physically and mentally because of it. But that job demanded it because I inherited a team that wasn’t as good as the team I usually have.

    As for Carson, I’m amazed that so many “Conservatives” are okay with people like Ben Carson, Betsy DeVos, Heather Nauert, and so many others in positions of policy importance. It’s shocking to me.

  22. EddieInCA says:

    @Moosebreath:

    On the other hand, he may have avoided the horrors inflicted upon American youth by Sid and Marty Krofft (yes, I know I am dating myself).

    Oh man…. from my youth. I’ll be 59 in a few months.

  23. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: Troo dat!

    @Kathy: I had a boss once who made the same complaint, so I told him that if he really wanted me to take 4 hours to do something I could do in one, I was okay with that but there were a lot of other things that I would run out of time to do. The rat on the little track in his head seemed to pass out for awhile. I was afraid it had stroked out.

    But most of my bosses were really good with me going home if I ran out of work to do. I think it had to do with my being a straight hourly employee who worked 10-12 hours on a typical day. I think my job was the one for which staggered scheduling and 4 X 10 was invented.

  24. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Moosebreath: What are you talking about? The Bugaloos was a perfectly cromulent show. And Martha Raye was a hoot singing “Nature Girl!”

  25. Guarneri says:

    @Jen:

    So enlighten us. What is your issue with someone overcoming addiction, and starting a US company employing US citizens??

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  26. Guarneri says:

    @An Interested Party:

    Indeed. Better to have a community organizer, bagman for the crooked Emil Jones, and no count state senator as president………based solely upon his skin color and a smooth but vacuous tongue.

    Oh, and being clean and having the right crease in his pants………….

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  27. Gustopher says:

    @Guarneri: there are lots of brown folks who haven’t been elected President. If anything, his skin tone was a detriment as people are still complaining about it now.

    You may not think he accomplished much before running for office, but he was able to build a great campaign, inspire people, beat Clinton, McCain and Romney. That’s not nothing.

    And, I’ll say this now, if Pete Buttigieg somehow wins the nomination, then all my reservations about him not being experienced enough go out the window. Mayor of a small-to-medium city isn’t nothing, and it’s arguably more relevant than legislative or business experience.

    Also, what was Trump before the presidency? If Obama was just a state senator and community organizer, I think we have to summarize Trump as failed businessman.

  28. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Kathy:
    Many thumbs up. The job is the task, not the time. If you’re going to insist on the hourly approach you create a disincentive to productivity. I work to make money and occasionally have fun, but I work fast because as much as I enjoy work I enjoy getting high and watching history videos on YouTube more.

  29. Gustopher says:

    @Guarneri: He’s clearly selling his story as much as his product. Which, to be fair, is basically what coca-cola does. He has a story that sells to an audience.

    More power to him, though.

    Every dollar spent on his pillows is one less dollar that a Fox News watcher has to spend on supporting crazy. So, the pillows are a good thing.

  30. DrDaveT says:

    I can’t imagine that HUD can’t be run by a competent executive putting in 8-9 hour days Monday through Thursday and averaging half days on Friday.

    While I understand the point @Kathy and @Michael Reynolds are making, I’ve seen what high-level federal bureaucracy positions have to deal with. If you have a top-notch staff, 50 hours a week might suffice to keep all of the important balls in the air. (Show of hands for all those who think Ben Carson has assembled a top-notch staff? Anyone?) And that’s if you are in tune with the career bureaucrats you have inherited, and are all working toward the same goals…

  31. Franklin says:

    Every study show that productivity *rate* decreases with number of hours worked per week. In fact, it drops so much that *total* productivity for a 60-hour work week is only about two-thirds what you get from a 40-hour work week.

    That said, it depends on the job like EddieInCA and others pointed out. If I’m doing something pretty simple mentally and physically, my productivity rate might be really steady. But if I’m taxing my brain or body, it’s going to wear down faster.

  32. EddieInCA says:

    @Guarneri:

    Guarneri says:
    Monday, March 18, 2019 at 19:44

    @Jen:

    So enlighten us. What is your issue with someone overcoming addiction, and starting a US company employing US citizens??

    1. False Advertising. Had to pay a fine to settle. https://www.nbcnews.com/business/consumer/full-fluff-mypillow-ordered-pay-1m-bogus-ads-n677571

    2. A “F” from the Better Business Bureau. https://www.bbb.org/minnesota/news-events/news-releases/2017/01/mypillow-bbb-accreditation-revoked/

    How about those two for starters?

  33. Jen says:

    @Guarneri: I have no problem at all with someone overcoming addiction and following through on an entrepreneurial venture.

    I do have a problem with the false claims (“this pillow cures [whatever!]”), poor business practices, etc., as EddieInCA has noted. I think he’s a huckster who cloaks his sales shtick in religion a la Jim and Tammy Faye Baker, which bothers me.

  34. Mikey says:

    @Mister Bluster: Adventists are fine with saluting and voting. Few actually serve in the military as they take “thou shalt not kill” as an absolute prohibition even in wartime, but they would serve if drafted, only as medics or some other job that didn’t require carrying weapons. If you’ve seen the movie Hacksaw Ridge, the main character Desmond Doss was an Adventist.

    Also, if you think the Saturday morning cartoons thing was bad…I did not have a piece of real bacon until I had graduated from high school.

  35. Lynn says:

    @Jen: I do have a problem with the false claims

    You can include this among his false claims:

    “President Trump was “chosen by God” to run for the White House, My Pillow founder Mike Lindell said on the opening day of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in suburban D.C.”

    https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2019/mar/1/mike-lindell-my-pillow-founder-says-donald-trump-w/

  36. Teve says:

    @EddieInCA:

    TINA.org’s investigation concluded that the company made unsubstantiated claims that its pillow could treat or cure a variety of sleep disorders, including insomnia, sleep apnea, and restless leg syndrome.

    Customer testimonials posted on the website, and later taken down, raved about the pillow’s ability to alleviate the symptoms of anxiety, migraines, acid reflux, menopause, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy and post-traumatic stress disorder, among other conditions, the TINA.org report noted.

    a wingnut celebrity is really a bogus health treatment grifter? I’m shocked!

  37. Kathy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Naturally it depends on the job. A pilot cannot land the plane before it arrives at its destination. In retail, hours worked will correlate somewhat to sales, and in any case the store needs to be staffed from opening until closing. A factory will produce more the longer it is in operation, and so on.

    My own work consists of helping to put together large numbers of 5″ binders full of documents, which constitute a proposal for selling food or food-related services to government agencies. My part most often includes product listings and prices (which can be several pages long, think of what’s in your pantry and fridge), as well as gathering and labeling samples. Each project has am absolute deadline to be presented, and as they’re presented at open meetings, they can only be presented at the time of the deadline (and I do mean absolute, as in if you arrive a minute late you’re out).

    This demands long hours sometimes, especially when several proposals are required within a short time of each other, or at the same time. We don’t control when government agencies publish their requirements, or how much time they allow, or what products they order, or whether they need samples.

    So it’s common to leave work at 10 pm, say, for three days in a row, in order not to be stuck til 5 am the day the proposal is due. The problem is we often work that late anyway when work piles up.

  38. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    OT and Breaking…
    Rod Rosenstein is staying longer at the DOJ.
    It had earlier been reported that his departure was imminent.
    More tea leaves that could mean nothing, or something……..

  39. Kathy says:

    @Teve:

    a wingnut celebrity is really a bogus health treatment grifter? I’m shocked!

    To be fair, all kinds of celebrities get involved in bogus “health” treatments. Just as an example, I’m so disgusted by Gwyneth Paltrow’s fake “wellness” line, and how she hawks it, that I can’t watch her movies any more.

  40. @Kathy: Agreed. That whole thing is just gross.

  41. just nutha says:

    @Lynn:I DO wish that all of those ¨chosen by GOD to lead” people would remember that there are a lot of ¨vessels prepared for destruction¨ verses in the Bible and ponder the virtues of humility a little more.

  42. Mister Bluster says:

    @Mikey:..bacon

    Thank you for the response.
    Apparently neither the Amish nor the Jehovah’s Witness sects are expressly prohibited from voting though many do not.
    It appears that West Virginia State Bd. of Educ. v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943) finds that Public School Students, incuding children of Jehovah’s Witness, can not be compelled to salute the Americn Flag.

  43. Pete S says:

    It is possible that Carson is helpful and competent. In that case I assume he has phone and internet access in his Florida home and can contribute from there. No executive is truly out of contact these days, it is not 1975.
    Or else he is incompetent and unhelpful, and the rest of HUD prefers to have him out of the way anyway. Picture Mr Carlson. This seems more likely given that I seem to remember him saying about himself that he was not qualified for any cabinet post before accepting this one.
    Either way this is not in the top 1000 concerns I have with the Trump administration.

  44. Teve says:

    @Kathy: oh I know. And I’m glad that lots of people in the liberal community, like the people at SGU, and Vox, and Jen Guenter, and Orac, and Hemant Mehta, and even HuffPo, call her out on her dangerous nonsense.

    Carl Zimmer is right now tweeting about her $27 spray bottle of Psychic Vampire Repellent, which is every bit as idiotic and fraudulent as the idea that a special pillow is going to cure your Crohn’s disease.