- “I don’t believe in stimulus checks,” Dave Ramsey, popular radio host and personal finance author, said a few weeks ago.
- Like other conservative personal finance influencers, Ramsey doesn’t understand poverty.
- Their advice doesn’t work for people with low income, and they cast moral judgement on those who are struggling financially.
- Bobbi Dempsey is a freelance writer and an economic justice fellow at Community Change.
- This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
- Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.
When Dave Ramsey, the popular personal finance author and radio show host, spoke out recently against stimulus checks and other forms of COVID-19 relief, it was not shocking to anyone familiar with Ramsey or the personal finance industry in general.
Ramsey epitomizes the privileged, rich, white guy that seems to dominate the conservative personal finance space. Like many of his counterparts, he appears oblivious to the challenges that so many poor and working-class Americans face, particularly during the current pandemic.
“I don’t believe in stimulus checks,” Ramsey stated in a Fox News interview a few weeks ago, “because if $600 or $1400 changes your life, you were pretty much screwed already.”
In that single sentence, Ramsey accomplished the impressive feat of both identifying the problem while also completely dismissing it. Yes, many people are screwed, financially speaking — and for them, that relatively modest amount of money would change their life by helping to address their immediate basic needs such as putting food on the table.
The backlash against those comments was strong and swift, as Ramsey mentioned on his radio show soon after, noting, “Apparently I have upset a lot of snowflakes.”
The privileged conservative view on poverty
Ramsey is a huge proponent of hardcore conservative philosophies, such as the ubiquitous “bootstraps” mindset, pushing the notion that anyone can achieve the American Dream through sheer will and determination. If someone works hard and wants it badly enough — ignoring systemic obstacles and inequality caused by racial bias, generational poverty, and other factors beyond an individual’s control — they can achieve financial stability.
People with more investment savvy than me have repeatedly pointed out issues with Ramsey’s investment advice, but I will stick to an area with which I have far more firsthand expertise: income inequality and the denial some seem to have about it. Specifically, how stunning it is that rich, white guys in the personal finance space can be so oblivious about their significant level of privilege.
Ramsey is notorious for his unyielding anti-debt stance. His cardinal rule is that followers should avoid debt of any kind, instead paying for everything — including homes and cars — in cash. Can’t afford to pay for a car in cash? Ramsey says you should just wait until you can save enough money, but doesn’t provide a solution for how you are supposed to get to work in the meantime. Many low-income people live in rural areas where public transportation is limited or nonexistent. And expecting working-class people to save up enough to pay for a safe, reliable car entirely in cash is asking a lot when many Americans couldn’t have managed to pay for a $400 emergency even before the pandemic.
He also believes credit scores are irrelevant and unnecessary — a hugely privileged take that only someone with the substantial resources it takes to live a completely cash lifestyle can afford. For regular, working-class folks, credit scores are an inevitable — and often painful — part of life, one that is frequently the source of considerable anxiety. Try renting an apartment with a bad credit score. These days, even insurance companies and employers often routinely check your credit score — if yours isn’t good, it may result in higher insurance premiums or a revoked job offer.
For someone so…