On Dave Ramsey

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I get my little fix of debt-reduction enthusiasm now by watching Dave Ramsey at the end of the day. A month ago I hadn’t heard of this guy, testament to my left-wing bubble, and he’s over there in that right-wing bubble. He’s on the radio somewhere; I’m not sure where, since I’m busy on the left end of the dial listening to public radio. There seem to be parallel, non-intersecting worlds of the jesus-loving debt reductioners like Ramsey and the liberal elite who hardly ever pay attention to personal money matters.

Okay, many of my left-wing colleagues are very responsible, frugal, and cool with being on budget. But no one talks about it.

I’m just talking about me.

I love this Ramsey guy. I like how compassionate he is with a caller in dire straits. He toes an interesting line between being damning and being non-judgmental, insisting on responsibility but understanding when people have gotten themselves into deep kaka. Frankly, he’s the best kind of Christian. I’m no Christian, religiously, but I hope to live up to the best values that this Jesus dude lived by. So I’m all for these values.

I get worried when the mantra of living within one’s own means gets displaced on to the macro-level of politics. Austerity works great at the individual level when one is trying to climb out of debt, but it is a horrible policy at the national level. I’ve written about this academically, and I have family who have suffered personally under austerity politics; but I’m being pseudonymous here so I can’t tell you what. But ask any macro-economist and they’ll tell you that influxes of money have multiplier effects. Economies do well with infusions of resources that circulate; they whither when starved. That doesn’t happen in a household, but it’s vital in a large political economy. So, anyway, Ramsey’s rant about “socialism” just doesn’t do it for me.

Maybe part of the polarization in this country is tied up with this confusion between political economy and personal economy. The right want austerity at all levels, the left at no level. That’s just stupid. The left needs to appreciate the need for personal austerity and the right needs to appreciate the need for societal economic infusions. These are not mutually exclusive! They can live side by side.

So I’m basically ignoring Ramsey’s politics and taking with a grain of salt his particular religious view and all the subtle patriarchal shit on his show — like praising the “ladies” who decide to get a side job.

But I still love this dude, and probably much of what I love is the result of his Christianity and his politics. So I just have to sit with this mass of contradictions. He’s taught me how to think about paying off debt, how to live responsibly, and how to flourish.

Thanks, Dave.