Talk-show host Dave Ramsey, who built a multimedia empire advising people how to get out of debt, is no fan of the stimulus check.
“I don’t believe in a stimulus check,” the CEO of Nashville-based Ramsey Solutions said recently on Fox News when he was asked how much should be in the next pandemic-relief payment, which Congress is still debating.
Ramsey went on to say, “If $600 or $1,400 changes your life, you’re pretty much screwed already. You’ve got other issues going on.” He then suggested that these other issues could include excessive debt, relationship troubles or mental illness.
Ramsey’s response was swiftly derided on Twitter, where several people posted a video of the exchange. One person posted a photo of Ramsey’s house, reported to be part of an estate worth $4.9 million for which he paid cash; another responded, “says the rich white guy.” A few questioned his Christian values. (Ramsey closes every show by saying that the only way to have financial peace is to “walk daily with the prince of peace, Christ Jesus.”)
And even people who say they are fans winced at Ramsey’s characterization of people who say the stimulus checks are life-changing.
One person who goes by the handle “Cincinnati Sports” said, “That’s kind of offensive, dude. I’m actually a fan. But my business is literally devastated because of the pandemic.”
The on-air conversation began with a discussion about student loan forgiveness. Some Democrats are calling on President Joe Biden to forgive $50,000 in student loan debt per individual, rather than the $10,000 previously discussed.
Ramsey agreed with the host, who said there is a “moral hazard” in forgiving debt when the debtor has signed a contract and agreed to the terms. And he said the argument that loan forgiveness would stimulate the economy is “economic hogwash” and that forgiveness of $50,000 in debt would mostly benefit high-income workers.
But it was his answer about the stimulus checks that most upset people on social media. According to a recent poll, 78% of Americans (including two-thirds of Republicans) support another round of government aid to follow payments of $1,200 and $600 approved for some Americans last year.
After saying if a check changes a person’s life, he or she has other issues going on, Ramsey elaborated, saying, “You have a career problem, you have a debt problem, you have a relationship problem, you have a mental health problem — something else is going on if $600 changes your life.”
He quickly added, “That’s not talking down to folks.
“I’ve been bankrupt, I’ve been broke, and I work with people every day who are hurting. I love people. I want people to be lifted up. But again, this is just political rhetoric, and it’s just throwing dollars out there; it’s peeing on a forest fire. It’s absolutely ridiculous.”
Ramsey said that student-loan forgiveness and stimulus checks are a political gimmick by progressives “simply trying to buy votes.” The increased amount of debt forgiveness is supported by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer as well as Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, among other Democrats.
Stimulus payments, however, were begun under a Republican administration, that of former President Donald Trump, and have the support of many Republicans who believe they are an important component of economic recovery. In addition, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell supports more federal stimulus, recently saying he believes the true unemployment rate is higher than reported.
“Given the number of people who have lost their jobs and the likelihood that some will struggle to find work in the post-pandemic economy, achieving and sustaining maximum employment will require more than supportive monetary policy. It will require a society-wide commitment, with contributions from across government and the private sector,” Powell said Wednesday.
Ramsey, who was No. 3 on Talkers magazine’s 2020 list of the most influential people in talk radio (behind No. 1 Rush Limbaugh and No. 2 Sean Hannity), did not respond to the controversy on his Twitter account. And it’s not the only criticism he’s faced lately.
A television station in Nashville has reported that Ramsey’s company threw a holiday party where people were not required to wear masks and that a longtime employee says she was fired after her husband criticized the company.
And in January, Religion News Service reporter Bob Smietana reported on complaints by former employees that Ramsey Solutions has a “cultlike environment” and is run “more like a church than a business.” The report described Ramsey yelling at employees, said the company has has lax standards for COVID-19, and gave details about a lawsuit filed by an employee who was fired for having premarital sex after she got pregnant.
In response to Religion News Services’ request for comment, the public relations office at Ramsey Solutions issued a sarcastic reply, which was sent to more than 1,000 other people, saying, “We want to confirm for you that you are right, we are horrible evil people. We exist to simply bring harm to our team, take advantage of our customers, and spread COVID. And YOU figured it all out, wow.”
The statement, which RNS posted on its website, also mocked the reporter personally and said people should contact him with other stories. The statement described the article as a “hit piece” full of “confirmation bias.”