Helaine Olen profiles "the most important personal finance guru in America." Yes, it's Dave Ramsey.
Anger at predatory lenders and disgust with the indentured servitude of debt have been a huge part of America’s public consciousness since the financial crisis of 2008. They have fired the politics of Occupy Wall Street and the careers of financial reformers like Elizabeth Warren, who are calling for greater financial regulation, a stronger safety net, and efforts to reverse decades of increasing wealth inequality.
Ramsey takes the disgust with debt in a different direction. In his version of the story, the wider economy’s problems are not structural or political, but instead stem from the fact that most people, including his listeners, are weak-willed, self-indulgent, and stupid (he doesn’t shy from the word) when it comes to spending. “The problem with your money,” he often says with perfect certainty, “is the person in your mirror.” Once you get over the casual meanness of this message, it becomes clear how oddly reassuring it is. It assumes that we are in control. To his listeners, Ramsey holds out the promise that they can simply choose to be different—that it’s within their power to not take part in recessions and the economic troubles facing American families. “Debt is normal,” a Ramsey bumper sticker says. “Be weird.”
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