Dave Ramsey: “I’m Doubt Free!!!!!!”

Dave Ramsey is famous for telling people to get out of debt and live like paupers until they do. Of course, if everyone followed his advice, our economy would look quite different today.  But never mind that.

Ramsey should know something about the subject of debt since he had to file bankruptcy in the late 1980s due to creditors demanding that he pay them back a lot of money he owed them. 

So, how did he become so famous, and so rich, today?  Why, naturally he started counseling folks on how not to end up in bankruptcy like he did, that’s how.  And he wrote books.  And he started a radio show, which is on hundreds of stations around the country.  People call him up and sometimes scream, “I’m debt free!!!!!!

As far as that goes, more power to him.  Everyone should profit from their mistakes in life, as far as I’m concerned.  I wish I could figure out a Ramsey-esque way to handsomely profit from years of slurping up conservative nonsense, but nothing comes readily to mind.

Anyway, along with Ramsey’s mostly common-sense advice, he often mixes in a little Christianity and a lot of dead-certain right-wing political philosophy.

His financial advice column in today’s Joplin Globe was no exception:

Dear Dave,

I recently lost my job due to layoffs. I’m luckier than most, because I’m debt-free except for my house, and I have three months of expenses saved. I’ll also receive a severance package from my former employer, and my wife still has her job. I’m struggling with whether or not to file for unemployment compensation. Do you think it’s morally okay to do this?


Now, I’ve always been curious as to why folks like “Brent” would write a complete stranger and ask him for moral advice.  I find that a little weird.  It seems to me that if you’re morally confused or conflicted about something, you might want to talk to someone close to you, who knows you and your situation a little better than a guy sitting behind a microphone, or who might be hunched over a keyboard in his dark basement clad in Scooby-Doo skivvies with a bag of cheese puffs pecking out Iron Age wisdom with carrot-colored fingers.

In any case, here is part of Ramsey’s reply:

Dear Brent,

I don’t have a problem, morally or otherwise, with accepting something I’ve already paid for. The Social Security system in this country is a complete and abysmal mathematical failure. It’s proof that socialism doesn’t work. But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to take my money out. The government took it from me in the first place!

You will note that poor Brent did not ask for a lecture on the evils of Social Security or socialism, nor did he ask for commentary on government “taking” taxes like a common thief.  He simply wanted to know if it were moral, given Brent’s obvious sympathy with Ramsey’s Christian world view, to apply for an unemployment check.

No doubt, Ramsey gave Brent the assurance he was probably looking for, despite his internal conflict.  Brent knew that his personal right-wing quasi-biblical philosophy obligated him to reject taking “something for nothing,” and getting unemployment benefits seems like getting something for nothing.  But Dave made it okay for him to indulge, just this one time at least.*

But I have the response that Ramsey, if he followed the logic of his worldview, should have given Brent:

Dear Brent,

What kind of deadbeat are you?  You sound like an Obama supporter to me. No wonder your boss cut you loose.  You should just be grateful that your kind and godly employer gave you a parting gift and not participate in that socialistic unemployment compensation scheme.  That’s for losers.

And by the way, that’s what’s wrong with this country.  People like you who want to live at other people’s expense. Why don’t you go find a job?  And don’t tell me there aren’t any jobs out there.  Go down to McDonald’s and ask them if you can clean their toilets for three bucks and hour.  That’s better than sitting around on your liberal keister soaking up funds you don’t deserve.  How long do you think the producers of this world are going to keep taking care of lazy people like you?

God bless,



* Oddly, the Dave Ramseys of the world, who presumably believe in the sacrificial efforts of Jesus to save the world, have no problem with taking salavation–which they didn’t earn themselves–from the Savior.

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  1. Angelfire

     /  April 22, 2011

    Whoa, Brent asked Dave about unemployment benefits. NOT Social Security. They’re hardly the same.

    Social Security is 6.2% of your gross wages MATCHED by your employer. Medicare same thing except it’s like 1.45%.

    Unemployment benefits are an entirely different animal, paid ONLY by the employer to the state and federal. The more claims an employer has filed the more costly the unemployment insurance. It is NOT cheap.

    Dave should know this surely.


  2. Ramsey does a public service IMO by urging people to get out of debt, but I too can do without the moralizing.

    As for Social Security, I think it can be morally justified because of the specialized nature of modern life. HPeople get their shorts in knots over fairness all the time, but human beings have never been totally self-sufficient, even when we were all hunter-gatherers. Even then, each was dependent on others of his tribe for defense and help when lame, sick or wounded. Social Security simply makes the tribe a lot larger.

    That said, the success of Social Security doesn’t mean we shouldn’t leave some incentive for people to save and invest for their old age. It was always meant to be a mere base to build on, not to be comfortable on as sole support. And that is the way it should be, IMO.

    I didn’t know about Ramsey’s bankruptcy, but so what? He gives generally good advice, and it’s free. Except for having to swallow the moralizing. Still seems cheap. Society would be better off in the long run if people bought less stuff. Markets would adjust just fine.


  3. ansonburlingame

     /  April 23, 2011

    To all,

    Getting into debt is EASY. Getting out of debt is HARD.

    Ramsey says don’t do the first and when you do so anyhow then do the hard work to get out of it. He then provides advice on exactly what hard work to do to get out of debt. And surprise, he says you must live BELOW your own means, pay off the debt and then resume a better life by living within your means.

    Sounds pretty good to me.

    What is wrong with that message and what does that fundamental message have to do with SS or unemployment?



  4. Anonymous

     /  August 19, 2012

    Ramsey does give some sound financial advice. But his political and religious comments make me sick.


    • Yes, he gives common-sense advice for the most part, although he is somewhat fanatical about debt. Wise debt makes the economy work.

      But I couldn’t agree more about his political and religious sermonizing. It keeps me tuned out.



  5. tom

     /  September 6, 2012

    his political and religious comments make me sick


  6. Let’s see, you think it’s questionable for Brent to take advice from Dave Ramsey because he doesn’t have a personal relationship with him. But you expect people who read your blog to trust that you do understand Ramsey (even though you don’t know him either) because you’ve divined what advice Brent should have gotten from Ramsey if only Ramsey understood his own principles as well as seem to without knowing him. Ah, I’m gonna to say no to that.

    Your repugnant response in your “Dear Brent” letter is nothing but a straw man argument that tries to assume conservatives who are Christian are the types who “lay up burdens but don’t life a finger to remove them.” It might interest you to know that conservatives give, on average, 4 times more than liberals do at matching levels of income.

    It’s perfectly consistent to use a program that you pay into (and advise others to likewise use it who’ve also paid in) while not advocating for that program. You might belong to a union (not by choice) yet fight against forced unionism. It’s no argument that you can’t fight against it simply because you’ve benefitted by actions that it took on your behalf.

    In other words it’s okay to hold different principles than those who think they’ve already devised the best structure, program, model, etc. That’s is how new ideas form.


    • You know, John, I think you’re right. It is perfectly sensible for Brent to ask Ramsey whether it is “morally okay” to file for unemployment benefits. After all, Brent obviously thinks that Ramsey has some kind of expertise, if not authority, to speak about the morality of taking compensation that one is legally entitled to. I guess what amazes me about the whole thing is that listening to Dave Ramsey is apparently what has made Brent so hesitant to apply for out-of-work benefits in the first place. In other words, it is quite likely that Ramsey, and the political philosophy associated with him, is the source of the moral confusion over whether to take unemployment compensation. So, I suppose, it is weirdly logical for Brent to go to the source and get his answer.

      And I also agree with you that in some cases one can use a program, or a system, that one does not like. But you have to admit that if one argues that a particular program or system is “immoral” because it tends to hurt people (like conservatives often argue about New Deal-type programs), one has a higher bar to jump in order to justify using it.

      I do, though, want to take on your false assertion:

      It might interest you to know that conservatives give, on average, 4 times more than liberals do at matching levels of income.

      It might interest you to know that a real study published a year ago (“Who Really Gives? Partisanship and Charitable Giving in the United States“), by real political scientists, discovered that the myth of the generous conservative and the stingy liberal is just that, a myth. The study found that, “adjusting for differences in income and religiosity,” any difference in giving “vanishes.” More:

      Finally, we show that any remaining differences in giving are an artifact of Republicans’ greater propensity to give to religious causes, particularly their own church. Taken together, our results counter the notion that political conservatives compensate for their opposition to governmental intervention by supporting private charities.

      When Mittens Romney was credited with giving away more of his income than Obama (29.4% to 21.8%), most people didn’t take into account that most of Mittens’ money went to the Mormon church rather than to secular groups with a social purpose. And as anyone who has ever given to a church knows, most of the money doesn’t go to help, say, poor folks. Most of the money goes to overhead, like utilities, maintenance, staff salaries, etc.

      Nice try, though.


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