Evangelical financial “guru” Dave Ramsey is known in the public these days as the Boss From Hell. He’s openly and proudly ignored COVID precautions in the workplace, planned a no-mask holiday party in December of 2020, and reportedly pulled out a gun during a staff meeting. He also micromanages the private lives of his employees, doing things like firing them for having sex before they’re married, because he believes working for him means everyone has to obey his version of Christian Fundamentalism at all times.
Last month, a former employee of Ramsey’s company filed a lawsuit alleging religious discrimination because he had asked to work from home to take care of his immunocompromised wife but was rejected for having a “weakness of spirit.”
But even if you don’t believe the accusations, we should at least be able to consider the words literally coming out of Ramsey’s mouth.
On the January 3 episode of The Ramsey Show, the hosts took an emailed question from Dan in Washington, D.C. (though the chyron says he’s from Wisconsin) who explained that he was a landlord who owned multiple properties. In recent years, rent prices have skyrocketed. Dan said that’s good news for him, sure, but it doesn’t help his tenants.
As a Christian, he wondered, was he obligated to raise his rent prices to meet the market demand… or keep them lower to prevent “direct hardship” to his tenants? Dan added, “I did not get into real estate to subsidize people’s living expenses, but I also didn’t get into real estate to displace families either.”
It’s a good question! It’s the sort of question you would want to ask a business guy who constantly promotes Christianity!
After pointing out that his own office is owned by someone else who may well raise rates when their lease is up for renewal, Ramsey raised a hypothetical: “Why does that make him a bad Christian?” Then he quickly answered it: “That was a passive-aggressive question. The answer is it doesn’t.”
Then we get to the part you see in the clip:
… I own rental property — single-family homes — among many other properties that we own, and if I raise my rent to be market rate, that does not make me a bad Christian.
I did not displace the person out of that house if they can no longer afford it. The marketplace did. The economy did. The ratio of the income that they earned to their housing expense displaced them. I didn’t cause any of that.
And so you are not displacing them. You’re taking too much credit for what’s going on. If they need to move to a cheaper house, because they can’t afford it, they’re gonna move to a lesser house, because if they move, they’re gonna pay market rent.
Ramsey went on to say in the segment that he might personally make exceptions for someone going through a hardship. (“Am I going to evict someone in the middle of chemo? No.”) But he soon came right back around to his main point: “This idea that you have to equate Christian and kindness with not having good marketplace experience is not true.”
That also implies that he has no problem kicking people out of their homes if they just lost their jobs, or had to take time off because they tested positive for COVID despite being asymptomatic, or needed to stay home because their kids’ schools had to shut down, or are just struggling because everyone is struggling.
All of this might actually make perfect sense if Ramsey marketed himself as a ruthless businessman. He doesn’t, though. Christianity is part of his branding. In his world, faith and prosperity go hand-in-hand.
What he doesn’t explicitly say is when the market clashes with the Bible, the desire for cash should win out over anything Jesus ever said about helping the poor.
It’s not like Ramsey advised the landlord to freeze rents for, say, two years if the tenants signed a long-term contract. He didn’t bother asking how well off the landlord was or if he could afford making slightly less money at a time when so many people are having trouble making ends meet.
Ramsey makes it sound like the families who can’t afford higher rents should either work harder or blame the government for their situation, as if their landlord’s greed is simply inevitable. He fails to account for how the greed of the privileged has contributed to the suffering of the masses.
It’s certainly the way he runs his own company, based on the complaints about him — with little regard for his employees’ health or personal situations. He hired them, his thinking seems to be, therefore he gets to control them. And if someone’s going through a rough patch, then too damn bad. There’s no room for compassion in his world except in the most extreme circumstances.
Ramsey believes that if you’re not making enough money, you’re to blame. Many years ago, there was an article posted on his company’s website listing the 20 things rich people do every day — suggesting that if we do those things, we can also gain wealth.
The list included things like exercising four days a week, listening to audiobooks on the way to work, waking up three hours before work begins, and reading for educational purposes for at least 30 minutes a day. Those may be great habits, but obviously, they’re things that wealthier people are more likely to have the ability to do.
As I wrote at the time,
Rich people usually have time to read, and they have money to spend on audio books (which they can listen to on the commute to work since they either have cars or can afford an iPod), and they have the option of eating healthier meals (which tend to be more expensive than fast-food fare), and they don’t usually have to worry about fighting in wars to make ends meet, or going to school at night while working during the day, or raising kids while juggling multiple jobs, etc. On the flip side, it’s hard to wake up three hours before work starts when you work multiple jobs and only get a few precious hours of sleep to begin with.
The list really shows us the results of being rich, not the reasons people become rich.
It’s clear Ramsey is no better at giving advice today and he refuses to acknowledge the economic realities for so many people today. No matter how much they work, they’re unable to overcome the obstacles placed in front of them.
And rather than tell a landlord that, if he can afford to freeze rents, then it’d be a mighty Christian gesture to do so, he immediately jumped to Do it, and if they can’t pay it, screw ‘em.
That’s the broken Christianity that Ramsey preaches.