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Opinion No, needing a $1,400 stimulus check doesn’t mean you messed up

Personal finance guru Dave Ramsey speaks to a crowd at Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City on Feb. 19, 2011. (Jackson Laizure/Getty Images)

Politicians in Washington have argued for weeks over who should receive the next covid relief check. Should people with an annual income of $75,000 be eligible for the full amount? Or just those who in 2019 earned a more modest $50,000?

Yet, according to Christian personal finance guru Dave Ramsey, a guest on Fox News’s “America’s Newsroom” this Thursday, no one needs the extra cash. “I don’t believe in a stimulus check, because if $600 or $1,400 changes your life, you were pretty much screwed already,” he told Fox News hosts Bill Hemmer and Dana Perino. “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.” Another stimulus check, Ramsey added, is “peeing on a forest fire.” Perino chimed in with “I imagine that that does not work,” and Hemmer and Ramsey laughed as the segment ended.

Our pandemic economic woes are not a joke — good for a chuckle from a bunch of wealthy Americans. It’s not utterly hilarious that, according to a recent analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities,11 percent of U.S. adults said that they did not have enough food to eat at some point in the previous seven days. Eighty percent of them said they couldn’t afford to buy it.

It’s not amusing that 5 million Americans couldn’t pay their December housing bill, and that according to a survey released this week by the Mortgage Bankers Association, a majority of them said they would possibly get evicted or go into foreclosure within a matter of weeks if the situation did not change. It’s certainly not a knee-slapper that the jobs recovery is weak at best, and that weekly unemployment claims came in Thursday morning at 793,000. And it’s not laugh-out-loud funny that state unemployment systems remain completely overwhelmed almost a year into the pandemic.

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Almost a year into covid-19, many industries remain under severe strain. Poll after poll shows that a large majority of Americans, including a majority of Republicans, supports another four-figure stimulus check. Strangely enough, most of us don’t believe that hunger and pending homelessness is all that amusing, and we think it would be a good thing for the government to do what it can to help others out.

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A word about Ramsey: Many think of him as a well-meaning personal finance guru who can help people change their lives for the better. But actually, Ramsey uses his five-day-a-week, three-hour-a-day radio show to preach his conservative political philosophy, while at the same time promoting an unforgiving approach to personal finance.

Since the beginning of the covid-19 pandemic, Ramsey has denied the reality of the economic pain it has inflicted. Last March, he told people experiencing pandemic-related financial woes to “go get you a part-time job” and “get some extra work,” as if that were an easy feat at a time when the economy was going into a deep freeze. More than 10 million filed unemployment claims in one month, and Ramsey appeared convinced many were voluntarily “quitting” their employment over coronavirus fears.

None of this should surprise us. During the financial crisis, Ramsey — whose radio show simultaneously aired on Fox Business from 2007 to 2010 — claimed that people could choose to not participate in the recession, and cast doubt on the impact of inequality on people’s finances. He argues that most Americans run into financial trouble because they are “stupid,” a word he tossed around repeatedly on this Thursday’s Fox News segment.

His Thursday afternoon radio show featured more of the same. Ramsey followed up on his Fox News remarks by telling listeners that anyone who wanted or needed a stimulus check is “looking to the government to save your life.” Well, yes, they are — and rightly so. Government exists to protect us, both physically and economically. The latter is a truth that right-wingers have denied and fought against for decades.

Submit your questions for Dr. Leana S. Wen’s coronavirus live chat on Feb. 19

No one believes that $600 or $1,400 will miraculously solve all their financial woes. Americans are most certainly not “stupid” because they failed to save up enough money to survive almost a year of un- or underemployment. They do think the extra money from the federal government will help them stave off eviction, feed their children or help them get by for another few weeks in a pandemic-fueled recession — or otherwise help them improve their lives. Last spring, many used their pandemic checks to pay down debt.

A new $1,400 government stimulus check will buy Americans in need some time and some peace of mind. It’s horrible that hosts on a major cable network — even if that network is Fox News — would find any of this funny. People need help. They don’t deserve insults, contempt or laughter.

Read more:

The Post’s View: Why increasing the stimulus checks from $600 to $2,000 is a bad idea

Jennifer Rubin: Here is why the stimulus check should be bigger

Helaine Olen: Americans deserve a $15 an hour minimum wage. Congressional Republicans don’t agree.

Paul Waldman: Why Democrats are divided on who gets stimulus checks

Lawrence H. Summers: The Biden stimulus is admirably ambitious. But it brings some big risks, too.

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