Tuesday, October 25, 2011

An Open Letter to Dave Ramsey Re: Occupy Wall Street

Dear Dave:

I used to be a dedicated follower of your program. I bought your books, software, envelope system, and I even came to your live event here in Birmingham with my wife in 2007. I wanted to get out of debt and make a better financial life for my family than it was currently projecting to be. Then, well, a year later the whole financial world turned upside down. Unfortunately, I am still in debt, although now making solid progress. I'm working 60 hours per week at nights as an RN, so I am quite busy, as you can imagine. I still get your emails and follow you on Twitter because I still find good insights from you. That said, I just read your message to the Occupy Wall Street protesters.

I have two questions for you...What planet are you living on??!!?? Where have you been for the last 30 years?? I'm only 31 years old and I think I've been a lot more cognizant of what's going on in this country than you in the last 30 years. For someone who talks about "throwing the bums out of Washington" so much you clearly have no idea what's really going on in Washington. So let me provide you with a little history lesson and then maybe you'll understand why folks are occupying Wall Street.

It's simple really. And it's really not so shocking why people are so upset. I'm not even going to get into all the specifics. I've done so before here in my blog and it's well documented elsewhere, not to mention, it's history. This stuff really happened. Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980 and famously said in his inaugural address, "...government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem." And thus began the era of "Reaganomics": deregulation of Wall Street firms, tax cuts that were mostly beneficial to the wealthiest Americans and largest corporations, and a promise of "trickle-down" effects for the rest of us. Because "a rising tide lifts all boats." Republicans and Democrats (but especially Republicans) have been responsible for the repeal of many regulations on the financial sector, many put in place after lessons learned from the Great Depression. And why has our government been so interested in the last 30 years in deregulating and tax cutting and creating tax loopholes?

Greed! You were right in this part of your message. Greed is bad. It corrupts. The point of a company is to make money. I get that. Everyone gets that. I'm cool with that. But in the last 30 years these Wall Street firms and largest corporations and the wealthiest individuals have been lining the pockets of Congressmen and women and Senators and donating to their PACs and now, thanks to the Supreme Court's Citizen's United ruling, Super PACs to get their agenda pushed through congress as legislation. Never in the history of America has there been so much special interest and monetary influence in our government and politics. Can you imagine? A corporation is a person? Can a multinational corporation go to the polls and vote? No, but it can donate unlimited amounts of cash to influence that election. Most Americans don't have unlimited amounts of money with which to influence their congressman or Senator. So the corporations line the pockets of the politicians and the politicians craft laws that make the corporations rich beyond their wildest dreams. And the real constituents of the Congress is Wall Street and the corporations, no matter who voted them in. Our government is corrupt, and the Occupy Wall Street protesters know it.

As the corporations have gotten their way with our legislature, they've also become greedy in another way. They've found that they can move production of their products to third world countries where labor is much cheaper. Millions of good American jobs have been slashed and shipped overseas. And the CEOs of these companies, they've earned a nice fat bonus!

You know it's funny, I've heard a lot of conservatives protect these CEOs and their wealth just like you do, saying, "leave them alone, the government shouldn't increase taxes on them, they've worked hard and earned their money." I know a lot of them have worked hard to get where they are and to earn their money. But when an executive uses that money to influence (bribe) their government in an effort to keep even more of his or her money, that executive is corrupt, and is no longer working hard. And sadly, more often than not, this is the case.

Your whole section on "Wall Street is Evil" is disingenuous, and you know it. These people do understand what is going on in this country. People understand history. The protesters understand the corruption in our government and that our government is bought. They want money out of politics. They want their voices to be heard through their votes, not their pocketbooks. But no matter how much they vote, they know their politicians will never legislate in a way beneficial to them. The tax cuts and loopholes are being kept for the rich. 

I'm calling bull-crap on your "wealth redistribution" nonsense. I am sick and tired of hearing that the poor and the democrats and the liberals and President Obama are a bunch of socialists who want wealth redistribution from the rich to the poor. Again, what planet have you been on for the last 30 years? The last 30 years have been nothing but Republican tax policies that have redistributed all the wealth from the poor and middle class to the rich. Wages for the working class have been stagnant for the last 40 years while CEOs' pay has increased 300%. It's sick that the top 0.1%, 400 individuals, have more wealth, than the bottom 150 million Americans combined. None of this was true in the 1960s and 1970s. It all started with Ronald Reagan and tax cuts and tax loopholes for the wealthiest Americans and the largest corporations and financial firms. And now, since the meltdown of 2008, the wealth gap is at its widest since the 1920s! Just like it was before the Great Depression. Corporate profits are at an all time high, and so is executive pay. You can quit this "wealth redistribution" crap. It's been redistributed in the last 30 years all the way to the top. So when we say "Tax the Rich", it's because they've got all the money! Or should I say, You've got all the money! This country has been great to you in the last 30 years, I think it's time for you and the rest of the 1% to contribute back to the country that made you so wealthy, to the recovery, to the debt repayment, and to the shattered economy that was caused by the 1%. Yes, it was caused by the 1%

If I had to name one law that was repealed, in the name of deregulation, that had more to do with the financial meltdown of 2008 it would be, of course, Glass-Steagall. The repeal of this law allowed the formation of the financial giant Citigroup and many that followed, financial centers that provided consumer banking services as well as asset management services, ie. playing the stock market. It wasn't long before these banking giants were taking consumer deposits and betting them on complex derivatives and credit default swaps and making bad loans to people who had no business getting them for houses they could never afford. Before we knew it the bottom fell out and all the banks had all these toxic assets on their balance sheets. These mega-banks didn't have our money, the money we deposited for safe keeping, because they had squandered it betting it junk. Then Hank Paulson and George Bush and our bought Congress forced us, the taxpayers, to bail out these same greedy, self-serving elitists, because these banks were now "too big to fail." And once they were bailed out, these executives had the gall to give themselves MILLIONS of dollars in bonuses each! They said they had to keep the best and the brightest on their staffs! And then when a few members of congress decided to stand up and put their foot down, these same executives spent more money and sent more lobbyists to Washington to water down or altogether stop reform legislation on Wall Street. And now these same greedy executives are implementing charges and fees on people's accounts just so they can access their own money. Dave, people are down there on Wall Street protesting these abuses that are systemic in our financial system and aided and abetted by our government, and you're telling us to boycott McDonald's. You insult my intelligence and the intelligence of everyone who is occupying.  No one is trying to take McDonald's profits, and if that's what you really think, then you're the clown.

In your letter you said, "This is the greatest country on the planet, but even here, you're not guaranteed wealth, talent, fame, a full head of hair or six-pack abs." I'm here to tell you that most people don't want any of those things (although personally I would like to be debt free and have six-pack abs). But they would like a government that truly represented them, not the corporations that buys them off. They would like to be taxed fairly in relation to those in higher tax brackets. It really isn't fair that Warren Buffet pays only 17% tax while his secretary pays 35%! These people are not envious at all. They've been knocked down and kicked after doing everything right. It's a statistical fact that there are 5 job applicants for every 1 job available. So when you say grow up and go get a job, I ask, what do you think brought them to march on Wall Street? You might be surprised to learn that many, if not most, of these have graduated from college and cannot find a job, no matter how hard they've looked. And not even McDonald's is hiring that many college graduates for even entry-level jobs. These people just want a fair shake.

Dave, I hope you will read and consider my letter. I hope you will change your views. You constantly call yourself a Christian. Do you believe Christ would agree with the wealthy having lower tax rates than the poor? Do you believe Christ would approve of corporations' influence to write the tax code to benefit them while doing economic harm to this country's working class? Do you believe Christ would approve of your disingenuous letter to these Occupy Wall Street protesters? There are injustices in this country. They are waged by an elite minority at the very top. I have two jobs as an RN and I thank God everyday that I can provide for my family. But I have eyes that see and ears that hear. If I could be there in Zuccotti Park, I would be the most vocal protester. You can live in denial since you live at the top and have your radio show and sell your products. But don't you dare insult the intelligence of the people who are out there and now spread all across this country protesting the injustices of the last 30 years! We will no longer be silent and stand idly by while our futures are torn and shredded by the 1%! We are calling for change and reform and we will not be silenced by the 1%!

Joshua LaDeau

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