EXPERT OPINION: Dave Ramsey has spent 25 years helping radio listeners climb out of debt. What does he see behind their economic anxiety?

Sitting in his wood-paneled studio, flanked by copies of his best-selling books and a Tennessee Volunteers football helmet autographed by Peyton Manning, Ramsey laments about something more fundamental: the loss of a certain kind of can-do thinking among the people who need it most. He is a conservative, fiscally and culturally, and sounds cautiously bullish about the economy under President Donald Trump. But he worries that more and more Americans of all political persuasions have become economically paralyzed, and are mistakenly looking to the government to help them solve their problems.

“There’s more of a hopelessness than I think there was,” Ramsey says. “If you don’t believe you can do it, you won’t do it. So as cheesy as it sounds, there’s a real reality in this discussion to hope. Does somebody believe that if I plant corn, I’m going to grow corn? That if I sell my car, take an extra job, get on a budget, don’t go on vacation, don’t go out to eat, and use all of that to clean up my debt, will it actually work? … That has more to do with hope than it does math.”