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Controversial Suze...

If you thought Tom's interview with Suze Orman today got off to an intense start, you should check out the sparks flying in a couple of high-profile online columns this week.

In a full-frontal assault on Orman in Slate's financial-news spinoff The Big Money, James Spurlock wonders "why the masses continue to invest their faith in Suze Orman in the wake of a financial meltdown she never saw coming."  Tom put that question (more or less) straight to Orman, and she replied that in fact she did see the meltdown coming and warned her audience.

But Portfolio.com's Felix Salmon, responding to Spurlock in a column titled "In Praise of Suze Orman," argues that Spurlock's attack misses the point. Salmon writes:

Orman is not some kind of stock-market pundit whose job is to predict macroeconomic financial meltdown. She's a personal-finance guru whose job is to help women manage their household finances in a healthy manner.

Yes, Orman lards her books with no small amount of Oprah-level pop-psychology — but when she does so, she's generally right. It's easy for the analytically-skilled elite of the information economy to scoff at such things, but something as basic as spending less than you earn really is akin to eating fewer calories than you burn: conceptually easy, but very hard in practice, especially when the world seems to be conspiring against you at every step. And succeeding in such matters requires a level of psychological discipline, while failing in them often has psychological causes....

Orman is not some get-rich-quick shill: she basically peddles common sense, which is a commodity the country could do with a lot more of.

You can hear her in action on today's show, and tell us what you think.

This program aired on February 13, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.

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