How the Poor Can Save Capitalism: Rebuilding the Path to the Middle Class
John Hope Bryant
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John Hope Bryant, successful self-made businessman and founder of the nonprofit Operation HOPE, says business and political leaders are ignoring the one force that could truly re-energize the stalled American economy: the poor. If we give poor communities the right tools, policies, and inspiration, he argues, they will be able to lift themselves up into the middle class and become a new generation of customers and entrepreneurs.
Raised in poverty-stricken, gang-infested South Central Los Angeles, Bryant saw firsthand how our institutions have abandoned the poor. He details how business loans, home loans, and financial investments have vanished from their communities. After decades of deprivation, the poor lack bank accounts, decent credit scores, and any real firsthand experience of how a healthy free enterprise system functions.
Bryant radically redefines the meaning of poverty and wealth. (It's not just a question of finances; it's values too.) He exposes why attempts to aid the poor so far have fallen short and offers a way forward: the HOPE Plan, a series of straightforward, actionable steps to build financial literacy and expand opportunity so that the poor can join the middle class.
Fully 70 percent of the American economy is driven by consumer spending, but more and more people have too much month at the end of their money. John Hope Bryant aspires to “expand the philosophy of free enterprise to include all of God's children” and create a thriving economy that works not just for the 1 percent or even the 99 percent but for the 100 percent. This is a free enterprise approach to solving the problem of poverty and raising up a new America.
schools, top-flight educational access, and educational resources. They also possess a natural network of family relationships to help them navigate circles of power and influence. People making $100,000 or more a year are not necessarily on Easy Street, but they do live on a different street in the ways that matter most. They typically hold advanced degrees, and as a result they retain the invaluable set of college relationships that continues to pay both financial and nonfinancial opportunity
billion), and rent-to-own transactions ($7 billion).3 Unfortunately, far too many of today’s alternative financial services providers fall into essentially the same camp of bad selfishness that was practiced during the Jim Crow era in the South. But when an industry has annual revenues of $321 billion, you’d better believe that those benefiting will protect their interests at all costs, so the approach of this more modern group is a bit more sophisticated—or so they’d like to think. They may not
and kept it moving. A Generation of Leaders What a man! A humble black man in casual slacks and a yellow polo shirt, wielding a $36 notary stamp and business cards without a title, generating $20,000 per month in business cash flow. We need a thousand more people like him, a generation of entrepreneurs, small business owners, and self-employment projects. This in turn will create a generation of jobs for urban, inner-city, and rural low-wealth neighborhoods. This is something everyone could do,
Inside credit unions, HOPE Inside grocery stores and big box retailers. Our strategy envisions the deployment of more than one thousand bottom-up branch banks, called empowerment centers, throughout America. HOPE Inside aims to access a very rea- Project 5117 127 sonable and attainable 1 percent of the mainstream banking branch network. Apart from this, we also are launching HOPE Inside Plus, which involves licensing branches as well as training and certifying bank branch employees to become
or more service locations, for a total of 3,500 service and empowerment locations for low-wealth, working-poor, working-class, and struggling middle-class individuals, families, communities, and small businesses. Another two thousand school-based locations will empower at-risk youth with their own economic energy, tying education back to youth aspiration. 128 HARVESTING HOPE Credit Scores of 700 Other than perhaps love and God, nothing changes a person’s life more than raising his or her