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Book Review: ‘How the Poor Can Save Capitalism’ by John Hope Bryant

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When politicians talk about poverty, they throw out grim statistics: numbers unemployed, numbers on public assistance, numbers incarcerated, and numbers of high school dropouts, for example. When businessman and thought leader John Hope Bryant talks about poverty, he talks about opportunity — the potential entrepreneurs, homeowners, and community builders who are waiting for their turn at the American Dream.

John Hope Bryant

John Hope Bryant

Bryant, who serves on the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability for Young Americans, and is founder, chairman, and CEO of Operation HOPE, a nonprofit banker for the working poor, the under-served, and the struggling middle class, is passionate on the subject of financial inclusion. In his brilliant and inspiring new book, How the Poor Can Save Capitalism: Rebuilding the Path to the Middle Class (Berrett-Koehler, 2014), he builds a convincing argument for why raising up the least financially empowered consumers in America is great for the entire economic health of our country. Why? Because the bulk of our massive economy is driven by consumer spending, not by business or government. And the top spenders in our country are not the super wealthy. They’re the bottom 80% of the American workforce — the people who live paycheck to paycheck, and often have “too much month at the end of their money.”

Bryant explores the historical drivers of poverty, and shows why the real reasons people remain in poverty are because they lack self-confidence and self-esteem, positive role models, and opportunity. To address each of these deficits, he presents The HOPE Plan, which lays out: steps to create widespread financial literacy and financial access; strategies for encouraging employment and entrepreneurship; and concrete guidelines for ensuring that human capital needs are met and opportunity for all becomes real. Bryant believes it is possible to create financial inclusion through educational initiatives, tax incentives, credit reform, business and community development projects, and governmental posts and policy changes. What it’s going to take is positive change and action.

HOW THE POOR CAN SAVE CAPITALISMTo jump start such action, he presents detailed, step-by-step recommendations that government, business, and community leaders can implement to get real change happening in our economy. America’s poor and middle class people have a right to financial literacy, inclusion, and empowerment, just as wealthy people do. Yet basics that many of us take for granted — having a bank account, for example, or understanding the value of a decent credit score — remain out of reach for millions of Americans. He insists that it doesn’t require radical changes to create results. If we start teaching financial literacy in schools and encourage entrepreneurial development in our children, our economy could see major improvement within a generation.

Bryant paints a portrait of an America where everyone, not just the privileged class, has a bank account, understands how credit scores work, has the ability to get a low-interest mortgage, earns enough money to stay out of debt, and has the support and resources to either find work or create their own business. After reading this book, I was filled with hope, rather than doubt. Many highly esteemed leaders, including President Bill Clinton and civil rights leader Andrew Young, have praised and endorsed How the Poor Can Save Capitalism. I humbly add my name to that list. This book is a winner, and should be required reading for every high school civics class and included in every business school curriculum.

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About Patricia Gale

Patricia Gale has written and ghostwritten hundreds of blogs and articles that have appeared on sites such as Psychology Today, Forbes, and Huffington Post, and in countless national newspapers and magazines. Her "beat" is health, business, career, self-help, parenting, and relationships.
  • bliffle

    Of course Bryant is right: the vast majority of money spent in the US economy comes from the least wage earners. What they lack in individual spending they make up in numbers. The wealthy contribute very little to the general economy even though a few of their expensive baubles make the news for their garishness. In fact, the wealthy withdraw a substantial portion of their money FROM the economy and put it in foreign savings where it does little good for Americans: the various TARP and whatnot plans to save the US economy during the Bush administration resulted in a $5trillion (that’s ‘trillion’, with a ‘t’) increase in savings by the wealthy and corporations. Those savings do NOT get invested for the simple reason that the savers do not want them invested! That is the part of their booty that they want in a safe place, like cash or cash equivalents (like gold), or bonds (usually US treasury notes), so they are ready for the day when the peasants finally realize they’ve been fleeced and they rise up in anger with blood in their eyes and the plutocrats have to head for the Caymans to join their money in exile. Just like any corrupt potentate, say, Yanukovich.

    Economists have known this for a long time, every since they started studying mathematics (good grief! What a revolutionary idea! Use mathematics and calculus to study NUMBERS!).

    But with all that extra cash laying around the wealthy and the privileged corporations have a good way to get better looking academic results: BUY IT! Thus, suborn a few major schools to establish a bogus econ department, like University of Chicago, in your favor, buy judases to masquerade as legitimate academics, arrange a lot of flashy payoffs, like endowed foundations, expensive job trips, socially seductive meetings, etc.

    Bingo! You have Alan Greenspan, an unlettered man who wouldn’t know an Eigen function if he woke up in bed with one, Milton Freidman, whose grandfatherly demeanor lulled people into trusting a man who is the abject puppet of his nazi wife who always seems ready to spring into action to solve the poverty problem by bringing back those ultra-efficient German ovens for the perpetual solution while grandpa grins in the background. Or you have F.A. Hayek, a practised judas, awaiting his mentors death to denounce his policies and a chance to set America on the road to serfdom.

    And you have “Supply side economics” which depends utterly on demand side economics working: it cannot work without full demand and even supporters admitted it! It was a crackpot idea, like trying to fly an airplane entirely with the trim-tabs and not using the rudder or elevators.

    And then you get your chance to strut your stuff: Pinochet is back in power in Chile! Whoopee! And all that took was another disgrace for the USA by subverting the Chilean revolution against Feudalism (a politic that has never failed to return a HUGE ROI to it’s investors) and CIA murder of an elected President (just like Mossadegh in Iran 20 years earlier!). So we get “the Chicago boys”, trained in Milton Freidmans laisse faire economics, and the first thing they do is grab all the money that old pensioners saved up and give it to oligarchs to invest in public assets for private pelf!

    The poor and middleclass are the only ones who can save us. Geniuses and creators, and job-creators too, come disproportionally from the lower reaches of the economy. All the top dogs produce is effete hangers-on!