All the talk about the country's economy roaring back to its pre-Recession glory overlooks one startling fact: The 1 percent is grabbing the lion's share of our economic growth. A recent report from the Economic Policy Institute disclosed that, since the recovery began, "incomes of the top 1 percent grew faster than the bottom 99 percent in every state except West Virginia," and that "in 17 of these states, the top 1 percent captured 100 percent of income growth."

If our recovery is only hitting those that the recession hurt least, we have a problem.

The civil rights issue of our times is the intensifying inequality between the haves and have nots. We must not turn our backs on 100 million Americans–because the fate of the poor is the fate of us all. If those at the bottom no longer believe that following the rules of education, hard work, clean living and paying taxes will lead to opportunities for success, society is screwed.

Unleashing economic energy of the poor
The poor don't just need "help;" they need investment. They need to be treated as customers and job creators. It's well documented that poor neighborhoods have enormous unmet need for mainstream services–everything from banking to gas stations to grocery stores. Meeting that need provides a step toward producing effective economic energy.

Poor communities represent enormous resources of wealth creation and opportunity just waiting to be unleashed. Project 5117 is a program to set this opportunity in motion. It focuses on empowering people earning less than $50,000 a year through home ownership counseling, credit card debt management, and comprehensive training in entrepreneurship. 

Providing access to finance and financial literacy is the underlying solution to creating job opportunities–not just government-sponsored jobs.

Overturning myths
In order to secure a full, deep economic recovery across all swathes of our nation, we must overturn myths that the poor are somehow not relevant to our economic growth–or that they're responsible for their poverty and did this to themselves.

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John Hope Bryant is the Founder, Chairman and CEO of Operation HOPE and Bryant Group Companies, Inc. Magazine/CEO READ bestselling business author of LOVE LEADERSHIP: The New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World (Jossey-Bass)His newest bestselling book is How The Poor Can Save Capitalism (Berrett Koehler Publishing).

Bryant is a Member of the U.S. President's Advisory Council on Financial Capability for Young Americans, and co-chair for Project 5117, which is a plan for the rebirth of underserved America.

Bryant is the only bestselling author on economics who is also African-American.

 

Credit: A special thanks to Architects Of Group Genius, which produced the HOPE Doctrine on Poverty movie on a pro-bono basis for Operation HOPE.

Follow John Hope Bryant on LinkedIn Influencers here.

Posted by Natasha Eldridge, Office of the Chairman

 

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