Synopsis: In “How the Poor Can Save Capitalism: Rebuilding the Path to the Middle Class”, 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.
Critique: A welcome breathe of fresh air into a stale and polarized national debate on how to reverse the steady decline of the American middle class, “How the Poor Can Save Capitalism: Rebuilding the Path to the Middle Class” is as inspired and inspiring as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking. Exceptionally well written, “How the Poor Can Save Capitalism: Rebuilding the Path to the Middle Class” is especially recommended to the attention of non-specialist general readers and governmental policy makers with an interest in restoring America to a sustained and sustainable economic prosperity for all its citizens and not just the top 1%. Also available in a Kindle edition ($9.48), “How the Poor Can Save Capitalism: Rebuilding the Path to the Middle Class” will prove to be an important and popular addition to community and academic library Economic Studies reference collections and supplemental reading lists.
– MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW, Mason’s Bookshelf
‘How the Poor Can Save Capitalism’ Review by Library Journal In this very readable short work, Bryant (founder of economic empowerment organization Operation Hope; Love Leadership: The New Way To Lead in a Fear-Based World) lays out his proposals to enable America’s economically “struggling” classes to take charge of their economic lives. He argues that social class, rather than race, determines whether Americans will succeed or fail in the current political and economic climate. After working his own way out of poverty, Bryant came to believe that self-esteem, solid role models, and an environment that delivers hope and opportunity are the keys to restoring the American dream. He also gives achievable goals to empower people: promoting self-esteem through financial literacy and entrepreneurial spirit; providing inspiration to demonstrate that hard work and persistence pay off; and helping those left behind to find opportunity, not dependence, and to take control rather than submit to impoverishment. Verdict: Bryant’s work is not ideological, partisan, or a panacea; rather it speaks in plain terms about how individuals, with help from society, can rise up out of poverty. A very uplifting and thought-provoking work. – DUNCAN STEWART Univ. of Iowa Libs., Iowa City Library Journal Booksmack! LJXpress Prepub School Library Journal Horn Book Guide Horn Book Magazine Junior Library Guild
“How the Poor Can Save Capitalism – Rebuilding the Path to the Middle Class” by John Hope Bryant (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, $24.95). Bryant, one of Time magazine’s “50 for the Future” leaders, grew up in South Central Los Angeles and Compton; he grew up poor. He believes that efforts to help the poor with philanthropy, government assistance and microfinance have proven to be inadequate solutions. Bryant also sees poverty as a cultural state of accepting “It is what it is.” This acceptance places self-imposed limits on self-confidence and aspirations.
What will “help”? Financial literacy coupled with education in free enterprise and entrepreneurship. These provide the foundation for understanding how using money (i.e. sound saving and spending habits and business savvy) creates hope, which drives self-determination and opportunity.
While that education starts with banking and budgeting basics, it also deals with the importance of credit scores – most of which hover around 500 in poor neighborhoods. At Bryant’s Operation HOPE, a nationwide initiative, clients are also taught the basics of credit and receive help in reading and understanding their credit scores, and disputing errors in them. He encourages banks to provide such services because it will lead to increasing the number of depositors and eventually their loan portfolios.
He also advises that kids need to learn about money, too. Operation HOPE’s Banking on Our Future program provides financial literacy to youth.
Operation HOPE also teaches entrepreneurship. Why? Many businesses (particularly payday lenders and check cashers) see the financial illiterate as those whose pockets can be easily picked. Bryant sees them as people who, once they acquire the financial knowledge, can become the business owners and job creators who rebuild neighborhoods – and keep money within their community. He knows first-hand that meeting the needs of neighbors will unlock their buying power. They’ll not only become taxpayers; they’ll become stakeholders in their future and that of others.
Bryant’s message: “To be poor is not to not have anything. To be poor is not to do anything.”
– JIM PAWLAK
In his encouraging book, Operation HOPE founder and businessman Bryant argues that the mechanisms that enable upward mobility are simple and straightforward: education and guidance in personal finance, banking, and credit score management. With these tools, Bryant believes that the poor and working class can make great entrepreneurs, not in spite of their struggles, but because of them. “Youth from low-wealth communities,” he writes, “are forced to have much stronger coping skills, to deal with difficult people and difficult situations…. Just as loss creates leaders, so too does this sort of sustained adversity management create and cultivate a personality that better manages less-than-perfect circumstances.” Having grown up “in a diverse neighborhood of striving and struggling families,” Bryant writes from a place of authority. However, his ideas about improving financial literacy and expanding opportunity are actionable rather than groundbreaking; the book serves as an effective package for his programmatic plans and a manifesto for his organization. With luck, it will provide the needed instruction to boost working-class communities.
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 t
heir turn at the American Dream.
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.
To 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.
When John Hope Bryant talks about how to expand the middle class, I listen. I urge everyone to read this book and discover for themselves John’s great ideas for creating an America with more shared opportunity and shared responsibility.
—PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON
John Hope Bryant has made a wonderful, original, and visionary contribution for all of those who want to see economic inequality shrink in their lifetime.
Former UN ambassador and Mayor of Atlanta
John Hope Bryant has provided the roadmap to economic recovery for this country at a time when economic inequality is at its peak.
Host of CNN’s Crossfire
John Bryant is what I call a practical idealist who dreams big and then moves with precision to action. He reminds us of the age old adage, ‘if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day, but if you teach him how to fish, you feed him for a lifetime’ because he or she now has the skills and knowledge to become self-determined. One of the few and best plans for addressing poverty is outlined in this book. It lays out a clear and actionable path to address some of the issues that led my father to call for a poor people’s campaign shortly before his assassination. You will have a different perspective on poverty and ‘poor people’ when you finish reading this book and realize that in order to secure our economy, we must ensure that everyone is given a fair and just opportunity to prosper.
—DR. BERNICE A. KING
daughter of Martin Luther King, Jr., and CEO, The King Center
We cannot win the war for good jobs without the inclusion of and capacity building of the poor—this book shows the way and makes a personal, moral, and chie y economic argument for how the poor can save capitalism.
Chairman and CEO, Gallup, and author of The Coming Jobs War
John and I want the same things. And the goals of this book are the same goals of my Rebuild the Dream campaign. He has provided the road map to economic recovery for this country at a time when economic inequality is at its peak. I, for one, will be following the steps laid out in the HOPE Plan.
former Presidential Advisor to Barack Obama and current host of CNN’s Crossfire
I’ve known John for a number of years, and hope isn’t just his middle name or the name of the organization he founded, it’s what he spreads to everyone he encounters. In this book, John articulately describes actionable ways to connect those who are currently disconnected from the economy and in the process provide opportunity for the poor and the business community simultaneously. These practical and innovative suggestions to the private (and public) sector should be heeded and implemented by CEOs across the country.
—DUNCAN L. NIEDERAUER
CEO, New York Stock Exchange
John Hope Bryant offers a compelling argument to build both capitalism and communities through the advancement of financial literacy among the poor and middle class. With the vision that all people should have the opportunity to participate fully in our economy, he enlivens the American dream.
—WILLIAM H. ROGERS, JR.
Chairman and CEO, SunTrust Banks, Inc.