Streams

How the Poor Can Save Capitalism

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

poverty Camden Empty homes in Camden, New Jersey, October 11, 2012. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Camden is the most impoverished city in the U.S. with nearly 32,000 of residents living below the poverty line (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images/Getty)

John Hope Bryant, 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. After decades of deprivation, poor Americans lack bank accounts, decent credit scores, and any real firsthand experience of how a healthy free enterprise system functions. In How the Poor Can Save Capitalism, he argues that if we give poor communities the right tools, policies, and inspiration, they’ll be able to lift themselves up into the middle class and become a new generation of customers and entrepreneurs. 

Guests:

John Hope Bryant

Comments [29]

David

Tom Li

The free market—which, BTW, we have never really had—is just the expression of individuals determining their individual material preferences for goods and services. It doesn't need a group of "experts" with government guns imposing their subjective views on other individuals' material preferences.

Funny how there is little, if any, regulation in the field of computer technology, yet the general standards have seemed to do a very good job at making better and cheaper computers over the decades.

The highly-regulated banking and healthcare industries, on the other hand...

And what about Kosher food that has voluntary oversight by the people who choose to eat Kosher food? (http://object.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/serials/files/regulation/2013/9/regv36n3-4n.pdf)

Jun. 11 2014 01:13 AM
David

tom LI

You've swallowed your government public school propaganda well.

ALL value is subjective. No two people see the world alike. Those regulations and standards FORCED on us by the government are the SUBJECTIVE views of a small majority of people. I don't need some "expert" forcing his or her standards on me.

"Generally accepted Standards" don't need to be forced on anyone: THAT'S why they are generally accepted. And even if they weren't, you nor anyone else has the right to force your standards on anyone else.

"The "Free market" has never looked out for anyone, never! For example, safety was never the first concern of any of the players in the early days of our Free-markets, only a last resort when forced on the players. And begrudgingly at that. As soon as mass-production of most consumables comes into full fruition, the smithy and his honor re; his craft had to be replaced by some serious oversight.

I dont think having my car not fall apart a month after I drive it home, or made less likely to explode under normal conditions"

You're right: without government regulation, food producers would be selling us poisonous food; car manufacturers would be selling us cars that explode; and, in fact, all providers of goods and services would provide their customers with poor quality goods and products. THAT, after all, is how a provider of a good or service "attracts and keeps" their customers: Bby making horrible, dangerous products that will kill their customers off.

I think your view says more about you than the VAST MAJORITY of providers of goods and services that I have patronized for almost six decades.

Jun. 11 2014 01:07 AM
tom LI

To JHB - the key word you use is NEW! New, the next generations have to break the bonds their parents are bound by. All of them. They have to be taught, directly with a hand on their backs sometimes to look at their world, from and thru their own eyes, not that of their parents, etc.

I would also offer that the lack of "education" - in the things you mentioned today - are no longer isolated to minorities, but are just as much of a problem in the White communities as well. And growing exponentially!

Too many white, or shall we say privileged children are growing up completely clueless about even what a credit card really is. I hear it all the time, that a CC is like bank account where there's a bottomless pit of funds there. They hit a limit and are perplexed by the very notion. A limit? Whats that?

Kudos! Inspirational segment today. The time for change is now, not since the 60's have we been primed for a true social changes from the youth. (But are they up to it, yet?)

Jun. 10 2014 05:59 PM
tom LI

David - "guns and government" - ? very telling choice of words. This is most likely a waste of time, but...

Generally accepted Standards are needed, or else we wind up reverting back a few thousand years to a past where weights and measures were subjective over all over the place in various kingdoms, etc.

I disagree that ALL Value is subjective. Sure we can go back and forth and back again picking out isolated artifacts being subjectively valued, but in order for a Nation, a functioning society that "organizes' around a set of overall principles and outright stated ideas as to how things are to be run (Constitutional, Bill of Rights, etc) - protections from predatory "Whatevers" should be standardized. and they are not that hard to arrive at.

Reliable benchmarks are not that hard to gain a consensus on. I think you (the others you speak for) are being willfully belligerent to Society as a whole, and to particular set of ideas that considers the complexity of the world we live in, and not isolated, individualistic interactions (business, community, etc) that are not the norm anymore.

The "Free market" has never looked out for anyone, never! For example, safety was never the first concern of any of the players in the early days of our Free-markets, only a last resort when forced on the players. And begrudgingly at that. As soon as mass-production of most consumables comes into full fruition, the smithy and his honor re; his craft had to be replaced by some serious oversight.

I dont think having my car not fall apart a month after I drive it home, or made less likely to explode under normal conditions - is a stretch. Have we gone overboard in some cases? Yes! But whats truly at the core of that over-reach? Litigiousness run amok? Could be. But the past shows us perfectly what happens when anyone (unfettered Corporations, good old Robber Barons, etc) is allowed to produce or provide services, etc of whatever they want, and do it without any threat of a consumer using the legal system coming after them to behave properly.

Jun. 10 2014 05:50 PM
tom LI

To jgarbuz - yeah you did. People are basically born entrepreneurs,or star athletes, then they are influenced to be, etc. Contradiction.

I now live in what is 85% white area, and every weekend what are the white dads doing with their male and now female children? Screaming at them to play better at whatever sport they too often force their kids to play. They're not out "entrepreneuring" with them. Even if the Dads own their own business, they typically wish, or drive their kids away from it, wanting them to be something else, like a professional, or in their fantasies pro athletes. Still! No matter how clumsy the kid might be, delusional parenting never goes away. Other topic however.

The race issue lies with what as a race/subculture the children are told by society that they can most likely succeed in doing. What role models does the society hold up to them as honored, and most likely to gain them entre into the higher circles of economic freedom. ??? Athletics and entertainment for black Americans. For whites, everything else.

Dr Dre might now be the first true 21st century black male role model for actual entrepreneurship, but he had to go the Entertainer route to get there. And have his product bought by a "white" company!

Jun. 10 2014 05:27 PM
David

tom LI Those "standards" you talk about are the subjective standards that certain people force upon other people with the guns of government.

Everyone wants standards, but since all value is subjective, it's up to individuals to decide which standards they want, AND not have other people's subjective standards forced upon them. What you may think is a "safe" or "reliable" benchmark may not be what I or anyone else does. So why should we be forced to go by your benchmark? We shouldn't. That's what the free market is about. It allows for variety among goods and services. If someone's good or service harms a customer—whether intentional or not—then of course that customer is entitled to restitution.

But for a group of people to force what are, in essence, their subjective standards of quality and safety (i.e., protection on other people is not only inefficient but criminal, as far as I and many others are concerned.

Jun. 10 2014 02:17 PM
John Hope Bryant from NYC

Thanks all for your comments from today's show. Even those not all that excited about the free enterprise approach -- love those too. That's what makes this country so great. We can disagree, without being disagreeable. And even disagreement can make us all smarter.

Read the book first though, and THEN let me know if you still disagree. I will gladly reimburse anyone who thinks it falls short of what we at HOPE refer to as The Memo, for a new generation.

As for capitalism, it's just like its cousin democracy. They are in some ways horrible systems, except for every other system. I invite anyone in America to go somewhere else to live, and see what you think. I have been to 100 countries, and this I know to be true -- there is no 'perfect.' It doesn't exist. We have to struggle with these institutions and systems, to make them both work (better) for people, and to 'speak' to the intent of our nation's original Constitution.

To quote Dr. King, our goal should be nothing short of "redeeming the soul of America.."

Let's go. JHB

Jun. 10 2014 01:41 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

To Tom Li

Not really. I didn't say everyone can become an entrepreneur any more than everyone cold become a star athlete, but the chances are that if a group values one over the other, say becoming a great athlete over becoming a great businessman, then of course the majority will head in the direction they are encouraged to go in.

I live in with what is now a predominantly black neighborhood and every Saturday they bring their little kids in droves to play football on the new grounds that our past mayor was nice enough to build around here. I know that Jewish mothers are not going to bring their kids in droves to bang heads in football. The general society has inculcated different values within their local culture.

Jun. 10 2014 01:39 PM
Paul from NY

Entrepreneurship is all well and good, but only provided that you are still actually invested in capitalism. I wonder what Bryant would make of Thomas Piketty's diagnosis in his recent book that inequality is an inherent part of capitalism?

I for one would prefer to live in a very different society altogether -- one in which people can be born into the world, and allowed to decide that they could do things or not, if they wanted. That they could work (or not), study (or not), play (or not), and not pay any price, nor be ostracized. Since there will always be plenty of people who want to keep being very busy and productive, things would balance out.

Switzerland has been considering instituting the distribution of a guaranteed income for each citizen. So those who didn't want to work would be able to spend from their automatic monthly paychecks and also contribute to keeping the economy going. Interestingly, Martin Luther King actually advocated it, saying he was "convinced that the simplest approach to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income."

It's clear that discussion was premature since, in terms of the requisite levels of compassion, as well as enlightenment, we're not nearly there yet.

Jun. 10 2014 01:18 PM
tom LI

Jgarbuz, your last post was a complete contradiction.

Jun. 10 2014 12:51 PM
fuva from harlemworld

Lenny...dude don't make enough sense and is past tense. His analysis suffers from the prevailing blind spots that won't produce progress at the required scale. Seems like John Hope Bryant either didn't read/adequately process/apply John Hope Franklin...I like his perseverance and swag tho

Jun. 10 2014 12:51 PM
SteveH from B'klyn


Now I can close all the accounts I have with Santander Bank which
took over the savings bank I started with many years ago.

Jun. 10 2014 12:49 PM
genejoke from Brooklyn

Jgarbuz -
Just sayin', even if I don't agree with every single thing he says, I still admire the cut of his jib.

Jun. 10 2014 12:48 PM
tom LI

David, trouble is there is no such thing as a free market, except a Black Market. If we want standards, and protections, etc, and I think we all do, then the Free part must be removed.

Jun. 10 2014 12:48 PM
Diana from NJ

Awesome interview. Many, many blessings to you, JHB, for all you do.

Jun. 10 2014 12:45 PM
tom LI

Amen! Re the story about Young and the buses. If The Man won't serve you, then end run him and put him out of business. Its a quasi anarchy POV, but its a great one. Either We the People do something about the inequity that is worsening and break the backs of the ones keeping The People down, or the only legacy we can hand down is a broken system and defunct democracy.

Start a bank, lending service, start a car service, get some refurbished satellites and create a satellite TV feed service where the cable companies won't go, etc, etc.

Who says we have to buy everything from the Power Brokers? That's right, the Power Brokers and their shills in Govt!

Mr Bryant has inspired me ! And I'm a slightly older man then him. Bravo!

Jun. 10 2014 12:45 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

Hey Genejoke, How's this?;

Black folk ain't gotta dime,
But they sho' know how to rhyme!

Jun. 10 2014 12:43 PM
genejoke from Brooklyn

Great guest! JHB has a way with words.
"Sterling's reputation went toe up from the flo' up."

Jun. 10 2014 12:38 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

I believe that successful entrepreneurs are born as such, just like star basketball players. You have to practice it, but the talent is inborn in my opinion. If every black kid wanted to be an entrepreneur as much as they would like to be star basketball players, the poverty situation amongst blacks would be no different than the poverty situation among Jews or Asians. If you are taught to want to be a businessman, rather than being a great athlete, more such kids will want to be like Zuckerberg rather than like Magic Johnson. It's how you are tracked and what your peers do that most influences your decisions.

Jun. 10 2014 12:37 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

The way black people or ANY people get out of poverty is by becoming capitalists and succeeding in creating businesses. There are those who think they get out of poverty by getting a government job or a academic job in a university, but both of those depend on revenues created by businesses that hopefully pay their taxes or otherwise support academic institutions as well.

Capitalism is the only cure for poverty. Everyone was poor before capitalism. We were all just animals before capitalism. Capitalism is what turned us into "human beings."

Jun. 10 2014 12:29 PM
Amy from Manhattan

I'm glad to hear Mr. Bryant talk about some banks that are serving "the least of these" (did he mention Amalgamated Bank?). Credit unions have been doing this for a long time--is he promoting those?

Jun. 10 2014 12:27 PM

(My insight relates to your wrong-headed presumption that "GE needs to have enough middle class people to buy their products.") It would be nice to see brands last 100 years being honest -- let alone 5 years "doing no evil." But it's pure hogwash.

The Captains of Industry are to Capitalism what Washington DC is to Democracy. (Yea superf88 gets attribution for that one!)

BTW my opinion comes from first hand experience.

Jun. 10 2014 12:24 PM
Chip from Freeport

Fantastic segment - the man is telling truths that I have heard nowhere else. Thank you, I'll get
the book.

Jun. 10 2014 12:23 PM
sophia

Isn't this just an agnostic version of the Prosperity Gospel?

Jun. 10 2014 12:22 PM

"GE needs to sell washing machines."

There are CEOs who need to drive stock prices up to get their bonuses.

Contrary to the Supreme Court's understanding of reality, corporations are NOT people: There is no "GE."

Beware, my friend.

Jun. 10 2014 12:19 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

Hey, the Pharaoh in Egypt theoretically OWNED everybody in the country. In olden times, you belonged to the king. He could take your wife, your children, and you as he wished. This idea about the "elites" of 1% controlling most of the wealth the country, or having a vast percentage of the income is hardly new!

The is no choice. It's either capitalism or slavery. Communism ultimately turns into slave labor camps. It has to. Stalin had to build the Gulags because nothing and nobody worked without private incentives. Even in ISrael, the kibbutzim have mostly failed and they were voluntary. I lived and worked on two of them for a year.

In the end, human nature - the nature of our species - cannot be altered by force nor by political theories. They are altered only by individuals operating under the "invisible hand" of self-interest, even if the self-interest is masked.

There is nothing new under the sun. The "money lenders" were being castigated in the Bible, and yet everyone needs a loan sometime. Only hunter-gatherers don't have to borrow money. They just hunt for food or die starving. Everyone else will need to borrow capital at some point, and hence "capitalism."

Jun. 10 2014 12:17 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

Hey, the Pharaoh in Egypt theoretically OWNED everybody in the country. In olden times, you belonged to the king. He could take your wife, your children, and you as he wished. This idea about the "elites" of 1% controlling most of the wealth the country, or having a vast percentage of the income is hardly new!

The is no choice. It's either capitalism or slavery. Communism ultimately turns into slave labor camps. It has to. Stalin had to build the Gulags because nothing and nobody worked without private incentives. Even in ISrael, the kibbutzim have mostly failed and they were voluntary. I lived on two for a year.

In the end, human nature - the nature of our species - cannot be altered by force nor by political theories. They are altered only by individuals operating under the "invisible hand" of self-interest, even if the self-interest is masked.

There is nothing new under the sun. The "money lenders" were being castigated in the Bible, and yet everyone needs a loan sometime. Only hunter-gatherers don't have to borrow money. They just hunt for food or die starving. Everyone else will need to borrow capital at some point, and hence "capitalism."

Jun. 10 2014 12:15 PM
John A

"How the Poor Can Save Capitalism"
or,
How ignoring the poor is what's killing capitalism.
Let's go there.

Jun. 10 2014 10:04 AM
David

Capitalism doesn't need "saving." What needs to be established is a free market. The U.S. government and the crony capitalists who control it have done more to harm the poor than a lack of a line of credit for them.

Abolishing the inflation machine Fed would be a good start.

Jun. 10 2014 06:27 AM

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