The current political climate has begun to highlight arguments against the capitalistic system that America has been built on. Sadly, the system that was built on a promise of opportunity for all seems to have failed and there are some who argue that capitalism has become a system where the rich get richer and the poor remain downtrodden. The question facing the nation is whether we should stay the course and keep capitalism alive, or whether we should find a new system to build the American dream. Those who stand for abandoning our capitalistic values argue that we should utilize government intervention to lift the poor and ensure that we are not continuing to oppress the lower tier of society for the sake of a profit.
But what if there was a different option? What if we could keep capitalism alive and help the poor? What if the answer to the problem is already in the system and we just have to unlock it?
John Bryant presents just such a plan in his book How The Poor Can Save Capitalism. Rather than railing against the system, he proposes that the system, though broken, is still better than the other options. Bryant presents a plan he calls Operation HOPE and focuses on building self esteem and education as the two tools to help the poor get out the perpetual cycle of being poor. The book lays out the psychological factors that affect the poor beyond the simple absence of money and proposes that there is a difference between being broke and being poor. Bryant then suggests that instead of just giving the poor charity and providing welfare, we should provide financial literacy education and then give them the dignity of a paycheck and access to credit.
Bryant's argument is that the poor stay poor because when they get money they don't know how to keep it and they don't speak the language of finance well enough to truly participate in the capitalistic system in order to succeed. Rather than just trying to help the overall economy of the nation and expecting high tides to lift all boats, Operation HOPE specifically focuses on filling the gap between the poor and the middle class by educating them on the system and giving them access to the information that is essential for success. By sharing knowledge and engaging in conversations about the actual system, Bryant hopes put legs to the old adage that says "if you give a man a fish he will eat for a day, but if you teach a man to fish he will eat for a lifetime."
Knowledge sharing is a concept that the Wichita community is no stranger to. The business community has begun to have conversations surrounding how we bring back the entrepreneurship mindset that created Pizza Hut and Rent-a-Center. Wichita State University does a great job of partnering with community members to plug in internships and provide real world experience prior to graduation. But we need to start those relationships earlier. Instead of waiting for students to make it to college and already be on the path to success, we need to invest earlier. What if we deployed Operation HOPE in Wichita? What if we reached out to the poor of the community and plugged in high school students to mentorships and internships with the intention of educating them and empowering them to succeed in the world of capitalism? What if instead of leaving their business education to the streets we took the initiative to purposely help them speak the financial language of success?