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Financial Inclusion Thought Leader

Soak The Rich? Hold On One Minute.

John Hope Bryant, Founder, Chairman, and CEO, Operation HOPE, Inc.

By John Hope Bryant, Founder, Chairman, and CEO, Operation HOPE, Inc.

I recently appeared on CNBC’s ‘Squawk Box’ in Manhattan, talking about a range of important issues of the day, in my role as founder, chairman and CEO of Operation HOPE.

The one issue that stuck with me, is this growing obsession with ‘soaking and penalizing’ the rich and the wealthy. Hold on one minute.

Almost half of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children.

Goldman Sachs was founded 100+ years ago by a struggling guy name Goldman, and another struggling guy named Sachs, who peddled their financial ideas door to door in the Manhattan of that day. Not many wanted to buy from them. But they just never gave up.

WalMart was founded by a guy with a high school education, a pickup truck and a storefront. His name was Sam Walton. It’s now the largest retailer in the world. He never gave up either. And his efforts bore fruit.

Some are beginning to say ‘that they hate rich people.’ As I say in my bestselling book How The Poor Can Save Capitalism, we tend to hate rich people until we become rich (ourselves).”

What we ‘hate’ is a gamed system. What we hate is a system that seems to be rigged for the rich to merely get richer, the wealthy to stay that way, and everyone else to permanently struggle — which doesn’t work long term. That is what we must change.

To be clear, we should want every single hard working person in the world to be able to aspire and to prosper (as a result of their own hard work and grit) at the very top of their game — whomever and wherever you start. The promise of America and the rest of the freedom-seeking places in the world must be, ‘anyone can make it to the top.’

”Even if you want to distribute money like a socialist, you have to first collect money like a capitalist.” The late Shimon Peres talking to John Hope Bryant at the World Economic Forum, Jordan Meeting.

That said, we must do better. We must do more. As the current system simply is not working for the vast majority of people in the world, and increasingly, even here in the United States. The world’s richest 8 people have more wealth than the world’s poorest 50%.

Today, even the struggling middle class increasingly ‘feel’ poor.

Capitalism and free enterprise don’t need to end, it needs to be massively updated to the 221st-century environment we find ourselves in today. Capitalism needs a software upgrade.

So, should we soak the rich and tax them to death? To what end? Here is a reality check for you:

  • If we take all the wealth in the world, and distribute it equally, in less than 5 years the top 3% would end up with most of it all over again. Because they got what I call The Memo.
  • If I give a homeless man a million dollars, and nothing else, he will be broke in 6 months.

We need a more thoughtful approach to uplift today. When someone is hungry, certainly we should offer them a fish. But thereafter, we should seek to teach that man or woman how to fish. And thereafter, we should be fully prepared to distribute some fishing poles. HOPE, in a box.

Here is what I suggest, and I cover this in the CNBC interview:

  • We need the wealthy to inspire more. How about a targeted goal/tax deduction around youth internships, at scale.
  • We need the wealthy to build more. How about a targeted goal/tax deduction around skilled profession apprenticeships, at scale.
  • We need our state and national legislative leaders, and the executive branches of government, to prioritize more things for national uplift (for all), and generational economic inclusion and growth. Things like the national public funding of and for mandatory financial literacy education, K-College. Possibly even bringing back the Home Economics Course that got me started in business as an entrepreneur at 10 years old, in Compton, California.
  • I am who I am today, because of that one hour, four-part financial literacy and home economic class in Compton, California. Maybe, let’s do more of that.
  • Let’s grow a new generation of entrepreneurs, business owners, and a new generation of wealth creation with a conscience. Existing wealth, using their wealth, to inspire and create new wealth, new builders, and a generation of new leaders.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn.

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