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Rich and Poor

  • There are two kinds of people in the world: those who live poor on a lot and those who live rich on a little.

  • Has it ever occurred to you, that the rich are at the mercy of the poor, not the poor at that of the rich? Who permits us to be rich if not the poor?

  • ... the wealthy white western minority of the world could not hope to prosper if most of the rest of mankind were foundering in hopeless poverty. Islands of plenty in a vast ocean of misery never have been a good recipe for commercial success.

    • Barbara Ward,
    • "The Economic Revolution," in Richard Thruelsen and John Kobler, eds., Adventures of the Mind, 2nd series ()
  • ... the distinction between rich nations and poor nations is one of the great dominant political and international themes of our century.

  • It is very much easier for a rich man to invest and grow richer than for the poor man to begin investing at all. And this is also true of nations.

  • Being poor is like being a child. Being rich is like being an adult: you get to do whatever you want. Everyone is nice when they have to be; rich people are nice when they feel like it.

  • There is this idea now in this country that all people who succeed, succeed on their own, and all people who fail, fail on their own, whereas neither is true. The vast majority of people in this country stay where they're born. Very few people move too far from home. Rich people rarely beome poor, and poor people rarely become rich. But we live in a society ruled by anecdote, so that we have no sense at all of what actually happens to most people.

  • Without peace there can be no prosperity for any people, rich or poor. And yet, there can be no peace without erasing the harshness of the growing contrast between the rich and the poor.

  • The vices of the rich and great are mistaken for errors; and those of the poor and lowly, for crimes.

  • ... it is hard to interest those who have everything in those who have nothing ...

  • Errors look so very ugly in persons of small means — one feels they are taking quite a liberty in going astray; whereas people of fortune may naturally indulge in a few delinquencies. 'They've got the money for it,' as the girl said of her mistress who had made herself ill with pickled salmon.

    • George Eliot,
    • "Janet's Repentance," Scenes of Clerical Life ()
  • It seems to me that the earth belongs to God who made it and entrusted it to men as a perpetual home. But it cannot have been part of His plan that some men should be ill with overfeeding and that others should die of starvation. No matter what anyone can say they cannot prevent me from feeling sad and angry when I see a beggar crying at a rich man's door.

    • George Sand,
    • in Veronica Lucas, ed., Letters of George Sand ()
  • If one has one cow, it is always better not to be too familiar with those who have seven.

  • Sometime in the eighties, Americans had a new set of 'traditional values' installed. ... the poor and the middle class were shaken down, and their loose change funneled blithely upwards to the already overfed.

  • ... a great deal of the wealth at the top is built on the low-wage labor of the poor. Take Wal-Mart, our largest private employer and premiere exploiter of the working class. ... You think it's a coincidence that this union-busting low-wage retail empire happens to have generated a $65 billion family fortune?

  • The man possessed of a dollar, feels himself to be not merely one hundred cents richer, but also one hundred cents better, than the man who is penniless; so on through all the gradations of earthly possessions — the estimate of our own moral and political importance swelling always in a ratio exactly proportionate to the growth of our purse.

  • I think if the people in this country can be reached with the truth, their judgment will be in favor of the many, as against the privileged few.

  • Planning ahead is a measure of class. The rich and even the middle class plan for future generations, but the poor can plan ahead only a few weeks or days.

  • The poor never estimate as a virtue the generosity of the rich.

  • To be content with little is difficult; to be content with much, impossible.

  • The poor man wishes to conceal his poverty, and the rich man his wealth: the former fears lest he be despised, the latter lest he be plundered.

  • Wouldn't you think some sociologist would have done a comparative study by now to prove, as I have always suspected, that there is a higher proportion of Undeserving Rich than Undeserving Poor?

    • Molly Ivins,
    • "Reindeer Are Counted Better Than Homeless," in Fort Worth Star-Telegram ()
  • Politics in this country isn't about left and right; it's about up and down. The few are screwing the many.

  • If the poor ever feel poor as the rich do, we will have a most bloody revolution.

  • Don't think to come over me with th' old tale, that the rich know nothing of the trials of the poor; I say, if they don't know, they ought to know.

  • The world's fat is badly divided.

    • Martha Gellhorn,
    • "Journey Through a Peaceful Land," in The New Republic ()
  • Illiteracy at the poverty level (mainly a matter of bad grammar) does not alarm me nearly as much as the illiteracy of the well-to-do.

    • Mary McCarthy,
    • "Language and Politics" (1973), Occasional Prose ()
  • ... you and I, the rich and the poor of this world, are two locked caskets, of which each contains the key to the other.

  • Statistics show that the wealthy have prospered most in our current economy, and the unheard third at the bottom least. (But who are you gonna believe, government rhetoric about fairness for all, or your lying eyes?)

  • We must be careful that the people who make $5,000 a year are not pitted against those that make $25,000 a year by those who make $900,000.

  • The crisis in America that we barely notice anymore is that we've become two nations — divided by poverty, opportunity, and race. It's like a neighbor's car alarm that we don't hear anymore because it rings so often.

  • The world was one of great contrasts, she thought, and if the richest part of it was to be fenced off so that people like herself could only look at it with no expectation of ever being able to get inside it, then it would be better to have been born blind so you couldn't see it, born deaf so you couldn't hear it, born with no sense of touch so you couldn't feel it. Better still, born with no brain so that you would be completely unaware of anything, so that you would never know there were places that were filled with sunlight and good food and where children were safe.

  • The difference between rich and poor ... is that the poor do everything with their own hands and the rich hire hands to do things.

  • For those who have lived on the edge of poverty all their lives, the semblance of poverty affected by the affluent is both incomprehensible and insulting.

  • So much for the rising tide that lifts all boats. It lifts only yachts.

  • The rich are never threatened by the poor — they do not notice them.

    • Marie de France,
    • 12th cent., in Jeanette Beer, trans., Medieval Fables of Marie de France ()
  • We do not want them to have less. / But it is only natural that we should think we have not enough. / We drive on, we drive on.

  • The rich and powerful want to believe in their right to be rich and powerful, so they justify it by saying they are inherently superior to the poor and lowly.

  • The golf links lie so near the mill / That almost every day / The laboring children can look out / And see the men at play.

    • Sarah Cleghorn,
    • "The Golf Links Lie So Near the Mill," Portraits and Protests ()
  • I am weary seeing our laboring classes so wretchedly housed, fed, and clothed, while thousands of dollars are wasted every year over unsightly statues. If these great men must have outdoor memorials let them be in the form of handsome blocks of buildings for the poor ...

    • Elizabeth Cady Stanton,
    • 1886, in Theodore Stanton and Harriot Stanton Blatch, eds., Elizabeth Cady Stanton As Revealed in Her Letters Diary and Reminiscences, vol. 2 ()
  • The value systems of those with access to power and of those far removed from such access cannot be the same. The viewpoint of the privileged is unlike that of the underprivileged. In the matter of power and privilege the difference between the haves and the have-nots is not merely quantitative, for it has far-reaching psychological and ideological implications.

  • While it is undeniable that many have been driven to immorality and crime by the need to survive, it is equally evident that the possession of a significant surplus of material goods has never been a guarantee against covetousness, rapacity and the infinite variety of vice and pain which spring from such passions. Indeed, it could be argued that the unrelenting compulsion of those who already have much to acquire even more has generated greater injustice, immorality and wretchedness than the cumulative effect of the struggles of the severely underprivileged to better their lot.

  • Diamonds are the tears of the poor.

  • We live in the richest country in the world. There's plenty and to spare for no man, woman, or child to be in want. And in addition to this our country was founded on what should have been a great, true principle — the freedom, equality, and rights of each individual. Huh! And what has come of that start? There are corporations worth billions of dollars — and hundreds of thousands of people who don't get to eat.

  • ... our intuitive beliefs about how capitalism works haven't caught up with the reality. In fact, surging income inequality is such a strong violation of our expectations that most of us don't realize it is happening.

  • Poor people who had escaped from poverty as I had, feared it, hated it and fled from it all their lives. Those born rich could afford to be touched by it.

  • I have two enemies in all the world, / Two twins, inseparably pooled: / The hunger of the hungry and the fullness of the full.

    • Marina Tsvetaeva,
    • "If the Soul Was Born With Pinions" (1918), Swans' Encampment ()
  • Throughout the 1980s, we did hear too much about individual gain and the ethos of selfishness and greed. We did not hear enough about how to be a good member of a community, to define the common good and to repair the social contract. And we also found that while prosperity does not trickle down from the most powerful to the rest of us, all too often indifference and even intolerance do.

  • I've been poor and I've been rich. Rich is better!

  • Wealth covers sin — the poor / Are naked as a pin.

    • Kassia,
    • "Epigrams" (c. 9th c.), in Joanna Bankier and Deirdre Lashgari, eds., Women Poets of the World ()
  • The unequal distribution of food is one of the world's most tragic facts. Millions of people die because they have too little to eat, and many die because they have too much.

  • We cling to a bourgeois mediocrity which would make it appear we are all Americans, made in the image and likeness of George Washington, all of a pattern, all prospering if we are good, and going down in the world if we are bad.

  • ... between prosperity and adversity there can be little real fellowship.

  • ... the unfortunate have claims upon the hearts of those whom God has blessed with affluence ...

  • I was very sad for many days when I discovered that in the world there were poor people and rich people; and the strange thing is that the existence of the poor did not cause me as much pain as the knowledge that at the same time there were people who were rich.

  • Charity separates the rich from the poor; aid raises the needy and sets him on the same level with the rich.

  • ... 'tis the superfluity of one man which makes the poverty of the other.

  • I am going to fight capitalism even if it kills me. It is wrong that people like you should be comfortable and well fed while all around you people are starving.

    • Sylvia Pankhurst,
    • speech (1921), in David Mitchell, The Fighting Pankhursts ()
  • In this world it rains on the Just and the Unjust alike, but the Unjusts have the Justs' umbrellas.

    • Esther Blumenfeld,
    • in Lynne Alpern and Esther Blumenfeld, Oh, Lord, I Sound Just Like Mama ()
  • It is said that democracy is not something we have, but something we do. But right now, we cannot do it because we cannot speak. We are shouted down by the bullhorns of big money. It is money with no manners for democracy, and it must be escorted from the room. While wealth has always influenced our politics, what is new is the increasing concentration of wealth and the widening divide between the political interests of the common people and the political interests of the very wealthy who are now able to buy our willing leaders wholesale. ... What villainy allows this political condition?The twin viral ideas that money is speech and that corporations are people. If money is speech, then those with more money have more speech, and that idea is antithetical to a democracy that cherishes political fairness. It makes us no longer equal citizens.

    • Doris Haddock,
    • with Dennis Burke, Granny D: Walking Across America in My 90th Year ()
  • ... I thought of what might be, if only the people who have too much money would help those who have too little!

  • I asked a man in prison once how he happened to be there and he said he had stolen a pair of shoes. I told him if he had stolen a railroad he would be a United States Senator.

    • Mother Jones,
    • in Mary Field Parton, ed., The Autobiography of Mother Jones ()
  • Some cry because there's not enough bread — and some cry because there's not enough cake!

  • We know by now how to photograph poor people. What we don't know is how to photograph affluence — whose other face is poverty.

    • Dorothea Lange,
    • in Milton Meltzer, Dorothea Lange: A Photographer's Life ()
  • Do we really want to live in a world where the one percent own more than the rest of us combined?