More on Inequality

Economic Inequality Quotes

When you say fiscal responsibility, it seems to me that you really mean rich people keeping their money. —Alice Adams

I will always have enough money to last the rest of my life…as long as I don’t buy anything. —Ed Asner, Postal Press Association Conference, 8/2/03

Every year, the compensation representatives at the various plants were instructed to compute and estimate the Workmen’s Compensation costs for the plant for the coming year and we had to turn those estimates in to the accountants for the corporation. The safety personnel at the plant did the same. They computed their costs…then it was just a question of the corporation deciding which was cheaper, to take some injuries, take some deaths, pay some Workmen’s Compensation or spend a lot of money and make it safe.—Daniel M. Berman

Without unions, workers will lose many of the protections against abusive employers.  Wages for all will be depressed, even as corporate profits soar.  The American Dream will be destroyed for millions.  And we will have a government of the corporations, by the already powerful, for the wealthy. —Kenneth Bernstein, teacher and blogger, in a 2011 opinion piece on the Wisconsin measure to strip public employees of collective bargaining rights

Wherever you are, there are people who are greedy and will take advantage of their workers.—Jim Blau, SEIU

Strong, responsible unions are essential to industrial fair play.  Without them the labor bargain is wholly one-sided.  The parties to the labor contract must be nearly equal in strength if justice is to be worked out, and this means that the workers must be organized and that their organizations must be recognized by employers as a condition precedent to industrial peace.—Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis

When a man feels he cannot leave his work, it is a sure sign of an impending collapse.—Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis

We can either have democracy in this country or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.—Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis

Yes, it is bread we fight for–but we fight for roses too.—”Bread and Roses,” a strike poem

Better to starve fighting than to starve working.-- A slogan of the Lawrence, Massachusetts “Bread and Roses” strike of 1912

Merit pay really doesn’t exist. It never did.–Don Brookes, Harding Consulting Group (from “Merit Pay–The Hoax”)

You may be sure that in this “new international system,” the American citizen will count for precious little.—Pat Buchanan

We draw our strength from the very despair in which we have been forced to live. We shall endure.— Cesar Chavez

When morality comes up against profit, it is seldom that profit loses.— Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm

Workers and their families may starve to death in the New World Order of economic rationality, but diamond necklaces are cheaper in elegant New York shops, thanks to the miracle of the market.—Noam Chomsky

The tendency of taxation is to create a class of persons who do not labor, to take from those who do labor the produce of that labor, and to give it to those who do not labor.—William Cobbett

I have found some of the best reasons I ever had for remaining at the bottom simply by looking at the men at the top.—Frank Moore Colby

The superior person understands rightness; the inferior person understands profit.— Confucius

Plato told Aristotle no one should make more than five times the pay of the lowest member of society. J.P. Morgan said 20 times. Jesus advocated a negative differential – that’s why they killed him.—Graef Crystal (1998)

While there is a lower class I am in it, while there is a criminal element I am of it; while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.—Eugene V. Debs

As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there’s a twilight where everything remains seemingly unchanged, and it is in such twilight that we must be aware of change in the air, however slight, lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness.— William O. Douglas

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed; those who are cold and are not clothed.—Dwight D. Eisenhower

To the fervent proponents of ruthless corporate capitalism I say: make a millionaire CEO live as a poor sweatshop worker in Indonesia for one month and then ask him about the merits of the world economic system.—Vassilis Epaminondou

Why did good hard-working people suffer so? Why were men who were willing, able, and anxious to work, denied jobs? Why was there so much unemployment? Why were there rich people who apparently did little but enjoyed life? I hated poverty.  I was determined to do something about the bad conditions under which our family and all around us suffered. I have stuck to that purpose for 46 years. I consider in so doing I have been a good American. I have spent my life among the American workers all over this country, slept in their homes, eaten at their tables. They are the majority of the people who have the inalienable right in our view to govern the country.—Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, 1952

It is not the employer who pays the wages-he only handles the money. It is the product that pays the wages.—Henry Ford

There’s enough on this planet for everyone’s needs, but not for everyone’s greed.—Mahatma Gandhi

Poorly paid labor is inefficient labor, the world over.—Henry George

The man who has his millions will want everything he can lay his hands on and then raise his voice against the poor devil who wants ten cents more a day. . . .  We do want more, and when it becomes more, we shall still want more.  And we shall never cease to demand more until we have received the results of our labor.—Samuel Gompers

No race of barbarians ever existed yet offered up children for money.—Samuel Gompers, on child labor

Never forget, people DIED for the eight hour workday.—Rebecca Gordon

The workers of this country do not worry me. I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half. Jay Gould, robber baron

I pity the man who wants a coat so cheap that the man or woman who produces the cloth will starve in the process.—Benjamin Harrison

The ongoing fight for justice does not end on an American factory floor. It extends to many regions of the world. We are all exploited by these global companies, by globalization.—Ed Havaich, GE worker and Union member

Every dollar that the boss did not work for, one of us worked for a dollar and didn’t get it.—William Dudley “Big Bill” Haywood

You ask me why the IWW is not patriotic to the United States. If you were a bum without a blanket; if you had left your wife and kids when you went west for a job, and had never located them since; if your job had never kept you long enough in a place to qualify to vote; if you slept in a lousy, sour bunkhouse, and ate food just as rotten as they could give you and get by with it; if deputy sheriffs shot your cooking cans full of holes and spilled your grub on the ground; if your wages were lowered on you when the bosses thought they had you down…if every person who represented law and order and the nation beat you up, railroaded you to jail, and the good Christian people cheered and told them to go to it, how in hell do you expect a man to be patriotic?  This war is a businessman’s war and we don’t see why we should go out and get shot in order to save the lovely state of affairs that we now enjoy.—William Dudley “Big Bill” Haywood, on IWW neutrality and opposition to World War I


If the workers took a notion they could stop all speeding trains; every ship upon the ocean they can tie with mighty chains. Every wheel in the creation every mine and every mill; fleets and armies of the nation, will at their command stand still.—Joe Hill

Workers of the world awaken. Break your chains, demand your rights.
All the wealth you make is taken, by exploiting parasites.
Shall you kneel in deep submission from your cradle to your grave?
Is the height of your ambition to be a good and willing slave?—Joe Hill (“Workers of the World Awaken”)

We want a better America, an America that will give its citizens, first of all, a higher and higher standard of living so that no child will cry for food in the midst of plenty.—Sidney Hillman

Oh!  God!  That bread should be so dear, and flesh and blood so cheap!—Thomas Hood

The mountain rests on the earth: the image of splitting apart.  Thus those above can insure their position only by giving generously to those below.—I Ching (The Book of Changes)

Man must choose whether to be rich in things or in the freedom to use them.—Ivan Illich

Every man is dishonest who lives upon the labor of others, no matter if he occupies a throne.— Robert Green Ingersoll

There is a joke circulating that goes like this:
A unionized public employee, a member of the Tea Party and a Big Corp CEO are sitting at a table. In the middle of the table there is a plate with a dozen cookies on it. The CEO reaches across and takes 11 cookies, looks at the tea partier and says, “Look out for that union guy, he wants a piece of your cookie.”
–Dave Johnson, economic/industrial writer and Fellow at Campaign For America’s Future, as well as a former CEO (“America Waking Up To The Value Of Unions”)

I know that there are no limits to which the powers of privilege will not go to keep the workers in slavery.—Mother Jones

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

We have words for racism and sexism, but wealth discrimination isn’t fully recognized.  It is a bias in favor of the wealthy and against labor, the environment, and the community.  Concern for the public good must become the animating force of our economic order. —Marjorie Kelly, journalist and corporate reformer

We must design a corporate system in which all economic rights are equally protected, not only the rights of shareholders.—Marjorie Kelly, journalist and corporate reformer

Corporate power lies behind nearly every major problem we face–from stagnant wages and unaffordable health care to overconsumption and global warming…. With all this happening, why do we not read more about the pervasiveness of corporate power?  In large part because even the “Fourth Estate,” our media establishment, is majority owned by a handful of mega-corporations.—Marjorie Kelly, journalist and corporate reformer (from “How Popular Movements Can Confront Corporate Power And Win”)

We must recognize that ultimately our struggle is for power.  It is not just to make corporations more responsible, but to make them our servants.—Marjorie Kelly, journalist and corporate reformer (from “How Popular Movements Can Confront Corporate Power And Win”)

While employees and the community are left to the protection of the invisible hand, wealth is protected by the visible hand of government and corporations.  But that is something, it is hoped, that will be overlooked.—Marjorie Kelly, journalist and corporate reformer (from The Divine Right Of Capital: Dethroning the Corporate Aristocracy)

Picture a free market in which labor rights are enthroned in law, and property rights are left to the invisible hand.  This would be a world in which we believe employees are the corporation.  They are, after all, the ones running the place.  Hence only employees could vote for the board of directors, and the purpose of the corporation would be to maximize income for employees.—Marjorie Kelly, journalist and corporate reformer (from The Divine Right Of Capital: Dethroning the Corporate Aristocracy)

We should put the wealth in the hands of those that create it, which is employees.—Marjorie Kelly, journalist and corporate reformer

If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.—John F. Kennedy

What good does it do to sit at the counter when you cannot afford a hamburger? Martin Luther King, Jr.

In our society it is murder, psychologically, to deprive a man of a job or an income. You are in substance saying to that man that he has no right to exist. You are in a real way depriving him of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, denying in his case the very creed of his society. Martin Luther King, Jr.

If hard work were such a wonderful thing, surely the rich would have kept it all to themselves.— Lane Kirkland

Everyone has a right to a job, everyone has a right to an education, everyone has a right to health care, everyone has a right to retirement security, everyone has a right to housing, and everyone has a right to peace.US Representative Dennis Kucinich, at Madison Workers’ Rights Rally, March 12, 2011

God, how patient are Thy poor!  These corporations and masters of manipulation in finance heaping up great fortunes by a system of legalized extortion, and then exacting from the contributors–to whom a little means so much–a double share to guard the treasure!—Robert M. LaFollette, Sr., Wisconsin Governor and U.S. Senator

The union miner cannot agree to the acceptance of a wage principle which will permit his annual earnings and his living standards to be determined by the hungriest unfortunates whom the non-union operators can employ.—John L. Lewis

The balancing of the budget will not in itself place a teaspoonful of milk in a hungry baby’s stomach, or remove the rags from its mother’s back.—John L. Lewis, 1933

Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.—Abraham Lincoln

Anyone with a part-time job works full-time for half salary.—Denise D. Lynn

When a man tells you that he got rich through hard work, ask him whose. Don Marquis

We live in the richest country in the world. There’s plenty to spare and 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 this start? There are corporations worth billions of dollars–and hundreds of thousands of people who don’t get to eat. Carson McCullers


This troubled planet is a place of the most violent contrasts. Those that receive the rewards are totally separate from those who shoulder the burdens. It is not a wise leadership.—Mr. Spock of “Star Trek”

A Society that gives to one class all the opportunities for leisure and to another all the burdens of work condemns both classes to spiritual sterility.—Lewis Mumford

The essential point here is that all people with small, insecure incomes are in the same boat and ought to be fighting on the same side. Probably we could do with a little less talk about’ capitalist’ and ‘proletarian’ and a little more about the robbers and the robbed.George Orwell (The Road To Wigan Pier)

The coming change can only come through a revolution, because the possessing class will not allow a peaceful change to take place; still we are willing to work for peace at any price, except at the price of liberty.—Lucy Parsons

Never be deceived that the rich will permit you to vote away their wealth.—Lucy Parsons

Strike not for a few cents more an hour, because the price of living will be raised faster still, but strike for all you earn, be content with nothing less.—Lucy Parsons

Art thou less a slave by being favoured by thy master? Thou art indeed well off, slave. Thy master favours thee; he will soon beat thee. Pascal, Pensees, 1670

The labor movement means just this: It is the last noble protest of the American people against the power of incorporated wealth.— Wendell Phillips

An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics. Plutarch

The present age handed over the workers, each alone and defenseless, to the unbridled greed of competitors… so that a very few and exceedingly rich men have laid a yoke of almost slavery on the unnumbered masses of non-owning workers.—Pope Leo XIII

Corruption dominates the ballot-box, the Legislatures, the Congress and touches even the ermine of the bench. The fruits of the toil of millions are boldly stolen to build up colossal fortunes for a few, unprecedented in the history of mankind; and the possessors of these, in turn, despise the Republic and endanger liberty.— National platform of the Populist Party, 1892

He who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth and he who gives gifts to the rich–both come to poverty.—Proverbs 22:16

The right to a job without a right to a living wage is just as weak as the right to a living wage without a job.  Both rights must remain intact and linked together.— William P. Quigley

A community is democratic only when the humblest and weakest person can enjoy the highest civil, economic, and social rights that the biggest and most powerful possess.—A. Philip Randolph

No business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country. By living wages I mean more than a bare subsistence level –I mean the wages of decent living.—Franklin D. Roosevelt

The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.—Franklin D. Roosevelt

United we bargain; divided we beg!—SEIU Health Care Workers Union Local 250 button

America is being sold to the lowest bidders, and those whose jobs remain in this country are at the mercy of their employers.–Mary Shaw, writer and activist

If we will not endure a king as a political power, we should not endure a king over the production, transportation, and sale of any of the necessities of life.–Senator John Sherman, principal author of the Sherman Antitrust Act

Once, a union job at GM or AT&T was a bridge to success. Now, a nonunion Wal-Mart job is a bridge to nowhere.—Andy Stern, SEIU President

What is economics? A science invented by the upper class in order to acquire the fruits of the labor of the underclass.—August Strindberg, 1884

When fewer workers have unions, the standard of living falls for everyone and the gap between the rich and poor grows.—John Sweeney, 2003

I think the greedy corporate owners have to be confronted with the fact that they are ignoring their most powerful resource — their workers.—John Sweeney, 1995

I never wonder to see men wicked, but I often wonder to see them not ashamed.—Jonathan Swift

Our cause is a common one. It is war between poverty and wealth. … This moneyed power is fast eating up the substance of the people. We have made war upon it, and we mean to win it. If we can, we will win through the ballot box; if not, then we shall resort to sterner means.—William Sylvis

The ultimate goal of those who blame workers for Wall Street’s economic crisis is to unravel the fabric of our common life in pursuit of greed and power.—AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, May 20, 2011

People who have to fight for their living and are not afraid to die for it are higher persons than those who, stationed high, are too fat to dare to die.—Lao Tzu (attributed)

I cannot be fired.  Slaves have to be sold.—Unknown

The comfort of the rich depends upon an abundant supply of the poor.— Voltaire

The freest government cannot long endure when the tendency of the law is to create a rapid accumulation of property in the hands of a few, and to render the masses poor and dependent.— Daniel Webster

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.—Oscar Wilde

The Constitution does not provide for first and second class citizens.—Wendell Lewis Willkie


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