The three great American vices seem to be efficiency, punctuality, and the desire for achievement and success. They are the things that make the Americans so unhappy and so nervous.
The vast majority of Americans, at all coordinates of the economic spectrum, consider themselves middle class; this is a deeply ingrained, distinctly American cognitive dissonance.
The American myth that anyone who works hard will get ahead, and that wealth accumulation is a product of individual effort and merit, is no longer sustainable.
How do you make a million? You start with $900,000.
Great wealth is its own nationality.
There was music from my neighbor’s house through the summer nights. In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars. At high tide in the afternoon I watched his guests diving from the tower of his raft, or taking the sun on the hot sand of his beach while his two motorboats slit the waters of the Sound, drawing aquaplanes over cataracts of foam. . . . And on Mondays eight servants, including an extra gardener, toiled all day with mops and scrubbing-brushes and hammers and garden-shears, repairing the ravages of the night before.
I’ve been poor and I’ve been rich. Rich is better.
Anyone who has ever struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor.
Poverty . . . is very bad for the formation of a personality. . . . Not until I knew for certain where my next meal would come from could I give myself up to ignoring that next meal; I could think of other things.
We really need to demystify poverty and demonstrate that it is a failure of the system and not a failure of individuals. We need to talk about it and deconstruct these lies. People who aspire to grab public attention can do an awful lot to show what it means to be poor — that it does not mean that one is morally lax or somehow deficient; that what it means is that you just “don’t have no money.” That is what poverty is: “you don’t have no money.” It is not a magical, mystical state of being, as if somebody threw some magic dust on you and you became a lowlife.
To do good, blood must circulate. Money must circulate, too. Money must be distributed throughout the body politic, not be concentrated in the pockets of a few. . . . A maximum wage linked to a decent minimum wage would help every family and every community live healthy lives — and restore balance to a nation ravaged by unbridled greed.
The biggest start-up successes — from Henry Ford to Bill Gates to Mark Zuckerberg — were pioneered by people from solidly middle-class backgrounds. These founders were not wealthy when they began. They were hungry for success, but knew they had a solid support system to fall back on if they failed.
Junkie. Pothead. That’s where I’d been headed: the final, fatal role of the young would-be black man. Except the highs hadn’t been about that, me trying to prove what a down brother I was. Not by then, anyway. I got high for just the opposite effect, something that could push questions of who I was out of my mind, something that could flatten out the landscape of my heart, blur the edges of my memory.
What and how much had I lost by trying to do only what was expected of me instead of what I myself had wished to do? What a waste, what a senseless waste!
Beyond the quest for financial security and personal comfort, what, if anything, are we committed to?
The greatest country, the richest country, is not that which has the most capitalists, monopolists, immense grabbings, vast fortunes, with its sad, sad soil of extreme, degrading, damning poverty, but the land in which . . . wealth does not show such contrasts high and low, where all men have enough — a modest living — and no man is made possessor beyond the sane and beautiful necessities.
To say that we are all equally important seems a redundancy, and yet how often do any of us act as if it were true?