The full statement of this oft-quoted maxim is that as the get richer, the poor get poorer. And this is a week when that seems ever more so.
We are told the economy is improving which, of course, is good news. However, we are also told house prices are recovering from the drop caused by the consequences' of the tsunami of debt resulting from the global financial crisis. Given that our economic problems started some six years ago we should all be grateful, shouldn't we?
The reality is that it depends.
If you are a middle-aged home owner in, for example, London, and you are in a decent job with security then perhaps you will have reason to be cheerful. As the pop tune now more associated with a certain particle physicist suggests, 'things [probably] can only get better.
However, I am concerned that as a nation the divide between the 'haves' and 'have nots' is increasing both in terms of numbers and the actual magnitude.
So, if you are young and unemployed with few prospects because you live in an area where few opportunities exist what are you supposed to do. Go to London perhaps where rents are exorbitant and prospect of owning your own home becoming ever more remote for even those in reasonably well-paid jobs? The news that a parking spot in a fashionable area of London has gone on sale for £300,000 only makes the 'London effect' seem even more ludicrous.
The fact that house prices are going up is hardly good news for those who are finding it difficult to get onto the mythical 'housing ladder'. Denying access to new blood would appear to be a sure-fire way to cause problems in the future. Indeed, many economic commentators believe that what we are seeing in terms of recovery is partly being funded by cheap debt and that the improvement in housing is due in no small part to the 'Help to Buy' scheme introduced by George Osborne.
Have we all forgotten that property speculation was a major cause of the credit crunch?
One of the reasons we are told that the reason economic problems have not resulted in higher unemployment that was characteristic of the 1980s and of the 1990s is that we have greater flexibility in employment. The conundrum of why unemployment was not rising more rapidly as the recession took hold in the last few years is now explained by the fact that there is a greater propensity by employers to hire people on 'zero-hours contracts' which we have heard so much of in recent weeks.
These contracts are undoubtedly good for the organisations which use them as they allow you to have a 'footloose' workforce which can be easily expanded but with none of the bureaucratic worries that comes with those on permanent or even short-term contracts.
But what about the prospects for those employed on these zero-hour contracts. Not surprisingly many would prefer to have security but faced with lack of alternative simply accept them in the hope that something better will come along. Unless they do they hope of settling down with a family and owning their own home will be extremely difficult.
Surely if the economy gets better we need to ensure that zero-hour contracts remain an exceptional way for organisations to take on new staff. Given that we now find there are a million employed on such contacts there is reason to fear that for many employers in particular sectors, most especially the service industry, they are now the de facto way of employing people.
Whilst I, grudgingly, accept that zero-hour contracts might have some legitimacy, they can simply lead to exploitation and misery for those employed on which, when we look at the organisations using them tend to be the young. Many of these young people will be graduates who increasingly leave university with debts that are eye-watering.
The low-skilled jobs that are being taken by graduates would possibly have been taken by the huge army of NEETs (Not in Employment, Education, or Training) had better opportunities existed.
This is also a week when the issue of executive pay reappeared with the news that some of the bosses of major charities are paid salaries in excess of £100,000 (one actually receiving just over £180,000). This may cause the majority who contribute and who are on average pay (circa £27,000) to think twice which simply makes life harder for the intended recipients of donations.
As anyone who has looked at the economy of Germany will find, there is greater equality between the rates of bosses and workers. There is also a culture of workers being part of the democratic processes which govern companies. It is worth recalling that because Germany remained wedded to it excellence and innovation and did not engage in property speculation that its citizens largely avoided the worst effects of the credit crunch.
A number of years ago I was informed that German-born Karl Marx who, as well as being a philosopher, economist, sociologist and, of course, hugely influential in his writing on the ills of unfettered capitalism, was reputed to have stated that there is only one class of people more obsessed by money than the rich; the poor.
I would state that I have never found any evidence that Marx actually made this statement but, nonetheless, it is still universally true.
So before we start celebrating economic recovery let's think about the sort of economy we really want in the future.
I'd suggest it should be one based on justice and greater equality not one where the rich appear to be getting richer and, you know the rest.Suggest a correction