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"The Sun beams down on a brand new day,

No more welfare tax to pay,

Unsightly slums gone up in flashing light.

Jobless millions whisked away,

At last we have more room to play,

All systems go to kill the poor tonight."
Dead Kennedys, "Kill The Poor"

When someone takes Lyndon Johnson's "War on Poverty" a bit too literally and decides to fight poverty by implementing the most dubious and amoral methods imaginable.

Instead of seeking to diminish poverty by instituting social programs and private charities to provide aid and utilities to impoverished individuals or families and give them a means to attain a greater quality of life and income, some people will aim to diminish poverty by simply getting rid of people who are poor. Really, they just want to round them up and kill them. On the plus side, such a policy would have a whopping 100% success rate for ending poverty. On the other hand, it's extremely unethical.

To lesser extents, some people may just suggest to make poverty illegal and see to it that all poor people are treated as criminals under the eyes of the law, rather than just kill them; this may involve the poor being forced into slave labor or a similar venture so that they can be put to "better use".

In either case, such positions are usually rife with sociopolitical and socioeconomic Satire and Symbolism, exaggerating how Upper Class Twits and other wealthy elites both want to view the poor and lower classes and, more cynically, how they may actually view such groups; in this fashion, the concept could be used as a form of Black Comedy or establish a Cozy Catastrophe. To other extents, this could involve a character crossing the Moral Event Horizon and establishing oneself as a Politically-Incorrect Villain.

A Sub-Trope of Social Darwinism and Slobs Versus Snobs.

Compare: Disposable Vagrant, for the murders and vicious exploitation of impoverished people on a smaller or more discreet scale For Science! and other personal motivations.

Contrast: Eat the Rich

No Real Life Examples, Please

Examples of Kill the Poor include:

Anime And Manga

  • Galaxy Express 999 takes place in a Crapsack World where rich nobles who have swapped their bodies for mechanized bodies are free to hunt poor humans for sport. (This was how the main character Tetsuro's mother died. She was even stuffed and mounted on a wall.)
  • A flashback in One Piece shows this happening in Luffy's home island in an effort to "clean things up" before a visit of the World Nobles.
  • Part of the background of the Barsburg Empire in 07-Ghost are campaigns to exterminate the poor and the chronically infirm by rounding them up and burning them alive.


  • A brief scene in Kingdom Come sees one Anti-Hero, The Americommando, and his cronies declare war on meager immigrants, claiming "the poor, tired, huddled masses camping on our shores, begging citizenship" are the biggest foreign threat to the United States after the disaster in Kansas, though it's suggested that he's under Mind Control.
  • The title character in Nikolai Dante once encountered a countess heavily based on the legends of Elizabeth Bathory who insists that the blood she bathes in is "happily donated" by young women in return for tax exemptions. After Dante uncovers a secret lair belonging to the countess in which dozens of young women are being held in captivity and bled for all their worth, it turns out that these particular women are all unemployed and, therefore, couldn't pay any taxes so they get drained wholesale.
  • The Mighty showed Alpha One suggesting to his fellow members of Congress a way of helping his planet that involves killing most of the degenerates. They didn't approve.
  • In V for Vendetta, the homeless are rounded up and placed in death camps along with other "undesirables."


  • In American Psycho, Patrick Bateman feels nothing but ill will and contempt for the lower classes. After he sends one homeless man he meets many mixed signals--from pulling out his wallet and flipping through the money he has to berating him to get a job--Patrick stabs the homeless man to death after he praised Patrick for being "so kind." In his confession to his lawyer over the phone, Bateman claims to have killed "maybe five or ten" homeless people altogether.
  • The Danish dystopic comedy Hvordan Vi Slipper Af Med De Andre ("How We'll Get Rid Of The Others"). 'The Others,' in this case, refers to the leeches of society--those who cost more than they pay in taxes, like habitual criminals, people on benefit, and just generally anyone who doesn't pay enough taxes. It's basically about a near-future dystopia where the government decides to get rid of these people by summary execution in order to balance the budget.
  • The Mexican film Un Mundo Maravilloso ends with the Minister of Economy declaring poverty illegal so all social services are stopped altogether, the poor are simply written off from all official statistics and all the impoverished people are isolated in concentration camps to fend up for themselves. He wins the Nobel Prize in Economics for this.
  • Reno in The Driller Killer originally targeted homeless people because they made him feel disgusted.
  • A pretty child-friendly example pops up in The Great Mouse Detective. Professor Ratigan, who has just claimed supreme power over all mousedom, proposes a heavy tax on all social parasites, particularly the elderly, the infirm, and little children.


  • Jonathan Swift's satirical A Modest Proposal encourages poor parents to sell their own babies and children for food so that they can have a means of receiving an income with which to rise above the lower class and not have to be burdened by having to raise kids while struggling with poverty.
  • Although he doesn't advocate outright killing the poor, in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol Ebenezer Scrooge does advocate the poor offing themselves...

 Solicitor for the Poor: Many would rather die than go there [to prison or to a workhouse].

Scrooge: If they'd rather die, then they had better do it and decrease the surplus population.

    • As you might expect, this comes back to bite him during the Christmas Present sequence.
  • In The Third Millennium (a fictional history book supposedly written in the early 3000's), the "Age of Crisis" ended in 2180 with the death of "The Lost Billion," over 1 billion missing persons between 2000 and 2180 that were never found; most were poor. The authors imply that their deaths ended up saving the world, not because they were poor but because they lacked either the will or the ability to give up their old ways of life and find new ones, and thus were the last remaining force holding humanity back from the world of the future. Their deaths were not deliberate, barring an Unreliable Narrator, but the explanations lead to some Unfortunate Implications, seeing that it's claiming that poor folk are stubborn and cling to old traditions and that old traditions are harmful.
  • The 18th-century rabbi Nakhman of Bratslav wrote a story/folktale/parable in which there is a land where the rich eat the poor.
  • In Germinal, as Étienne becomes more "educated" and more disgusted with the poverty surrounding him, he begins to harbor this sentiment.
  • In Animorphs, one of the Megamorphs books begins in an alternate universe where the homeless "are rounded up and shot."
  • The book Stone Cold is about a serial killer who, after being kicked out of the Army, lures homeless people to his flat and murders them. He does it because he believes that they are "polluting" the country.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire mentions offhandedly that Joffrey's proposed solution to beggars and starving poor people in King's Landing is to kill them. He at one point brings a crossbow to the castle walls and starts shooting at the people outside the gates begging for food.
  • Futuretrack Five by Robert Westall turns out to be about this. It's what Scott-Astbury was really up to--deliberately trying to wipe out the working class and replace them with a selectively bred version who would be more respectful to their "rightful masters".
  • In the poem by V. Zhukovsky "Divine trial over bishop" a greedy bishop refuses to share his food stocks with famished people and, fed up with their pleas, invites them to a huge barn for a feast, and then burns them all alive.

Live Action TV

  • Stephen Colbert on The Colbert Report has, on at least one occasion, equated the "War on Poverty" with the "War on Drugs" and has wondered why we haven't yet made poverty illegal.
    • During one banter segment with Jon Stewart at the end of The Daily Show's 10th Anniversary episode, Colbert remarked about how Stewart's show is all about supporting "the underdog" and Colbert can't believe how he ever backed that losing horse. That's why Colbert on his own show now supports "the overdog" (specifically, big business). When concluding his point, Colbert quotes the Trope Namer!

  Like mis hermanos The Dead Kennedys say, "Kill, kill, kill, kill, kill the poor!"

    • When offering solutions to help the poor and unemployed without having to raise taxes for the wealthy, Colbert suggested that rich people should buy the natural rights of poorer individuals and took Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal seriously, calling for poor children to be sold as food for extra cash.
    • Colbert wants the Occupy Wall Street "pity party" to end so that Wall Street can get back to their own party--snorting the ground up bones of the poor.
  • In the Star Trek episode "The Cloud Minders," on the planet Ardana, the poor are enslaved and forced to live out their entire lives in underground mines.
    • It gets worse. The poor are accused of being violent and stupid...but this is a side effect of the gases in the mines, which they are exposed to since they are poor, violent, and stupid...
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus has this John Cleese vox pop:

 Cleese: Well I think they should attack the lower classes, first with bombs and rockets to destroy their homes, and then when they run helpless into the streets, mowing them down with machine-guns. And then, of course, releasing the vultures. I know this isn't a popular opinion, but I've never worried about being popular.

  • A Saturday Night Live sketch referenced this. It was about the cheerful hosts of a morning news show who start having breakdowns on the air when their teleprompter breaks. Trying to improvise, Will Ferrell's character says that someone should get a bunch of guns to "sweep out those ghettos." Cut to commercial.
  • An annual cull of the poor was one of Tim's policies when running for Prime Minister on The Goodies.
  • The rich and completely insane killer in the Criminal Minds episode "Legacy" believed he was doing the world a favor by exterminating street people, who he viewed as completely subhuman garbage, tainting everything they touch. When the detective who watches over the part of the city the killer gets his victims from is actually awarded due to the lower crime rate, the killer is insulted, and sends him a letter saying he should be ashamed for stealing the credit for other people's work. In the end, when the killer is surrounded by the police just as he is about to murder someone else, he actually screams "Just let me do my job!" before being shot.
    • Slaughtering homeless people on large scales happens so frequently that the culprits have their own nickname: "house cleaners."
  • One segment on The Day Today focuses on how London police are clamping down on homelessness... LITERALLY--with car boots, no less. Any homeless person found asleep or motionless after 9 PM is clamped and forced to stay where they are upon waking up. They are later prosecuted and punished.
  • That Mitchell and Webb Look had a sketch all about this where the Prime Minister, in a meeting with two aides over solving Britain's economic troubles, asks his aides if they had tried typing the exact phrase "kill the poor" in the computer to see if it would help. He doesn't say that he wants to kill the poor, he just wants to see if killing the poor would revitalize the nation's economy. It wouldn't.
  • The actions taken by the British government in Torchwood: Children of Earth verge on this. When aliens require 10% of the children of the world, the government eventually decides to take those 10% from the most impoverished sections of society. One politician in particular implies that, given the world's overpopulation in general, this may not be a bad thing at all in the long run.
  • In Lois and Clark, the homeless are shown to be immune to President Tempus' telephone-linked subliminal messaging, by virtue that none of them own a phone. In response, Tempus passes legislation making it illegal not to use the phone, then lines the homeless up before a firing squad.
  • A Mad TV sketch had the mayor of a town addressing the press to reveal his new plan for dealing with the poor. He would give them all virtual reality helmets that would show them everything they ever wanted, allowing them to live out their lives in peace. The test subject they put one on sees a beautiful woman in the distance, holding a steak dinner and a bottle of booze. He runs towards her, which leads him into traffic where he is killed by an oncoming truck. It concludes with the mayor declaring "And that's how we'll eliminate the homeless ... problem."
  • Dinosaurs has a fair share of cases where the trope is invoked.
    • When the bipeds declared war against 4-Leggers, the biped President announced the young and the poor would be drafted.
    • In a debate on whether rich people should eat poor people, the proposition's supporters claimed being food was the only thing poor people were useful for and those opposed claimed the poor could contaminate whoever ate them.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine had a Time Travel episode where Sisko, Bashir, and Dax accidentally travel back to Earth Twenty Minutes into Our Future. Sisko and Bashir are assumed to be homeless by the police who find them, and they are sent to an interment camp for the indigent. The government of the time claims that it's a progressive measure to help the less fortunate, but Sisko points out that it's really just a way to sweep the poor under the rug so other people don't have to think about them.


  • The Trope Namer is the Dead Kennedys song "Kill The Poor," which plays with the idea of wealthy politicians, lobbyists, and corporations getting together and eliminating poor slums in a nuclear holocaust for their own benefit.

Mythology And Folklore

  • Vlad Tepes (AKA Vlad The Impaler — the man who Dracula was very loosely modeled after), allegedly held a banquet for all the poor people in his land (or all the beggars, depending on the version), at which time he locked them in and set the room on fire.
  • Similar to the above story is the folk tale of Archbishop Hatto of Mainz (though the legend wavers between Hatto I and Hatto II) with the further pleasant details that the Archbishop referred to the peasantry as "mice who devoured his grain." The Archbishop himself was, allegedly, subsequently devoured by a horde of actual mice, thus giving the name to the Mouse Tower on the Rhine near Bingen.

Newspaper Comics

  • One This Modern World strip shows a post-apocalyptic world where the poor are fattened up on the available food and eaten by the rich.
  • Cartoonist Mike Peters (Mother Goose and Grimm) does editorial cartoons as well. One showed Ronald Reagan declaring that he's "going to see to it that the poor are cared for... that they are warm and secure, clothed and sheltered, and all their needs are taken care of..." Then he picks up the phone and orders, "BUILD MORE PRISONS."

Tabletop Roleplaying Games

  • In Misspent Youth by Robert Bohl, The Authority (the group-created villain) frequently victimizes the poor.

Video Games

  • Cyberswine: The NetCops' attempts to kill the Street People have a whiff of this. Of course, they are human and the NetCops are programmed to kill all humans, regardless of their wealth.
  • Saints Row 2: This turns out to essentially be Ultor's big plan to improve Stilwater. Only that the Saints beat them to it by actually killing them. Mind you, the Saints are the player controlled gang.
  • Valkyrie Profile: Present in Lucian's backstory. Lucian was part of a band of thieves that steals for the poor. Consequently, soldiers were sent to kill not only the thieves but also the rest of the slum's dwellers.


  • A Bug strip depicts a bug politician demanding someone end poverty without resorting to evil after he's told that he can't end it by killing homeless people.

Web Original

  • In the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, the Diabolical Mastermind Lord Doom has ended the problems of poverty, unemployment, and homelessness on the island of Bermuda by declaring it illegal to be unemployed or homeless. If you find yourself in either condition, Doom's regime will escort you to a retraining center where you will learn a needed trade, whether you want to learn a new trade or not. After the retraining and re-education, you will then be put to work where you are needed. If you refuse to learn the new trade (or turn out to be untrainable), you'll be put in a job that requires no training. Some of these jobs, like " biological waste disposal worker", are unpleasant, but survivable. Others, such as "involuntary chemical weapons test subject" are less so.
  • In Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, when Captain Hammer speaks on the opening of a new homeless shelter, he says that he hates the homeless...ness problem. Once he launches into his song "Everyone's a Hero", it becomes abundantly clear that he does, in fact, hate the homeless and anyone else not as "heroic" as himself.
    • Dr. Horrible once accidentally implied that he subscribes to this belief system in his civilian guise of Billy in front of Penny, a volunteer worker and the girl he likes. He refers to the poor as a tumor upon society that should be cut off.

Western Animation

  • The Simpsons' Treehouse Of Horror XVII short "Married To The Blob," Mayor Quimby and the town of Springfield reach a compromise with Homer, who has gained an insatiable appetite after becoming The Blob: They keep Homer inside a new "homeless shelter," and any vagrants who enter are immediately fed to him. In a very twisted way, this is effectively supposed to kill two birds with one stone.
  • In Futurama the unemployment problem was "solved" in a much more humane fashion--by making it illegal to be unemployed.
    • Judge Whitey also ruled poverty as a mental illness.
  • The "criminalizing poverty" variant was used in The Zeta Project episode "Hunt in the Hub," where anyone who runs out of money is immediately hunted down by the security guards as a vagrant. The creepiest part is that none of the characters seem to find this strange.
  • In Tiny Toon Adventures, Babs tries to get into Montana Max's house, claiming to be collecting money for "fighting the poverty fund." He is about to slam the door in her face when she explains that the plan is to send all the poor to the Moon. He gives her a bagful of money.
  • In the Family Guy episode "A Picture is Worth 1,000 Bucks," Peter remarks that New York City is a lot nicer ever since Rudy Giuliani secretly had the homeless people killed.
  • On South Park, Kyle's dad inadvertently gives his son the idea that putting all poor people in concentration camps would be a good for the world.
  • The Critic: Jay's mother wants to blast the poor into outer space.
  • In Robots, Madame Gasket is revealed to be melting down lower-class robots into products for her son's company to sell.