DIANA JOHNSTONE: A Voice Heard in the Land

Planned obsolescence has been the dominant policy of the Western elite toward the working class since the neoliberal power seizure of the 1980s, a message that comes through in a new song suddenly sweeping the world. 

Dec. 14, 2018: Amazon workers in Shakopee, Minnesota, protesting a variety of working conditions. (Fibonacci Blue, Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

By Diana Johnstone
in Paris 
Special to Consortium News

The song “Rich Men North of Richmond” is a personal lament, a cry of pain and despair over the state of the “new world”.

The fact that Oliver Anthony’s powerful voice and frank lyrics immediately resonated with millions of listeners tells each of us something about the rest of us. On the simple but deep level of sensibility, millions of very different people found they shared something in common.

Exactly what this might be and where it might lead is a mystery, but there is potential political meaning in the subjective unity aroused by this song.

No, not unity but division! – promptly decreed liberal establishment opinion-makers. It’s the “right wing” that loves it, ruled The Guardian and the rest. Scrutinizing the lyrics for rightwing extremist stigmata, critics jumped on just these lines.

Lord, we got folks in the street
Ain’t got nothin’ to eat
And the obese milkin’ welfare

But God if you’re five foot three
And you’re three hundred pounds
Taxes ought not to pay
For your bags of fudge rounds

North of Richmond, where lobbyists and legislators play, this may seem to be all about welfare payments, good on the left, bad on the right. But in its way, this is a poem, and as such it calls for a more poetic interpretation.

[After 40 million views on YouTube, Edward Snowden tweets that Oliver likely already has an FBI file.]

Here the author is pointing to a paradox, the coexistence of having nothing to eat and suffering from obesity. This contrast is observed and experienced with growing frequency in the working class.

Anxiety, despair, substance abuse and binge eating, homelessness and bad nutrition, not to mention poor health and lowered life expectancy come together in these apparently opposing phenomena. All, including welfare itself, reflect the misery of the contemporary working class.

And if we stand back and look for causes and effects, we can drop the minor matter of too many fudge rounds and get to the great big root causes of the whole picture behind Oliver Anthony’s rapid sketch.

The Planned Obsolescence of the Working Class

Teamsters Local 804 rally in New York outside a UPS customer center. (Teamsterts for a Democratic Union)

The plight of the contemporary Western ruling class goes back roughly forty years, to the political takeover of public policy by financial capital. Financial capital makes the investment decisions that shape society, and governments, to lure those precious investments, began to cede more and more freedom to those decision-makers. The social impact was enormous.

Capitalist rulers not only chose measures to increase the share of stockholder profits over remuneration to employees for their productive work, but began to plan the obsolescence of the Western working class altogether. Automation and outsourcing diminished the political influence of labor, further weakened by uncontrolled immigration of potential substitute job fillers.

The plain truth is that planned obsolescence has been the dominant policy of the Western elite toward the working class since the neoliberal power seizure of the 1980s.

And what about the political left in all this, the political thinkers and activists who under Marxist influence once championed the working class as both the agents and the beneficiaries of historic progress?

To a significant extent, the American intellectual left settled into the ivory tower of academia, where it thrived following a trajectory in harmony with the obsolescence of the working class. Ensconced in humanities departments, the intellectual left more or less forgot about class as they theorized society in terms of a new array of human categories, racial and sexual. As befits a left, it actively promotes progress, championing oppressed identity categories as it once championed theoretically oppressed wage earners.

Now, when a working class stiff, who suffered a bad accident working in a paper mill, comes along with his complaint, representatives of this contemporary left don’t get it. What is he complaining about? Is he racist?

It is not just the present that causes suffering. Somehow the Western working class can feel that at more than one level, its future has been taken away from it.

Today’s official left doesn’t capture this discontent because it has essentially abandoned the working class and is no longer interested in ownership of the means of production, or even production, which may be bad for the planet.

The academic left see the whole world as classrooms and conference halls. It asserts its values by championing diversity, equity and inclusion in math classes and corporate board rooms. It wants fair distribution within its own elite and other elites as well.

It doesn’t care about the identity distribution of workers in a paper mill, which probably should be shut down anyway, for the sake of the environment. Yes, society is bitterly divided, but it sure ain’t the fault of Oliver Anthony.

“I’ve been sellin’ my soul, workin’ all day / Overtime hours for bullshit pay / So I can sit out here and waste my life away / Drag back home and drown my troubles away.

It’s a damn shame what the world’s gotten to / For people like me and people like you / Wish I could just wake up and it not be true / But it is, oh, it is.

Livin’ in the new world / With an old soul / These rich men north of Richmond / Lord knows they all just wanna have total control / Wanna know what you think, wanna know what you do / And they don’t think you know, but I know that you do / ‘Cause your dollar ain’t shit and it’s taxed to no end / ‘Cause of rich men north of Richmond.

I wish politicians would look out for miners / And not just minors on an island somewhere / Lord, we got folks in the street, ain’t got nothin’ to eat / And the obese milkin’ welfare.

Well, God, if you’re 5-foot-3 and you’re 300 pounds / Taxes ought not to pay for your bags of fudge rounds / Young men are puttin’ themselves six feet in the ground / ‘Cause all this damn country does is keep on kickin’ them down.”

Diana Johnstone was press secretary of the Green Group in the European Parliament from 1989 to 1996. In her latest book, Circle in the Darkness: Memoirs of a World Watcher (Clarity Press, 2020), she recounts key episodes in the transformation of the German Green Party from a peace to a war party. Her other books include Fools’ Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO and Western Delusions (Pluto/Monthly Review) and in co-authorship with her father, Paul H. Johnstone, From MAD to Madness: Inside Pentagon Nuclear War Planning (Clarity Press). She can be reached at [email protected]

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

41 comments for “DIANA JOHNSTONE: A Voice Heard in the Land

  1. DMCP
    August 28, 2023 at 03:16

    I always look forward to Diana Johnstone’s essays and this one is excellent. Her analysis of the left-wing intelligentsia and its uniform obsession with identity is right on target. It has now spread beyond the humanities and into the sciences, which is troubling.That, and the fact that corporate capitalism has so smoothly co-opted the Diversity-Equity-Inclusion dogma, which only required the hiring of a few additional vice-presidents and HR managers. All of whom are graduates of the colleges and universities that are hives of DEI busywork. No threat at all to the corporate business model. And I agree that it was about 40 years ago (early 1980’s) that the American economic system was really captured corporate-raider mentality and the Chicago School worship of profit-over-all. Thank you again, Diana, and thank you to CN for being here.

  2. LeoSun
    August 27, 2023 at 04:45

    Imo, w/o a doubt, DIANA JOHNSTONE’S “A Voice Heard in the Land,” defines, HUMANE, “characterized by kindness, mercy, compassion w/an emphasis on humanistic values and concerns.” Diana Johnstone flippin’ rocked it!

    “Repeat [ALL] the lines!!!” For Diana Johnstone’s got the “Three (3) Evils of Society,” Racism. Poverty. War, down; AND, Oliver Anthony should heed Johnstone’s advice, “But in its way, this is a poem, and as such it calls for a more poetic interpretation.” (FULL Context, above)

    “And, there has been progress; but, we must not allow this progress to cause us to engage in a superficial, dangerous optimism.” (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)

    Fifty plus (50+) years later, the Nation wreaks of “North OF Virginia” & Northern Virginia (NOVA), “The outcome of the November 2, 2021, election was a defeat, not merely of an administration, but of the entire political framework of the DNC’s Democrats’ Party of War and its social orientation over many decades.”

    Imo, the Duopoly is the rot @ the core of Oliver’s song. The political corpse, Biden-Harris, posing as POTUS, masquerading as human prove the song is ripe for the times: “The Fruit is Rotten:”

    1) “There is no division between “establishment” and “non-establishment” Democrats;
    2) The Democrat Party is the establishment. It is the state. It is the C.I.A. It is the M.I.C., and the F.B.I.;
    3) It is an institution through which the capitalist class maintains its rule, suppresses social opposition and plunders the world on behalf of the corporations;
    4) It is an institution aiming @ conditioning “US” to live w/BIDEN-HARRIS “until d#*th do “US” part.“
    5) RESIST the $tatus Quo’s Corporate Coups D’État, Hate, War aka BIDENOMICS aka $ocial Murder.

    “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds.” Bob Marley

    “Won’t you help to sing, these songs of freedom. Cause all I ever had, ‘Redemption Songs. Song of freedom.” Keep It Lit.

  3. D.H.Fabian
    August 26, 2023 at 15:01

    Get real. Since the Reagan years, US job losses had long surpassed job gains. Millions are left jobless, and Democrats ended basic relief for the poor 27 years ago. We see a new wave of jobless workers every so many years, and they all pretend like they’re something new. something different. They’re not. They’re just more people left jobless, and we will turn our backs on them as well.

  4. Utu
    August 26, 2023 at 12:18

    I love Diana Johnstone’s writing, but I think she may be over-analyzing this a bit here (but I don’t think her analysis is wrong). The bottom line is, Oliver Anthony is angry and anger tends to lash out in all directions, not necessarily at the right target. Like his line: “‘Cause your dollar ain’t shit and it’s taxed to no end” It always kinda baffles me that people are so upset about the taxes on their paycheck, but not at the fact that the boss retains the majority of the value created by their labor. Or as a friend of mine put it: “Profits are wages I haven’t been paid.”

    And fact that the country has been subjected to 40 years of right wing propaganda, it’s not surprising that some of it sneaks in, like in the lines about fudge rounds. I think that certain elements of the liberal-to-left spectrum have become hyper-sensitized to it, kind of like a political anaphylaxis. Combined with Ms. Johnstone’s point about the ivory tower liberals just not getting it, we get pretty much the liberal reaction we see here.

    • J Anthony
      August 28, 2023 at 07:19

      I agree wholeheartedly- I can get on board with Oliver Anthony’s general frustration here, but he does sound like he’s coming from the right-leaning position of what bothers them- too much welfare being gamed and taxes. These are often the pet-peeve issues of so many “conservatives.” And while there is some valid complaint to be had about being over-taxed (if only because the tax $ doesn’t go to what it ought to), or people gaming the meager welfare system (but never mention all the honest recipients of said assistance, as there would be even more homeless and hungry people without it), the song doesn’t go far enough nor does it take aim at the real culprits.

  5. John
    August 26, 2023 at 09:18

    The one percent is doing pretty ok and the ten percent professional class whom the democratic party represents. Working class has been a dirty word to use in this country for the last forty years. Tweedle dee and Tweedle dum. is the best way of describing the Democrats and Republicans Boths have been supporting foreign wars?

    • vinnieoh
      August 28, 2023 at 10:09

      During the 2016 campaign Bill Clinton came to this once important steel town to campaign for his wife. The president of the steelworkers union local was quoted on TV saying “He’s got a lot of crust coming here” because it was WJC who signed NAFTA. Of course that was a uniparty piece of legislation which benefited only the ownership class. In ’16 Trump carried Ohio by 8%; though I expected a somewhat closer outcome in ’20, it was once again 8%.

      Capital flight has been going on here for at least 4 decades. Between the (once) highly unionized and decently compensated labor force, and collectively the: Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Surface Mine Act, the corporate ownership class decided that the US had not only leveled the playing field but elevated it above the amount of profit infringement it was willing to tolerate. So, as this immediate region became cleaner and more responsible, it also became poorer and stagnant as the ownership/investment class abandoned it. A highly trained and effective generation of industrial workers got knee-capped, and their descendants can only listen to stories about how things used to be.

      Don’t misunderstand me: those environmental laws were necessary and have done tremendous good. But capital is portable, and whole populations are not.

  6. John
    August 26, 2023 at 08:38

    Growing up in London, working class and having lived in a hierarchical structure system. you knew your place and from the day you were born. The word class is never mentioned or printed in this country, race sex gender yes. When it comes to the liberal or Progressives ‘it makes me laugh, they are a part of the 10% whom have fared well over the last forty years, totally out of touch with working class concerns and needs. I would regard them back home in England as a centralist Both parties are just like Tweedle dee and Tweedle dum , both have supported numerous.
    wars. What’s needed is a real Labour party for the people.

  7. MeMyself
    August 26, 2023 at 08:08


  8. MeMyself
    August 26, 2023 at 08:06

    Just like the Titanic (1997 film) you need a good son to help with the mood.

  9. JohnA
    August 26, 2023 at 04:09

    Finland and Sweden, a new and an aspiring member of Nato, have both announced big increases in military spending to meet US demands, and at the same time, announced huge cuts to welfare, education, and other social services budgets to cover this. Make it make sense to anyone but the 1%.

  10. Bill Todd
    August 26, 2023 at 02:37

    The point where this article really focused my attention was “the intellectual left more or less forgot about class as they theorized society in terms of a new array of human categories, racial and sexual. As befits a left, it actively promotes progress, championing oppressed identity categories as it once championed theoretically oppressed wage earners.”

    This new division of focus into identity politics groups rather than larger issues is how the corrupt Democratic establishment has managed to retain member loyalty while laughing all the way to the bank satisfying their owners without making real efforts to address those larger issues which would definitely discomfit those owners.

    The most blatant evidence of this came during the 2016 and 2020 Democratic primaries, where Bernie Sanders concentrated on class issues very successfully early-on but then found his support leak away when the Democratic establishment managed to turn the contest into one which blinded single-issue-dominated identity groups to the fact that class issues were of broader applicability to their problems (especially considering how empty those identity-politics campaign pledges usually turned out to be).

    People like to feel personally ‘stroked’ and some felt unappreciated by Bernie’s treating them like adults who could think for themselves. That may be one of the reasons the Green party has had such difficulty making more headway for the past couple of decades.

  11. Bill Mack
    August 25, 2023 at 20:11

    Oliver Anthony is an opor “tunist” .
    He laments working two shifts to make ends meet… poor boy.
    Sing your song then vote against your own better interest , as MAGAs do .
    Bill Mack

    • Diana Johnstone
      August 26, 2023 at 12:13

      Reply to all those who misinterpreted his song or his intentions, listen to what Oliver Anthony says about it. hxxps://countrynow.com/watch-oliver-anthony-speaks-on-politics-calls-for-change-in-emotional-new-video-message/
      Diana Johnstone

    • JonnyJames
      August 26, 2023 at 12:18

      But ” In the US, there is no way to vote against the interests of Goldman Sachs” (Chris Hedges). No matter if you vote D or R, you vote against your own interests. “The US is an oligarchy with unlimited political bribery” (Jimmy Carter) .

      What do we think this is? A democracy or something?

    • Lonnie Palmateer
      August 26, 2023 at 12:53

      You apparently believe that you know how people who want to Make America Great Again vote, without a clue as to what actually drives them. Your judging Oliver as an opportunist who isn’t smart enough to vote his interests, demonstrates a personal belief that you’re better than Mr. Anthony and any MAGA supporter. Your “poor boy” and “vote against your own interest” is steeped in elitism that I typically observe in people like Pelosi, Clinton or Obama with his nose stuck high in the air. Perhaps you are more like Jeb Bush, Dick Cheney or Karl Rove who never had to perform hard labor and did everything they could to not have to sweat for a living. All of those elitist people’s lives are not typical of the average American’s life or remotely close. Those elitists in DC (much like yourself) are so far removed from the American experience, that they are incapable of focusing on the general welfare of America and its citizens as a whole. Instead, they focus on issues involving an insignificant percentage of the population, while ignoring their sworn duty to constituents. Everything the Uniparty does results in the rich getting richer by making the poor poorer. They all support a war in Ukraine that the majority of Americans do not. They refuse to close the border against the majority of American’s wishes. They refuse to stop the flow of illegal drugs, instead they built a tax funded DEA empire that increased the flow of illicit drugs by design. They refuse to balance the budget, which will ultimately end us. They haven’t passed any legislation with substantial value for a long time.
      The majority of Americans want the American dream of growing up in a free and open society with all that it entails, protected from harm and given schooling that promotes excellence in education, moral integrity and the importance of a society that values personal freedom and liberty. We currently are substandard in educating our youth and I want them to have the same childhood I had, which was nearly perfect. The American dream also includes entering a workforce that provides meaningful employment which satisfies, and the ability to own a home and vehicle in an area safe enough to raise a family without worry. We generally do not have that. Let’s not forget the ultimate part of the American experience, and that is retirement. Working hard all your life while buying a home and raising a family takes a tremendous effort and we shouldn’t have to work until death to make the rich richer. Americans have set up social security, 401k plans and defined benefit retirement accounts for that specific purpose, yet people are having to work later in life as time goes by. The American dream is slipping away and people like you are to blame. I’m no different than any other American and I worked physical jobs my entire life. Grew up a JFK Democrat giving the party tens of thousands over the decades and worked a campaign. In 2016 I had enough of the duplicity, lies and outright fabrications by our political leaders, and voted for the only candidate that wasn’t like them. He wants to make America great again for all Americans, while people like you want a brown skinned person to pick your vegetables for you. The stupidity in your tact is that you are setting up the eventual reduction in the standard of living for your children. Elitist laziness and greed is responsible for the open borders that resulted in reduced wages and standard of living for Americans, hitting the poorest the hardest. Moral Americans pursuing the dream became fed up with the elite in both parties who passed the legislation that got us where we are today. 70 years ago a man could start working at nearly any job and in a few short years, he could get married and buy a home. He could then raise his family and eventually retire on one household income. That cannot be done today. Stupid people are funny in the idiocy they have convinced themselves to believe, while ignoring reality.

      • J Anthony
        August 28, 2023 at 07:32

        Your grievances are valid, to be sure, and so is your disenchantment with both parties and all the elite members of them- however your faith in Donald Trump, one of the most openly corrupt, lying corporate criminals of our time, is badly misaligned. He is not an outlier. He does not care about you any more than a Bush, Obama, or Biden does, except for the fact that your undying loyalty to him gives him a veneer of credibility, and of course your donation$.

    • gcw919
      August 26, 2023 at 17:07

      “…vote against your own better interest…”
      That says it all. The neo-libs have pulled off one of the great con jobs in history. Get the suckers to blame everybody for their plight, except the ones who caused it. 75 million voting for Trump is testimony to this.

  12. Alan Hodge
    August 25, 2023 at 19:31

    This young man, whose song moves me on fourth repetition, is lamenting the descent of the white working class into the position their closest class neighbors and natural allies in the black community have struggled to escape for centuries.
    This fella’s great-grandparents were dodging Pinkertons and being shot by federal troops for the crime of daring to ask for a living wage and safe working conditions in the mines and factories from which their black neighbors were excluded.
    Had the Labor Movement, had the party of Eugene Debs, been made to understand what they thought they were fighting for, the white working class might have made invincible alliance with a black population imported for the purpose of giving white workers a sub-citizenry lower than themselves to despise.
    Note on automation and off-shoring.
    Moving robots are not the automation to fear, except in policing and military applications. They are hideously expensive to purchase, program, operate, and maintain. Poor kids working under 60 watt bulbs in a converted chicken house have an investment-to-production ratio that outperforms robots 100-1 in most assembly work.
    Automated machinery is useful is in applications where speed, precision, and repeatability are paramount. Even there, the application must promise a profit margin worthy of the gob-smacking investment necessary to robotize production– the tripling of highly-skilled technical staff, squeaky clean environment, pristine uninterruptible power source, and the maintenance schedule necessary to keep robotic machinery performing at a rate that pays off.
    The manufacturing jobs everyone has burped and blatted about being automated, lo these forty years, were moved offshore for the purpose of escaping the horrors of automation, as the MBA set perceives it. There is indeed a huge tsunami of automation currently sucking back from the American employment shore, but it will automate office jobs, not factory jobs. Not one office worker in a thousand is doing a job a mediocre programmer like myself couldn’t write a program to obliterate. When the first companies begin to reorganize around the principle that the only workers they need are people who actually do things, office and management jobs above the shift supervision level will disintegrate overnight. This would be a great time to make sure your kids learn an actual skill.

    • Lonnie Palmateer
      August 26, 2023 at 13:20

      There will always be work for the trades and many other areas requiring the ability to think while working with your hands. The average price of an industrial robot has dropped from about $46,000 in 2010 to $27,000 in 2017 and is forecast to dip further to less than $10,900 by 2025 which will eventually automate all repetitive types of work. They aren’t as expensive as you may believe them to be and they work 24/7 without a break. They have also significantly reduced down time and maintenance costs by improving robot quality and reliability. Sensor improvements over the years coupled with increased computing power continually improve coordination and dexterity allowing for more human like movements. They will eventually take over a majority of human work and that is happening more quickly each year.

  13. lester
    August 25, 2023 at 18:51

    City governments, meantime, buy and deploy robot “dogs” to attack the angry poor. Robocops next? Our elites can’t really count on their human guards.

  14. Drew Hunkins
    August 25, 2023 at 17:26

    It used to be that the elite employer class loved lots and lots of available labor bc in that way it could suppress wages with the surplus of workers abounding.

    Now that deindustrialization and automation have taken off and rooted themselves into the U.S., the ruling class sees all this superfluous population as a problem to be quartered and corralled. They see the tens of millions of un and underemployed as a potential powder keg that could pose a backlash towards them.

    • Cc
      August 26, 2023 at 09:22

      Agreed, but any ideas as to why they are allowing millions of unskilled immigrants into the country?

      • Drew Hunkins
        August 26, 2023 at 16:59

        That’s to divide the working class so we don’t rally against the elites. A segment of our ruling class is very paranoid about any hint of homogenous nationalism.

  15. Drew Hunkins
    August 25, 2023 at 17:04

    Thank you Ms. Diana Johnstone for this exquisite piece.

    Class politics and class warfare are the driving motor forces of history, period!

  16. JBrant
    August 25, 2023 at 16:53

    The “obese milkin’ welfare” seems an odd refrain for those concerned with worker’s rights. It is the excuse of the middle and upper class to reduce taxes, minimize income and benefits for workers because “they don’t want to work,” and cut welfare for those unable to work. There are welfare cheats, but that is a distinct problem, whose solution generates far less than fair taxation.

    • JBrant
      August 26, 2023 at 05:17

      For suggested improvements to this song, see the concurrent piece at CP “Oliver Anthony’s “Rich Men North of Richmond”.
      The link is: hxxps://www.counterpunch.org/2023/08/25/mr-music-sells-his-soul-oliver-anthonys-rich-men-north-of-richmond/

    • John Rowland
      August 26, 2023 at 09:12

      I think you missed what she said about Obesity. Take a good and hard look at the issue please. Obesity is about lack of nutrition, and more and more evidence is supporting this hypothesis. It is absolutely a class issue. Good Food, with proper nutritional content is not available to the poor and working class. Industrial agriculture has missed the nutritional mark and is producing an inferior product. Just look at the price of an organic field grown tomato. Only the Rich Men North of Richmond can afford to eat it.

      100 years ago, that poor person would have had no money, but they would have had an organic tomato.

      • JBrant
        August 26, 2023 at 16:43

        She does note that it is not a core issue (”we can drop the minor matter of too many fudge rounds”) but it is a focus of the song, hence my comment. Absence of costly organic foods may be disappointing but is not the cause of obesity, which is poor education and lack of self-discipline: ordinary healthy food is less costly than the sweets and carbohydrates typically consumed by the obese.
        It is to some extent a class issue: the poor education and lack of self-discipline are often due to loss of hope for a better future.

  17. Lois Gagnon
    August 25, 2023 at 16:34

    Let’s not forget those brave young people of Occupy Wall Street and their mantra “We are the 99%.” It’s why they were met with a violent response from authority mostly in Democrat controlled cities and a President with a “D” next to his name.

    P.S. I just finished Diana Johnstone’s book “Circle in the Darkness.” Great read!

    • Drew Hunkins
      August 25, 2023 at 17:20

      And notice how the ruling class put down Occupy Wall St: suddenly the elite media started to focus on identity and gonadal politics. It distracted from the class reality of what Occupy was focusing on.

    • Xpat Paula
      August 27, 2023 at 15:45

      Absolutely! I’ve read it twice.

  18. Diane Rejman
    August 25, 2023 at 16:02

    I’m a raging liberal, and this song resonated with me. I see the pain all around me. I see it in the faces of the people who help me in stores, restaurant, and other places.
    He doesn’t use the words liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat, black or white. Doesn’t mention any religion or any particular lifestyle. It is so generic, we all can feel part of it.
    Comments have been ALL over the place.
    Even regarding the 300 pound person on welfare. One interpretation is that he is referring to the fat cats who make billions of dollars but then lobby the government to give them tax breaks and other financial incentives. ok – not exactly fudge rounds, but – why not.
    He’s already up to 40 million views in two weeks.
    To me a sign of great art is that it creates controversy, and gets people talking. On those two points, he has succeeded.

    • Robert McCurdy
      August 26, 2023 at 13:29

      I too interpret the 300 pounder as the recipients of corporate welfare. That’s my confirmation bias and more in keeping with the songs theme. I guess it goes both ways.
      Always loved this 1974 song along a similar theme:
      “He’s Misstra Know it All,” Stevie Wonder

  19. vinnieoh
    August 25, 2023 at 15:26

    A good example of the disconnect is PBS’ “This Old House,” which should be renamed “This Prohibitively Expensive Display of Conspicuous Consumption.” The P in PBS stands for public, but I’m hard pressed to recollect any that I know can afford such projects. Many young families can’t even afford the most modest of homes, nor the insurance, or the energy budget.

    During the GWB administration I came to the conclusion that the (US) government was incapable of leading, and that the most it could do was follow, but even that is not true as it works, captive as it is of the princes and barons of financial capital, to resist and oppress.

  20. Valerie
    August 25, 2023 at 15:14

    From the article:

    “The plight of the contemporary Western ruling class goes back roughly forty years, to the political takeover of public policy by financial capital.”

    I believe it goes much further back than that. I’ve just finished watching the dvd series “Tudors” and i was amazed at how things in those times resonate with today. The skullduggery, intrigues, lies, fears, plagues etc. We haven’t learned a bloody thing in 500 years.

  21. JonnyJames
    August 25, 2023 at 13:22

    As always, a great article from Diana J.

    But, I do have one quibble:

    Academic “left”? In today’s super-expensive, privatized public universities, and traditional private institutions, I would argue there is no traditional “left” left.

    In most US unis, faculty are part-time, no benefits “adjunct” professors. There is no possibility of tenure. They are often only paid when they are in the classroom or a limited number of research hours. Most work many many UNPAID hours. Add the massive student loan debt burden, and we have an almost impossible financial situation for most. Most can’t afford to enter academia, they are shut out. Only wealthy sycophants can afford to participate.

    Meanwhile, the ranks of highly-paid “administration” staff balloons. The Academy is not the place to look for “the left” anymore.

    What passes for “the left” are superficially left-ish on social/cultural issues. When it comes to economic and foreign policy issues, they are right-wing, pro-war, authoritarians. They say they support BLM or LGBTQ rights but hate Russia, China, Palestine, Venezuela, Cuba etc.

  22. shmutzoid
    August 25, 2023 at 13:08

    Well, while he’s no Woody Guthrie, this song of Anthony’s is definitely a crie de- coeur for the forgotten working stiff. HOWEVER, that one line about taxes paying for ‘bags of fudge’ on fat people CAN be read a couple of ways. 1) ‘fat’ cat capitalists getting tax subsidies to figure out how to screw over working people 2) poor/black welfare recipients overeating on tax dollars. No?

    As an aside—–> poor people are forced to get their calories the cheapest way. That means more junk/processed food and such, and the poor health/obesity that goes with it.

    Nice to see Johnstone so clearly express the essence of DEI. It has nothing to do with improving material conditions for the poor, black or white. It’s more like – advance the careers of a tiny few number of POC in various professions, then promote those ‘success stories’ back to society so the political class can brag about ‘how far we’ve’ come as a society. At it’s core, it’s a sophisticated campaign to divide working people along lines of personal identity. (as is the #metoo campaign). —— in capitalist countries, we are just not meant to understand CLASS as the defining social division.

    • Steve
      August 26, 2023 at 08:02

      I don’t think there is any racial component to it. As a rural working class white guy, I’d wager the inspiration for Anthony’s line about the obese poor is found at his local Wal-Mart, where low-income morbidly obese white people can be found tooling around on their Rascal scooters because their joints can no longer support their body weight. I think that is what drew his ire, but I think it is misplaced. As Diana Johnstone said in this article, that kind of self-destructive body composition is just another form of behavior stemming from despair. It’s just a slower death than suicide or fentanyl.

    • Piotr Berman
      August 26, 2023 at 17:29

      I think there are two issues here. One is that healthy food is artificially expensive. One example is that whole grains have much higher prices that white flour, white slice bread etc., barley is much more expensive than rice etc. Two years ago I would say that at least legumes are cheap, but it seems that their price increased sharply too. Then fruit and vegetables: as they are much less concentrated in terms of calories, you can grow proportionally more than feed grains on the same area, and it is a huge distortion, combination of agro business and federal subsidies, that F&V calories are so much more expensive.

      But the second issue is that at least two generations ago, home cooking went out of fashion, replaced by cans and other ready meals and fast food, and there is huge marketing = brainwashing effort to keep it that way. In the same time, available media on “healthy eating” focus on “superfoods” that low income people surely cannot afford. “Health food” became another anti-human (at least, anti-poor) business complex.

  23. Greg Grant
    August 25, 2023 at 12:49

    Glad to see Mrs. Johnstone is still going strong, she’s the best.
    There’s nothing the democrat party hates more than being outed as right wing.

Comments are closed.