515 Comments
Aug 15, 2023Liked by Noah Smith

A frustrating thing about the discourse in with this specific song is that the gripe appalachian populists have with welfare programs is generally not with food stamps, but with social security disability payments. Upwards of 25% of some Appalachian counties are on SSDI getting ~600/month. High school kids have 2 paths “get a job” or “get checks”, and there is a lot of legitimate derision of the abuse of disability income in Appalachia.

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Aug 15, 2023Liked by Noah Smith

"That’s…not a lot. It’s important for the professional-managerial class types who read blogs like this one to remember that that’s the kind of income the average American lives on."

/me makes about the same amount, looks around, wonders how many other readers are evidently not in my shoes.

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I think it’s important to be empathetic to understand what people like him are going through. They see the world changing and feel like they’re getting left behind.

You can feel his pain and sure, maybe his anger is misguided but who am I to judge? I’ve never been in his shoes and can’t see the world the same way he can

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"real erosion in purchasing power that people in his social class have experienced in recent years."

Given the adulation of wealth in this country, this alone would be enough to drive the average man who's trying to support a family crazy. I'm not surprised that many would think, “I'm worthless. and I'm getting more worthless.”

"It’s important for the professional-managerial class types who read blogs like this one to remember that that’s the kind of income the average American lives on."

Ya don't say??!!!

BTW, Food stamps are great, and I wouldn't mind if they couldn't be used for unhealthy snacks like soda, sugar, and chips.

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Aug 15, 2023Liked by Noah Smith

Insightful analysis- your writing won’t change the minds of die hard right wingers, but folks like David Brooks should read before making claims that elites caused people to go MAGA.

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Aug 15, 2023Liked by Noah Smith

Idk, i like the song. At least until i found out it wasn’t backed up by aggregate statistics. Now I’m not sure how i feel about it. Actually I’m not sure I like when other people enjoy things come to think of it.

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Aug 15, 2023Liked by Noah Smith

"Putting in the zip code for Anthony’s hometown, I found that someone who makes $49,240 in Virginia will take home $36,960, or $3,080 a month. That’s…not a lot."

I suggest you take a drive through the counties of upper Wisconsin or Michigan's Upper Peninsula to see the devastating effects of depopulation has had on these communities. Not to mention the rust-belt cities of Detroit, Akron and northern Indiana. Depopulation driven by de-industrialization due to "free trade" policies. Ross Perot was right back in 1992 to decry the effects of disastrous free trade policies on the American Heartland.

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Aug 15, 2023Liked by Noah Smith

I’m a viral hit truther on this song. It only has 1.9M streams on Spotify so far! Sad! Travis Childers, who is a much better musician and lyricist, has 11M for a song that came out 3 weeks ago, in the same genre. Total astroturf.

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Noah, I think you radically miss one point that Oliver Anthony is making regarding taxes and the economy in general. You brush away the issue with "since a quarter of a rich person’s income won’t make a huge difference to their quality of life, [...] We should tax rich people more."

This is completely wrong. We should tax everyone less, balance the budget and force Government (especially those rich men north of Richmond) to live within their means.

So much of the money collected from Americans is squandered on lost causes and misadventures. That spending should simply stop. So many of the Federal Government's functions are used for political (and not legal) purposes; if their budgets were decimated they might not have the financial flexibility to wade into inappropriate waters.

Then there's just the bullshit waste on non-National Interest follies:

- We spend very close to a trillion (that's a thousand billion!) dollars a year on "defense" to engage in misadventures in places we have no national interest. That's more than the next 10 countries' spending.

- Agencies like the DEA spend (I don't recall the exact figure, but it's literally) millions of dollars per conviction. Surely that illustrates that the laws they are attempting to enforce run contrary to what the people want.

- We've got plenty of money to send, for example, to Ukraine when much of that money just makes a U-turn to the pockets of Raytheon, Lockheed-Martin, etc. Good for their executives' bonuses; good for their shareholders. Not as good for the blue collar workers and the taxpayers.

And don't even get me started on many of these follies' adamant resistance to independent auditing. Audit the Federal Reserve; audit the Department of Defense; audit where the money "to Ukraine" is going. Good luck. (The rich men north of Richmond wouldn't even allow appointment of an Inspector General to oversee the Ukraine monies. I wonder why?)

Thoreau, in Civil Disobedience, said, "That government is best which governs least" and I think that's the point Oliver Anthony is making: A smaller government might have neither the reach nor the resources to peer into every nook and cranny of citizens' lives, nor the discretionary funds to engage in global misadventures, while picking their citizens' pockets to do so.

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Apologies... I think you have missed the point of this song. You seem to think this is an intellectual argument. As we all know, in absolute terms, nearly everyone is living better than the fictionalized past.

Rather, the issue is an emotional and aspirational in nature. For the educated classes, there is a clear myth (as in mental model for hope), but there isn't one for the chunk of the economy which is getting churned by technology. This is not new.... take a look at the same sort of behavior around the late 1800's with the Granger party. Someone like Trump offers a gateway for the emotional turmoil, but the real cure is a positive mythology (meant in a positive sense) for status/progress.

After all, every one of these folks are in the 1% on a world-wide basis.

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I'm reminded of Michael Moore's film Roger & Me. Worked from a 'vibe' stance, illustrated some valid pain and suffering. But it felt like it was arguing for some solution but when you tried to flesh out what that solution would actually be, you realize it was empty calories.

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There are court cases going on right now uncovering massive government coercion and interference with social media, and you chalk up the "wanna know what you think and see what you do" to 'cancel culture' and busybodies? Seems weirdly blind to what his actual concerns probably are.

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Talk about a hammer looking for nails. Wow!

By performing an academic analysis of the specific problems mentioned in this song, it's clear you have utterly missed the point. Oliver is a poet not an academic. He's capturing a feeling about the futility of working class life in America and providing examples of how that manifests itself. Whether those examples are statistically true is irrelevant, they are the experience of the world for his class. And it IS their experience, and it IS a change from how their parents and grandparents experienced the working world, and it IS a real decline in their wages and living standards... so they are rightfully upset about it.

When someone tells you why they see the world in a particular way, don't explain to them why they're wrong. Try to understand why you might be. That applies whether it's a BLM protestor lamenting black poverty or a rural, blue collar singer lamenting white poverty.

As a sidenote, if those two groups ever manage to realize that their laments are actually quite similar, then you'll really see populism. And you won't like it.

"I highly doubt that anything I write about it could change the opinions of the song’s fans, if they even read this blog, which they probably don’t."

So between the lines, what you're saying is: "my blog is high brow those low-rent, Trumpy, populists don't read it since they're too stupid to understand it." It may not be intended as an insult, Noah, but it sure comes across that way. And it confirms what people like Oliver believe about the attitudes of people like you. The Hillary line about "deplorables" still resonates among the working class of America because of comments like this.

Oh, and I love Oliver's song, and I pay to read you.

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When an American White country guy sings

"Lord, we got folks in the street, ain't got nothin' to eat

And the obese milkin' welfare"

Does it sound like a veiled racist criticism aimed at black city folks or is it just me?

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The song is one thing, but the reaction to it is actually a pretty good illustration as to how the Republican and Democratic parties have traded bases (and issues).

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Over regulation means no one in the heartland or mountain states like him can start a business. Regulation is the principal problem, but since no one writing about this stuff has ever started a business other than consulting or writing or fancy jobs, you have no earthly idea what’s going on. This is a laughable attempt at faux compassion. And why Trump’s people grow more by the freaking day.

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