Song reflects justified anger of Appalachia

Joe Guzzardi

“Rich Men North of Richmond,” the protest song that soared to No. 1 on iTunes during the August 12 weekend, is an ode to forgotten blue-collar America. The hit is sung by Christopher Anthony Lunsford, aka Oliver Anthony, a former factory worker who lives in Appalachia, an area dotted with abandoned factories. It’s also a region in a losing battle with opioids. Overdose mortality rates here for people in their prime working years are 70 percent higher than the rest of the country.
Washington, D.C., and most elites dismiss Appalachians as well as tens of millions more working-class Americans. They’ve been smeared, ignored, mocked, slandered and robbed by their own government. The scorned millions are what Hillary Clinton referred to in her 2016 presidential campaign as “a basket of deplorables.”
Anthony’s song has garnered more than 34 million views, and the artist has received more than 50,000 messages from people sharing their reactions, including personal stories about suicide, addiction, unemployment, anxiety, depression and hopelessness, conditions that too many Americans struggle to overcome. As Anthony said, he wrote the song because he too is “suffering with mental health and depression.” In a decision that shocked music executives, Anthony rejected an $8 million contract, saying he didn’t want a superstar’s trappings – a jet, tour buses and stage shows.
No specific references to how the federal government robs Appalachians are in the song, but the possibilities are many. At the top of the list may be D.C.’s mountains of wasteful spending. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that, since January 2021, legislation signed by President Biden has set in motion a record $3.37 trillion in new spending. The most visible, and possibly most hurtful to struggling Americans nationwide, are the billions spent to resettle a worldwide illegal immigrant population.
A year after President Lyndon Johnson began his 1964 War on Poverty, the government created the Appalachian Regional Commission. As of fall 2021, 56 years after the agency was created, ARC had invested more than $4.5 billion on several projects. Eventually, other government agencies invested $10 billion on more projects. Despite significant investment, quality of life improvements are few, especially in central Appalachia which encompasses Eastern Kentucky, as well as parts of Tennessee and West Virginia.
The aggregate $14.5 billion to assist Appalachia is pocket change compared to the fed spending on sovereignty-destroying illegal immigration. A cost estimate of the current border crisis is $20 billion, according to analysis from the Federation for American Immigration Reform.
A more comprehensive FAIR study found that at the start of 2023, the net cost of illegal immigration – at the federal, state and local levels – was at least $150.7 billion; a total arrived at by subtracting tax revenue paid by illegal aliens, just under $32 billion, from illegal immigration’s gross negative economic impact. In 2017, the estimated net cost of illegal migration was approximately $116 billion; in just five years, the costs to taxpayers have increased $35 billion.
Municipalities’ crippling and mounting costs will continue as long as there is no end to illegal immigration. New York Mayor Eric Adams calculates that the city’s migrant surge will cost taxpayers $12 billion. Business owners are shutting their doors, a decision made reluctantly only after clusters of migrants sleeping on the city’s streets kept customers away. Shuttered businesses reduce vital tax revenue. Temporary shelters are over-capacity, and more migrants will be forced onto the streets, creating a vicious cycle of more business closings.
The math explains why America, and specifically Appalachia, is angry. In the five-year period from 2017 to 2022, the feds spent $55 billion to underwrite illegal immigration – the $35 billion increase laid out since 2017 plus the $20 billion to fuel the ongoing invasion. Rebuffed Appalachia got $10 billion-plus during the last six decades, $45 billion less than the unlawfully present migrants received in the last five years. A reminder when contemplating the inherent unfairness: illegal immigration and aiding/abetting illegal immigration are crimes.
Imagine the outrage Anthony and his neighbors feel when they realize that, as measured by a multi-billion-dollar margin, D.C. elites put illegal immigrants first, well-ahead of struggling Appalachians. The anger and frustration Anthony expresses in “Rich Men North of Richmond” is justified.

Joe Guzzardi is a Project for Immigration Reform analyst who has written about immigration for more than 30 years. Contact him at


The Press

The Press
1550 Woodville Road
Millbury, OH 43447

(419) 836-2221

Email Us

Facebook Twitter

Ohio News Media Association