For its raw criticism of wealthy politicos in Washington D.C., Oliver Anthony’s instantly viral “Rich Men North of Richmond” struck a chord with the world — and with one parody musician.
Remy Munasifi, a comedian and frequent host on ReasonTV, the editorial operation of Reason, a libertarian magazine founded in 1968, spoofed Anthony’s tune with sardonic lyrics from the vantage point of a white-collar federal employee.
And it hits many stereotypical hallmarks of civil service: open enrollment for health care, statutory pay raises, an inflation-adjusted pension, barrages of paperwork, slow technology and yes, even telework.
“Oh, it’s a damn shame what the world’s come to // They want us back in the office on Mondays, too. They want us back now on Tuesdays // I just might collapse // The plight of rich men north of Richmond.”
The music video even cameos a faux email from the Office of Personnel Management announcing a return-to-office policy.
The responses to the video in the comments and on social media were mixed, with some merely there to laugh, others taking the opportunity to rip on the bureaucracy and others saying the video doesn’t help stave off anti-government rhetoric that has materialized as threats to certain federal law enforcement agencies, promises to cut budgets and proposals to make wide swaths of dedicated employees more fireable.
The parody’s muse does take seriously the question of accountability and ethics of those who serve the American people in government, however. And with public trust of government at about 35%, there’s a viable concern about citizens’ relationship with public institutions, especially at the more opaque federal level.
Anthony’s hit song consumed the internet after it came out earlier this month and swiftly rose to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with more than 20 million streams for an artist that just weeks ago, few knew.
In a subsequent video filmed inside a red truck with rain plinking on the roof, the Farmville, Virginia, native, with his bright orange beard and Southern drawl, introduced himself to a world that knew him for writing the blue collar Americans’ anthem, though he said it’s aggravating for him to see politicians try to identify with his song.
His song opened the first Republican presidential debate on Aug. 23, which touched around various candidates’ promises to support the American working class, trim the bureaucracy and end Democrats’ “liberal” agenda that leaves the everyday man behind.
“It was funny seeing [my song] at the presidential debate,” he said. “Because I wrote that song about those people.”
Molly Weisner is a staff reporter for Federal Times where she covers labor, policy and contracting pertaining to the government workforce. She made previous stops at USA Today and McClatchy as a digital producer, and worked at The New York Times as a copy editor. Molly majored in journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.