Jonathan Chait

Producers vs. Parasites

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David Jungerman of Raytown, Missouri has attracted attention for a large sign by the highway calling Democrats the "party of parasites":

The Kansas City Star reports that Jungerman himself falls into the parasite category:

The Raytown farmer who posted a sign on a semi-truck trailer accusing Democrats of being the “Party of Parasites” received more than $1 million in federal crop subsidies since 1995.

But David Jungerman says the payouts don’t contradict the sign he put up in a corn field in Bates County along U.S. 71 Highway.

“That’s just my money coming back to me,” Jungerman, 72, said Monday. “I pay a lot in taxes. I’m not a parasite.”

Mm-hmm. Subsidized farmers are in a different category than recipients of other forms of subsidies.

It's impossible to disentangle motives here, but the fact that farmers are overwhelmingly white may be an important factor in many conservative activists seeing farm subsidies as more legitimate than other government interventions. Producerism is historically connected with white supremacy:

Calls to rally the virtuous "producing classes" against evil "parasites" at both the top and bottom of society is a tendency called producerism. It is a conspiracist narrative used by repressive right wing populism. Today we see examples of it in some sectors of the Christian Right, in the Patriot movements and armed militias, and in the Far right.... Producerism is involved in the relationship between Buchanan, Fulani, Perot, and the Reform Party.

Producerism begins in the US with the Jacksonians, who wove together intra-elite factionalism and lower-class Whites’ double-edged resentments. Producerism became a staple of repressive populist ideology.  Producerism sought to rally the middle strata together with certain sections of the elite. Specifically, it championed the so-called producing classes (including White farmers, laborers, artisans, slaveowning planters, and “productive” capitalists) against “unproductive” bankers, speculators, and monopolists aboveand people of color below. After the Jacksonian era, producerism was a central tenet of the anti-Chinese crusade in the late nineteenth century. In the 1920s industrial philosophy of Henry Ford, and Father Coughlin’s fascist doctrine in the 1930s, producerism fused with antisemitic attacks against “parasitic” Jews.

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