Bob Dylan once sang, "Steal a little and they throw you in jail / Steal a lot and they make you king." That bit of inimitable pith is the text of Bruce's sermon in this song.
It's sung by a guy who wants to go out and knock over banks for a good time, for a lark on a date, who wants to indulge his inner demon in some rape and pillage. But who also knows full well that if he, as a poor man, does this, he's subject to vilification, arrest, torture, prison rape, and starvation administered by the very same forces that, as rich men, can do the same thing and get off scot free. That have done it, to all of us, and have gotten off scot free.
It gives us a country - the country we live in, the country of the verses in "We Take Care Of Our Own," rather than the chorus - in which cheating, lying, stealing, gambling, making easy money the only way easy money can be made, is celebrated in the rich and castigated in the poor. It gives us the country Charles Pierce described here, where gambling, chasing the easy money at any expense, has been raised to the status of a state-supported religion, where even Mormons, who are supposed to believe gambling is a sin, think it's okay as long as the markers are companies rather than chips, and the stakes other people's jobs rather than your tithing money. It gives us a country where we're all expected to gamble, to look for the main chance, but where the poor get arrested when they count cards and kicked when they lose while the rich get rewarded for both.
It ain't a pleasant sight.
So Bruce puts a coat and a hat on it (fixes its hair up pretty as if for a night out on Atlantic City). Underpins it with a kind of logging-camp two-step, gussies it up with fiddles and accordions. Works it out with hickory-smoked swamp guitar.
It's here that we we begin to hear how this album is not just a Born To or Born In or a Darkness On for the New Depression, it's a summation of everything Bruce has been up to for the last couple of decades. It has the synthesized, modern-urban influences of the "Secret Garden" and "Streets Of Philadelphia" period, and the deep Americana of the Seeger sessions. A lot of the latter on this track.
And this is Bruce: he's no dummy. He knows exactly what this does. It connects the New Depression to the old one, and the one before that: it clothes his 2012 stickup man in the duds of Jesse James. It reminds us that the class war has been going on as long as there have been classes, and that resentment of laughing fat cats has deep roots in the American tradition - at least as deep as those of the laughter itself.