Last spring, in an attempt to make President Bush appear to be more of a regular guy, the White House released a list of the tunes the commander-in-chief was listening to on his iPod. The list featured mostly country, alt-country and blues artists, including John Fogerty, John Hiatt, Alan Jackson, George Jones and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Perhaps the most interesting name on Bush’s listening list was that of James McMurtry, the brilliant Austin-based songwriter who used his 2004 live CD to poke fun at the president’s attempts to fake a Texaser-than-thou accent.

McMurtry responded to the news that Bush’s playlist included his song “Valley Road” by politely suggesting that the president might not be the most serious listener of his songs, which frequently detail the damage done to Americans by rampaging corporatists and an uncaring government.

In case there was any doubt about the differences between George W. Bush’s worldview and James McMurtry’s, the musician posted a savage critique of the president and his pals, “We Can’t Make It Here,” on his Web site shortly before last year’s election. That song, a haunting reflection on corporate globalization and wars of whim, was the highlight of McMurtry’s set last month when he played at Camp Casey, the protest vigil organized outside the president’s Crawford, Texas, ranch by Cindy Sheehan, whose son Casey was killed in Iraq.

McMurtry did not write the song to cheer on Sheehan’s demand that the president meet with her. Nor did he write it in response to White House neglect of the suffering along the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. But “We Can’t Make It Here” captured the mood of the moment in Crawford, just as parts of this epic song touch on sentiments that run deep among the evacuees from New Orleans, Biloxi, Mobile and all the other battered communities of the southeast.

Ultimately, however, “We Can’t Make It Here” is about more than the White House’s failures with regard to one mother or one crisis. It is about the dismissal of thousands of neglected communities and millions of neglected Americans who — without the benefit of media attention — regularly echo the the blunt closing cry of McMurtry’s song for attention to the working poor who have lost their jobs to “free trade” and federal neglect and their children to a war founded on lies.

Written in the voice of a textile worker whose job was lost when a factory was shuttered and the production sent overseas, McMurtry closes his opus by asking:

Should I hate a people for the shade of their skin

Or the shape of their eyes or the shape I’m in

Should I hate ’em for having our jobs today

No I hate the men sent the jobs away

I can see them all now, they haunt my dreams

All lily white and squeaky clean

They’ve never known want, they’ll never know need

Their sh- – don’t stink and their kids won’t bleed

Their kids won’t bleed in the damn little war

And we can’t make it here anymore

Will work for food

Will die for oil

Will kill for power and to us the spoils

The billionaires get to pay less tax

The working poor get to fall through the cracks

Let ’em eat jellybeans let ’em eat cake

Let ’em eat sh- -, whatever it takes

They can join the Air Force, or join the Corps

If they can’t make it here anymore

And that’s how it is

That’s what we got

If the president wants to admit it or not

You can read it in the paper

Read it on the wall

Hear it on the wind

If you’re listening at all

Get out of that limo

Look us in the eye

Call us on the cell phone

Tell us all why

George Bush refused to look Cindy Sheehan in the eye. He won’t do any better by the workers who share the experience James McMurtry portrays. And, while this particular singer may have a place on the presidential iPod, he won’t be singing at the White House anytime soon. But he will be singing to America. McMurtry begins touring this week in support of a great new album, Childish Things, which includes the track “We Can’t Make It Here.” (Readers can find the schedule at Don’t make the mistake of missing the man whose songs speak more truth about America in five minutes than George W. Bush has in five years.