Meaning of Dead Kennedys’ “Kill the Poor”

Simply put, the lyrics of Dead Kennedys’ “Kill the Poor” find the narrator dreaming of a day when a neutron bomb will be denotated in his country and only destroy all the poor people in society. The song is actually an interesting satire on society’s upper class who detest the poor so much that they feel that the best way of getting rid of the poverty that the poor breed is by killing all poor people.

With the elimination of all the poor in society, these narrow-minded elites think the world would become a better and wealthier place.

The Narrator

The song is sung from the point of view of someone who genuinely believes that eliminating every single poor person is the best course of action to guarantee a better world. He accordingly, strongly encourages the usage of a neutron bomb to be used in accomplishing the goal.

Why a Neutron Bomb?

This weapon of mass destruction (i.e. the neutron bomb) that the narrator is recommending be used is a special kind of nuclear weapon.

This weapon (which is also referred to as an enhanced radiation warhead or weapon) works by releasing a very high concentration of neutron radiation when denotated. Unlike the average nuclear bomb, this one doesn’t have very powerful blast effects and therefore doesn’t cause much damage to infrastructure and buildings. However, the neutron radiation will kill any person within its blast range by penetrating the person’s body and rapidly destroying their living tissue.

This weapon’s ability to cause mass deaths without causing significant damage to society’s infrastructure is the primary reason the narrator recommends it be used to get rid of society’s underprivileged and economically challenged.

And from the song’s introduction, it looks like the narrator and his people appear to have actually gotten their hands on this very dangerous weapon. He is therefore rejoicing because he believes that soon it would be used to do away with the poor whom he calls the “excess enemy” in society.

What happens after the poor are removed from the face of the earth?

The narrator believes that with the poor gone, there would be no more “welfare tax to pay”. He also believes that all the ugly slums in the society would disappear in a heartbeat along with the “jobless millions” who occupy them.

At the end of the room, the elite would “have more room to play”, which would automatically increase their happiness levels.

Also since poverty has a very strong connection with a high crime rate, he believes eliminating poverty would make society crime-free.

Owing to all these advantages, he recommends that the powers that be “kill the poor tonight”. Simply put, he wants to see the elimination of the “undesirables” in society right away!

And so he rejoicefully sings:

“Kill kill kill kill kill the poor
Kill kill kill kill kill the poor tonight”

All in all, this is a satirical song that employs the use of dark humor as well as satirical elements to shed light on the challenges the poor in our societies face. It sheds light on how some powers that be and society’s elites see the poor as one of society’s biggest problems that need to be swiftly eliminated.

But would society be a better place if we decided to “kill the poor”?

Absolutely not! First of all, it is not only narrow-minded to think that taking such an action is the solution to the problems society is currently bedeviled with. It is also of course a very inhumane and evil approach.

The focus shouldn’t be on eradicating the poor but rather poverty. And poverty can be eradicated or reduced via the creation of policies that provide the same opportunities for every member of society regardless of their race, gender or religion.

Kill the Poor

When was “Kill the Poor” released?

“Kill the Poor” officially hit the airways on September 2 of 1980, as the final single from Dead Kennedys’ debut studio project named “Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables”. 

This album was officially made public on September 2 of 1980. It was jointly released by the following Record labels:

  • Alternative Tentacles
  • Cherry Red Records
  • Faulty Products

In addition to “Kill the Poor”, the group and their team issued a total of three singles from this album. The first single, “California über alles”, was issued in June 1979. “Holiday in Cambodia” followed as the album’s second single. This track was released in May of 1980.

Credits for “Kill the Poor”

A product of Cherry Red Records, this single was composed by the group’s lead singer Jello Biafra alongside guitarist East Bay Ray. The latter was also responsible for producing the track.

Notable Highlights

Despite the song being regarded as one of the group’s very important works, it failed to achieve much commercial success, especially in the US. However, it enjoyed some success in the UK, where it reached No. 49 on the region’s official singles chart.

Since its release, “Kill the Poor” has been covered by a number of artists including the metal core group, The Agony Scene. Their version was released in 2007.

In 2017 another popular rendition of the song was released by the group, Trivium.

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