Australia: Bruce Springsteen ‘is a warning of dangers in US economy’
Anyone looking for early signs of distress in an economy should forget John Maynard Keynes or Milton Friedman and listen instead to Bruce Springsteen.
That’s the message from Australian Treasurer Wayne Swan, who yesterday cited the American rocker, known as The Boss, as one of his economic heroes.
He said the New Jersey-born working class hero’s music railing against inequality echoed Swan’s own public battle against Australian billionaire mining tycoons who oppose his tax reforms.
Swan, named by banking magazine Euromoney as the world’s finance minister of the year for 2011, also said Springsteen’s songs should serve as a warning to Australians against following the American road towards widening economic inequality.
“The Boss was and remains my musical hero,” Swan, who is the government’s chief economics minister, told a labour forum.
Swan, 58, said Springsteen often observed big changes occurring in US working-class life long before economic statisticians recognised them.
“If I could distil the relevance of Bruce Springsteen’s music to Australia, it would be this: don’t let what has happened to the American economy happen here,” he added.
“Don’t let Australia become a Down Under version of New Jersey, where the people and communities whose skills are no longer in demand get thrown on the scrapheap of life.”
However, Conservative opposition treasury spokesman Joe Hockey dismissed Swan’s speech as “ridiculous”.
“It says everything about this government that it is guided by the principles of a rock singer, rather than any enduring philosophy that builds a stronger nation,” he told reporters.
Swan cited economists and sociologists who agree that wealth inequality has overtaken race as the most divisive factor in American society.
Swan said the lyrics of the song Badlands from Springsteen’s 1978 album Darkness on the Edge of Town could be a warning against the growing political influence of Australian mining barons Gina Rinehart, Clive Palmer and Andrew Forrest.
Swan quoted lyrics from the song: “Poor man wanna be rich/ Rich man wanna be king/ And a king ain’t satisfied/ ‘Til he rules everything.”
Swan accused the three outspoken miners in an article in March of using their wealth and influence to undermine Australia’s democratic processes.
“The rising influence of vested interests is threatening Australia’s egalitarian social contract,” he said. “A handful of powerful people not only think they have a right to a disproportionate share of the nation’s economic success, they think they have a right to manipulate our democracy and our national conversation to gain an even bigger slice of the pie.”
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