In case you haven’t been paying attention to the news in the last several months or so, America seems to be caught in the sharp teeth of a pretty awful recession. While we have yet to reach the devastating unemployment levels of the Great Depression, a large portion of our society is experiencing the worst economic crisis of our lifetime, and the prognosis for a speedy recovery looks fairly grim.
Meanwhile, both the previous administration and the current one seem to believe that the best way to combat this ugly downturn is to give unfathomable amounts of money to those giant corporations whose questionable business practices have been largely responsible for the current economic crisis. In an ugly turn of events, the front pages of every local newspaper are littered with stories of those same failing companies giving huge bonus payouts to their executive teams, in many cases the same upper level management officials who were responsible for the faulty decisions that have led their companies to the brink of collapse. And they are financing these payouts with the money of every Joe Six Pack and Jane College Diploma who pay taxes on every hard earned dollar.
Debates are raging over the validity of these bonus payouts. The argument can be made that the bonuses are necessary to retain executive talent that might otherwise farm itself out to other opportunities and leave these struggling companies without the leadership necessary to pull themselves out of their current downward spiral. However, that argument is a tough pill to swallow for every Joe Six Pack and Jane College Diploma out there who are fighting to put food on the table for their families on a daily basis.
I will be the first to say that I don’t know the answers to any of the tough economic questions that our country and indeed the whole world is facing right now. I didn’t pay enough attention to my economics class in high school to even be able to fathom the complexities of our nation and our world’s financial systems. However, it is inevitable that a populist bent will surface in these times of crisis. On a local level, it becomes much easier to view things in relation to how they are affecting the people that you know and love in your everyday life.
As a music afficionado, I have been waiting for the surfacing of several populist anthems to arise from the fiery wreckage of today’s economy and the seemingly futile efforts of our government to stem the tide of recession. Well, I finally heard a very relevant and timely song that addresses the concerns of the everyday American citizen, and it’s no surprise to me that it comes in the form of a country song.
The song that’s getting a lot of radio play on at least one Austin country radio station is “Shutting Detroit Down” by John Rich of Big & Rich fame. As is typical of many country songs that try to tackle big issues (Toby Keith comes to mind), the song takes a pretty simplistic view of today’s economic events, but I believe that is kind of the point. While Wall Street executives fly on their corporate jets and accept unwarranted bonuses subsidized by taxpayer money, many everyday Americans worry about where their next meal will come from. I can’t honestly say that I like this song or agree with every bit of its message, but I’m glad to hear that someone is at least making an effort to verbalize the worries of the majority of American citizens.
While I would like to avoid comment on the fact that John Rich is probably doing just fine despite today’s economic climate, I don’t remember seeing his name on the list of Bernie Madoff’s victims, so he’s probably doing just fine right about now. Apologies for the quality of the video; it’s the best I could find.