Australia’s finance minister has declared rock star Bruce Springsteen the answer to economic woes.
Wayne Swan said the country could learn a lot – and avoid pitfalls – by listening to his music.
Mr Swan said the star, nicknamed The Boss, has long been his political inspiration. He said the New Jersey-born working class hero’s music railing against inequality echoed his own public battle against Australian billionaire mining tycoons who oppose his tax reforms.
Mr 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 US road toward widening economic inequality.
“The Boss was and remains my musical hero,” said Mr Swan, who as treasurer is his centre-left Labour Party government’s chief economics minister.
Mr Swan, 58, said Springsteen often observed big changes occurring in US working class life long before economic statisticians recognised them.
He said Springsteen’s 1975 album “Born to Run,” as well as other albums “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” “The River,” “Born in the USA” and “Nebraska,” talked about the shifting foundations of the US economy before the subject became topical.
“If I could distill 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 said.
“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 scrap heap of life,” he added.
Conservative opposition treasury spokesman Joe Hockey dismissed the remarks 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 said.
Mr Swan cited economists and sociologists who agree that wealth inequality has overtaken race as the most divisive factor in American society.
Working-class Americans have been losing their share of national prosperity since the 1980s, while the wealthy have been taking more, he said.
Mr 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 – who is Australia’s richest person – Clive Palmer and Andrew Forrest.
He 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.”
Mining magnates have been campaigning against the government over the introduction in July of a 30% tax on iron ore and coal profits that have burgeoned over the past decade due to Chinese growth.
Mr Swan also revealed that he plays Springsteen’s hit single “Born to Run” after delivering to parliament the government’s five annual budget plans each May. He said Springsteen is also the favourite musician of Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
“We are in many ways the Springsteen Generation,” said Mr Swan, who was a university lecturer on public administration before entering politics. “And if our generation has an anthem, it is ’Born to Run.”’