Wayne Swan revealed Wednesday that American rock star Bruce Springsteen has long been his political inspiration. 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 U.S. road toward widening economic inequality.
“The Boss was and remains my musical hero,” Swan, who as treasurer is his center-left Labor Party government’s chief economics minister, told a Labor forum Wednesday.
He said Springsteen’s 1975 breakthrough album “Born to Run,” as well as subsequent albums “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” “The River,” “Born in the U.S.A” and “Nebraska,” talked about the shifting foundations of the U.S. economy before the subject became topical.
“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 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.
Working-class Americans have been losing their share of national prosperity since the 1980s, while the wealthy have been taking more, Swan said.
Median U.S. household wealth declined by more than 30 percent between 2004 and 2010, while it increased in Australia by more than 20 percent in the same period, buoyed by a mining boom fueled by Chinese industrial demand, he said.
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.
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.”