On my way home the other night, I heard our Oldies sister station play Bruce Springsteen's hit My Hometown. And one of the lyrics got me thinking:
They're closing down the textile mill across the railroad tracks
Foreman says these jobs are going boys and they ain't coming back to
Your hometown, your hometown, your hometown, your hometown
The song was seen as a statement on the decline of America's workforce and the blue collar jobs that had built many a city and created the Middle Class because of--in Bruce's view--three years of "Reaganomics". So I looked up the unemployment rate for Bruce's home state of New Jersey for 1983 (when this song was written and recorded) and found it was 6.8% That was actually a huge improvement from the year before--when unemployment in New Jersey was just over 9%. Keep in mind that '83 was also the first year that the Reagan Tax Cuts were in effect, and the nation was finally moving out of the funk created during the Carter Adminstration--so optimism was in the air.
I did a little more checking and found that by the end of Ronald Reagan's second term in 1988 unemployment in New Jersey had dropped to just 3.5%! I guess the boss proved to be anything but a prophet when he said those jobs weren't coming back.
Now fast-forward to 2013. After five years of the Obama Administration, the unemployment rate in New Jersey is 8.7% --nearly two percent higher than during the "bleak" days of Reaganomics and My Hometown. Furthermore, that rate has not been below 8% since President Obama took office!
So where are Bruce Springsteen and the voices of the new generation of artist to question and criticize the President for the lack of economic growth and recovery? They seem to be strangely silent for the past five years or so. In fact, The Boss campaigned on behalf of the Obama re-election effort in 2012. In reviewing his appearance in Madison that year, I find that Bruce talked a lot about "justice" and "fairness"--but not a whole lot about unemployment and lack of manufacturing growth. Not that Bruce would actuallly want a textile mill opening in his state--too much electricity use and too large a "carbon footprint".
I'd love to see Springsteen make that same "powerful statement" today by putting on a free show for the people in Detroit and dedicating My Hometown to President Obama and the other Democrats who led that city to ruin over a 60-year period in power. There's another lyric in that song that would really fit the situation:
Now main streets whitewashed windows and vacant stores
Seems like there ain't nobody wants to come down here no more