After discovering some of Linkin Park’s newest work – specifically, Hands Held High from the Minutes to Midnight album – I found an ironic contradiction in the songwriter Mike Shinoda’s desire for a peaceful world that “doesn’t cater to [the] rich and abandon [the] poor.” Shinoda’s emotional lyrics reveal that his sympathies lie with the poor (who die “when the rich wage war”) and with those “who can’t put gas in [their] tank.” The lyrics make the baseless accusation that the American war leadership in recent years (including George W. Bush) were “laughin’ their way to the bank and cashin’ the check.”
Here, the band hitches onto the recent tendency in rap/rock music to blindly hold well-intentioned leaders liable for the world’s social problems. I hold leftist policies accountable for many of America’s structural economic ails, but only because I have a clear trace, if you will, from the net effects of leftist economic policy down to the welfare of needy Americans today. The correlation between those net effects and the welfare of needy Americans is clearly an inverse one.
Arguing otherwise takes a certain level of emotion-grounded ignorance, which Mike Shinoda and other, more politically vocal rockers, like Bruce Springsteen, certainly possess. In his famous (and very political) Born in the USA (1984), Springsteen first complains that the Vietnam War was an excursion designed only to “go and kill the yellow man.” Then, Springsteen lambasts the economic state of the country: “Come back home to the refinery / Hiring man said ‘son, if it was up to me…'”
But the Boss needs to build a more complete picture of the situation. First, Lyndon Johnson, a Democrat widely praised by the left today for enacting unsustainable social programs, initiated the most serious stage of the Vietnam War after the Democratic-controlled Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin resolution. Second, New Jersey’s economic decline was largely due to state’s shift to a more confiscatory tax regime. To quote a May 18th, 2009, Wall Street Journal piece by economists Arthur Laffer and Stephen Moore:
Or consider the fiasco of New Jersey. In the early 1960s, the state had no state income tax and no state sales tax. It was a rapidly growing state attracting people from everywhere and running budget surpluses. Today its income and sales taxes are among the highest in the nation yet it suffers from perpetual deficits and its schools rank among the worst in the nation — much worse than those in New Hampshire. Most of the massive infusion of tax dollars over the past 40 years has simply enriched the public-employee unions in the Garden State. People are fleeing the state in droves.
Springsteen endorsed Obama and his policies this past election season. Those types of policies are responsible for New Jersey’s problems. Given that New Jersey’s recent economic history under such policies is often a story of decay, Springsteen should have endorsed a candidate with more growth-oriented policies.
Near the end of Linkin Park’s Hands Held High, Mike Shinoda sings, “For a leader so nervous, in an obvious way/ Stuttering and mumbling for nightly news to replay/ And the rest of the world watching at the end of the day/ In the living room laughing, like, ‘What did he say?’ ” Ignorance also drives Shinoda’s false impression that citizens of all other countries think Bush was a weak leader who stumbled his way around foreign policy. Perhaps Bush was so strong on foreign policy that some world observers pushed back by rolling out their own agendas.
In the left’s world of relativism with regard to the legitimacy of systems of government, we should not decide whether Bush is right or whether the the policies from the various members of the “rest of the world” (the band shouldn’t have lumped a diverse group of peoples and nations and political ideologies into a single category) should have equal footing as ours.
Perhaps Bush pushed so hard for justice for the Iraqi people – he committed American lives to the cause – that Shinoda cannot fully comprehend the enormity of the American contribution to Iraqi freedom and democracy. That’s just a thought, not a definitive explanation.
Whatever the leaders of the E Street Band and Linkin Park think about specific policies, it’s clear that both songwriters pen music with deference to the party that engages in activism. Since the songwriters do not pay attention to the details of the activist policies, those policies almost always earn their endorsement no matter the unintended consequences, historical precedent for success or failure of the policy in question, or fiscal feasibility and sustainability of the policy. In other words, modern rock musicians write uninformed songs that help lead the masses to blindly accept sweeping economic policy changes that end up doing net harm to society. That’s too bad.