The Subprime Wisdom of Megadeth

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 3/07/2008 03:19:00 AM

You must be thinking, "this guy has really lost it," but no. The eminently respectable Menzie Chinn of Econbrowser raised the comparison between the current subprime contagion and the savings and loan fiasco of the early nineties. Way back during my college years, I remember listening to a cassette tape (remember those?) of the great thrash metal band Megadeth. Fronted by someone who was kicked out of Metallica for taking too many controlled substances, Dave Mustaine, Megadeth nonetheless made several memorable tunes on its commercial breakthrough Countdown to Extinction. I still have the tape somewhere although it's probably worn out from the number of times I played it on the car stereo.

Anyway, the song whose video I excerpt above refers to regular folks getting foreclosed in the US of A in the wake of the S&L crisis. The clip dates to 1992, I believe. The visual motif in "Foreclosure of a Dream" is of everyday people being kicked out of their houses who end up sitting on couches they removed from their former residences. It works for me as the video is very well made: the farmer and his wife at the start of the video, for instance, are a clever visual pun on Grant Wood's American Gothic. An especially poignant picture is of the African-American mother and child sitting outside of the White House. It is widely noted that minorities have taken a disproportionate share of subprime loans, so perhaps Megadeth was prescient of Bush's "ownership society."

UPDATE 1: Fellow traveler Andrew Leonard at Salon has mentioned this post. Of course Megadeth could not have foreseen the subprime mess way back in 1992. However, the parallels are striking and I've decided to further illustrate how the lyrics of the song fit with what is going on today. Consider that McCain was part of the Keating Five Lincoln Savings & Loan Association scandal then, and he is running for the Oval Office now. Meanwhile, the S&L crisis blew up with George Bush at the helm, now it's W's turn.

UPDATE 2: At the song's start, there's a spoken into that goes "Charges of fund misappropriation are leading to top-ranking officials...sources say that a major restructuring of the department could be in order." Well, just out is news that Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Alphonso Jackson is stepping down over--you guessed it--fund misappropriation. The only question left is whether Jackson will be tossed in the clank. Really, does anyone needs more evidence that this band was prescient? Megadeth rules!

The lyrics are quite pertinent for today's situation as well: More borrowed money, more borrowed time, indeed. Until all is lost, personal Holocaust, foreclosure of a dream...

Rise so high, yet so far to fall [US homeowner's equity falls to postwar low]
A plan of dignity and balance for all [Bush's "ownership society"]
Political breakthrough, euphoria's high
More borrowed money, more borrowed time [the $168B economic stimulus package]
Backed in a corner, caught up in the race
Means to an end ended in disgrace [CEOs of Wall Street Banks testify on salaries]
Perspective is lost in the spirit of the chase

Foreclosure of a dream
Those visions never seen [foreclosure rates have hit a record high in the States]
Until all is lost
Personal Holocaust
Foreclosure of a dream

Barren lands that once filled a need
Are worthless now, dead without a deed
Slipping away from an iron grip
Nature's scales are forced to tip
The heartland cries, loss of all pride
To leave ain't believing, so try and be tried
Insufficient funds, insanity, and suicide

Now with new hope some will be proud [the Orwellian "Hope Now Alliance"]
This is no hoax, no one pushed out
Receive a reprieve and be a pioneer [Fed wants lenders to forgive some mortgages]
Breaking new ground on a new frontier
New ideas will surely get by
No deed or dividend, some may ask "Why?"
You'll find the solution, the answer's in the sky