Ray Stevens – We The People

Ray Stevens is a comedian with musical credibility, having even played on a recording for Elvis Presley. He somehow manages to appear good-natured even though there is a hard edge to his political commentary that could be seen as too strident and even mean-spirited.

This ditty maintains that U.S. President Barack Obama has not listened to Americans who are against his health care reforms. Thus, he will be voted out. This proved to be wishful thinking, as this song came before Obama achieved a second term in 2012. It still remains to be seen whether the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) will survive, though.

Obamacare is explained with the help of Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley: Obamacare Morning


Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood – Obamacare by Morning

Country stars roast the U.S. President’s crowning achievement, health care reform, that at this date has yet to be fully rolled out. The 2013 song/skit from the Country Music Association Awards program, pokes fun at the difficulties Americans encountered in enrolling for the new health care program, given a poorly designed and administered registration website.

Officially known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Obamacare as it is informally known was passed in 2010 and aims to assist and require more Americans to get health insurance.

States are to create “health insurance exchanges” which is like a few health insurance companies on a list you can choose from. An exchange is not an insurance company. It provides no health care coverage. Like travel websites such as “Travelocity” that allow you to compare flights and hotel costs, you will be able to pick a health insurance plan from an exchange, based on what you think will work best for you.

The companies on the exchange have to offer a certain level of services and there will be different levels of plans and payments. People cannot be denied coverage such as due to pre-existing medical conditions, which is called “guaranteed issue.”

Americans may be able to receive federal money to help pay for the coverage. A person that can’t afford insurance because of their ranking on a poverty level would get an “advanceable tax credit” to help pay for health care. This will be like getting a discount when you actually buy insurance, to the amount of the tax credit you are entitled to. Think of this like having a grocery store coupon when you check out. For example, maybe you won’t pay more than 10% of your income on premiums. Still, there will be deductibles and copayments once you actually start receiving health care.

The exchanges were to start in 2014, but most states aren’t setting them up.

Americans can still buy health insurance outside of the exchange if they don’t like the companies that are available, don’t want the tax credit, or are not going to get this subsidy anyway.

But they will have to have insurance once this is fully up and running. Refusing to get health coverage is to bring fines. These fines are a set amount or a small percentage of one’s income level as an individual. This “forced mandate” is what was challenged at the Supreme Court and survived by being called a tax. Businesses with more than 50 employees must provide health care insurance or also pay a fine ($2,000 per employee at the start – actually lower than buying them health care).

More pokes at Obamacare are made by Ray Stevens, with We The People.

David Bowie – We Are Hungry Men

Early David Bowie can be hard to listen to. But then, not every great performer should be expected to bring their “A” game from the start. People must develop and improve. This 1969 song addresses the fears of overpopulation.

Thomas Malthus (1766-1834) was a thinker who first concocted this hypothesis – that humanity would reach a point at which there would not be enough food for everyone to eat.

Bowie’s narrator here satirizes (or supports?) some overpopulation solutions – some very harsh – including free contraception, sterilization, abortion, cannibalism, infanticide and mass extermination.

Since this song, the world’s population continues to grow and a crisis of “Malthusian” proportions has not materialized. Some cite the reason as technology, like higher crop yields. So, Bowie instead could write a tune today about the criticisms of this: deforestation for more farm land and genetically modified foods.

Midnight Oil – Blue Sky Mine

With the Keystone Pipeline in the US and the Northern Gateway/Enbridge Pipeline in Canada, both making many headlines in both countries, let’s turn back to Aussie political rockers Midnight Oil.

Protest songs about mines are common folk tune subjects, going back at least to Woody Guthrie.

This 1990 song is actually about asbestos mining. Asbestos is cancer-causing, and it rankles many that it is still exported in Canada. There is even a town in the province of Quebec named Asbestos, where is also located one of the world’s largest asbestos mines. Political debate frequently comes down to banning the extrication and exportation of this blue substance, but the trade off of foregoing the economic value of it has typically trumped such a decision.

The balance between jobs and health, or jobs and the environment, or jobs and safety or… and so on… is a routine political challenge.

Bee Gees – Massachusetts

If Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney fails to unseat incumbent Barack Obama today, this 1967 Bee Gees song may fit. It was the band’s first number one hit (in Australia and the UK) and sold millions as a single. Romney, of course, has been the Governor of Massachusetts since 2002 and isn’t hoping to “go back” there if that means defeat.

His “Romneycare” health plan for this state is similar to “ObamaCare,” the President’s coming system of subsidizing the cost of private health insurance for Americans. This has created no end of confusion for voters. That’s because the Republican plan is to repeal “ObamaCare,” immediately, even if it is like what the Governor did back home!

Still, Romney is known for being too artificial, and fitting then that this song’s smooth, flowing melody seems to suggest it was never composed, but always around.

Good Luck, Mitt!

Also reviewed here, The Bee Gees, Jive Talkin’ and related to the 2012 election, Elvis Presley, In The Ghetto

Andrew Gold – Thank You For Being A Friend

This song from 1978 is best known as the theme for the 1985-92 NBC sitcom, “The Golden Girls,” about four senior citizens living together in Florida.

For politics, the situation of an aging population is often presented as a ticking demographic time bomb. That is, there will be too many golden agers from the baby boom generation, drawing from public old age security programs… with not enough working aged taxpayers to fund these entitlements. If taxes must rise enough to keep such benefits sustainable, the younger population could come to resent their elders. Media sensationalism has depicted a coming war of the generations given this looming silver tsunami.

However, whether civilization as we know it will be destroyed by such geriatric terrorism committed by kindly, prune-eating, Depends-wearing, lawn bowling square dancers, depends on the public policy responses, that if taken now, can head off catastrophe at the pass. A common solution is to encourage seniors to be and get healthy and so be independent. This is good advice for people of any age, but history has proven governments ineffective at promoting such behaviour without employing a heavy, freedom-sapping hand.


Olivia Newton-John – Physical

This #1 pop single for Billboard, 1982, came out the year previous and drew attention to the growing physical fitness craze. Ostensibly, the song is not about abs of steel but sex, though was widely, conventionally recorded on mix tapes for Walkmans for jogging. Look at the video with its gym setting, though, featuring (implied gay) men in their underwear and the Aussie singer in a leotard: this was, of course, as much about fashion as exercise. Just like in the political realm, incentives and encouragements for citizens to drop and give me twenty shape is often about keeping up appearances, too.

Sweat pants, spandex, headbands and wristbands to wipe away sweat, those little socks with pom poms on the heels, high top running shoes… aerobics classes predate today’s trendy yoga.

All the while, people as a whole keep getting fatter.

Yet what can be seen as encouraging from this fad was the self-starting initiative. Governments find it difficult to encourage responsible behavior without employing a heavy hand. They could make it the law to take the stairs and not the elevator, but where’s the freedom there?

So prevention is the dominant paradigm in education for future health professionals. A big part of this push is to save public health systems costs by hoping for fewer patients: Let’s educate people to do more than hang their towels on all their featherbrained home exercise contraptions. Yeah, but how? More work needs to be done to establish this push is working.

Unlike back in the ’80s, people look more to pharmaceuticals, not sit ups, for their heart health.

The challenge remains in getting people to seriously take care of themselves the way Olivia once demonstrated.