Tuesday, January 1, 2019

I want to be a rock star

“I want to be a rock star” is the fifth U.S. single by the Canadian rock band Nickelback from their fifth album, All the Right Reasons (2005). It is the band’s most popular single, and was at the top of the charts in both the U.K. and the United States. It has sold 4.5 million copies in America. Listening to it always makes me smile:

In 2012, Nickelback released their 7th studio album. “Lullaby” was the 4th single on the album. Every time I watch it, I actually get tears in my eyes. It depicts a young unmarried couple rushing to the maternity ward for the birth of their first child. After leaving the hospital, the father briefly considers giving up his new son for adoption, but quickly decides against it because he had already fallen in love with the little guy.

If you do a little digging, you’ll discover that the video actually says a LOT about our society, and the Washington Post article posted below goes into a lot more detail:

Here’s the short version:

In 2017, the United States saw the fewest babies born in 30 years, which should be a cause for concern, and the experience of Japan explains why.

In 2018, Japanese women gave birth to 921,000 babies – the lowest number since comparable records were first kept in 1899. Meanwhile, the number of deaths in Japan hit their highest level in nearly a century.

Why does this matter? Well, it’s hard for an economy to grow with fewer workers. As more people age out of the workforce, a swelling number of retirees must depend on a shrinking number of working people to power the economy. The tax base required to fund public services for those retirees — including health care and elder care — also shrinks. As a result, Japan’s debt to GDP ratio is now 253%.

America’s debt to GDP ratio is 105.4%. Countries that have limited social programs, like Russia and Saudi Arabia, have very low debt to GDP ratios. 
In 1980, when Japan had the 2nd fastest growing economy in the world (behind the United States), its debt to GDP ratio was only 50.6%. Japan’s economy was surpassed by China in 1990, and in the year 2000, China had overtaken the United States in incremental growth in its economy. Japan’s economic growth is now less than the growth rate in China, the United States, India, the United Kingdom, Russian, and Germany.

One of the reasons for Japan’s shrinking population is that the average age in Japan has been rising, reducing the number of child-bearing women, and the fertility rate of women who ARE still of child-bearing age has been declining.

Another reason for the decline is that the Japanese marriage rates have also fallen. Unlike America, however, the number of births to unmarried women is only 2%, considerably lower than the overall 40% rate experienced in America.  The rate also varies considerably by ethnicity. 72% of the births of African-American women in America are to single women, and 49% of the births to Hispanic births are to single mothers, Both of those figures contrast sharply with the experience of Asian women, who have an unmarried birth rate of only 10.9%.

There are 2 solutions for Japan’s problems, both of us also apply to the United States: (1) make it easer to have children, via better child care and family leave programs, and (2) an increase in the number of immigrants. Neither one will happen in America until we have more responsible leaders.

The “Lullaby” video also suggests a society that is much more forgiving that it was in 1960, when only 5% of our overall births was to unwed mothers, and it has risen in nearly every year since that time.

The reduced stigma of unwed motherhood has also led to a steady decline in the number of abortions in America, and it is now at its lowest level since the passage of Roe v. Wade in 1973. It peaked when Ronald Reagan was president, and declined every year until 2006, when George W. Bush was president.

Another topic that the video touched on, very briefly, was the maternal death rate. It wasn't until I watched the video for the 3rd time that I realized that the mother (and not the baby) had died in the delivery room - and that also says a lot about our society.
America has the highest maternal death rate of ANY developed nation, and the rate is going up. The solution, of course, is more funding from the Federal government, which
could fund programs like California's Maternal Mortality Review Board, which reduced maternal mortality by 50% in its first decade of operation. Sadly, though, increased funding for better maternal health is not a priority for the current administration.


Music has always been a reflection of our society, frequently to the chagrin of the older generation, but a song like “Lullaby” (in 3 minutes and 45 seconds) can make all of us feel better about our future.

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