Strapped for Cash: A Mixtape for the Debt Crisis


The ongoing brinkmanship in President Obama and John Boehner’s discussions about an increase in the national debt ceiling has got us at Flavorpill feeling just as nervous as everyone else in the country. Surely two educated and intelligent men can sit down and have a civilized discussion to thrash out some sort of deal and prevent the world’s largest economy from going into default? Um, apparently not. So we got to thinking that, well, maybe they need a soundtrack so make their discussions more pleasurable — or, perhaps, just to focus their mind on not fucking this up. Either way, we’ve composed a mixtape of ten topical songs for the debt crisis. Your suggestions are, as ever, welcome.

Wu-Tang Clan — “C.R.E.A.M.”

The acronym stands for “cash rules everything around me,” and as far as snappy five-word summations of capitalism go, you couldn’t really do a whole lot better — as ever, the best hip hop does a fine job of stripping away the artifice of American society to expose what lies beneath, which in this case is naked, unconstrained materialism. And if the two sides don’t get their shit together soon, we’ll be left with not a whole lot more than a dollar dollar bill, y’all.

Merle Travis — “Sixteen Tons”

A song about the crushingly depressing life of a coal miner, this country standard has been covered by everyone from Tom Jones to Eels, and it’s lost none of its resonance over the years. It contains the key couplet “You load 16 tons, and what do you get?/ Another day older and deeper in debt,” lines that seem all the more troublingly relevant once you have a look here.

The Notorious BIG — “Mo Money Mo Problems”

Working with cash issues on a large scale is clearly an issue here, although Biggie, bless him, never had to deal with a $14 trillion deficit. But even so, we’re sure that both sides can sympathize with the sentiment — it’s hard to believe that a country that’s responsible for a quarter of the world’s GDP and represents 19 percent of the world’s manufacturing output could be on the verge of running out of cash, but like Biggie said, “It’s like the more money we come across, the more problems we see.” Word.

Fountains of Wayne — “Strapped for Cash”

“I’m just a little strapped for cash/ Very temporary/ Don’t you worry about that.” Are you listening, Standard & Poor’s? There’s no need to downgrade our credit outlook! No, wait! Seriously… Aw, shit.

John Maus — “Too Much Money”

Flavorpill fave John Maus has a knack for writing songs that are both simple and deceptively profound. This particular track asks, “Whatcha gonna do with all that money?/ Keep it to yourself/ Keep it to yourself,” which sounds to us like a pretty accurate summation of the Republicans’ highly considered rich-people-must-absolutely-not-pay-any-more-tax-no-matter-what policy.

Oingo Boingo — “Capitalism”

On the other side of the coin, here we have that rarest of things, a pro-capitalist rock song. No doubt Oingo Boingo’s distaste for the left-wing bands they satirize in this song, and their faith in the joys of free enterprise, would be entirely unshaken by the Great Credit Crunch of ’09 and the Great Imminent Debt Disaster of ’11. “There’s nothing wrong with capitalism,” sang Danny Elfman. “Don’t try to make me feel guilty/ I’m sad of hearing you cry.” That’s it — the free market got us into this mess, and the free market will get us out again. Right, guys? Right?!

Destiny’s Child — “Bills, Bills, Bills”

If Beyoncé was fed up with one freeloading boyfriend, imagine how she’d feel about an entire nation of people with an average per capita debt of $46,641. Suddenly those telephone bills don’t look quite so extravagant, eh?

Hayek vs. Keynes — “Fear the Boom and Bust”

Honestly, what serious economic discussion wouldn’t be improved by the presence of a comedy rap anthem that examines the history of macroeconomic theory over the course of seven sharply-written minutes? Barack Obama can sing along with John Milton Keynes’ parts, John Boehner can snarl back in time with Friedrich Hayek, and a jolly old time will be had by all!

Babylon Zoo — “All the Money’s Gone”

An achingly ironic title for the second single by a one-hit wonder, and also an achingly appropriate penultimate song for our mixtape. Still, at least the size of the US’s deficit makes us feel better about our personal credit card debt.

Pink Floyd — “Money”

And, of course, the classic. Before you dismiss this as another example of a rich rock star condemning crass materialism while living very nicely himself, thank you (cf. John Lennon’s “Imagine”), keep in mind that by all accounts the Floyd weren’t exactly rolling in cash at the time The Dark Side of the Moon was recorded. Either way, this song’s blunt satire of consumerism is spot on: “Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash” pretty much defines how the world works. Although even Waters might be taken aback at the size of the stash we need these days.