The Trap: Selling Out to Stay Afloat in Winner-Take-All America Kindle Edition

3.8 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0805088014
ISBN-10: 0805088016
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Twenty-something journalist Brook sees the best minds of his generation scrivening away as corporate lawyers and accountants, and he's furious about it. His fresh and striking pay-gap polemic laments the plight of "educated, idealistic young people" who must choose whether "to be a sellout or a saint"—that is, whether to take a lucrative corporate job or to eke out a pauper's existence in creative or nonprofit work. "The new economic realities," Brook writes, "are shaping people's lives, closing off certain career and lifestyle options. They are reducing freedom." Brook marshals facts and interviews to make his case for "more egalitarian economic policies." Decrying recent economic shifts that have widened the chasm between private and public sector employment, he skewers centrist "New Democrats" as well as usual-suspects such as William F. Buckley and Ronald Reagan. Brook preaches too narrowly to the choir (proclaiming that "as is plain to see, the conservative philosophy is wrong"), and his solutions are limited to calling for "truly progressive taxation" and insisting that "the public sector should pay its professionals more." Still, many readers will wince in recognition of their work/life compromises. "Corporate America is riddled with secret dissenters," Brook notes; he does a real service asking why it must be this way. (June 1)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Selling out in order to make big bucks used to be viewed with contempt, but, Brook argues, in today's aggressive society, it has become ever more acceptable, even mundane. For many people the choice comes down to sticking to one's ideological guns or living a comfortable life, but for "boomerang kids"--college grads so far in debt that they have to move back in with their folks--selling out is the only way to escape childhood. The rising sticker price of the American Dream, to use Brook's catchy phrase, forces all sorts of compromises, like the anti-Bush activist who earns a very good living doing PR work for Bush supporters. But, Brook shows convincingly, falling into "the Trap" can take a serious toll on a person's mental well-being. An exploration not only of the economics of compromise but also of the frustration that comes in the wake of putting material concerns ahead of personal beliefs. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 693 KB
  • Print Length: 296 pages
  • Publisher: Times Books; 1st edition (May 29, 2007)
  • Publication Date: May 29, 2007
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000U0NSWC
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,781,541 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
It is evident that a number of these reviewers have not read the book. The Trap is not about the selfish rants of idealistic recent college grads seeking a life of starving activism. It is about a pervasive crisis facing America, where it is becoming ever harder to live a comfortable middle-class lifestyle and pursue a meaningful career, even after graduating from a top-class college and holding a steady professional job.

The book begins discussing a national PR director who took a job she doesn't enjoy in order to make enough money just to raise a family, "feel comfortable and have a sense of security." Chapter one profiles a computer programmer with a six-figure income who qualified for affordable housing in the town where he works. We also meet a teacher who, like many, can no longer afford to live in his own school district.

Chapter two features a "master's degree-toting professional married to a Harvard-educated lawyer" in Washington D.C. who is worried about how she will afford to have a house and raise a family in the nation's hyper-gentrified capital. Born in Denmark she "grew up thinking that part of social justice is you can...afford some pretty basic things like decent schooling."

In Chapter five we meet an aspiring tech industry entrepreneur in California, a government-hands-off libertarian, who is finding the path of starting his own business (the bread an butter of a free-market economy) almost impossible because of the high costs of entry including prohibitively expensive health insurance.

The Trap also discusses lawyers and investment bankers, many of whom hoped to do more productive things with their lives, finding no other way to raise a family and pay off their colossal college loans than to join a corporate firm.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is a great counter-intuitive look at how growing income disparity in the United States is hurting all of us, not just those trying to make ends meet with minimum wage. And it's not just 20-something independent filmmakers who are now struggling to pay the rent (although Brook does profile plenty of them) it's the district attorney who stops putting criminals behind bars to work in a corporate law firm to make ends meet. Teachers who can't even afford to buy a home in the city they teach in.

Investment bankers, corporate attorneys and software engineers are all vital to the economy, but that doesn't mean they should be the only people who can afford to pay off their college loans, buy a house and (gasp!) maybe let one of the parents stay home and raise the kids. With the world we live in today, I for one want the people who commit their lives to community service or who work for the government--analyzing terrorist threats, tracking down tax cheats and making sure the medicine and food (and toothpaste) we consume aren't tainted--are the best qualified, best educated people available, not just those born rich or altruistic enough to take a cut in pay for work they think is important.

With a mix of economics, sociology and anecdotal reporting, Brook does a great job showing how the skyrocketing costs of health care, education and housing, combined with (and caused by) the shift in the tax burden from the wealthy to the middle-class, is hurting us all. President Bush says that community service should replace big government intervention; that's fine, but as Brook shows, America's economy is making it increasingy hard for people to even do that.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
So said Oscar Wilde and such is the moral of this book.

In many ways, its touching - there are still people who'd like to teach kids, care for the sick or probe the secrets of the universe. But the burgeoning corporate elite with their astronomical salaries are driving the price of quality education, housing and healthcare sky high. So indulge yourself helping humanity and your kids will be lucky to afford community college. Welcome to a system where the best minds of our generation are trawling the tax code for loopholes, while we import math teachers from India.

But - I hear you cry - surely day-traders benefit society too, filling the supermarket shelves with inexpensive paper doilies and fat-free lard, 'lobbying' politicians and betting on Pork Belly futures? Brook wouldn't deny it - his point is that the pay disparity is hurting everybody else.

Brook's book is punchy and witty and uncomfortable and validating. His ideas for restoring the balance don't require a Marxist revolution. Read it and send it anonymously to a friend. Everybody will recognize a part of their own history in this book.
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Format: Hardcover
What some reviewers have missed is the main point of The Trap; It should be possible for a salary to cover a comfortable lifestyle, medical coverage, education and security in old age. Now, thanks to the corporate takeover of our society (unlike other first world societies) we are loosing ground faster than we can recover it. Our middle class has been under persistent siege and has been flattened. Our children face a bleak future while too many Americans have been blinded by rightwing rhetoric about American individualism. Americans were community based barn-builders.

Get a job? Where? All our jobs have been sold to the lowest bidder overseas.
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