- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Holt Paperbacks; 1st edition (April 1, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0805088016
- ISBN-13: 978-0805088014
- Product Dimensions: 5 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 32 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,093,383 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Trap: Selling Out to Stay Afloat in Winner-Take-All America 1st Edition
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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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
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.
In this book Dan carefully builds the case that the youth of America are trapped in a system that forces them to stay afloat by compromising principles, health, and well-being to earn their way out of debt. It's prophetic given the economic collapse that has happened since this was written, and given our increasing awareness of the shackles of educational debt.
In anecdotes and data he explores the thesis very thoroughly. Worth a read, but be warn that if like me you get frustrated with this state of affairs, you may find this book quite upsetting indeed.
Nothing is immutable - any system can be changed to operate in the manner its people choose. Unfortunately at the present the marketist and their christocrat allies still have the megaphone, and will until people of good will rebuke them forcefully, even violently if need be. Worse yet, we will have to experience a world threatening crisis before their "screw you, I got mine" philosphies, to which they are wedded religiously and fanatically can be eliminated or suppressed.
Ignore these jerks and give Brooks a shot - you will be glad you did.
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. There they work as essentially glorified secretaries doing menial tasks, working every waking hour in a job they hate, unable to enjoy their lives.
The Trap explains, with substantive data, that today's struggles of all but the wealthy is a pervasive problem. Today's America makes entrepreneurship ever more difficult, and forces the nation's best and brightest into a select few professions where their skills, intellect and creativity are barely put to use.
But it was not always this way, The Trap explains. Our current crisis is the result of generations of new tax policy, reducing the burden of the wealthy, and putting greater and greater burden upon the middle class. College tuition, healthcare, home prices and other basic expenses have risen exponentially, while middle-class incomes have been simultaneously falling.
The Trap also discusses how this crisis does not just affect the middle class. Understanding the nature of the crisis raises critical concerns about how we can even begin to think that America can provide opportunity for those born into poverty if those privileged enough to attain a good education and professional career have trouble making ends meet. After reading The Trap, it becomes clear that the solutions of reversing the failed tax policies of recent generations will be necessary to bring the American dream back within reach of all hard-working Americans.
This book struck a strong chord for me personally. I have plenty of friends in this position, trapped in the "golden handcuffs." I also find myself in "the trap," having graduated from a US News and World Report top-ten college, holding a professional job with a decent salary and benefits, and yet living in an efficiency apartment, finding it difficult just to pay my bills each month, including exorbitant college loans. I come from a middle-class family, I do not have a trust fund, and in my mid-twenties I see no economic feasibility in the near future of buying a house or raising a family.
The Trap is for all the members of my generation who cannot figure out why the American dream is eluding us. It is also for the boomer generation, like my friends' parents, who cannot figure out why their children are making decent incomes and cannot afford a home--why it is so much harder today than it was for them.
The Trap is surely one of the most important pieces of social criticism to be written in the past decade. I hope it is only the beginning of a true discussion about the crisis imposed on America by now several generations of failed social and economic policies. I also hope it starts us on the road to rethinking those policies and ushering in a new and more hopeful era.
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