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

The Trap: Selling Out to Stay Afloat in Winner-Take-All America
(By Daniel Brook; Times Books; 274 pages; $23 cloth)

More analysis of Gilded Age II, its gaudiest, cruelest colors brought out by what surely must be its sunset. Daniel Brook, an ex–student journalist, argues against a popular old-folks lament. Instead of decrying the empty souls of the young who flock to the corporate world, it's better to consider the principle of the carrot and the stick. And today's graduates find the former missing and the latter ready to beat them into submission. Student loans, medical costs and rents present a huge burden, compelling the middle class into industries that hurt the public good and make the rich superrich. Under such circumstances, freedom becomes something only the wealthy can afford. Brook interviews San Francisco bike activist Chris Carlsson and counters Google's famous paternalism—three hots and a cot, except you never make it back to the cot, somehow—in an interview with a disgruntled Google temp. Sometimes, Brook overstates the case. He writes that few have a taste for management consulting or investment banking. But aren't there predators in every graduate class? Nevertheless, The Trap is shrewd and compassionate—and unique, because it comes not from a sorrowing elder but rather from a young person with a very conservative agenda. Conservative, that is, in the sense that he wants to retrieve the gains of the New Deal. Too bad Hillary doesn't look like FDR, not even in this gathering twilight.

Review by Richard von Busack


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