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

Daniel Brook
  • Review
By – December 5, 2011

It usu­al­ly takes sev­er­al cre­ative attempts for young intel­lec­tu­als to find their voice. But Daniel Brook, a Yale-edu­cat­ed jour­nal­ist, demon­strates that he has done so in his first book, a piquant mix of pas­sion­ate argu­ments, con­crete data, and wry humor.

Brook address­es one of our country’s most press­ing social and eco­nom­ic prob­lems: grow­ing income inequal­i­ty. He tack­les head-on the ques­tion of whether young peo­ple who want to put their ener­gies into work­ing for the pub­lic good can do mean­ing­ful work and sup­port their fam­i­lies at the same time. 

It used to be pos­si­ble to do both, he explains; activists in gen­er­a­tions past were able to live a sol­id mid­dle-class life. But with today’s sky­rock­et­ing cost of hous­ing, edu­ca­tion, and health care, this is no longer a real­is­tic choice. 

The writ­ing is smart and live­ly, and the argu­ments well rea­soned. Brook demon­strates not only how the mid­dle class is being dec­i­mat­ed, but why that dec­i­ma­tion threat­ens to destroy the very foun­da­tions of our society. 

For all its dis­pu­ta­tion, how­ev­er, this is not a polemic. Rather, it is a real­is­tic look at today’s soci­ety through the lens of a new gen­er­a­tion search­ing for sta­bil­i­ty and suc­cess with­out sac­ri­fic­ing the social con­science ide­al­is­tic young Amer­i­cans in gen­er­al, and Jews in par­tic­u­lar, val­ue so high­ly. Foot­notes, index. 

Lin­da F. Burghardt is a New York-based jour­nal­ist and author who has con­tributed com­men­tary, break­ing news, and fea­tures to major news­pa­pers across the U.S., in addi­tion to hav­ing three non-fic­tion books pub­lished. She writes fre­quent­ly on Jew­ish top­ics and is now serv­ing as Schol­ar-in-Res­i­dence at the Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al & Tol­er­ance Cen­ter of Nas­sau County.

Discussion Questions