Friday, July 13, 2007
Using Debt To Trap Young Workers Into Obedience
Here is a review of a book by Daniel Brook entitled The Trap: Selling Out To Stay Afloat In Winner-Take-All America. Its thesis is that economic constraints on recent college graduates in the United States have conspired to prevent young people from making a difference in their society outside of just working for a living. These constraints include the high cost of health care, mounting debt from student loans, and the "obscene" differences in salary between entry level jobs in law or finance and those in teaching, social work and other professions undertaken for what used to be called "the public good". Brook compares the economic scene of today with that of decades past. "In 1970, when starting teachers in New York City made just $2,000 less than starting Wall Street lawyers, people who wanted to teach taught.. Today, when starting teachers make $100,000 less than starting corporate lawyers and have been priced out of the region's homeownership market, the considerations are very different." The mountain of economic constraints has even inhibited entrepreneurship among young people. According to Salon magazine, "Surveys show that almost twice as many Americans as Europeans have considered starting their own business, yet only 7.3 percent of our workforce takes the leap, compared with 14.7 percent across the pond." If I'm reading these figures correctly, that means that Europeans who consider becoming entrepreneurs are 4 times more likely to actually realize their dreams than in the United States. Whatever happened to the "land of opportunity"?
He atributes part of the blame to the right-wing emphasis on the concentration of wealth that has dominated American economic life since the Reagan era and which, Brook claims, had a dual agenda from the very beginning. "Conservatives saw what America looked like in the 1960s, with the most equal distribution of wealth in its history and liberals sitting-in and marching for even more, and they didn't like what they saw. The wealthy were being taxed to open up their elite colleges to bring middle- and working-class students. The students were questioning authority, not cozying up to it in hopes of landing a job." The conservatives turned the tables as soon as they could, starving young Americans into slavish compliance while enriching themselves even further in the process.
"The Trap" from Salon