“More of a political problem…than a financial problem” – Daniel

Posted on February 13, 2013 at 3:20 pm

We met Daniel Brook at a benefit show for the Tipitina’s Foundation in New Orleans. The show featured bands representing the HBO shows Treme and The Wire, and blasted some of the sweetest sweat-fueled brass band jazz and funk that I have ever had the pleasure of hearing. Daniel, an author and journalist, was at the show doing an interview of David Simon, who created both Treme and The Wire, for Slate.  I spoke with him after that interview, and we arranged to meet the next day at his apartment near the French Quarter.

Daniel’s book, The Trap, deals with the growing tendency for otherwise socially-conscious professionals to take jobs with companies they find morally repellent, simply because those companies are the only ones paying enough to provide any amount of financial security.  Some young doctors, for instance, leaving school with hundreds of thousands in student loans, simply cannot afford to turn down jobs from pharmaceutical companies with questionable ethics. They may hope that it’s a temporary situation, but there’s know way of knowing, and they just need the money. In many ways, the book’s premise underscores one of the central issues surrounding the retirement crisis, which is that the money, and therefore the power, is distributed so disproportionately that the vast majority of people are left with little to nothing, and that many of those with the wherewithal to make a difference are almost literally selling their souls to the same entities that are largely responsible for that economic disparity.  The system, in its current form, basically allows the wealthy minority to contribute a relative pittance to the system, while the rest must scrape by under a darkening storm of financial anxiety, with less and less optimism about the future.  It is inherently unsustainable, yet little is being done to change it.

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