Kirkus Reviews QR Code
STRAPPED by Tamara Draut

STRAPPED

Why America’s 20- and 30-Somethings Can’t Get Ahead

By Tamara Draut

Pub Date: Jan. 17th, 2006
ISBN: 0-385-51505-7
Publisher: Doubleday

You’re not the only one who can barely keep up with the rent, school loans and credit card debt: There’s a whole generation out there in exactly the same position.

According to Draut, director of the Economic Opportunity Program at liberal think tank Demos, a high proportion of Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 are caught in an economic crunch with no easy way out. First there’s college, the “luxury-priced necessity” that shovels mounds of debt onto young adults before they’ve even had a chance to get into the job market—which mandates a college degree for anyone who wants to enter it at any semi-professional level. Following graduation comes a one-two punch: the dwindling number of steady, salaried jobs with benefits, combined with the punitive rates on deceptively easy-to-get credit cards. The result: even more debt. The author moves through each element of the crisis, from high-priced homes purchased with huge mortgages to non-subsidized childcare, and she tries to link these factors to young peoples’ lack of interest in the news, and non-involvement in politics. Although Draut is a proud member of Generation X and never misses an opportunity to stick it to the Baby Boomers who, she charges, created the situation, she also takes her peers to task for their inattention: “While we weren’t keeping tabs on the government, Congress decimated college financial aid, let the minimum wage fall to historic lows, and reengineered the tax code to tax income more than wealth.” Alas, this is a rare instance of passionate, accessible prose in a text that more frequently resembles a dust-dry paper.

Draut’s think-tank day job at least gives her the background to come up with something most anti-debt screeds lack: a specific plan to fix what’s wrong.