Over at Campus Progress, Jesse Singal reviews Daniel Brook‘s The Trap: Selling Out to Stay Afloat in Winner-Take-All America. The book is about progressive young Americans’ conflicting desires to make a difference, but also to be able to afford health care, a decent place to live, and a high-quality education for their children. As Jesse writes, the system that makes all this so difficult is based on the conservative movement’s amazing success "at exploiting the specter of excessive taxation against middle-class people whose most pressing economic concerns—the spiraling costs of education, health care, and housing—are in fact exacerbated by tax cuts at the top." But Americans have "radical, right-wing views on taxes," Jesse points out. "Only 1 percent of Americans think that taxes are too low (compared to 62 percent of Britons)."
That’s a staggering statistic indeed: Even though most Americans support cheaper health care and college tuition, just 1 percent of us can articulate that the way to achieve these goals is to increase the revenue of the federal government. A political science professor of mine once said that a majority of American voters have a fundamental disconnect: They don’t understand that taxes directly pay for services — the services they so desperately want and need.
But in January, TAP-er Mark Schmitt wrote in The Washington Monthly that this "tax revolt" is drawing to a close. He pointed to several popular governors who have raised taxes, and polls showing that prior to the 2006 midterms, Democrats were the party most trusted on taxation, even though voters understand that Democrats are more likely to raise taxes.
To fully capitalize on these trends, progressives should foster a sense of fiscal crisis, Schmitt writes, to get Americans behind fully funding programs such as health coverage and caring for an aging population. I think Michael Moore’s "Sicko" is one attempt to up the sense of crisis, and Democratic presidential candidates talking about the impossible costs of higher education are doing their part, as well. Whether the choice to become a corporate lawyer or a muckraking journalist resonates as a crisis for young progressives, as Brook writes, I’m less sure about. I think many people who choose highly-renumerated professions are doing so not only because of the financial lures, but also because they haven’t found their passion. And working for non-profits or in the arts or journalism isn’t as simple as determining you’re okay with earning $30,000 a year instead of $100,000. Those jobs are intensely competitive and have their own entry barriers, many of which involve working for free or less than a living wage in order to pay your dues.
-cross-posted at TAPPED