Posted in Rants on March 30th, 2010 by Ed

The effects of things like unemployment or foreclosure on mental and physical health are substantial and well-documented. It will take years to unravel the spikes in depression, alcoholism, divorce, and all of the maladies concomitant to a personal financial meltdown. I'm sure you know people who have lost jobs and homes and I'm equally sure that some of them aren't taking it terribly well. It isn't difficult to understand why that happens.

So this is hard on everyone, but it has to be particularly hard on the upper-middle class. It sucks for anyone to lose a job and a house, but how can the self-styled masters of the universe cope when the things that define them are taken away? Without the enormous house, leased Lexuses, and Assistant Regional Vice-President of Corporate Excellence title to make them feel important, the psychological shock must be crushing. It is not a demographic that invites a lot of sympathy; that said, the fall into unemployment and financial want is a lot steeper for them. Those of us who don't really have shit to begin with are better equipped for (and more used to) living on not much. The more comfortable, however, are used to it. Their identities are tied to Stuff and without Stuff they are like rudderless ships. It's not surprising that they need to find ways to remind themselves that they are better than everyone else.

That's where The Ladders comes in. Perhaps you've seen their incessant TV advertisements.

"Only $100k jobs. For only $100k people!"

Hear that, unemployed yuppies? You're still Special. You are far better than those other unemployed people and you needn't mingle with them. Unemployment now has a first-class cabin, complete with a blue curtain to clearly distinguish you from the unwashed hordes back in coach.

The amusing thing (As if there is only one.) is that these people are all believers in the free market to some extent, many of them quite strongly so. And a "$100k person" would seem to be one who is determined by the free market to be worth $100k in salary. Since that is not the case for very many of the site's 2 million members – I'd bet a lot of them are making zero at the moment and will end up accepting jobs paying far less than six figures if they're lucky enough to find one – it's clear that the label serves mainly to pat the site's members on the rump and reassure them that they are Special. The free market god is an unforgiving one, though, and the site feels like the last gasp of people who realize that The Almighty is slowly "correcting" their standard of living.