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.


  • I noticed this trend a year ago. I, at the bottom of the rungs of such things, know how to raise chickens and roast squirrels and repair carburetors with my bare calloused hands. I can create a fire with any three random objects and kill an intruder with a carefully chosen word. My degreed "peers…" are driving around the country in their proper Japanese sedans wondering why they can't get through a job interview. Me the four-time college drop-out who lives in an RV filled with books… I have more work that I know what to do with because I am willing to work with my hands turning pieces of wood into things that people who still have money want to buy. I can't fall any lower than I already have but I have the heavens to climb to. There is nothing left to do but try, so I do. And you know what? My $1.48/lb pork roasts smell fantastic paired with my $4.79 six pack of pseudo-brew. And I paid for both with money I earned by the sweat of my brow. Smoke that!

  • I first started seeing their ads right around when the economy started going down the tubes, and I thought, "Gee, really? How many '$100K+' jobs are going to be out there in this economic climate?" The fact that two million people are members of this site (presumably paying) just goes to show that P.T. Barnum was right.

  • I hate that ad. It doesn't make sense: The "$100K chair" (the tall, leather-upholstered one rather than the cheap, econo-line secretarial chairs) is running away from the lasso-wielding head-hunters who want to give him a job.

    Wouldn't have been approved at Sterling Cooper Draper & Pryce.

  • "100K jobs… for people in China willing to work them for 50K."
    How's your free market now, bitch?

  • displaced Capitalist says:

    100k seems like kind of an arbitrary number. After all 100k in rural Utah is a hell of a lot different than 100k in San Fransisco. The Utah person would be upper while the San Fransisco would be barely above lower-middle.

    And then don't forget all the "Joe the Plumbers" out there who think they're worth 100k.

  • My former boss argued at length that intelligence, human merit, and personal wealth (even inherited) were all tied, but that he felt in no way inferior to Bill Gates or anyone in a higher tax bracket. Oh, okay. It's all just hypocritical bullshit, classist when you look down, egalitarian when you look up. It never occurred to him that his many cars / boats / toys / houses looked like Dogpatch to a million anonymous industrialists, much less the named mofos on the cover of Fortune.

    I have met extremely wealthy people and known extremely poor people, but the most greedy, graceless, self-entitled and ill-mannered pissants were the upper middle class — not the strivers, the climbers.

  • 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.

    Some years ago, due to a hilarious paperwork problem, my father was laid off for a month. He spent it bearded and insomniac, whiling away hours and hours in the basement staring at his computer… and this was knowing that he'd be back to work in a few weeks.

    Yeah, I can imagine how messed up that kind of reaction might get when mixed with a huge sense of entitlement.

  • Not only is the fancy chair running away, but the truck mangles several normal chairs in the process. Direct metaphor for climbing over the peons, anyone?

  • Back in the good old days, when I worked for one of the corporate soviets, we used to dart and tag the VP of Sales and randomly deposit him in traffic about a hundred miles away. He'd always find his way back somehow.

    He'd be a little mad, but we'd just run an electromagnet a few times over the scalp above his right parieto-temporal junction, and he'd be none the wiser of our little escapades and high-jinks.

  • I like the tennis ad better (that is, I hate it more), the one where the entitled country club weenie gets sacked right as he's about to serve. Part of it is the aggrieved look he gives to the officials, part of it is that the person who bowls him over is (a) female (b) a thousand times the athlete he appears to be, and (c) actually hitting the ball. Twit-boy never swings his racquet.

    The ladders ads are designed with the cultural and symbolic subtlety of Freudianism in a Viagra commercial or a NASCAR spot. Since they haven't gone away, I take it that among their other special qualities, $100k people are also comically easily manipulated by their own caricatures.

    (Hi. New reader. Nice blog.)

  • displaced Capitalist says:

    Nice link Andrew!

    Nobody makes you say Only $100k+ jobs. You choose to say only. doesn’t say only. I’m no fan of CareerBuilder, but it doesn’t say only. What company CEO is stupid or arrogant enough to publish a bald misrepresentation in big print on his company’s home page?


  • Andrew – I was about to link that. :-)

    The Ladder is a fraud. They do charge the job searchers to search and apply. What they don't tell you is that like 90% of the jobs are scraped from other sources (careerbuilder, etc.) and then sorted by what The Ladders deems are 100K+.

    It's brilliantly cold hearted. Charge unemployed yuppies money so that they can apply for the same jobs they can on Monster, while stroking their ego with cute colorful TV ads that make them feel more special than those who they feel don't deserve six figure salaries. Absolutely brilliant!!

  • 100K Person says:

    I'm submitting this anonymously because I don't want to get into income dick wars. But I make just about $100K myself, and with my wife's income we're just shy of $150K. And I'm disgusted at the assumptions you make about us based solely on income.

    In New Jersey, $150K makes you comfortable, but not what I'd call "upper middle class". We have a single-family home and two cars, but it's no mansion and there's no leased Lexus in sight.

    I'm not denying that there are some people who use their six-figure incomes to surround themselves with Stuff. I don't like those people any more than you do. My money goes to keep us living in a nice neighborhood, save for our two kids' educations, and spend some time at the beach in the summer. There's not a heck of a lot left after that, and my wife and I both value life experiences far more than stuff. I hope that our children grow up feeling the same way.

    I consider myself fortunate rather than entitled. I never set out to get a high income, I just fooled around doing what I'm good at and stumbled into some good opportunities at the right time. Money is a means to an end, and don't assume that everyone who has the money has the same values.


  • CaptBackslap says:

    The Youtube video doesn't include the best part of the TV spot: The disclaimer, appearing about halfway through, that reads "Do Not Attempt." I always wonder if they mean the lassos-from-the-Jeep part, or the breathing-unholy-life-into-office-furniture part.

  • I would like to mention that I have known Matthew for seven years, in real life and online, and I have never seen him go full capslock. Well done, 100K Person! Good luck in the new economy.

  • Crazy for Urban Planning says:

    Hey their folks. I'm not sure about teasing people for aspiring to greatness, I don't actually think earning 100k+ ought to be the holy grail, but people do. In regards to people who used to make 100k+ and are now unemployed – I would be more willing to sympathize with them than to mock them. Anyway, I did giggle once or twice at the post.

  • I will always remember a very wealthy woman that was interviewed after the Madoff fiasco who had lost quite a bit, and her response was, "This is worse than when my mother died." It was sad and gross.
    Having said that – Matthew, while obviously this post deals with a generalization, I don't think that 100k person deserves to be called a fucking prick and an idiot. He was just giving a different perspective and a peek into his own experience. And he really wasn't prickish in his delivery. Perhaps you could save the CAP OFF for someone who is truly deserving – and I think we can all agree that there are an abundance of these people.

  • One thing that 100k person points out, and that almost always gets left out of this kind of conversation, is location and cost of living. New Jersey has some of the highest property taxes in the country. In addition, the homes for sale and units for rent and much more expensive. 150k per year there is the equivalent about half of that if one were living in many other cities in the US.

    Check this out:

    The link is about NYC, but it applies more or less to many parts of New Jersey as well. I sympathize with 100k person, while also seeing the general point that Ed is making.

  • Gentrification might be one of the most downplayed under covered problems concerning this country. Whole cities have had an exodus of their lower and middle class residents, in other words the people who actually keep the city running.

    I guess that's because gentrification is the free-market in action; fuck the poor and working class, the rich want the brownstones now.

  • ts46064
    I don't feel bad for the "lower and middle" class folks who left cities to decay for so long that gentrification finally took place. White flight is alive and well, which is why suburbs exist and grow. Nobody left their adorable brownstone because someone moved next door and improved an adjacent property. Gentrification didn't cause an exodus…it's the effect

  • I never made US$100K a year in my entire twenty-four year career in the Civil Service. I do agree with the point made above; there may be places in the US where you can live well on US$100K, but none of them are here (i.e., the SF Bay Area, Oakland CA).

    By 'well', I mean 'in a manner to delight a spoiled child, accustomed to privilege and wanton self-indulgence'. My husband and I are living quite comfortably and raising two children. No private schools, leased car or family vacations, no boat or plasma screen TV. How DO we survive?

  • I remember one "Tennis" ad – I think it was Wimbledon and the message was "how can I play my best game with all these other people on the court". Hate to say it but it's all one big job market. It seems kind of ironic that the Ladders makes their distinction based on income (rather than skills, experience, or – hate to say it – "social background") since all unemployed people have the same income.

Comments are closed.