On Downward Mobility

In the dot-bomb era, you’d read the occasional story about how former Internet high-flier employees were working at Home Depot.

I am not certain what happened to those in Wall Street who lost their jobs in the 1990-1991 downturn. I know some got jobs with big corporations, a few went to DC. However, the carnage was severe, and those don’t seem sufficient to have absorbed the casualties.

A story in the New York Times gives the present-day version of income and status decline.

What is sad about this is not just the desperate shape some are in, but here, people who are comparatively fortunate (they have found new work) are troubled because the work is low status.

These individuals are mourning the loss of their former lives. That loss is compounded by the fact that the US is so stratified along income and class lines. A loss of a job tests one’s friendships.

An American I met in Australia had gotten advanced degrees in sociology and discovered she could not get a job. She took her post graduate work off her resume and landed work as an executive secretary, and then an IT project manager for one of the big European banks. She had a series of good postings but when she was in Oz, it became clear that the bank was cutting deeply, and she was let go.

Now she did have the time to prepare psychologically, and she developed a game plan. But it was going to be a while before she could put into effect. She got a job at the cheese counter at a big department store.

She enjoyed it despite the low pay, particularly the fact, unlike a white collar job, when she left at the end of her shift, she did not have to think about work again till she showed up the next day.

Of course, having had once to adapt once to doing something less high powered (being a secretary) may have made her more resilient. But it was also the fact that her social network was not at risk. When I gave her news to a mutual Australian friend and mentioned how some people in the US would drop someone who made that sort of move, he snorted and said, “If anyone tried that with someone here, everyone who heard about it would ostracize him.”

From the New York Times:

Interviews with more than two dozen laid-off professionals across the country, including architects, former sales managers and executives who have taken on lower-paying, stop-gap jobs to help make ends meet, found that they were working for places like U.P.S., a Verizon Wireless call center and a liquor store. For many of the workers, the psychological adjustment was just as difficult as the financial one, with their sense of identity and self-worth upended.

“It has been like peeling back the layers of a bad onion,” said Ame Arlt, 53, who recently accepted a position as a customer-service representative at an online insurance-leads referral service in Franklin, Tenn., after 20 years of working in executive jobs. “With every layer you peel back, you discover something else about yourself. You have to make an adjustment.”….

In just one illustration of the demand for low-wage work, a spokesman for U.P.S. said the company saw the number of applicants this last holiday season for jobs sorting and delivering packages almost triple to 1.4 million from the 500,000 it normally receives….

After applying for more than 100 jobs, mostly director-level and above in marketing and branding, and getting just two interviews, Ms. Arlt said she realized last fall that she had to do something to “close the monthly financial hemorrhage.”

Her new job at HometownQuotes pays $10 to $15 an hour and has mostly entailed data entry. But even though she has parted ways with some friends because she is no longer in their social stratum, Ms. Arlt said she was glad she was no longer sitting at home, “thinking, ‘Who have I not heard from today?’ ”

Her new paycheck covers her mortgage but not her other living expenses. Recently, she cashed out what was left of her retirement portfolio, about $17,000.

“It has been the hardest thing in my life,” she said. “It has been harder than my divorce from my husband. It has really been even worse than the death of my mother.”

Nearly all of those interviewed said they considered their situations temporary and planned to resume their careers where they left off once the economy improves. But there are people like John Eller, 51, of Lee’s Summit, Mo., who offer a glimpse of how difficult it can be to bounce back.

Mr. Eller had been a senior director at Sprint, earning as much as $150,000 a year and overseeing 7,000 employees at 13 call centers, before being laid off in 2002 amid the economic contraction after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks

A year later, he found another job, at roughly half the pay, managing a call center in New Jersey. After he lost that job two years later in a downsizing, Mr. Eller found himself out of work for another year before landing a contract position running two call centers in Kansas and Illinois, earning close to six figures.

But after that ended a year later, he was unable to find work for several months. In July 2007, he took what he thought would be a temporary job for $10 an hour as a baker in a grocery store. He was laid off again last October.

Mr. Eller quickly landed a new survival job, working as a supervisor on the overnight shift for a contractor processing immigration applications for the federal government at a salary of about $34,000 a year. But with eight children and a wife to support, Mr. Eller said he was still “below poverty level.” The family has not been able to make mortgage payments in five months and has been on the brink of foreclosure.

“I’m still scratching and clawing and trying to work my way back,” he said

Mr. Cooper now works for $12 an hour as a janitor.

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  1. bg

    Until I once slipped on the social latter I did not realize how devastating it can be. Even with the safety net of a strong family it is very isolating and demeaning. Depending on others destroys your identity. I can’t imagine how much worse again it feels to have no one to depend on.

    I may be safely back on the latter, but I will never take it for granted again.

  2. Richard Kline

    There is so much that is so apt in this post, Yves. Yes, the FIRE engine was driven by a taste for wealth, but what has kept Americans politically inert for a generation is the quest for status. That is my view. The money is great, but with it comes membership in The Right Set; this is more about self-image and the feedback from one’s immediate intimates than a formal class divide, but it is very real. If folks see themselves have it relfected back to them that they are part of the Right Crew, they are insensible of any questions or social justice, sustainability, a world in balance or all the rest. They have theirs, and they are not in a hurry for their society to get anywhere else. That is not exactly a criticism on my part; it’s human nature coupled seamlessly to the deep sociology of Americans.

    I see folks all the times, making low six figures and living the life. Of course, that’s Not Enough, and especially if they are under, say, 45, they are socialized to be in debt far over their head to act like they take home twice what they do. That’s the saddest/sickest part of all that. But the fear of status loss is very real. Years ago, I decided to commit to scholarship, and deliberately took a no-status job exactly because when I walked out the door at day’s end I left everything behind there and could concentrate on what mattered to me. The job’s gotten harder, but the goal remains the same. But I rub shoulders with the Right Set in my urbarn core hood daily, and it is easy to see that I don’t exist in their eyes, or anyone like me. “What do you do?” is ever the first question, with the status assessment goal so implicit that the questioners don’t even notice.

    The worst thing I have to say for those folks quoted in the NYT article, and it gives me no pleasure, is “You will never get It back.” Not over 50, with a decade and more of poor to ugly economy coming at us. They will never get their status card back. And like the woman said, it can be worse than a parent dying. Americans in urban cores, especially in the Right Set have no real neighborhoods or lasting sodalities. Their social networks are largely situational: work and school plus whatever family members happen to live in whatever part of the country they have come to. If you lose you Right Set position, there is nothing left but your rapidly diminishing assets—and your debt. . . . This world is crazy, lemme tellyah.

    It is hard to wish for 20% unemployment in my country to show the many in the Right Set that they have more than their position to them and that their society as skewed and framed has less meaning than they have accorded its recent incarnation. But my wishes won’t make that happen or not happen; we will get it or not, and perhaps some wisdom thereby, like it or not.

  3. Evan Rohar

    I wonder if those forced into working low-status, low-wage jobs ever reflect on the societal importance of their new positions. Our post-industrial society depends completely upon the efficiency of the division of labor. I work as a grocery stocker on the graveyard shift because I found the only other employment options available when I graduated college last June undesirable or morally objectionable. Though my wage is about a third what it could be, I recognize that I do my job so others don’t have to. If, for instance, an engineer had to break down pallets to find her food every time she went grocery shopping, she wouldn’t be able to do her job (or she at least would be unable to rest (reproduce her labor) for the next day’s work). If she had to help clean her office building, fix its computer network, and repair the roads or rails she used to get to work, she would scarcely be able to utilize her highly specialized and societally valuable (and valued) knowledge at all.

    The inability to recognize the worth of others’ labor (especially unskilled labor) remains perhaps the most unjust aspect of our society. As the old adage goes, it’s a dirty job but somebody has to do it. And those of us who do these jobs want the same thing as people in high places: a decent standard of living and equitable opportunity for our children (or future children in my case).

  4. Anonymous

    1. Pushing people with meaningful advanced degrees and real professional training into dead-end menial jobs is an absurd waste of both human talent and money spent on education.

    1a. This does not apply to people trained as financiers (no personal offense, folks) because the current crisis has clearly demonstrated that the economic contributions of the FIRE sector are net negative. We’d all be better off if most of the bankers had been mopping floors for the past decade rather than inventing ‘creative’ finance products to support their bonuses at the expense of blowing up the world economy.

    2. The fact that highly trained people can’t get work in their own fields makes it very clear that;

    2a. We’re training too many people for the wrong types of jobs and;

    2b. There are too many people alive than are strictly necessary to support the current level of economic consumption. ‘Lump of labor’ might not be a fallacy after all.

  5. Timo

    Shallow, superficial lives of Americans. What else is new, Captain Obvious?

    230+ years of greediness and just pure lust for money, money, money, no matter what are/were the consequences. Global warming..I don’t care? Peak oil…no, that is just another fairytale or whatever, right?

    Epic failed state, failed people.

  6. goog_RD98765

    It’s very hard to make the transition from from station in life to another. Too often, the language is different, the issues of concern are different, life experiences are different, desires are different. You don’t fit in. So I can see why doing so could be very traumatic.

    Still a lot of us are going to get the opportunity to see if we can adjust in the next couple of years.

    Here’s an interesting post from Scot Adams, Diberts creator:

    Dilbert Blog

    Your assignment for today is to describe your own job in one sentence, preferably in a humorously derogatory way.

    i deal with extreme stupidity on a daily basis: HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT
    Posted by: Qrawzseg | February 07, 2008 at 07:33 PM

    I work for a Nobel Peace Prize winner. And, yes, it gets Dilberty around here, too.
    Posted by: Jacki | January 30, 2008 at 12:38 PM

    My job is to do things that people are too lazy to do themselves.

    I work for a county government office in economic development. Basically, people ask me questions about the county and I research it for them. Sometimes I make maps.
    Posted by: Lis | December 20, 2007 at 08:33 AM

    My job is to be as aggressively unhelpful as possible. (Guest Service Rep.)
    Posted by: Lytle | November 09, 2007 at 10:41 AM

    My job is to sacrifice my individuality to the system for the purpose of completing a series of idiotic exams.

    I’m an English student doing GCSEs, and I’m also an artist. Keep up the good work. =)
    Posted by: tebasile | October 24, 2007 at 02:14 PM

    Be kept awake to learn inane things only to forget them when I finally get to sleep. – Student
    Posted by: Dustfinger | October 11, 2007 at 04:59 PM

    I engage in semi-insane religious rituals, alienate myself from populr culture, develop cynical views of education and other religions, debate with fanatical peers, and go to bed understanding that I am no closer to self-relaisation than I was yesterday. – I am a hare krishna, my job is to preach.
    Posted by: Shaka | September 24, 2007 at 07:53 AM

    I am a Programmer.
    I work on an old system that has had many programmers working on it over the decades.
    It works okay as long as you dont fuck with it.
    Its my job to fuck with it.
    Posted by: Jeremy | August 14, 2007 at 05:49 PM



  7. Anonymous

    Losing a job is worse than losing your mother? Man, those are some sorry values.

    The thing is those who feel they have lost so much really had so little to begin with. Since when did a big mortgage imply wealth? A leased luxury car make you a big shot?

    Reminds me of being a teenager in Fairfax County back in the 1960’s.
    My parents had just bought a nice new suburban house and I brought one of rural ‘hicks’ who had lived in the area since time immemorial over after school. How he marveled out the shiny appliances in the kitchen in comparison to his own clapboard house with the rusting cars outside and the 40 acres of desultory agriculture his father engaged in.

    Thing was those 40 acres of prime Fairfax land made his father far wealthier than anyone in that new subdivision we lived in. His son just hadn’t figured that out yet.

  8. Anonymous

    It’s the American ideal these days of competition above all else. Our cultural masters have been able to instill the idea that competition is good.

    I think it’s not good, although it is of course useful for the overlords if their workers compete against each other.

    So downward mobility means you lost the competition, which logically brings shame and all other bad emotions, as well as debt if you are an overconsumer.

    Maybe it’s not too late now to learn as a society that competitiveness has been highly overrated. But the learning will be all the harder, burderned as people are with debt and the real and rational fear of utter destitution and personal destruction that it brings. The downside is leveraged, and the option to repent and return to a simpler life may not exist.

    The good thing is, if people do make it there and make it through, the experience will have been so frightening that they won’t get into the competition ethic for another couple generations at least. We’ll make sure our grandchildren don’t make our mistakes.

  9. Purple

    Anyone who relies on their job, and therefore their boss, for feelings of self-worth is only setting themself up for a fall.

    To the ruling class (the top 1 % or more), the bottom 90 % percenters are animals. The 9 % between are a necessary evil.

    If people realize what they are in scheme of things, i.e. an ‘animal’ , they can get their priorities straight. You are not wealthy and powerful nor will you ever be.

    We are all wage or debt slaves. Or both.

  10. Blissex

    those folks quoted in the NYT article, and it gives me no pleasure, is “You will never get It back.” Not over 50, with a decade and more of poor to ugly economy coming at us. They will never get their status card back.

    Well, for Real Americans who vote Republican, that’s all for the best — those people are obviously LOSERS, and good riddance to them.

    They haven’t done whatever it takes to win — if they have lost their 6-figure salaries it is because they haven’t sucked up enough to their boss, backstabbed enough peers, bullied enough subordinates, they haven’t bullshited enough, or taken advantage of enough suckers, they haven’t embezzled enough or cooked books enough.

    For the vast majority of Real Americans losers are irrelevant, and even talking about them is a waste time and may bring bad luck — they applaud and celebrate their role models, winners like Mozillo, Fuld, Cayne, ONeill, Thain, and many other whose contribution to GDP has been rewarded with very large (if still inadequate) compensation.

    Unfortunately Real Americans are a majority of voters.

  11. Anonymous

    On Downward Mobility

    If an education in Economics/Bizness at a University is being questioned and certainly depreciated in these days of Reality, what other degrees and academic qualifications are questionable? It makes sense that all the academic Fraud did not only occur in Economics/Bizness but occurred in other disciplines at Universities. Add in the fact that these Universities are almost all heavily government subsidized (never socialized, however) and geared for the Elite, then their real performance in “educating” people and giving them real working skills is very questionable.

    Despite the above, there have been no major announcements about Academic Reform. Well maybe a loss of endowment $$$ through bad investments using their Economics/Bizness knowledge, or a decrease in endowment $$$ due to a lack of jobs for their unskilled graduates, or a shrinkage in the Credit needed to keep students in these Mausoleums may give some Reform.

    One might even ask, just like a toxic Security, who rates these Institutions anyway? Looks like Moodys or Fitch.

  12. bobby

    We are all wage or debt slaves. Or both.

    Well, no, Virginia, unless you’re that same woman who couldn’t figure out how Nixon got any votes when no one she knew had voted for him.

    If you limit your world to the bigger coastal cities where rent and food and even a beer costs double or triple what we pay out here for the same thing or better, then, yeah, you’re a wage slave.

    If you’re willing to live in a smaller city, or even a small town, you won’t have hardly any good theater, you can’t buy a $12 martini in a different place every night, you may have to live close to people who are of a lower caste than yours, and you will be expected to cook.

    At the same time, though, theater is where you go when your last snowmobile breaks; your life has to be damned empty before it occurs to you to spend the time learning the differences in gins or vodkas; it’s primarily the undeservedly well-to-do who actually think in terms of caste or class – everyone else looks at manners and outwardlookingness; and, cooking is fun and rewarding. (Note that “cooking”, in a trendy coastal city, involves inviting some well-dressed people you don’t know over for a small drizzled serving of pear cheeks garnished with mooseberries and saute’ed in virgin elk butter along with the perfect wine – “oh, this is just the perfect wine to go with these free-range prairie oysters, darling!” – while “cooking” everywhere else means making sure your little (or not-so-little) group is getting good nutrition and amounts, that they like the food you’ve been preparing so far, that no one’s talking about the great food at the next over because they’re too busy skarfing down your Aunt Grizilda’s rusbabols. . . .

    And it’s those people who have the best grasp of the answer to the central question of “why bother?”

  13. Anonymous

    To the ruling class (the top 1 % or more), the bottom 90 % percenters are animals. The 9 % betwen are a necessary evil.

    To the ruling class the bottom 90% percenters who are subhuman/animal losers fall into two somewhat different categories: the first 70% are cattle, the remaining 20% are vermin.

  14. ruetheday

    We’re still in the early stages of the crisis. A couple of years from now, folks will wish that instead of lamenting their loss of social status that they had instead started stocking up on hard red wheat, beans/legumes, honey, sugar, salt, powdered milk, water filters, and firearms.

  15. Anonymous

    From the article quote: Interviews with more than two dozen laid-off professionals across the country, including architects, former sales managers and executives who have taken on lower-paying, stop-gap jobs to help make ends meet […]

    I call selection bias. But at least they were honest enough to admit it. Maybe more useful conclusions can be drawn when the NYT does interviews with these professionals, but choosing them at random from those who lost work, rather that just hunting down the losers and writing Scary Stories.

  16. Dan Duncan

    Now this is a funny post. And the comments that follow…well, as is so aptly stated here, you can’t put a price on things that matter…and the comments contained herein, well…they are just priceless!

    A group of people taking smug satisfaction in the hardships of others, commenting on emaciated social ties…while sitting in front of their computers…

    …on a lonely Saturday night…

  17. Anonymous

    A group of people taking smug satisfaction in the hardships of others, commenting on emaciated social ties…

    Well, that is what it takes to be a Real American: because it is not sufficient that winners be rewarded, losers most be punished too.

    In Real America, to the few winners the spoils, to the many losers the gutter (or the reservation for the redskinned, or the ghetto for the darkskinned, …).

    And this has enjoyed the majority support of voters, most of whom are Real Americans who hope one day to become winners; or more commonly are self-hating losers.

  18. Anonymous

    It is worse than most people realize. I have a degree in Philosophy. I have interviewed with companies that liked my skills, references, previous work experience, but they expresses reservation about hiring me because; “I might think too much”.
    If thinking is a problem for the business world, then we have some serious problems in this country.

    But don’t worry, many of these people will soon realize that it makes no sense to behave in a society that makes you live at the fringes. The Prison system is not deterrent at that point, and in fact if you are imprisoned they will in fact, feed you.

    Warm regards,

  19. Anonymous

    Richard Kline

    Sad to see someone who would relish massive unemployment just so that he could some satisfaction at seeing suffering amongst those (the “successful” crowd) he obviously envies. If you decided to give up material things to pursue “scholariship” (I’ll bet you are in year 12 of your PhD program), then why such envy toward money grubbers?

  20. Anonymous

    they expresses reservation about hiring me because; “I might think too much”.
    If thinking is a problem for the business world

    No why? In the business world there are winners, a small minority who do the thinking. For *them* thinking is essential. These are the queen bees of business, the chiefs, the persons of quality with the Harvard JDs, the Duke MBAs. The deserving elite.

    Then there are the losers, a vast majority who are expected to do what they are told, and “fit in” with what the winners want. These are the drones, the indians, the bulk headcount.

    Obviously you have been classified as bulk headcount, but not as a winner.

  21. groucho

    Welcome to the "Auschwitz Economy" …..where work will DEFINITELY set you free………6' under that is..

    “It has been the hardest thing in my life,” she said. “It has been harder than my divorce from my husband. It has really been even worse than the death of my mother.”

    I think that spells out just how low we have stooped in this world.

    Those things which should have our highest value(family, community, friends) has been replaced with the desire to do work to support crooks(State & Hi-fi)………what a wonderful world we live in!!!!!

  22. John Doe

    The financial industry that oversees Wall Street have spent decades gutting the manufacturing industry to ‘release the potential’ of a company by sending good paying jobs offshore. They have used all their financial education and training to move large masses of workers into lower paying jobs and hence by their standard a lower social class. Now they are seeing what happens when you demolish a building from the ground up. There is noting left to hold up the penthouse and they too have fallen to earth. These financial wizards are not just seeing but experiencing the social pain that they have created over the past several decades.

    There are of course two problems with this.

    1) It is a very sad commentary on the U.S. that we value social status more than friendship, performing a useful service to society and take pride in our work no matter what that work may be. The U.S. is really no different than 90% of the world. It is different from decades past and the financial industry is itself to blame for this shift in values. The self serving message that of importance of ‘individual wealth’ and obtaining it at all costs because individual wealth is the only way to value an individual or to even be an individual. This wealth meme was drilled into the heads of everyone to the benefit of the credit card and debt industry.

    2) The financial industry could have been using the most enormous collection of economic thought created in history to provide solutions to the problem of increased productivity. It really is possible to create everything the planet consumes with a small fraction of it’s population as a workforce. The correct solution is not to create huge debt bubbles for the unemployed to shift financial assets (now more and more meaningless financial assets) from one class of people to another. It would have been less painful to find a solution to the real problem before they joined the ranks of the Wal Mart greeters that they created in the first place.

  23. S

    Yves there are a few sentences in the buffet letter that ridicule cash and and equivilants in ad hominem fashion. It might be worth exploring what exatly bufet is saying. He was long oil and goldman sachs as a clear reflation will work trade. He was wrong as he admits. Deflation it is. But thn why stick to the get long equities thesis? Though not in the letter but in an interview he chided those who held gold. What is buffet saying, is b he buying equities – irving fisher anyone – into the teeth of a deflation because he thinks the dollar is toast and he wants to won something? Other than talking his incredibly shrinking book, what is he saying…

    Also an interesting bit on how he writes CDS..fascinating from the guy who promotes himself as a champion of reason?

  24. Anonymous

    A good job i.e cop,doctor,farmer,teacher can’t be sent offshore. Programming is not a particularly hard thing to do. Get over it. If your job involves sitting down for 8 hours a day and checking email get a new one.

  25. Anonymous

    A lot of the examples from the NYT story show that age discrimination is alive and well in corporate america, no matter how they wrap it and package it to show they’re not practicing discrimation.

    I just finished reading Free Lunch by David Cay Johnston. With all the corporate welfare, I can see that most corporate entities can’t turn a profit without subsidies and government handouts.

  26. Anonymous

    I am always fascinated how in good times we over spend, over lever, and when times get tough, we reverse. If we were all smart, we would of course do the opposite.

    The idea of an “American Dream” is idiotic and really the telling of the great lie. Buy as much house as you can, gamble all your savings in the stock market. From a risk perspective, this is the absolutely worst thing you can do. You lever your home up so you are dependent on a job to fulfill your lifestyle. Then you take whatever excess you can accumulate from that job and then bet that the “market” keeps going up. When the house of cards falls – you have no job, no savings, and a non-liquid asset full of debt. Too bad you can’t short in 401ks as a way of hedging your job and lifestyle.

  27. robert

    Anonymous @ 11:00

    you can get use an inverse ETF in a 401K which shorts the market- the inverse ETF can be used to short a broad index such as S&P 500 (such as SH) or sector specific (such as SEF for financials). You are right in that you cannot short a specific stock.

  28. John from Taos

    I’m way ahead of this game. In ’99 my wife and I moved to northern New Mexico. For one reason or another, we lost about 80 percent of our income.

    Social Security and a tenuous private pension (TIAA, cross your fingers…) plus my own Web designing efforts have raised us up to a little more than half what we were taking in back then. We’ve spent years now with no house of our own, no health insurance, no TV, hardly anything that many Americans consider essential. We’re not exactly suffering, but not having a real home does hurt — it would be nice to dig in the dirt and do what we want with a place — although if prices keep falling, well…

    I guess my point is that security is an illusion, anyway. We’re all just visitors in these bodies, something living in the Sangre de Cristos makes plain almost every day. The American way of life has always been unsustainable, since we still consume a vastly disproportionate share of the world’s resources. That makes it unsustainable and simultaneously immoral, too.

    Sorry for preaching. But viewed with a wide lens, how the hell have we lasted as long as we have???

  29. Anonymous

    “When I gave her news to a mutual Australian friend and mentioned how some people in the US would drop someone who made that sort of move, he snorted and said, ‘If anyone tried that with someone here, everyone who heard about it would ostracize him.'”

    Well. It must be true then! LOL.

  30. Anonymous

    “They have used all their financial education and training to move large masses of workers into lower paying jobs and hence by their standard a lower social class. Now they are seeing what happens when you demolish a building from the ground up.”

    Bingo!! this whole crisis was started by the routing of the middle class and manufacturing. heald afloat by financial engineering and debt for the last 10 years. The system has finally broke and even the ones at the top will get a pay cut now.


  31. Timo

    Groucho said:

    “It has been the hardest thing in my life,” she said. “It has been harder than my divorce from my husband. It has really been even worse than the death of my mother.”

    I think that spells out just how low we have stooped in this world.

    Your point is well taken but I suspect that it’s unfairly applied in this instance. The way I read it, this woman suffered 3 devastating psychological traumas, probably in this order: divorce, death of her mother, loss of her social status (not to mention her income). After her divorce she still had a relatively strong “social support network” which included her mother and colleagues. When her mother died, she was left with her work and her colleagues. This is probably not what she would have chosen, if, indeed, she even had a choice. But it was what she had. And now that this, too, has been taken from her she is devastated because she has NO social support left.

    Were her mother still alive she would be saying “this is just devastating, but at least I have my mother.”

    I do agree with you, however, that the United States, as a culture, has trended away from valuing family and community in its proper perspective.

  32. Anonymous

    Before you condemn people who are obsessed with status, reflect on what would happen if no one cared. A society of useless bums is what would happen. You can’t free yourself from the desire for social status without freeing yourself from most of the other conditioned desires at the same time. Those who do manage to achieve such enlightenment revert to the level of solitary and selfish beasts, concerned only with the coarsest physical pleasures–they become as the God Shiva. Those who think they can maintain vestiges of socialization, such as an interest in scholarship or blogs such as the current one, while being free from the desire for social status, are in a state of total self-delusion.

  33. Anonymous

    My opinion, as an American who has lived overseas, is that the vaunted American ‘individualism’ conceals a worship of success and a hatred of failure. And it is personal. We are fine with the 100K or so folk who die early or die period because they lack health insurance – every year. And we are happy to kiss the rears of our elites with outrageous tax cuts, even as, all around us, the country crumbles, physically and morally.

    Face it: Bush p*mped the country to his rich friends.

    Face it: it’s luck and connections, not talent and skill, that determines whether you succeed or not in this p*mp mobile.

    In the long run, folks who kiss the rears of the upper classes do get what’s coming for them. And I do believe I see it coming down the track.

  34. Dave Raithel

    Two thoughts, one personal, one political:

    1) Practical Buddhism 101 – One cannot fall from nowhere. Being there will make your soul grow some callouses, but you’ll not lose sense of who’s really worse off than one’s self.

    2) “Fight Club” should be obligatory viewing for everyone. I’d like to put Tyler Durden’s little “pep talk” to the top cop, (yes, the scene with the rubber band, in the restroom at the dinner) on a bumper sticker, but I just can’t seem to condense it and sustain its profundity…. “We Are Everywhere” has a nice ring to it, but has other other historical connotations, and who wants to deconstruct everything all the time …? (It’s not like we can all be traders citing both Rorty and Heidegger while arbitraging the incommensurable ….)

  35. David

    ruetheday said
    “A couple of years from now, folks will wish that instead of lamenting their loss of social status that they had instead started stocking up on hard red wheat, beans/legumes, honey, sugar, salt, powdered milk, water filters, and firearms.”

    I laugh whenever I hear such fear-mongering. People say this every time there is a panic or recession. Rue, please tell me one time in the history of the US when stocking up on food and firearms was the right financial investment to make. Thanks.

  36. Anonymous

    Good Story Yves,

    It’s why I keep tuning in. You might realize that there is a tremendous incentive to keep people believing in the promise of education. These incentives are every bit as potent as the yarns spun during the housing debacle (housing always goes up, etc.).

    There is another bubble-it’s the education bubble. And it’s being pumped up by university administrators and faculty who desire their good times to never end.

    More students = more money.

    What makes it worse is the tremendous number of foreigners that are given an easy pass into the US labor force. It keeps many organizations myopically focused on the labor right in front of them (rather than venturing out a few hundred miles-gasp! That would take work). A city like Boston is well known for this practice.

    What ‘they’ never tell you is that specialized education in a particular field (i.e. a MS,PhD) is often a career death sentence. It pigeon holes you into an area and very few will believe or accept your sincerity in looking for a change (even if there are no jobs). Obviously if you’ve spent much time and money acquiring a set of skills, your sincerity is always questioned.

    And this ridiculous sincerity issue arises because again, employers of specialized labor in the USA don’t have to obey the regional laws of supply and demand. And after all, the New York times is telling them day after day there are shortages of specialized labor in this country.

    I can tell you they’re full of sh-t.

  37. robert

    @ David

    Re: ruetheday- I wouldn’t take his post too seriously- usually comments like this are meant only to get a rise out of people- trolls.

  38. Cat

    I have a graduate degree in Biology, but was never ambitious. I saw what happened to people getting PhDs and it looked like endless Hell. But I did pickup skills in software engineering as a sideline in college and these days I’m a senior engineer. I’ve been laid off at every turn in all the DotBombs and downturns and outsourcing, I’m just all that much tougher for it.

    My social status? God who cares. I look “up” at those high-class snobs and they look like monkeys to me sitting in a tree, grooming each other, brown-nosing, playing games. What do they really do? I create the economic engine every day. On weekends, I’m building a house. I built a garage with my kids a few summers back. We garden and ride our bikes. We are real people, living real lives close to the earth and our neighbors. And even if I lose my job in this crumby economy, and our home and everything, I know we’ll be together and we’ll figure it out.

    I said above I have no ambition. I know that’s not true. My ambition is what I do every single day, and how I do it, and the honor and grace I try to bring into my world. But almost nobody understands this.

  39. Anonymous

    The elite from Harvard, Duke are so damn smart, and you are right they are the only ones who need to think!

    Not quite — whether they are smart or not, or the only ones that need to think or not, what matter is who gets hired to think.

    The “best and brightest” are, and since they are in control and it is them who may hire you, you better do what they say, and leave the thinking to them. If you need to think, better be independently wealthy.

    Have you ever heard the expression “tedious legwork”? That’s what they hire others to do. Get on with it.

    In reliquishing my role of thought, because of my pedigree from a small state university and of my meager upbringing;

    Nobody is forcing you to stop thinking — you always have the option of not getting a job as a loser drone, or even to persuade a member of the deserving elite that you are better qualified than they are to do their job, and they should hire you instead of another member of their magic circle.

    I shall no longer wonder how the so called smartest, most elite, best educated ran the world economy off a cliff.

    Those winners MADE A LOT OF MONEY for themselves, and even now they have arranged for suckers to give them trillions to bail out their very well paying jobs. Not that they really need those jobs anymore, they can retire rich already. They got theirs!

  40. Yves Smith

    Anon of 12:32 PM,

    You dismiss the idea that other societies have different values too lightly.

    One of the core Australian values is “mateship”. A mate is closer than a “friend” in the US (I am amazed how loosely that term is used here, I often see people saying “X is a friend” when I am pretty certain they are mere acquaintances). Mates are loyal to each other and will go to bat for you in a pinch.

    The other factor you dismiss is that other societies may be less status oriented than the US. I adopted a local pub. The habitues ranged from former drug addicts now doing social work, a broken down poet who could only afford to have a beer there once or twice a month, a guy who years ago brought all the innovative rock to Australia but was now working in construction (as in doing manual labor), a marketing consultant, a woman who worked for state government improving operational efficiency (she got them on Linux, for instance), and the CEO of one of the biggest 100 companies in Australia.

    Can you tell me with a straight face that you’d ever see a CEO in the US regularly hang with a group like that?

  41. Anonymous

    Income is all relative, someone with zero debt levels can support a family of four quite comfortably on 30k a year. Did you know that with digital television in a major market the picture from a roof antenna is superior to cable? Did you know cell phones are always 911 capable, activated or not, negating their expense justification for “emergencies”? Have you tried sharing wireless service with your neighbors? Have you considered that 30% of the calories you ingest are superfluous? Do you still waste money on expensive addictions like tobacco and alcohol? I’ve got a feeling there’s plenty of fat to be trimmed from the American carcass. I just wish aluminum was still 80 cents a pound. I made 5k last year collecting cans.

  42. Observer

    I think many are missing the real point: If your friends abandon you because you changed jobs or lost your former station, what kind of friends are these? Shouldn’t true friendship transcend such things; in fact, isn’t a real friend one who stands with and supports you during both joy and hardship? If times like this serve as a wake-up call for some in measuring their friendships, maybe that is the best lesson of all.

  43. Anonymous

    I never understood why people who stock up on food are supposed to be scaring us. I mean a few thousand pounds of food bought in bulk at 50 cents to a dollar a pound ends up saving you a bundle, and can last a minimum of 5 to 10 years depending on storage conditions.

    It seems like with uncertainty around jobs, climate change and agricultural prices, that people can afford to treat themselves to the certainty of knowing they will still be eating 5 years from now. What is there to lose? Stocking up is not just for mormons.

  44. robert

    @ Yves-

    answering your question- depends on the CEO’s background and industry. I could see someone like Yvon Chouinard (of Patagonia fame) hanging with an eclectic mix of folks. I am sure there are many CEO’s that have very unassuming lifestyles and hang out at a local tavern or bar. Just because the “Masters of the Universe” like to limit their social circles doesn’t mean other folks who run businesses do.

  45. Justin

    Perception does not always equal reality. People in the US have it easy compared to 80% of the world (I included myself in that easy category). Only in the last 200 years would we be able to climb Maslow’s hierarchy to even contemplate questions of identity. That being said, many studies have shown happiness is based on relative social standing (which argues that you should move down and be the big fish in the smaller pond).

    I’ve been to many of the Pacific Islands, where people have little, but have a fulfilling life of being rather than doing. It’s not feasible for most locations, but my plan is to downgrade my lifestyle, buy a little plot of tropical land, and live a subsistence existence gardening, eating mangoes and fishing. The best days of my life have been yachting between the islands, dealing with day to day issues of food, fuel, and shelter.

  46. Anonymous

    wow @all these posts. If white people have it this bad, Blacks and Hispanics must be having it even tougher.

  47. Anonymous

    Timo: Shallow, superficial lives of Americans. What else is new, Captain Obvious? 230+ years of greediness and just pure lust for money, money, money, no matter what are/were the consequences. Global warming..I don’t care? Peak oil…no, that is just another fairytale or whatever, right? Epic failed state, failed people.

    Enjoy your American-invented computer, your American-Invented Windows (or Mac OX), your American-invented telephone, your American-invented Internet, your American-invented automobile, your American-invented television, and next weekend don’t forge to take your kids to McDonalds to eat an American hamburger, drink an American-invented Coca-Cola, and then go catch an American-made flick.

    What has your Spain invented lately besides failed fascism, laziness, pissing on public buildings, and throwing trash in the streets?


  48. Anonymous

    Sy Krass said…

    Some people find it hard to fathom on how to get by on $14/hr. It depends on where you live and your lifestyle. I have a social service job (with an advanced degree mind you). Me and my wife do just fine,(she works for about the same amount as well), have enough money to invest, no debt other than a mortgage, own a condo, raise one child, by the things we need and some of the things we want, and even can afford plane tickets once in a while. Some poeple just plain don’t care. One 60 year old gentleman on my caseload, we’ll call him Delbert, would bum around all day and get drunk. He would receive tickets for public drunkness and not pay them. There are times I think that would be the life, do nothing, not give a shit, screw up and not care about the consequences, just wander the street and philosihpize. Anyway the moral of the story is if you can fit your lifestyle to your means (provided you are fortunate enough to have an actual job) you will be happy.

  49. Anonymous

    Sy Krass said…

    Oh yeah I forgot, if your friends only liked you when you had money they’re not really your frinds, ..maybe they’re insecure cockroaches.

  50. Anonymous

    Sy Krass said…

    And another thing…
    If YOU only like YOU when you had money GET OVER YOURSELF! GET OUT AND ENJOY LIFE!

  51. Anonymous

    Sy Krass, I think we have a lot in common :)

    As far as this adjustment to downward mobility is concerned, it also depends on where one started from. I cannot speak for everybody, but I do speak for those that made America the great nation that it is today: its immigrants. As an immigrant myself who 30 years ago left behind a wretched Europe in search for a new life to America, I started at the very bottom. My first job was in a factory. My second job was pumping gas at an Exxon station. My third job was back in the same factory. Then I was a grease monkey. I was also a doorman, elevatorman, busboy, etc. But throughout that time I believed that I can rise, so in 10 years I obtained my college degree taking evening classes, then a master, and then a doctorate.

    I never felt discriminated in the US because I was born overseas or because I spoke with a foreign accent. And, after I completed my education, I worked for the federal government and prestigious firms, being chosen for the job over others solely based on the fact that I was better skilled. For this, I am grateful to the US. And, if you ask immigrants, most will tell you they love America for this same reason: the opportunities it offers.

    However should I have to, I would go back to being a grease monkey again, I would pump gas just as easily, I would do construction work, etc. For me, and those like me, it is already familiar ground.

    It is more difficult for people who were born into prosperous environments (i.e., most US-born Americans) and now have to go down to a lower social class. I am not saying it is fair or just to them – on the contrary, it is terribly unfair. All I am saying is that for those like me, who climbed the ladder from the bottom it may be easier to go back to the lowest level (but I admit, I would rather avoid that).

    At the end of this recession we will be a stronger nation again because we will be a more humble and realistic people. We already are hard working, have a country with a great infrastructure, tradition, and proven democracy.


  52. qafirarnaut

    My first girlfriend went to Harvard. Her English core course revolved around this idea of “The American Dream”. I was a fresh immigrant going to this no-name private school who helped her through that course (she couldn’t write well). She had to read Tom Perrotta’s “Election” (subsequently turned into a movie)
    and through her course art imitated life: she was Tracy Flick, I was Mr. M.

    Helping her out through that course, I realized the “American Dream” was a morally bankrupt concept, and that the plebs were being herded like sheep by the Tracy Flick’s of the world. Yet I decided to pursue it. Now, that I am laid off and in debt with an MBA which is useless, I got no one to blame but myself for my upcoming ‘downward mobility’.

    Perhaps its the just reward I get for buying in lock, stock and barrel, not raising my voice: not warning the world for the havoc that Tracy Flicks can unleash upon the world.

    Shame on me!

  53. DanyBoy

    Meta-Analysis: Reflections on this Topic and its posts…

    We swing between social justice and individual rights in American politics. We just maxed out individual rights.

    The NYT article, like many of its type from past downturns, is Schadenfreude not news reporting.

    The deeper we descend into the darker phase of the crisis, the more the discussion blend turns to politics and away from economics

    I will advance a radical theory:
    rather than pure economic forces being at work, what we are watching now is America becoming disenchanted with being Yuppy!
    There are many levels on which this works, many layers of onion to peeel.
    On the simplest level, people in America are finding that materialism and what the talking heads call “aspirational culture” is an empty pursuit that moves ever farther out as you reach to grasp it. Competant Americans, smart and hard-working Americans no longer get turned on by the values that turned on a generation since the 1980s. You can “have it all” and really have nothing at all.

    The NYT article focuses on “status anxiety”, which is a potent force for change in any period in our history. As more and more people feel disillusioned, fail to reach their “aspirational” goals, find that they no longer relate to “shop till you drop”, their thoughts and energies will turn outward to a brand new world. And hope will spring eternal.

    Class distinctions in America have far less to do with money than meets the eye. Being wealthy is no guarantee of fitting in. You don’t have to be wealthy to fit in. What we think of as “style” is an expression of the values and aspirations of society is used as the vehicle with which to divide people into “class”. This is the prime determinant of “fitting in” but even more strongly of who does not.
    Watch for a radical shift in styles coming up: let me venture a guess that conspicuous consumption will be out. Still think big black GM SUVs will mean “status”?

  54. Dale

    I usually look at things from an evolutionary biology perspective. It becomes quite refreshing to look at current events in this way instead of in a moralistic or philosophical framework.

    One of the most important things we have to do, indeed are driven to do, is to find a mate with good genes, with whom we can make children. Another thing we are driven to do is to join communities of highly successful people, because this will maximize our personal chances of survival as well as those of our children.

    Excessive consumption and display of useless wealth is like a peacock’s tail: it just shows that we must have the ability to pile up expensive junk, more so than others, so we must have relatively good genes, or else we wouldn’t be able to. If someone is no longer able to pile up junk, they become cast out of the successful group they are in and must fine another, probably less successful group, and they become less attractive as potential mates.

    There is really nothing mysterious about this, and it has been happening for as long as humans have been around.

  55. robert

    @ Dale

    The problem with your argument is that the “peacocks tail” was not bought on credit. The reason our current crisis exists is exactly because of leverage- the excessive consumption you mention was bought on credit. The ability to buy excessively on credit shows someone’s inherent stupidity. Last I checked stupidity is a negative trait that would not be desirable in choosing a mate. If a person is attracted to someone with this trait then that would make them stupid as well- so therefore it would be a perfect match.

  56. Anonymous


    You should be careful in using “we” here. How do you explain declining birth rates in advanced economies? The US was expected to go that way in the 1990s, and the only thing that kept us from that was Hispanics (both the ones already here plus immigration during that time, they have higher birth rates that other cohorts in the US).

    What about single successful career women? Double income no kids couples? The latter two groups are affluent, but don’t fit your thesis.

  57. Anonymous

    Dale wrote: There is really nothing mysterious about this, and it has been happening for as long as humans have been around.

    Yeah, back in the day, the guys with the nice loin-cloths got all the chicks. If you didn’t have a loin cloth, you’d have to hang out with the other low-life nudists. Of course, back then you got married at age 10 and died before age 30….ah the good ol days :-)

  58. Dale

    Here is an except from an article about Sean Dunne, one of the biggest property developers in Ireland, who is now facing bankruptcy:

    “in 2004 when Mr. Dunne, who is now 54, celebrated his second marriage, to Gayle Killilea, a former gossip columnist 20 years his junior”


    They proceeded to have children. Check out the picture of his wife in the article. I hope you agree that she appears amply endowed to raise them to adulthood. Was Mr. Dunne “stupid” to take on so much debt, according to your definition? I think not. In evolutionary terms, he “won”, regardless of what his accountant says.

    @Anonymous 6:07:

    Reliable birth control has only been available since the 1960’s. It used to be that, if a couple chose to live together, and they were both healthy, babies naturally followed. I personally think that if birth control pills grew on trees on the African savannah 3 million years ago, women would have evolved by now to regard swallowing them as abhorrent as eating feces.

  59. Beth

    I realized the “American Dream” was a morally bankrupt concept

    Way too simplistic. American values include life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Since there is no single idea of happiness, there is no single American Dream.

    The moral value of a particular Dream derives from the INDIVIDUAL.

    Your American Dream can be as ethically sound as you want it to be…..you can give all your treasure to the poor, work for the disadvantaged, coach and mentor children, choose to pursue the unethical as a cop/lawyer, and so on. If you think that the culture around you is unethical, your American Dream could be to change people’s hearts and minds…

    The Dream is the pursuit as well as the attainment, it is not handed to you on a silver platter.

    If your American Dream has problems, you may need to consider the source.

  60. robert

    @ Dale-

    you’re cracking me up dude- if it is just biological success you are looking at then what about the many children born to poor couples or single mothers- I am not sure of the stats but my guess would be poor families have more children than more well to do families. I think your hypothesis is very simplistic although I think there may be something to the idea that status attracts a certain kind of partner- I think the acceptable societal term for that kind of partner would be gold digger.

  61. melpol

    Pseudo religious groupies have been grabbing the top of the catch for years. But a new age has dawned. 65 million loners have elected the supreme outsider. The distribution of wealth will now be spread evenly among all deserving Americans. Atheists, gays, odd balls, and all life styles are welcome to share the goodies. Love is everywhere. Even God is sharing the sky with his Angels.

  62. carping demon

    John Doe: 10:42: “It really is possible to create everything the planet consumes with a small fraction of it’s population as a workforce.”

    And there you have it. What do you do with the people you don’t need for production? Some work has to be done. But nowhere near enough to employ all the people there are. How to decide who works and who doesn’t? So far, the only approach we have is to pretend that subsistance must be wrung from the the earth by each competing with the other, as it was thousands of years ago. As this is no longer true, “subsistance” has been replaced with “status” for the talented and/or fortunate, and the untalented and unfortunate have been left to fight over the bits that status creation leaves behind. As status creation uses more and more production, the less fortunate are left with little enough that life indeed becomes a zero-sum game again. This is not, to use a popular term, “sustainable.”

  63. Dale


    People can be poor, by our modern American consumer standards, but still be very fit by evolutionary standards, so yes, they can have lots of children. Rich families might also use more birth control, something that evolution hasn’t yet caught up with (but probably will eventually).

    And you are right–conspicuous consumption and an overt display of wealth is just one way that fitness can be displayed. I believe that different groups of people use different kinds of ways to judge the reproductive fitness of their partners. Certainly the Irish property developer was only going to attract a certain kind of woman with his particular strategy. But the important thing is, that strategy worked for him.

  64. Anonymous

    Beth: American values include life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Since there is no single idea of happiness, there is no single American Dream.

    Exactly! There is no single American Dream. Each individual has his or her own American Dream. As I posted before here, America represents the world’s best hopes and dreams. When America fails, the world loses its dreams. Most of the world is a pretty wretched place. America represents HOPE. America, unlike any other modern nation, is a concept, almost a spiritual concept. The word “dream” is part of it, and that says a lot. That’s why the world got so angry with us over things like Gitmo. Not that they don’t torture people. Come on. They do it in Africa, in Asia, and, believe it or not, they do it in Western Europe too (just ask any Spaniard about what their Guardia Civil do for pastime nowadays).

    When I immigrated to the US it was not so I can buy a big house in the suburbs, get an Escalade SUV, have 2.5 kids, and mow my lawn every Sunday. It was so I can get the he*l out of the miserable communist country in Eastern Europe I had the misfortune to be born in. America gave me the liberty, freedom, dignity, and respect I wasn’t getting in my country of birth, and then it gave me a lot more. When I read here or in other places what the critics say about the American Dream (most of whom are envious Western Europeans), I laugh, because it only shows their ignorance.

    But, as you say, Beth, the American Dream can also be volunteering your time for a worthy cause, coach children, work for the disadvantaged, etc. This follows wonderfully an Eriksonian model of psychosocial development. This whole materialistic phase we just went through was the last phase before we move to the next Eriksonian stage. We are entering the stage when Generativity will be our main focus. It will be a time of giving back, of focusing on others, of looking out for the less fortunate. We will show the world that while the world has stopped dreaming a long time ago, we still dare to “dream.”

    With “That One” in charge, we can dream again.

    Vinny Goldberg

  65. Anonymous


    Your seeing everything through an evolutionary lens produces a lot of distortions. I don’t see what is so great about reproducing, now that we have some choice over it. There are too many people on this planet, we are crowding out other forms of life to the point it will redound back to us. But you’d defend “be fruitful and multiply” when it has gone well beyond the point of being positive for the species and the planet.

    And what about gays? Pretty much every animal species exhibits homosexual behavior.

  66. Dale

    @Anonymous 7:53pm

    I’m not saying that reproduction is a good thing. Our environment selects certain of us over others, our mates select us over other candidates, some of our children have favorable adaptations that increase their chances of survival. It is just the way it is; good or bad doesn’t enter into it.

    About homosexuality: I have heard some good explanations for homosexuality in terms of evolution. But I am not an evolutionary biologist (as you might have been able to figure out already), so I am by no means an expert on any of them.

  67. Daddy O

    Yves said:

    “You dismiss the idea that other societies have different values too lightly. “

    That’s a lovely post. America is very much divided along lines of class and income. And it’s a pity.

  68. Anonymous

    I can’t help but notice the religious undertones in this thread. Am I to understand that after 8 years of an Administration that was in the back pocket of the Religious Right, we have finally got religion?… LOL

    And one more thing, to Dale and Anonymous: am I to understand that that lady who recently gave birth to 8 babies at once represents the pinnacle of human evolution?…LOL

    Vinny Goldberg

  69. Dale


    I think the case of the woman with the octuplets provides a neat illustration of the point that I have been trying to make all along, that shunning those who are less successful (for example, having lost their job), and trying to associate with those who are more successful, is a winning evolutionary strategy, and that is why we behave in this way.

    In this case, the woman was an Iraqi immigrant, and she and her parents left that failed land, and instead chose to associate with one of the most successful groups on the planet: residents of California. As I understand it, she received state assistance, first to have herself artificially implanged with 8 embryos, and then to have 40 doctors and nurses present during the birth.

    For her, this strategy was very successful indeed. She would never have been able to do this in Iraq.

  70. Anonymous

    Wow!! I have never read so many sad sacks of crap in my life cry about the elite class. What a bunch of horsesh*t..

    Most of the people in this country that are successful financially are first generation. I think Dr. Thomas Stanley documented that 90% of those w/ a net worth over 7 figures are first generation, and only 10% had inherited their wealth.

    I understand you made some bad decisions and you need to vent, but give it a rest. It’s not a conspiracy. It’s probably that you are lazy, not as educated as you pretend to be, or maybe you are just an assh*le and people don’t want to hire you.

    The one thing I do agree with is people tend to put to much emphasis on their social / economic status as a whole, but beyond that most of what I have read here seems like sour grapes.

    Get a life!!

  71. Anonymous

    Pathetic on front page of NYT which I do buy….pathetic. This maybe why newspapers are going under.

    What about the ‘rest of us’ – the under-six-figures who EAT and BREATHE and VOTE and MANAGE TO LIVE FULL LIVES.

    I was stunned this week by an article in the NYT on call centers in FL helping the needy…who may not have FOOD to EAT. Now I would consider that a problem.

    and what about the janitor who lost the job so that the ex-six-figure guy could take it…doesn’t the ex-janitor also have kids who need to EAT?

    This article really put me over the edge, and it is all just beginning…I am off to volunteer at the nearby homeless center, Glide, in SF to which the twelve-figure guy Buffett contributes.

  72. Anonymous

    Just curious. Was that “Rich Jerk” ad (www.therichjerk.com) part of this blog post?

  73. Anonymous

    He has showed you , O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8

    Justice, mercy, humility, and reverence of God; four items in scarce supply these days. I hope that God provides food and shelter for these people and that they find the true treasures of this world are relationships with God and others.

  74. john


    I have been thinking alot about downward mobility since the Consumer Confidence report on Tuesday last week indicated that most folks not only experience jobs hard to find but that they expect lower pay.

    And that is on top of the fact that in our new economy, once jobs are lost, they don’t come back, they are just gone.

    The wage gap between developing and developed countries has begun to close, but not in the right direction

    Thanks Yves, great posts this evening.

  75. Timo

    “As I posted before here, America represents the world’s best hopes and dreams. When America fails, the world loses its dreams. Most of the world is a pretty wretched place.”

    Man, you really are stupid, even according to the American lowly low standards.

    “Best hopes”…HAHAHAHAHAAA..you are going to live in a fucking next Zimbabwe soon. Best nightmares for sure…

  76. qafirarnaut

    American values include life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Since there is no single idea of happiness, there is no single American Dream

    Tell that to the plebs got into them subprime thingies. Do not doubt: American dream is about getting rich, and doing it quickly in order to emulate those who already got rich before you(with neary a thought about how they got there)

    The American Dream is about a global contagion of stupidity, and trickle up economics. “Downward mobility”? Ha! SHOULD HAVE SEEN IT COMING!

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