The commentary is that the economies of most Western nations are traveling well. Share-market gyrations aside, people are said to be better off, credit is readily available, etc. etc. Things like affordability of housing and severe [credit] debt for many is mainly swept aside.
The Observer [reproduced on AlterNet] posits another picture altogether - of the American scene - of the ever-increasing divide between the rich and the poor. It is, in fact, a world-wide phenomenon.
"On the surface, Mark Cain works for a time-share company. Members pay a one-off sum to join and an annual fee. They then get to book holiday time in various destinations around the globe.
But Solstice clients are not ordinary people. They are America's super-rich and a brief glance at its operations reveal the vast and still widening gulf between them and the rest of America.
Solstice has only about 80 members. Platinum membership costs them $875,000 to join and then a $42,000 annual fee. In return they get access to 10 homes from London to California and a private yacht in the Caribbean, all fully staffed with cooks, cleaners and "lifestyle managers" ready to satisfy any whim from helicopter-skiing to audiences with local celebrities. As the firm's marketing manager, Cain knows what Solstice's clientele want. "We are trying to feed and manage this insatiable appetite for luxury," Cain said with pride.
America's super-rich have returned to the days of the Roaring Twenties. As the rest of the country struggles to get by, a huge bubble of multi-millionaires lives almost in a parallel world. The rich now live in their own world of private education, private health care and gated mansions. They have their own schools and their own banks. They even travel apart -- creating a booming industry of private jets and yachts. Their world now has a name, thanks to a new book by Wall Street Journal reporter Robert Frank which has dubbed it "Richistan." There every dream can come true. But for the American Dream itself -- which promises everyone can join the elite -- the emergence of Richistan is a mixed blessing. "We in America are heading towards 'developing nation' levels of inequality. We would become like Brazil. What does that say about us? What does that say about America?" Frank said.
In 1985 there were just 13 US billionaires. Now there are more than 1,000. In 2005 the US saw 227,000 new millionaires being created. One survey showed that the wealth of all US millionaires was $30 trillion, more than the GDPs of China, Japan, Brazil, Russia and the EU combined."