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America the Beautiful — More Richflation

gaultier_wideweb__470×3360.jpgMy own parents escaped poverty and made it into the middle class thanks to the educational and housing opportunities available to GIs after WWII. I guess we don’t live in that world any more:

These days, the high end of the real-estate market is also the hot end. Sales of properties in lower-cost communities have plummeted, while those in the middle are struggling. But the market for luxury properties, those defined as worth at least $10 million, is booming.

High-end homes are selling so well, there is even room for a niche market: the fully-furnished, fully-stocked estate, complete with a plasma screen TV in every room.

“It’s immediate gratification,” says San Diego realtor Patricia Kramer, who sells the move-in specials. Some in the San Diego suburb of Rancho Santa Fe are as large as 20,000 square feet.

Says Kramer, “You walk in and you bring your toothbrush and you are home. “

If you want to tour the estates, though, you may have to settle for the virtual one, because only those who pre-qualify to buy are allowed inside.

John Karevoll, with the real-estate information service DataQuick, says economic growth has benefited the very high-end households more than it has helped middle-income and lower-income ones.

“In fact,” Karevoll says, “lower-income households are probably doing worse than they were five, 10, 20 years ago.”

According to Census data, middle-income families saw their wealth increase a little more than 7 percent in the last 15 years. Contrast that with the richest 5 percent of the population, who have seen their wealth soar 40 percent.

“It’s another gilded age in America,” says Rick Goodwyn, publisher of Unique Homes magazine. “The wealthy are rapidly becoming wealthier.”

And then there’s this, from WWD (7/2/2007):

Happy Days Here Again: Courture Sales Ride High On Raft of New Wealth

The same gusher of wealth-bolstering sales of fine jewelry and five-figure handbags is fanning a boom in high fashion, with strong attendance and sales expected as coture week kicks off today with a flurry of high-octane anniverary events here and in Rome.

“With the January collection, we doubled sales,” said a beaming Sidney Toledano, president of Christian Dior; marking its 60th anniversary with an extravagant show and party at Versailes this evening.

[]

Giammetti said new bilionaires, who think nothing of hiring Goerge Michael or Tina Turner to perform at a private party, may allot a large budget for couture dresses. “I really look at couture in a positive way,” Giametti said. “There is a new clientele to touch.”

Meanwhile John Edwards is quite rightfully disgusted that a man in this country couldn’t speak because he couldn’t afford an operation for his cleft palate for 5 decades.

This is George Bush’s America. I must say I find this preoccupation with outrageous, conspicuous consumption a bit white trash.

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Firedoglake.com. Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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