There is a telling detail in the US retail chain store data for December. Stephen Lewis from Monument Securities points out that luxury outlets saw an 8.1pc rise from a year ago, but discount stores catering to America’s poorer half rose just 1.2pc.
Tiffany’s, Nordstrom, and Saks Fifth Avenue are booming. Sales of Cadillac cars have jumped 35pc, while Porsche’s US sales are up 29pc.
Cartier and Louis Vuitton have helped boost the luxury goods stock index by almost 50pc since October. Yet Best Buy, Target, and Walmart have languished.
Such is the blighted fruit of Federal Reserve policy. The Fed no longer even denies that the purpose of its latest blast of bond purchases, or QE2, is to drive up Wall Street, perhaps because it has so signally failed to achieve its other purpose of driving down borrowing costs.
Yet surely Ben Bernanke’s `trickle down’ strategy risks corroding America’s ethic of solidarity long before it does much to help America’s poor.
The retail data can be quirky but it fits in with everything else we know. The numbers of people on food stamps have reached 43.2m, an all time-high of 14pc of the population. Recipients receive debit cards – not stamps -- currently worth about $140 a month under President Obama’s stimulus package.
The US Conference of Mayors said visits to soup kitchens are up 24pc this year. There are 643,000 people needing shelter each night.