Why should you have a travel lounge membership in today's economic climate? Maybe you shouldn't, but here are some factors to consider in tough times.
First, it all depends on how much you travel. If you don't fly more than once a month, it's likely not worth it. But if you do, then consider:
The biggest consideration is how much additional work you can get done. The seats are far more comfortable in most travel lounges, and they have tables where you can spread out instead of working entirely off your lap.
Because the lounges are normally well-staffed and the staff/customer proportion is usually good, I often leave my computer sitting there if I have to make a quick trip to the bath. I'd never consider such a thing at the gate, where the bomb squad likely would have blown up my bag before I returned... Or other dire conequences. What's it worth to you not to have to pack everything up every time nature calls... And unpack it when you return?
Some lounges include free wireless, whereas other ones include pay services (most commonly T•Mobile.) Either way, the assurance of being able to get online is worth a lot.
Most include semi-private call booths where you can take a call without background noise. Some include conference rooms, although I've never used one.
There are other benefits. Delta, for example, has free snacks and drinks, if you're so inclined, but no food, whereas American has free snacks, water, and coffee, but other drinks are for sale... along with light meals, which you can't get under any circumstances at Delta.
Another benefit is the fact that you can buy your membership with frequent flier miles rather than cash if you like. To me, it's worth it... But make your own decision.