PHILLY POST: In a city that is as impoverished as ours, it is unconscionable to fence off public space and charge the citizenry of Philadelphia the princely sum of $95 a day to stand on land they already own. That is just plain wrong, even if Skrillex is spinning. Before we go any further, let’s go over some numbers. In Philadelphia, a whopping 26.7 percent of the people live below the poverty line—i.e., an annual income of $22,314 for a family of four or $11,139 for an individual—which puts us way out front of Chicago (21.6 percent), Houston (20.6 percent), Los Angeles (19.58 percent) and New York City (18.7 percent) in the race to the bottom. And that’s just the working poor. Currently, unemployment in the City of Brotherly Love hovers at 10 percent which, in a city of 1.5 million, means 150,000 Philadelphians are currently without work.
Jay-Z’s net worth, according to Forbes, is $460 million. The bulk of that fortune comes from a number of recent business moves. In 2007, Jay-Z sold his Rocawear clothing label for $204 million. The next year he signed a 10-year, $150 million concert tour deal with Live Nation, which more or less means that Live Nation gave him $150 million and for the next 10 years every cent of his concert revenues will go to pay off that advance. Presumably the Made in America concert, which is being produced by Live Nation, is part of that deal. He currently holds stakes in the Brooklyn Nets, the 40/40 Club chain, and an ad firm called Translation. As recently as 2010, he was pulling down $63 million a year in income. That is a remarkable financial CV, especially when you consider the fact that Jay-Z, aka Shawn Carter, came from nothing. He grew up in Marcy Houses, a housing project in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn in New York City, which, it is safe to say, doesn’t turn out a lot of mega-millionaires.
Jay-Z is the living embodiment of the American Dream, never mind that his ticket out of the projects wasn’t rapping, but the sale and distribution of crack cocaine. At the height of his drug dealing days, when he oversaw a distribution network that extended out of Brooklyn to Trenton and down to Maryland and Virginia, he was moving upwards of a kilo of cocaine a week. At the time, the going rate for a kilo of pure coke was $20,000, but if you turned it into crack, you could quadruple your revenues, according to his business associates at the time. There are many words you could use to characterize such an operation: ruthless, immoral, felonious. But I prefer the most accurate and honest name for it: raw capitalism. MORE