4. LeBron James, Po’Folks, Winner and Losers in Modern America

LeBron James, Po’Folks, Winner and Losers in Modern America
Words: 933
Where would you rather play if your name is LeBron James, sunny Miami-(winners) or cold, dull Cleveland (losers)–the mistake by the lake?
Be honest.
I do not know your choice, but I do know mine: Miami.
After 7 years service to the Cleveland Cavaliers I too would leave. It is time for a change. LeBron James did as he had a right to do according to American labor laws and the collective bargaining agreement of the NBA.
What hurts with his leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers are the consequences for the little people of Cleveland, the security guards, bouncers, waitresses and waiters, hotel attendants and cleaners, bus drivers, barbers, parking lot attendants, maintenance and sanitation workers-the city’s little people, its po’folks.
Cleveland is a depressed ex-manufacturing city in the heart of America’s ex-manufacturing heartland. With outsourcing and deindustrialization, home foreclosures, depopulation and a dwindling tax base, it has seen much, much, better times. It is now a city that is a shell of its former prosperous self.
Into this toxic mix of economic destitution and urban hardship LeBron’s money making presence kept the city’s po’folk in a position to make some “get-get” at home games, now that he is gone the money his presence made available has gone with him. The $20 million he forewent to sign with Miami is no blessing to Cleveland’s little people.
For Cleveland’s little people who pinch pennies and miss credit payments to make ends meet, the numbers surrounding the big three of Wade, James and Bosh, are beyond the sky. Those numbers make even less sense in an American economy unbalanced by mass unemployment and the economic extinction of its unskilled work force.
Claims Omar Akkad in his Globe and Mail article, “The world according to LeBron,” (Toronto: Friday July 9th, 2010), LeBron generated $153 million annually for the Cleveland Cavaliers; was expected to be a billionaire in New York had he signed with the Knicks and, have a $3 billion dollar impact in Chicago had he signed with the Chicago Bulls.
When the numbers of his economic impact with the team ($153million) are added to that of his impact upon the city we find that combined he generated about $211 million a year in the Cleveland are. This is serious money in a depressed urban economy. We have not added the extra income earned by those industries supplying the hotels, bars and restaurants.
When we add the income paid to the service workers–mostly po’folks–the economic impact of LeBron’s leaving in terms of income lost, in a depressed economy, comes home full force. Many of these workers look at their jobs as bread and butter jobs because the high paying jobs in manufacturing industry no longer exist. This is serious economics for po’folks.
Who is going to pay top dollar to see a Delonte West?
Oh, and by the way, who is Delonte West? Get the drift.
As tough as times are now for po’ folks in the America, America is many joyful Sundays for its rich. Claims David Degraw in his AlterNet article, “The Richest 1% Have Captured America’s Wealth — What’s It Going to Take to Get It Back?”(http://www.alternet.org/story/145705/): (2008-2009) “the wealth of the 400 richest Americans increased by $30 billion, bringing their total combined wealth to $1.57 trillion, which is more than the combined net worth of 50% of the US population. Just to make this point clear, 400 people have more wealth than 155 million people combined.”

With the traditional manufacturing economy gone forever to China, Malaysia, Vietnam, India, and Brazil, po’ folk have to find other ways to make a living hence the rise of the drug trade, smuggling cigarettes and other contraband–like human cargo– gun running, insurance fraud, selling blood-(and other body organs)- stealing copper wire and cars.
Any job that brings with it steady employment and a steady paycheque is a job worth keeping. These are the adjustments to a changed economic reality that ordinary Americans are engaged in to make cash to survive.
This new economy of low economic opportunities for po’folk is a short term, part-time, casual, temporary, and low waged economy with new victims with every passing day–(losers.) In this economy LeBron is earning $99 million along with his fellow superstars, Wade and Bosh, which reinforces the economy at the high end of the economic food chain–(winners).
The Nielsen Co. estimated 9.95 million people watched the ESPN show “The Decision” where James made known his choice of team. Season ticket prices have skyrocketed in Miami-(winners) as they have been lowered in Cleveland-(losers). The Miami tourist board is wringing its hands in glee whilst the Cleveland tourist board is sipping regrets from its cup of loss.
The American economy is one of winners and losers.
LeBron James now is a winner.
LeBron’s decision is one made in keeping with the golden rule of America: he who has the gold rules. LeBron James is getting his gold and, though he enrages the fan base of the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team and the city’s fathers he celebrates the attitude of a new America, one born in a deindustrialized nation where it is no longer how you make money, since there are no occupational guarantees for working people in this economy, but how much money you make. He did not create these rules he is just making the best of the advantages his marketable skills have granted him-within the rules.

Dr. Charles Simon-Aaron
Department of International Relations and Strategic Studies
University of Malaya
Kuala Lumpur

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