Perhaps the most conspicuous symbol of wealth is a mega-yacht. Only those “millionaires and billionaires” among us can attain these magnificent vessels, measuring 100 feet or more in length.
These mega-yacht owners are the same “1 percenters” now vilified by both the Occupiers of Wall Street and one particular occupier of the White House.
These occupiers resent mega-yachts as a symbol of ill-gotten gains — of wealth stolen from others and squandered needlessly.
But I want to ask those occupiers some questions. What about the mechanics, dock hands, electricians, carpenters, plumbers, welders and fiberglass laminators who build these yachts? What about the crews, captains, cleaners and caterers who serve on them?
Are the livelihoods of these “99 percenters” frivolous and expendable? Do the occupiers care at all about “the workers”?
Evidently not. When the 1 percenters are asked to pay their fair share with a “luxury tax” on their yachts and decide, maybe, they won’t buy a yacht after all, who suffers the most? Those who build, service and provision mega-yachts — skilled workers paid an hourly wage, or small family businesses and local retailers.
South Florida’s marine industry supports more than 200,000 workers. Each superyacht built requires more than 1,000 workers to complete.
Ten percent of the purchase price of each yacht goes into maintenance each year, performed by 99 percenters, including mechanics, dock hands, cleaners and other service staff. In two years, we will have the best mega-yacht facility in the world, when Rybovich opens for business in Riviera Beach, Fla.
This year, I went to the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, for a congressional summit with members of the Marine Industries Association of South Florida.
I toured a breathtaking 165-foot vessel with a $50 million price tag. It would take $5 million each year to maintain this impressive yacht’s seaworthiness — and roughly $125,000 just to fill the gas tank.
In every way, this boat exemplified the greatness of America’s free-market capitalist system. First, that people have the capability to purchase and maintain a vessel like this. Second, that we have the capabilities here of production, manufacturing, investment, innovation, ingenuity and craftsmanship to build them in the first place.
As I walked along the floating docks, speaking with yacht builders and vendors, it was easy to get a sense of their pride in America. Many vendors are family businesses that have long histories and will be handed down to the next generation — unless policies like high estate taxes continue to ruin the American dream of building a business and passing it on.