Why South Florida Needs More One-Percenters

Published On: Jan 20 2012 12:52:03 PM EST   Updated On: Jan 24 2012 03:06:54 PM EST

Perhaps the most conspicuous symbol of wealth in our society is a mega yacht. These magnificent vessels, measuring a hundred feet or more in length, are attainable by only those "millionaires and billionaires" among us.

These mega yacht owners are the very same "one-percenters" currently being 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 would like to ask those Occupiers a few questions. What about the mechanics, dockhands, electricians, carpenters, plumbers, welders and fiberglass laminators who build these yachts? What about the crew, captains, cleaners and caterers who service these yachts

Are the livelihoods these “99-percenters” sustain from this industry frivolous and expendable? Do the Occupiers care at all about “the workers?”

Evidently not. When the “one-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? The obvious answer: those who build, service and provision mega yachts – skilled workers paid an hourly wage, and small, family-owned businesses and local retailers.

The marine industry in South Florida supports over 200,000 workers. Each super yacht built requires over a thousand workers to complete. Ten percent of the purchase price of each yacht goes into maintenance each year, performed by 99-percenters such as mechanics, dockhands, 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.

This year, I had the pleasure of visiting the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show where I participated in a Congressional summit with members of the Marine Industries Association.

I toured a breathtaking 165-foot vessel with a $50 million price tag. It would take $5 million to maintain this yacht’s impeccable seaworthiness each year – and somewhere around $125,000 just to fill up the gas tank.

In every way, this yacht exemplified the greatness of our free-market capitalist system here in the United States. First, that individuals have the capability to purchase and maintain a vessel of this kind, and second, that here in America we have the capabilities of production, manufacturing, investment, innovation, ingenuity, craftsmanship to produce them in the first place.

As I walked along the floating docks and spent time speaking to vendors and yacht builders, it was easy to get a sense of pride in America. Many of the vendors are family-owned businesses which have existed for years and will be handed down to the next generation (unless policies such as high “estate taxes” continue to ruin the American dream of building a business and passing it on).

At the Congressional Summit we discussed the concerns of the marine industry, which centered primarily on the ideological “war” on the biggest producers and consumers. Liberals call these producers “ the rich,” and demand they pay their “fair share.” The marine industry fears for its livelihood because of this war against the private sector, and the emphasis on growing bigger government to redistribute wealth and “increase fairness.”

Rich people did not get our country into its fiscal mess. Rich people are not responsible for increasing our national debt from $10.6 trillion in 2009 to $15 trillion today. Rich people are not the reason Medicare will go bankrupt in 13 years without reform, and Social Security will be exhausted an estimated 11 years after that.

There are not enough rich people to solve our financial problems anyway. Confiscating 100% of the income generated by all those earning more than $10 million a year would yield $240 billion – enough to fund government spending for about 2 months.

To the Occupiers of Wall Street and the White House, mega yachts are symbols of the problems we have in this country, but they could not be more wrong. Here in South Florida in particular, mega yachts and the luxury marine industry are key parts of the solution.

Bloated government is the problem, and bloated, over-reaching government that attempts to penalize “the rich” will end up punishing the very people it purports to help.

Liberals seem to conveniently overlook that while it does indeed take great wealth to purchase a mega yacht, the wealth is transferred to those who build and service it. Far better for that wealth to be distributed among businesses and workers here in South Florida, than poured down the drain in Washington.

Let us reduce regulations and bureaucratic red tape on our small businesses in the marine industry so they can thrive and better serve their customers. Let us reform the corporate tax structure to help American yacht-builders remain competitive versus manufacturers in China. And above all, let us set the conditions for economic success to create more super wealthy individuals so they can purchase more and more yachts, for that is the American entrepreneurial dream.