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Envy on the Intracoastal Waterway

| Sunday, March 24, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.

It's not what I signed up for, but I got a three-hour Marxist lecture while taking a boat ride on the Intracoastal Waterway of Fort Lauderdale.

“That waterfront mansion coming up on our left is Alamo car rental money,” said our guide on the cruise. “Think of that the next time you put down your money to rent a car.”

He didn't mention that Alamo started out with four small locations, pioneering the concept of unlimited free mileage.

“The family that owns that big white home on our right with the columns had another luxury home a few blocks away on the intracoastal,” our guide continued. “They tore it down and built this one that's bigger than anything they need.”

He didn't mention that the tearing down and building created jobs in construction, trucking and manufacturing, plus the subsequent jobs that were created as those new incomes were spent and rippled through the economy to other sectors.

Our guide also didn't elaborate on which equity experts or central committee should be in charge of establishing the rules on what we “need.” I, for example, didn't “need” that boat ride.

“You'll see this next large home on the right has a tennis court on the water behind those palm trees,” the guide said. “The owner of this house bought the waterfront home next door for $10 million and tore it down to build the tennis court. That's the only $10 million tennis court in town.”

Then we hit the jackpot when it comes to the politics of envy as we approached the biggest super-yacht in Fort Lauderdale — the 282-foot Seven Seas, built by the Dutch company Oceanco.

“That's Steven Spielberg's yacht,” he said. “He bought it three years ago for $350 million. It rents for $1 million a week. He'll probably make that much from directing ‘Lincoln.' That's what you're buying with $10 movie tickets.”

Our guide had it a bit wrong. The price of Spielberg's yacht, by most accounts, was $200 million. And the rental is $1.3 million a week, making it the world's most expensive yacht charter — and that's not including the tequila, lobster, 26-person crew or gas.

And the gas isn't peanuts. With a tank capacity of 70,000 gallons, a Seven Seas fill-up at $5.50 a gallon is an eye-popping $385,000.

Still, what you get for $200 million, or a $1.3 million weekly rental, is an onboard infinity pool with a 15-foot glass wall that doubles as a movie screen, plus a spa, massage room, cinema, a technologically advanced communication system, a helipad, a sophisticated anti-seasickness system, four guest staterooms, a large master suite with a grand stateroom, study and screening room, and a private deck area with a Jacuzzi.

Missing an opportunity to jack up the class envy, our guide didn't mention that Spielberg is on the “The Forbes 400: The Richest People in America” list.

He's number 125 on the list with a net worth of $3.2 billion — not big money among the Forbes 400. Wal-Mart's five richest Waltons have a combined net worth of $115 billion. And from all those tons of Snickers and M&Ms we've consumed, three members of the Mars family have a combined net worth of $51 billion.

Ralph R. Reiland is an associate professor of economics at Robert Morris University and a local restaurateur. His email: rrreiland@aol.com

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