Paul Meloan – Vested Interest

A couple of things caught my eye in the last day or two that shows to me how distorted our sense of risk is in the world in which we live, and brought me back to the right-wing pablum of "makers and takers" in the world.  The takers around us are not who the right-wing would have you believe.

Yesterday's NYTimes ran a page one article regarding an area in coastal Alabama regularly (as in six times in 33 years) devastated by tropical storms.  Each time the island is damaged the federal government comes through with the cash to put the island back where it was before the storm.  At least until the next storm rolls through.

The residents benefit from heavily subsidized federal flood insurance and a law that called the Stafford Act, which helps local governments rebuild infrastructure with federal money.  Its effect, as the article puts it, "is to duplicate the vulnerability that existed before the storm."  The island's residents and landowners have received millions more than they ever will put into the system, and there is no indication that the whole process won't repeat when the next storm hits town.

The other example is also storm related, although it's hundreds of miles away in New York.  In the wake of Sandy, the organizers of the NY marathon were caught in a very tough spot.  Relenting to mounting pressure to cancel the race, the organizers disappointed thousands of people who hoped to run in the annual event.

The waiver signed by entrants into the race states that there will be no refund in the event of a cancellation, regardless of the reason.  Seeing as the race has taken place every year since 1970 without exception (even in the wake of the 9/11 attacks), it would seem a reasonable risk for entrants to take that the race would in fact occur.  New York's worst coastal storm in generations succeeded where terrorism could not, and this year's race was not to be.

The residents of coastal Alabama have found kindred spirits in the many runners demanding compensation for the missed race from its organizers, the NY Road Runners.  On running web sites and Facebook I have now seen persons contesting credit card charges to the race in hopes of extracting some small pound of flesh to soothe their violated souls.  Their race, their vacation, their trip was ruined by some act of God, and now someone else must bear the risk.

Next time someone mentions "makers and takers" please think about those who have so much yet cannot bear the thought of anything bad happening to them through no one's fault, yet someone else must make them whole.

Paul Meloan is the co-founder and co-managing member of Aegis Wealth Management, LLC, in Bethesda, Maryland USA. Before Aegis Paul was a practicing attorney as well as working in the tax practice of Ernst & Young, LLP.

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