Does My Insurance Cover Vulture Attacks?

When the spectacle of politicians making (or not making) tax policy taxes my patience past its limits, I sometimes take refuge in a kayak on a secluded waterway, such as in Florida’s Everglades National Park.

Now I have to worry about vultures there, too.

The vultures in this case have wings and beaks, not wingtips and PACs. The Miami Herald reported over the weekend that the vultures that congregate around the park’s headquarters in Flamingo, at the Florida peninsula’s southern tip, have become fixated on the rubber and plastic trimmings that are attached to cars, pickup trucks and SUVs.

The vultures don’t actually eat this indigestible stuff. As native alligators and invasive pythons go at one another all over the park with the gusto of Tea Partiers and MoveOn supporters, the buzzards can rely on plenty of carrion for nourishment. But, for reasons known only to themselves, the birds rip out and toss around wiper blades, door seals, truck bed liners and assorted other vehicle ingredients.

They don’t attack indiscriminately, however. In a parking lot full of shiny cars, the birds will ignore 98 percent of vehicles while they converge on, strip and empty their bowels over a few select targets. Some Republicans would say the vultures are behaving like Democrats.

On the other hand, Mitt Romney may still believe that he has more supporters among those getting their cars trashed in the Everglades than Barack Obama does. The polls do not support this view.

As the hours tick down toward the first vehicle-trashing of 2013, the big question is whether we can get officials to agree on how to tackle the problem. I am not hopeful.

I didn’t want to bother anyone at the National Rifle Association during the final Sunday Night Football game of the NFL season. Based on past positions, I assume their advice is to place armed security officers in the Flamingo parking lots.

We could probably round up a few Republicans to support this idea, but Democrats in Congress and in the administration will never go for it. Not publicly, anyway. But it wouldn’t shock me if there is language in the next National Park Service appropriations bill that creates some leeway for rangers to take stern measures against any bird that poses an imminent threat to a Chevy Volt. This can be packaged as environmental protection, as well as protection for the Treasury’s investment in General Motors.

The park service, however, has not been able to get its arms around the idea of actually shooting the creatures that national parks were created to protect. So park officials in the Everglades have recycled a recent government strategy for dealing with crises: they are handing out tarps to park visitors who ask for them. As far as I know, no visitor is being pressured to accept a tarp simply to avoid stigmatizing those who actually need one.

Alas, the tarps don’t seem to be working very well. It seems that once the vultures pick out the next car or truck that is likely to succumb to an assault, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Government intervention seldom holds off market forces for very long.

We are just going to have to wait and see how the situation plays out. We may not get a resolution before the clock strikes midnight tonight. But don’t fret. Most of the vultures are migratory and will go away when spring arrives. The topics that dominated our attention this weekend – vultures, football and the fiscal you-know-what – will be all but forgotten by Independence Day.

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About Larry M. Elkin 524 Articles

Affiliation: Palisades Hudson Financial Group

Larry M. Elkin, CPA, CFP®, has provided personal financial and tax counseling to a sophisticated client base since 1986. After six years with Arthur Andersen, where he was a senior manager for personal financial planning and family wealth planning, he founded his own firm in Hastings on Hudson, New York in 1992. That firm grew steadily and became the Palisades Hudson organization, which moved to Scarsdale, New York in 2002. The firm expanded to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in 2005, and to Atlanta, Georgia, in 2008.

Larry received his B.A. in journalism from the University of Montana in 1978, and his M.B.A. in accounting from New York University in 1986. Larry was a reporter and editor for The Associated Press from 1978 to 1986. He covered government, business and legal affairs for the wire service, with assignments in Helena, Montana; Albany, New York; Washington, D.C.; and New York City’s federal courts in Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Larry established the organization’s investment advisory business, which now manages more than $800 million, in 1997. As president of Palisades Hudson, Larry maintains individual professional relationships with many of the firm’s clients, who reside in more than 25 states from Maine to California as well as in several foreign countries. He is the author of Financial Self-Defense for Unmarried Couples (Currency Doubleday, 1995), which was the first comprehensive financial planning guide for unmarried couples. He also is the editor and publisher of Sentinel, a quarterly newsletter on personal financial planning.

Larry has written many Sentinel articles, including several that anticipated future events. In “The Economic Case Against Tobacco Stocks” (February 1995), he forecast that litigation losses would eventually undermine cigarette manufacturers’ financial position. He concluded in “Is This the Beginning Of The End?” (May 1998) that there was a better-than-even chance that estate taxes would be repealed by 2010, three years before Congress enacted legislation to repeal the tax in 2010. In “IRS Takes A Shot At Split-Dollar Life” (June 1996), Larry predicted that the IRS would be able to treat split dollar arrangements as below-market loans, which came to pass with new rules issued by the Service in 2001 and 2002.

More recently, Larry has addressed the causes and consequences of the “Panic of 2008″ in his Sentinel articles. In “Have We Learned Our Lending Lesson At Last” (October 2007) and “Mortgage Lending Lessons Remain Unlearned” (October 2008), Larry questioned whether or not America has learned any lessons from the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s. In addition, he offered some practical changes that should have been made to amend the situation. In “Take Advantage Of The Panic Of 2008” (January 2009), Larry offered ways to capitalize on the wealth of opportunity that the panic presented.

Larry served as president of the Estate Planning Council of New York City, Inc., in 2005-2006. In 2009 the Council presented Larry with its first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award, citing his service to the organization and “his tireless efforts in promoting our industry by word and by personal example as a consummate estate planning professional.” He is regularly interviewed by national and regional publications, and has made nearly 100 radio and television appearances.

Visit: Palisades Hudson

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