Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Raging Against the Machine

I rarely actively discuss politics in this blog, but for everything there is a season.  MK Yair Lapid recently garnered a surprisingly huge amount of mandates by promising to ease the burden the poor and the so-called middle class within Israeli society; "Together we can make a difference," blah blah blah.  Notoriously good looking and vapid, Lapid received the portfolio  of the Ministry of Finance, despite the fact that he has never received his BA, has no background in economics and has never successfully run a company.

From my Barnard College background in political science, it was fairly easy to predict how this dilettante would solve the budget crisis:  he would raise taxes, because he lacks the education and sophistication to come up with a more thought out solution.  In today's paper, Lapid announced that he would raise the VAT (again) to 18%, institute across-the-board tax increases for all elements of the population, give parents less money for the children's subsidy, increase school fees and eliminate nursery school discounts instituted only this February 2013, and cancel all sorts of tax exemptions for tourists, the bread and butter of the Israeli economy.  As well, housewives, those women who have the gall to stay home and take care of their babies, would be levied a special extra tax.

Let's think this through:  if you raise VAT, stores and businesses must all raise their prices to compensate.  So a family that can barely afford to pay their rent or put food on the table can now buy even less.   Currently, over 1.5 million Israeli children live below the poverty line, let's see how much that increases after this boneheaded move, one which takes away the basic human right to dignity.

As an independent business woman in Jerusalem (one of the poorest cities in the country), I have resisted raising my prices over the last few years even with the increase in taxes; if this tax bill passes, I will have no choice but to do so and will in fact lose clients as a result.  Because I run my own clinic, I also pay into my government-required pension and savings plans, leaving me with even less by the end of the month.

And as one of the articles I read today pointed out, a 1.5% increase in income tax means a lot more to the poor who make 3500 NIS per month than those in the 35,000 NIS tax bracket.

Over the weekend I saw a heartbreaking story about several Jerusalem families who cannot afford to pay for their children's afternoon nursery school program.  During lunch time, these four children sit in the corner isolated from their classmates as most of them eat a warm meal, while this small group are literally given bread (with the oh so healthy chocolate spread) and water, and told that there are not even leftovers that can be passed their way.  I watched this report and cried, as a four year old sitting next to her mother explained that they "don't get to eat." I have never been able to handle the suffering of children.

Here's a crazy idea, within Israel exists a known sophisticated "Grey Market," IE Arabs and the Ultra-Orthodox who claim they don't work and not only collect government benefits, but also do not pay taxes on their earnings, or municipal taxes.  Tapping into that market alone would solve the budget crisis.  Here's another crazy idea, how about putting someone in charge of the Finance Ministry who can actually pull us struggling Israelis out of the quicksand, and send Lapid overseas as Foreign Minister, where he can harmlessly continue his former job in show business.

This coming June, I will celebrate 16 years of my move to Israel. I pray to G-d that I can afford to stay here and raise my daughter as an Israeli.


Doc said...

Lest I be accused of unfair reporting, using my politics and journalism background I actually spoke today to MK Dov Lipman, the "Anglo" member of the Knesset within Lapid's party, Yesh Atid. Here is his (expected) response: "I understand your concern and issue. We entered into the situation with a 40 billion shequel deficit and we have no choice but to take drastic steps to get us back on track. It will be a hard year or two but we will emerge stronger. The middle class will be stronger after we go through this process...Yair [Lapid] is doing what other leaders have not done the last decade- making sure we are financially sound. It will be difficult in the near [sic] term but we will be better off in the long term."
My response to him went something like this, "Which 'We' will emerge stronger and which 'We' will drown in the next year or two, before the economy can stabilize? Keep telling yourself that, assure yourself that 'We' can get through the tough times together, with your salary of 31K NIS per month, your staff, your free government vehicle and various other perks you now enjoy as a member of the Knesset."
In no way did MK Lipman, or the official Yair Lapid facebook page, address the fundamental lie and contradiction, the fact that the entire platform of their party rested on protecting and strengthening the weaker socio-economic classes in Israel.

Midlife Singlemum said...

If you had a share button I would share this on fb and twitter. If you'd like me to I can copy the URL and share it anyway. Btw - I am also wondering how much longer I can afford to stay here.

Henya said...

It was a wonderful post, up until I hit the last paragraph.
Thanks, but no thanks for lumping us, Haredi, together with Arabs.
So just to balance the scales, here is some info:
My kids do not get school lunches, the program is not available in Haredi schools and kindergartens, simply because we are, you guessed Haredi.
We are within our first third year of Aliah, and the only money we get from the government is the child subsidy (yes, we have eight kids) they would pay a grocery bill for less than two weeks for a family like ours, we are not getting rich from it. Sorry, it is much to small a payment to be looked at as an incentive to have large families. And sorry, I thought Israel wanted large families and encouraged having kids. Or is it only works as long as they are not Haredi. I am partially disabled and live with very real pain for many years. No I do not get any money for it. I am a fiber artist and run my own Internet business with the help of my husband. Yes, since you want to know, I am registered and pay taxes. I have now 2 kids at home an eight months old and a 3 year old. And no, I can not afford a kindergarten for my 3 year old. My husband is a Network manager and a computer repair technician. He also gives Torah classes (yes, free). A few months ago, before Purim, he lost his main job, working for a school because they switched to a network management firm based in... India. Finding a job after 40 is not easy here in Israel, especially if your beard is more gray than black. Israelis are obsessed with youth. I am yet to figure out why. Just like I am yet to figure out why there is so much organized hostility directed towards Orthodox. All I can tell you that if we were poor in America, now, in Israel we hit destitute.
If the proposed tax bill we will simply be starved back to US. Not because we do not love Israel but because one has to feed kids. Somehow.

Rachel Romm said...

I thought PM Netanyahu studied Economics at MIT, doessn't he have any better solutions to the deficit? How about Mr. Alan Greenspan? I do not think that Mr. Lapid is doing what he promised to do.

At home mother of three, also struggling to finish the month.

Doc said...

Henya, I apologize for offending you and your family, I have since been informed that the Grey and Black Market cover all walks of life in Israel. Nor do I think that all Hareidi families live off welfare, and thank G-d for that.
I hope, for our sake and for the sake of allIsraeli families who will be affected by this budget proposal, that you are not forced to leave the country under unfortunate circumstances.

As far as those in the government with background and knowledge, even Stanley Fisher has suggested that the Finance Ministry find another set of possible solutions.