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September 2, 2014 / 7 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘budget’

Obama Golfs and Bibi Eats Ice Cream – How Much to Indulge Leaders?

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

Personal expenses for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu soared 80 percent in the last year, according to figures that his office were forced to release after it ignored a formal request and acquiesced only after a petition for disclosure was filed in court.

The anti-Netanyahu Israeli press, which is just about all of the local media, jumped on the Prime Minister and his wife Sarah for freely spending the taxpayers’ money at a time when the government is carrying out austerity measures to reduce the budget deficit.

The attacks are somewhat populist, but that does not detract from the fact that some of the Netanyahus’ spending habits are from frugal.

However, compared with President Barack Obama, the Israeli expenditures are peanuts.

Of course, comparing the United States with Israel is like comparing Wyoming with New York, but there also is one other very basic difference: Israel loves to hang out its collective dirty laundry in full view of the public.

The Israeli society is nothing if not open. Thanks to the official list of expenditures, we now know that the Netanyahus spent approximately $40,000 for gardening last year at the family’s official home and two private residences.

Cosmetic and haircut and hairdo expense rose last year from $9,250 to nearly $18,000.

We don’t know how much the White House spent on keeping Obama and Michelle’s hair neat and prim, but you can bet your bottom shekel that $18,000 barely paid for a shave and after-shave.

In Israel, the principle often is more important than the principal, and the public indeed needs a leader who can be an example of a bit of modest spending at a time when the government wants to hike taxes and lower services to the public.

Netanyahu earlier this year was embarrassed by the disclosure that he asked for $2,700 to lap up ice cream, one of his weaknesses. He put a stop to his habit, at least not at the public’s expense.

Last week, he had to order a halt to the use of a special airplane bedroom that was installed for the price of $125,000 when he and his wife flew to Britain for the funeral of Margaret Thatcher. The special room will be removed, except for trans-Atlantic flights.

In the United States, President Obama has been has attacked for his costly habit of playing golf. His recent outing with Tiger Woods cost $78,000 just for security.

ABC’s Jonathan Karl asked White House Press Secretary Jay Carney how much is spent for President Obama’s golf tours?

“Well, the president is the President of the United States,” Carney replied. “And he is elected to represent all of the people. And he travels around the country, appropriately. I don’t have a figure on the cost of presidential travel. It is obviously something, as every President deals with because of security and staff, a significant undertaking. But the President has to travel around the country. He has to travel around the world. That is part of his job.”

“How much does it cost for him to go and play golf?” Karl insisted.

Carney never answered the question.

The large outlay for political leaders’ quirks raises the question of how much they need to be pampered to keep from collapsing under the strain of public office.

“Bibi is king, and in a monarchy, when the king and queen fly, price is no object,” political commentator Sima Kadmon wrote in Israel’s Yediot Acharonot.

The president’s total impersonal expenditures are estimated at $1.4 billion a year, and that more or less is the same level of spending in the Bush administration.

But there is a limit, morally. Can Prime Minister Netanyahu function without so much ice cream, even without taking into account that he can do without the calories?

And does the White House really have to spend more than $250,000 a year on flowers, the figure that is an official government statistic?

Battering Netanyahu is popular and often justified, and the results are positive. Bedroom flights to Europe have been scrapped, and the ice cream budget has melted.

Now let’s see if Obama starts playing less golf.

Lapid’s Marie Antoinette-Style Budget

Monday, May 13th, 2013

There isn’t much  good I can say about our new finance minister’s budget, except that Yair Lapid has a lot of guts.  There’s hardly anyone, especially among those who voted for him, who likes and agrees with Lapid’s first budget.  I agree with the detractors here.  This budget makes no sense to me.

In terms of the cuts in the military, it’s outrageous, ridiculous and dangerous.   On one hand Lapid and the Israeli government still say that they want to draft pretty  much all the Haredi men, claiming the army needs them, but if the military budget is reduced, there won’t be money for that.  And that’s one of the simpler points to ponder.

With a vote in the full cabinet expected Monday on Finance Minister Yair Lapid’s budget proposal for 2013- 2014, the security cabinet met throughout the day Sunday and into the night to parse out NIS 4 billion in proposed cuts to defense spending.

I agree with Professor Ron Breiman that reducing army service will only endanger us:

Only once before in Israeli history has a similar measure been taken, and only two draft classes were able to enjoy it. I’m talking about those who were drafted in August and November of 1964 and served only two years and two months. Not long after, the quiet along Israel’s borders, since 1956, was broken and the winds of war began to blow from Egypt, Syria and Jordan. The result was the Six-Day War in 1967.
In the years following the Six-Day War — the years of the War of Attrition, the Yom Kippur War, the First Lebanon War — it was clear to everyone that there was no choice but to maintain the three-year mandatory service policy. Only in the 1990s , when the bells of “peace” rang in “the new Middle East” did country’s leaders think again about shortening military service. This time, however, the easing of the security burden was directed at the reserve army, not towards changing the three-year mandatory service policy. The reserve service cut-off was lowered to 40 years of age, the need to receive a permit for travelling abroad was cancelled, and more.

It will make a much less professional and competent IDF.

I call it a Marie Antionette budget, because it harms the poor more than the rich.  In a rare instance, I agree with Labor’s  Shelly Yacimovich.

According to her figures, after factoring in tax changes, price increases, National Insurance Institute child allotments and so forth, the bottom 10 percent of Israelis would lose a whopping 25.1% of their income while the richest decile would only lose 2.2%. The majority of the changes stemmed from proposed reductions in child allotments. “A picture arises of a heavy burden from difficult, regressive, non-egalitarian cuts that clearly hurt the poor and middle classes, primarily, and hardly touch the rich,” Yacimovich said.

I work in one of those minimum wage jobs, and none of us have any “fat” to trim from our budgets.  So, big deal if the wealthier will take fewer trips abroad or keep their cars a year or two longer.  For many of us those sorts of luxuries are just dreams.

Visit Shiloh Musings.

ObamaCare: Don’t Believe Gov’t Projections

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

At a recent press conference, President Obama delivered a reassuring announcement to the millions of Americans who are wary of the upcoming deluge of ObamaCare’s full implementation: “For the average American out there, for the 85 and 90 percent of Americans who already have health insurance, this thing’s already happened. And their only impact is that their insurance is stronger, better and more secure than it was before. Full stop. That’s it. They don’t have to worry about anything else.”

Well.  “Full stop.”  So that solves it.  Is everyone happy now?

The theatrics from the president are appreciated; they lighten the mood a bit.  But they’ll fall short when you don’t have health insurance and are faced with either being uninsured or joining the Medicaid rolls.  “Full stop” is actually less of an authoritative command than an indication of what will happen to many people’s insurance coverage once ObamaCare is fully implemented.  As the Wall Street Journal pointed out earlier this year, the entirety of ObamaCare’s regulatory framework will likely raise premiums in thirteen states “somewhere between 65% and 100%.”  This includes my home state of Virginia, which, even at the lowest end of the scale, would find me paying a little over $250 a month for health insurance after ObamaCare goes into high gear.  “Full stop” is what will then occur with my premium payments; but once I cancel the plan, I won’t have to worry about anything else.  So it turns out that the president is partly right.

It’s instructive to witness the inability of politicians to accurately predict their own legislative outcomes.  In 1967, Congress predicted that Medicare spending would equal only $12 billion per year by 1990 — a paltry sum.  Actual spending for that year was $110 billion, so they were slightly off the mark.  But of course, by that point, Medicare was fully entrenched in the American political system, and the notion of even modestly reforming it was off the table (it evidently continues to be off the table today).  Thus stands the ossified character of American government, and thus will likely stand ObamaCare twenty-five years from now, too.  Full stop.

It’s not just the left of the political spectrum that has dismal results in predicting its own spending habits.  Years ago, Donald Rumsfeld and the Pentagon predicted that the Iraq war would cost between $2 billion and $4 billion a month.  The actual result was nearly $8 billion a month.  Rumsfeld also expressed doubt that the war would last even six months.  Well, it lasted a little longer than that; coupled with the grossly underestimated price tag, we’ve spent a lot more in Iraq than we thought we would, and for a much longer time than we thought we would have to.  So the government is as bad at predicting outcomes of war as it is at predicting outlays of medical spending.

Even the so-called nonpartisan government officials (an hilarious paradoxical idea, but we’ll allow it) aren’t good at the business of fortune-telling.  The CBO estimated in 1999 that the federal government would have a budget surplus of $388 billion in 2009, ten years down the road.  The actual number was somewhat closer to adeficit of one-and-a-half trillion dollars.  Ah, well, it’s a simple matter of arithmetic.  And in any case, the report had its bases (or its baseline, if you like) covered: “CBO’s economic projections assume that no legislative action is taken that would affect the projections of revenue and spending.”  So that’s all it takes!

The history of dismal government projections should be sobering for the politicians we elect to represent us.  The Great Society legislators were all but certain that their old-age insurance program would be manageable and prudent; it now stands as perhaps the chief threat to the financial stability of the United States government.  Decades later, our leaders thought we could be in and out of the Middle East in half a year, tops — yet there are children in this country who know nothing other than the reality of our country’s being at war with Iraq.  A hundred other examples of failed conjecture are readily available.  And still there is a political class that believes that it can enact massive pieces of legislation and accurately predict how they will end up.

So who believes President Obama regarding ObamaCare, anyway?  Ditto Nancy Pelosi, who even openly confessed to not knowing the bill’s contents when she voted for its passage.  Ditto everyone who continues to support the behemoth law as it trudges towards full implementation.

Report: Kerry Won Five-Week Unofficial Building Freeze from Bibi

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has been quietly enforcing a de facto building freeze on all construction for Jews in Judea and Samaria and areas in Jerusalem claimed by the Palestinian Authority, Israeli media reported Tuesday.

The Prime Minister promised U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to curtail construction for Jews until mid-June to give PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas time to fulfill his condition for a return to face-to-face negotiations with Israel.

Army Radio reported that Prime Minister Netanyahu told Housing Minister Uri Ariel, who lives in  the Judea and is a senior member of the Jewish Home party, to suspend publishing tenders for 3,000 residential housing units, including those to advance plans and construction of homes in the E-1 area of Maaleh Adumim.

Ariel insisted there has been no building freeze but added that the Prime Minister has delayed progress for new building, and he referred reporters to the Prime Minister, who arrived in China Sunday for a six-day visit.

Netanyahu’s reported agreement to a five-week freeze, much shorter than the 10-month freeze announced in September 2010, might be a gamble that Kerry will not be able to convince Abbas to resume direct talks with Israel.

There have been no real discussions since the 2010 building freeze, which Abbas demanded before resuming negotiations and then refused because it did not include a freeze in eastern, southern and northern Jerusalem, and did not cover public building in Judea and Samaria.

The E-1 area has become red line for both Abbas and Netanyahu. Any building activity there would infuriate Abbas and win him more support to continue to place the Palestinian Authority on various United Agencies.

If Israel were to even offer a hint to surrender the area, the Jewish Home party would probably pull out of the coalition, and it is doubtful if Likud-Beiteinu would agree to continue to rule with a new coalition that would include the Labor party.

However, Israel desperately needs an approved government budget for this year, and any party that forces new elections without a budget is liable to be severely punished at the polls.

Someone is going to have to climb down from the limb.

If Abbas misses another opportunity to miss an opportunity and starts demanding more conditions, Kerry and Netanyahu can walk away from the tree and leave him hanging there.

Lapid is Still on a Roll, Poll Says

Sunday, May 5th, 2013

As many of you have known for a long time, I’m as out of the box as they come. My opinions rarely are the popular ones. If the Smith poll, which IMRA wrote about here, had asked me my opinion wouldn’t be like most others.

The poll shows/indicates that Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid political party is gaining in support and would receive as many seats as the combined Likud Beitenu (Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu). Many of the new voters would be those who are abandoning Kadima and Tzipi Livni’s Movement.

Here are the poll’s results:

If elections held today (expressed in Knesset seats) Current Knesset seats in [brackets]. Please note: There are 120 seats in the Knesset. Parties must receive a minimum of 2% of the valid votes cast in the elections to be included in the Knesset – this comes to 2.4 seats. After elections are held the coalition forming a government must receive 61 votes in a vote of confidence in the Knesset. 30 [31] Likud Beiteinu (Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu) 30 [19] Lapid “Yesh Atid” Party 13 [12] Bayit Yehudi 12 [15] Labor 10 [11] Shas 07 [07] Yahadut Hatorah 07 [06] Meretz 00 [06] Livni party “Hatnua” Party 00 [02] Kadima 11 [11] Arab parties

Of course this poll is just taking into account the political parties in today’s Knesset. Every time we have new elections, new parties sprout up like weeds. And to be super honest, I don’t see a party I’d vote for.

Actually, Lapid as Finance Minister, isn’t doing all that well. After campaigning to reduce the budget, he’s now raising it. Actually he had planned on increasing it much more but was taught that Israel would suffer in terms of its rating.

Following a downgrade to Israel’s S&P credit rating Thursday night, Finance Minister Yair Lapid on Friday backed down on his proposal to raise the 2013 deficit target to 4.9% of GDP from its current 3%, agreeing to set it at 4.65% instead. [Jerusalem Post]

Arutz 7 reports something very troubling about Lapid and how he’s functioning as Finance Minister.

“On Thursday it was reported that Lapid planned to increase the deficit target for 2013 to 4.9%. The move was met with anger because Lapid did not involve Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his deliberations.

Lapid’s decision surprised Bank of Israel head Stanley Fischer as well. Fischer reportedly first heard of the news on Thursday evening as he landed in the United States.”

It would be better if Lapid was more a team player. He’s not supposed to be making such policy decisions on his own. Of course this is my opinion, and not all Israelis seem to agree with me.

Visit Shiloh Musings.

The UN: When is Enough Enough?

Sunday, April 28th, 2013

With regard to the U.N., when is enough enough?

The U.N. is supposed to promote peace and human rights. But since the Six-Day War, it has systematically abetted the efforts of the Arab nations to destroy the Jewish state.

Most people have heard of resolution 3379, passed in 1975, which equated Zionism with racism (and which was finally repealed in 1991). But look at resolution 3236 (1974) which asserts that the PLO — a terrorist organization which had not even pretended to renounce violence — is the “representative of the Palestinian people,” and which, among other things,

Reaffirms also the inalienable right of the Palestinians to return to their homes and property from which they have been displaced and uprooted, and calls for their return;

Then there is Resolution 3376 (1975) which

2. Expresses its grave concern that no progress has been achieved towards:
(a) The exercise by the Palestinian people of its inalienable rights in Palestine, including the right to self-determination without external interference and the right to national independence and sovereignty;

(b) The exercise by Palestinians of their inalienable right to return to their homes and property from which they have been displaced and uprooted;

3. Decides to establish a Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP) composed of twenty member States to be appointed by the General Assembly at the current session;

Similar resolutions calling for “return” of “refugees” and Palestinian sovereignty have been passed on an annual basis.

In addition to the CEIRPP, the U.N. has established several other bodies to prosecute its diplomatic war against the Jewish state. In 1968, UNGA resolution 2443 established the “Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People” (SCIIHRP), and In 1977, resolution 32/40 created yet another U.N. body dedicated to the Palestinian cause, the Division for Palestinian Rights (DPR).

So what do these agencies do, besides soak up huge amounts of money and scarce parking spaces in New York and Geneva? Here is one explanation (2005):

CEIRPP and SCIIHRP are committees of the General Assembly but it is DPR that does the work. Lodged within the U.N. Department of Political Affairs, which is headed by an Under the Secretary General and two Assistant Secretaries General, the DPR is on the same level as regional bureaus which, in theory, track major developments all over the world. The DPR is equivalent to two regional bureaus for Africa, one for the Americas and Europe, and one for Asia Pacific. One might have difficulty understanding how the DPR merits the same status, staff and budget as the aforementioned regional offices.

The DPR’s website explains its functions: The Division provides support and services to CEIRPP, planning and organizing its programs, including a round-robin of international conferences such as those discussed below. It maintains relations with a network of “more than 1000 NGO’s (non-governmental organizations) from all regions active on the question of Palestine.” It organizes the annual “International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People” mourning the U.N. resolution of November 29, 1947, which called for the Palestinian Mandate to be divided between a Jewish and an Arab state. (At this annual event, Israel is routinely denounced and the Palestinian “right of return” is highlighted as a sacred principle.) The DPR prepares reports and publications “on the inalienable rights of the Palestinian People” and, in cooperation with the U.N.’s Department of Public Information, promotes their worldwide distribution. The DPR also develops and maintains the Web-based United Nations Information System on “the question of Palestine,” UNISPAL, which, in collaboration with the UN Department of Public Information, sends out anti-Israel press releases, funnels television footage to international broadcasters friendly to the Palestinians and hostile to the Israelis, and circulates news stories favorable to the Palestinians via email to 27,000 subscribers.

In the past three years, the DPR has arranged and staffed 10 international conferences – officially sponsored by CEIRPP – at which “information” about the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is disseminated to an audience of diplomats, NGO’s and representatives of other U.N. agencies. These conferences are sponsored and paid for by the U.N. The most recent meeting, held at UNESCO in Paris on July 11-12, 2005, called for a campaign of divestment, boycotts and sanctions against Israel, consciously modeled on the effort to end the system of apartheid in South Africa. The previous session in Geneva on March 8-9, 2005, was devoted to the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice denouncing Israel’s security barrier. As might be expected, no one on the program questioned the legality of the ICJ opinion or provided information about revisions in the fence’s route ordered by Israel’s High Court.

It is almost impossible to determine the amount of money that goes into these activities. Ami Isseroff wrote this in 2005:

Together, [DPR, CEIRPP and SCIIHRP] receive an annual budget of about $5.5 Million. In addition, over half a million dollars are spent on “Information Activities on the Question of Palestine,” which has been in the budget of the UN Department of Public Information since 1977, separate from the budget of the DPR. There is also a Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967. That function was created in 1993, apparently to torpedo the Oslo accords signed in the same year.  The special rapporteur on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is its only expert mandate with no year of expiry. The post was renewed even after the U.N.  Human Rights Council was reorganized because of absurdities such as election of Libya as chairperson. However,  it is impossible to trace all the money spent on anti-Israel propaganda, because the funding is hidden in bodies such as the UN Human Rights Council [today called 'commission'], which spends an inordinate effort on “Palestine” and in UNRWA, which diverts funds that are supposed to be spent on supporting Palestinian refugees.

I presume the amount is much greater today. And what about UNRWA itself, the agency set up to provide “emergency” aid for refugees, which has since morphed into a huge enterprise with a budget of $1.2 billion (2011), and whose function is to pay “Palestinian refugees” to have children and to prevent their resettlement anywhere except Israel?

Deputy Minister Calls Haredim ‘Parasites’ on Radio

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

Yesh Atid’s Deputy Finance Minister Mickey Levy said on a Haredi radio station Wednesday that Haredim are “parasites.” He immediately apologized, but the damage was done.

Yair Lapid, chairman of the Yesh Atid party and now Finance Minister, is widely hated by the Haredi community for his position that everyone in Israel, Haredi or not, should serve in the army or at least spend would-be army time doing national service

He angered the Haredi community even more this week with his proposed two-year budget that  would cut payments for child support, a move that would be felt in the Haredi community, where families have a higher than average number of children. Money for yeshivas also would disappear.

Levy said on the Kol BaRama radio program that Haredim “should share in the burden, to integrate into the job market, stop being parasites drawing on the Israeli public’s resources… You can’t keep leaning on those who pay taxes, who enlist to the army, who serve the country.”

He immediately apologized for the use of the word “parasites” and then defended himself with a routine of “some of my best friends are Haredim.”

“I still visit the rabbis and pay them respect. I hold great respect for tradition and culture, and I come from a religious home,” he said.

Levy said that regardless of the faux pas, his point stands. “You are citizens of equal rights, thus you should be equal in your obligations as well.”

Haredi Knesset Members lost no time in criticizing Levy and Lapid, who irritated them even more in the Knesset on Monday when he told Haredim, “I understand you’re going through tough times. Weren’t you sitting in the government which created the deficit? Were you on Mars?”

He said the Haredi MKs are partly to blame for a bloated government deficit because of funding for yeshivas and other funding for the Haredi community.

Lapid came in for across-the-board criticism, even for posting Facebook messages on the Sabbath Haredi MK Moshe Gafni of Yehudat HaTorah said Lapid posts on the Sabbath because he loves it and wants a fight.”

“I suggest to my fellow hareidi MKs not to play into his hands,” he added. “He comes and says, ‘We’ll deal with the Haredi Jews.’”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/deputy-minister-calls-haredim-parasites-on-radio/2013/04/24/

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