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September 16, 2014 / 21 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘budget’

Bibi May Call For Early Elections In February

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

JERUSALEM – Faced with the prospect of not having enough votes within his own coalition to ensure passage of the 2013 national budget, as well as a growing political rift with his defense minister, Ehud Barak, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is reportedly considering moving up next year’s parliamentary elections from October to February.

According to Yisrael Hayom, Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz are trying to stitch together a revamped national budget that would feature a series of austerity measures aimed at reducing the country’s budget deficit and addressing the global economic slowdown. Israel’s annual growth rate has shrunk from five to three percent over the past year.

The economic downturn in European Union countries has adversely affected Israel’s mostly blue-collar export industry (canned foods, flowers, fruits and vegetables, glass, etc.), as thousands of workers in those fields have recently been laid off – mainly in towns across the Galilee. In the past month, the unemployment rate has reached nearly seven percent. On two positive notes, though, exports of products from Israel’s renowned hi-tech and biotech industries have remained strong and Standard & Poor’s recently gave Israel one of the world’s best credit and economic ratings.

Yisrael Hayom reported that the Finance Ministry’s initial call for 15 billion shekels, or more than $4 billion, in across-the-board budget cuts – featuring reductions in social service programs to children in need, mentally and physically disabled citizens, the elderly and poverty stricken families – will likely be reduced to 10 billion shekels in cuts. The Shas and Yahadut HaTorah parties have already informed Netanyahu that they would vote against any budget that includes cuts adversely affecting their struggling Orthodox and haredi constituencies.

For his part, Barak has waged a media campaign against Steinitz’s insistence on cutting over a billion dollars from the nation’s defense budget in the wake of the various security threats Israel faces from Iran and Syria.

This has only worsened the Netanyahu-Barak relationship. According to Israel’s Channel 2 News, Netanyahu has become frustrated with both Barak’s political demand that he retain his defense ministry post in the next Netanyahu-led government (if Netanyahu is asked to form the next government) and their differing tactics in managing Israel’s relationship with the U.S. (Recent polls show Barak’s center-left Atzmaut faction winning only two-three seats in the next Knesset if elections were held now.)

Netanyahu’s disenchantment with Barak has spread across his Likud Party. Likud members have blasted the defense chief for telling the international media that he would recommend that Israel execute a unilateral withdrawal from most of Judea and Samaria despite no formal peace agreement with the Palestinian Authority. Netanyahu was incensed with Barak’s comments to the American media earlier this week regarding his positive meetings with Secretary of State Clinton and other high-ranking White House officials. Yediot Aharonot quoted a senior Israeli government official who claims to have heard Netanyahu say, “He [Barak] traveled to the U.S. to actually stoke the conflict between us and the Americans in order to come off as the savior – the moderate party that reconciles between the sides.”

A number of Likud members have urged Netanyahu to immediately fire Barak and replace him with former IDF chief of staff and current Minister of Strategic Affairs Moshe Ya’alon.

Even if earlier elections are called for February 2013, the Netanyahu government will still be one of the longest-serving Israeli governments ever.

Speculations: Israeli Elections Moved Up to February

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to move the next Knesset elections from October to February, 2013.

The Israeli press has been featuring several leaks from Netanyahu’s inner circle on Tuesday and Wednesday regarding the approaching declaration of a February vote, although an official declaration is yet to made.

“We will make a decision by the opening of the winter session” of the Knesset, Netanyahu said on Tuesday. The winter session will start in two weeks.

Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz have been discussing a less severe clipping of the national budget, which was supposed to be trimmed by $3.9 billion. In light of the expected elections, they are likely to reduce the cuts to $2.6 billion.

“Over four years, we have responsibly managed the economy, reduced unemployment, protected growth and added hundreds of workplaces. We coped better than most countries in the Western world with the global economic crisis. For four years we acted as a responsible government and we must continue on this path,” the Prime Minister said, already sounding as if he is campaigning for his next term in office.

It is expected that the early vote will be scheduled for Tuesday, February 12. The last elections were held on February 10, 2009.

Interior Minister Eli Yishai from Shas said his party would rather not have the early elections.

“I told the prime minister that if the budget is passed with compassion, we will support it,” Yishai said, hinting at the need to avoid cuts that would hurt the needy segments of Israel’s population, adding: “We are prepared for elections at any given time, although Shas would be happy to continue its term for the year that remains.”

Opposition leader Shaul Mofaz of Kadima, who spent a short stint in Netanyahu’s coalition government this summer, said that “Netanyahu must be replaced and hope needs to be returned to the people of Israel.”

Labor Party Chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich said that setting an early date for the national elections, because “Israel needs elections to decide between different alternatives and to reset the country’s path.”

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud) told Israel Today: “In my opinion, the prime minister does not have a majority to approve a national budget… There is no majority in the coalition to approve the cuts. Without a budget, the government cannot continue to function and therefore there will have to be early elections.”

Universal Education or Universal Competence?

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

Education was the defining paradigm of the 20th Century model of social progress, particularly the scientific education distributed through cells and classes where trained educators teach from prepared texts imparting the same knowledge to every students through the same methods.

Our educational system is nothing if not extensive. We, collectively and individually, spend fortunes on it. The average cost of a four year degree is approaching 100,000 dollars and that isn’t counting textbooks (1,100 per year) and the astronomical rates of interest on student loans. Total student loan debt has doubled in the last seven years and is approaching 300 billion dollars. The average student under 30 owes around 20,000 dollars as education has become the new mortgage.

Senior citizens who came of age in the age when college became universalized are having their social security payments reduced to cover their student loan debts proving that a college education really does last for a lifetime.

The individual expenses for an education are trivial compared to the collective burden. The budget for New York City’s Department of Education is 24.4 billion dollars. That is nearly the GDP of Vermont being expended on the schools of a single city. It’s the GDP of 60 percent of the countries on the planet being shoveled into a single school system of 1.1 million children under the banner of “Children First” that amounts to 40 percent of the city budget.

New York spends 11,572 dollars per pupil. For now the home of Wall Street can afford this kind of insane waste, closing the budget shortfall by finding a way to impose a 300 million or 500 million dollar fine on a major bank or brokerage. Most other places can’t. Across the river, New Jersey’s disastrous schools are bleeding taxpayers dry with murderous property taxes to fund failing schools.

The same story is repeated across the nation where homeowners are bled to fund swollen pension funds and failing urban schools. Gimmicks such as “weighed student funding” are used to divert as much money as possible from successful local schools to unsuccessful urban schools. People are losing their homes so that another high school in Newark can roll out more afterschool programs and Michelle Obama’s idea of nutritious lunches.

Politicians take for granted that education is the road to empowerment and equality. Obama has read poems off his teleprompter about the wonders of education as the only means of ensuring “our” children’s future. There is nothing revolutionary about that. Every politician takes it for granted that education means empowerment. But does it really?

Universal education was the panacea of every socialist state. By NEA rankings the Soviet Union had a better education system than we do. Its system routed as much of the population as possible through higher education and degree mills making it better educated, on paper, than the Yankee running dogs of the decadent West. And yet the USSR was behind the United States in every possible area of life.

The more you universalize education, the lower the value of that education becomes. When the goal of education is not to teach, but to graduate, then the educational system becomes a cattle run which exists only to move students through the system and then out the door through classroom promotion. The High School education of today is inferior to the Elementary School education of yesterday and the four year college graduate of today couldn’t even begin to match wits with a high school graduate from 1946. College has become the new High School. Graduate school is the new college. If we keep following the European model, then two decades from now, everyone will be encouraged to get a Master’s Degree which will be the prerequisite for most jobs and also be completely worthless.

The current model is that the more education you have, the better you are and the better that the society you live in will be. Everyone is expected to finish High School and as many as possible are encouraged to go to college, even if they’ll die before they pay off the student debt and even if more people go bankrupt subsidizing other people’s education. And at some point when everyone has six years of higher education, we’ll have a utopia of flying cars, glowing sidewalks in the sky and 5 minute tours of the moon.

How to Retire When You Don’t Have Enough Money

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

Very often, life doesn’t turn out the way you expect it. For example, over the years you may have dreamed of having a certain income or level of savings when you retire. For various reasons, however, that has not happened. Maybe certain things occurred within your personal life that meant that you had to spend the savings that you worked so hard to accrue, such as a serious illness, major, unexpected repairs to your home, or more. Perhaps you started investing too late, or you put your money into investments that did not bring you the returns that you anticipated. Or maybe you were just one of those people who spent too much every month.

Whatever the reason, if you reach retirement age and you see that you are not going to have enough money for your anticipated needs, what should you do?

First of all, don’t stress about it. Although this is not the ideal situation, you won’t necessarily end up on the street. There are some steps that you can take to make your life a little easier if your nest egg isn’t as large as you would like it to be:

Keep working part time. Consider partial retirement instead of full retirement. Though older people do not always find it easy to get new employment, there are still places where the experience of a senior citizen is appreciated. Any income you receive means that you will be withdrawing less from your savings account.

Turn down the volume. As you are going to face a cut in your income, learn to cut down your expectations. A trimmed budget doesn’t necessarily mean you need to cut out recreation, just find cheaper or free means of entertainment. Visit the library, not a bookstore. Visiting free public museums, going for walks along the sea front, and offering to take your grandchildren for one afternoon may not be as glamorous as a luxury cruise, but they cost a lot less and believe it or not, they can be just as rewarding.

Pay attention to your spending habits. While some people watch their budgets for most of their lives, there are plenty who don’t. If you fall into that second category, it’s time to change. Start taking note of your budget now, even before you retire, and you will be better able to cope with living in reduced circumstances when the time comes.

Keep up with your investments. If you do have a few investments, don’t panic when you retire and start selling them all. Consult with a financial adviser on how to make the best of the investments that you have and what you can do to make the best of your retirement years under the circumstances.

There aren’t any magical solutions to retiring comfortably without adequate savings, but there are certain strategies you can use to avoid and fix personal finance mistakes.

Box Of Chocolates

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

The other night, after having a truly bad day where nothing seemed to go right, I jokingly changed my Facebook status to “I have had one of those awful, miserable, terrible days! And there is NO chocolate in the house!”

I immediately received more than 10 responses, offering me sympathy and virtual chocolate. Despite the late hour, my next-door neighbor offered to let me come over to get whatever candy bars she had in her house. I love my online girl friends, but declined the candy bars. However, I enjoyed the sympathy – and ate that all up. But over the next few days, my craving for some real chocolate kept nagging at me.

Thursday rolled around and I was having another stressful day while doing my usual shopping in the local Trader Joe’s grocery store. I had a specific list with a specific cash budget. After loading my cart with the items on my list I made the horrible mistake (or perhaps a part of me intended to do this all along) of going past the store’s amazing chocolate candy section. At least six different containers of fancy chocolate-covered candies called to me, begging to be purchased, and somehow I was able to resist the urge. Though I lingered and salivated, I eventually forced myself to keep to my list and budget and move to the checkout lane. While waiting there, the invisible bubble above my head was working overtime.

I started thinking: “Maybe I should just run out of line and grab the chocolate caramels. After all, $3.99 won’t break the budget. I should have enough money … maybe if I put something else back. Or I can get the chocolate-covered pretzels; they’re less money … Oh, the chocolate-covered cashews sound so delish…” And so it went until, before I knew it, I was completely checked out and it was time to pay. I had spent so much time thinking that my window of opportunity to get any chocolate treat for myself was gone. So I came back to reality and paid the bill. And just as I was about to push my cart away, the cashier handed me a gift-wrapped box.

“These are for you,” she said cheerfully.

“What’s this?” I asked, confused.

“We’re giving out boxes of chocolates today. Enjoy.”

I almost got lightheaded from the shock of what she’d just said, considering what I’d just obsessed over just seconds ago.

“Wait,” I asked, “Why are you giving free chocolate to people?”

“We just are. It’s a goodwill promotion, so enjoy them. They’re really good.”

On the back of the gift-wrapped box was the information sticker with ingredients – and right there was a reliable kosher symbol. I could have cried with joy. Despite the fact that the cashier from Trader Joe’s just handed me the box, I knew from my very soul that God had just handed me this box of chocolate.

“Wow, this is so nice. I am really going to enjoy these [chocolates]. Thank you so much,” I gushed to the cashier. But my sentiments were intended more toward the Almighty!

Then I noticed that the cashier was looking at me in a strange way, and it dawned on me that I might be acting slightly goofy while fussing too long over the candy and lingering in her line, refusing to move on. So I took my spiritual box of chocolate and put it in my cart, and left thinking about how special this experience was. I drove home with a huge smile on my face, knowing that not only did I get a free box of candy but I also got a divine gift that let me know that ultimately I don’t have to post my true feelings on Facebook. I also knew that God is always listening to my heart and knows what’s going on with me. He is with me every step of the way, lending me sympathy and support – even when there is no chocolate in my house!

Jewish Reaction To Romney VP Pick Divides Along Ideological Lines

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

WASHINGTON – Anointing Paul Ryan as his running mate, Mitt Romney attached a name and face to his fiscal policy.

Jewish Republicans, including the House majority leader, say they are thrilled with Wisconsin’s Ryan emerging as the ticket’s fresh face, hailing the lawmaker as a thoughtful and creative budget guru bent on taming out-of-control federal spending.

Ryan’s name is well known to Jewish community leaders who have been grappling with the Republicans’ chief budget shaper since the party retook the majority in the House of Representatives in 2010.

The Washington groups that deal with budget policy have had many interactions with Ryan, who as chairman of the House Budget Committee authors Congress’ proposed budget. They have not been happy ones, though speaking on background, the first thing Ryan’s Jewish and Democratic interlocutors emphasize is that he is as affable and gracious one on one as he appears to be in public.

Many of them see Ryan’s plan threatening Medicare and Medicaid, programs that are cornerstones of care for the Jewish elderly, a population growing faster than among most other religious and ethnic groups.

Ryan and his defenders argue that his proposals will drive down costs by spurring competitive pricing and save popular entitlement programs from eventual bankruptcy.

Outside of his leadership on budget issues, Ryan, 42, has not been preeminent in many of the areas that traditionally have attracted Jewish organizational interest.

Elected in 1998, he visited Israel in 2005 on a trip organized by the American Israel Education Foundation, an affiliate of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Along with Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), he has joined Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the House majority leader, as the “young guns” heralding a more robustly conservative Republican Party, one that appeals more to the Tea Party insurgents who fueled the Republican takeover of the House in 2010.

Cantor has often pointed out the diversity embodied by the trio – Cantor is a Southeastern observant Jew, Ryan is a Midwestern Roman Catholic and McCarthy is a Western Protestant.

“Having worked closely with Paul, I’ve seen firsthand the energy and commitment he brings to pursuing the kind of pro-growth economic policies we need to create jobs and reduce our massive debt,” Cantor said in a statement. “Quite simply, Mitt Romney could not have made a finer choice for the future direction of our country.”

Ryan has followed Cantor’s lead on foreign policy, co-sponsoring signature pieces of legislation that the majority leader initiated, most recently one that enhances security cooperation between the United States and Israel.

“America has no better friend in the Middle East than the nation of Israel. Not only is Israel the region’s only fully functioning democracy, with a government based on popular consent and the rule of law, but it is also a valuable ally against Islamic extremism and terrorism,” Ryan says on his congressional page.

William Kristol, the leading neoconservative thinker, was among those touting Ryan. And according to Politico.com, Dan Senor, Romney’s top Middle East adviser known for his close ties to the pro-Israel community, will be advising Ryan ahead of his convention speech in late August and his debate with Vice President Joe Biden, which is scheduled for Oct. 11 at Centre College in Kentucky.

Ryan has not interacted extensively with the small Jewish community in Wisconsin, but those who have met him say he’s an eager student of the Middle East.

“He’s thought a lot about those issues, although he might not be an expert like he is on the nitty gritty of the budget,” said Nat Sattler, who has been active in Wisconsin Republican politics and has met Ryan at Republican and pro-Israel events. “Knowing his ability to suck up information, I’m sure he is becoming an expert.”

Ryan has backed cuts to the overall foreign assistance budget, though he favors funding at current levels for Israel. AIPAC and other pro-Israel groups generally are committed to maintaining foreign assistance funding overall, not just for Israel.

It is in the area of domestic spending that the clashes between Ryan and the Jewish organizational community have been evident.

In 2011, the Jewish Federations of North America and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs – the two leading policy umbrellas addressing economic issues – were blunt in a joint letter to Congress members slamming plans that originated with Ryan that would transition parts of Medicare, the medical program for the elderly, to a Medicare Exchange in which a variety of private plans would be made available.

Is Ryan Good for the Jews? Make that ‘Are the Jews Good for Ryan’

Monday, August 13th, 2012

The selection of Paul Ryan, with his proposals for a trimmed-down federal budget, may not bode well for the Republican ticket among Jewish voters, wrote Josh Nathan-Kazis in the Forward.

He pointed to Florida’s 22nd Congressional District, in the heart of Jewish South Florida, which he says could be a key neighborhood in the presidential race.

But one early attack in a congressional race in a heavily Jewish Florida district suggests that Democrats will use Ryan’s proposed changes to Medicare and Social Security to bolster Democratic support among Jewish voters.

Lois Frankel, the Democrat running for the 22′s congressional seat, sent a press release just hours after Ryan’s appointment to be Romney’s running mate, tying her presumptive Republican opponent to Ryan’s proposed entitlement cuts.

Florida is the largest of the swing states, says Nathan-Kazis, and its Jewish voters will have a huge impact on the presidential election.

Jonathan S. Tobin is not convinced. Democrats shouldn’t count on the Jews flocking to Obama so easily.

First, he argues, the Jewish voters who fear changes in Mediscare are voting for Obama regardless of Mitt’s pick. On the other hand, those American Jews who consider Israel’s security a major agenda in casting their votes will not favor Obama. “Voters who believe the president will sell out Israel are not the most receptive audience for a Democratic campaign based on the idea that Romney and Ryan will sell out the elderly,” Tobin writes.

“The issue was not whether Obama could hold onto more than 50 percent of Jewish votes, but how much of the 78 percent he got in 2008 would he be able to retain,” he points out. “The most optimistic estimates of the Democrat vote will keep him in the mid-60s, with his share of Jewish ballots in Florida probably being even lower.”

Ronn Torossian of Rightwingnews.com points out that Ryan has co-sponsored pro-Israel legislation, and has been very outspoken against Hamas.

He cites from Ryan’s website: “I believe at least one thing is clear: we cannot advocate for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that jeopardizes Israel’s safety or legitimizes terrorism. Hamas, which is one of the two major Palestinian political factions, is an Islamist terrorist group whose charter calls for Israel’s destruction, refuses to recognize Israel’s existence, and calls Osama Bin Laden a ‘martyr.’”

Torossian also frames the Obama vs. Romney race as being one of secular vs. religious values: “The biggest response from the crowd today during his speech came when he said: ‘Our rights come from nature and God, not from government.’”

Interestingly, the NJDC is framing the competition similarly, except that the values it points to are not so much secular vs. religious, but the more vague non-Jewish vs. Jewish.

Their press release, titled “NJDC on Ryan Pick: Clearest Proof Yet Romney Does Not Reflect Jewish Community Values” reads:

“Mitt Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan to serve as his vice presidential candidate is the clearest indication yet that Romney does not reflect the values of most American Jews. Ryan’s signature budget plan drew the profound concern and even ire of many in the American Jewish community because of its plans to end Medicare as we know it, slash vital social safety net programs, and increase the burden on seniors, the middle class, and the poor—yet Romney today proudly hitched his horse to Ryan’s dangerous plan. This alarming partnership between Romney and Ryan will further reinforce the reasons why such a significant majority of American Jews will be voting to reelect President Barack Obama this November.”

You’ll notice the absence of any reference to Israel, Iran, Palestinians and other characters in the other story which is of interest to U.S. Jews.

The Daily Beast’s Eli Lake made no bones about Ryan’s staunch politics regarding the rest of the world, in his report “Defense Hawks, Rejoice—Paul Ryan’s Your Man!

“The Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Howard ‘Buck’ McKeon, said he was ‘very happy’ with the Ryan pick. McKeon said he has worked closely with Ryan to come up with ways to at least put off what is known as the sequestration cuts, and he praised the Wisconsin lawmaker for his overall philosophy in defense. ‘He understands the Reagan principle of having a strong defense and the Eisenhower principle of having a big enough military that no one would ever think about attacking you,’ McKeon told The Daily Beast.”

Except that, with his reputation as budget slasher, it’s difficult to envision Ryan embarking on making America’s military even bigger. Or, maybe, once in office, Ryan will trade the Congressional Republican view on curbing costs for the Dick Cheney school of the Imperial Presidency and start borrowing till it hurts.

If you ask me, after all the above quotes are copied and pasted, the Romney appointment of Paul Ryan is still a sign of weakness. Normally, a Republican candidate would want to appoint a VP that’s a bit to the left of him, to attract the independent voters at the center. The fact that Romeny chose to appoint someone to his right, politically, suggests that his own pollsters have been telling him that the home base is less than enthusiastic about the Mormon former governor of Massachusetts.

The fact that Romney picked a Catholic for the VP slot could mean either that the evangelicals no longer fear and loath Catholics (fat chance), or that Barack Obama gets four more years at his current residence.

And that, finally, is not very good for the Jews.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/yoris-daily-news-clips/is-ryan-good-for-the-jews-make-that-are-the-jews-good-for-ryan/2012/08/13/

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