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April 24, 2014 / 24 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘taxes’

Haredi Paper Equates Lapid and Hitler Speeches

Monday, May 6th, 2013

Haredi author Chaim Walder compared policies and newspaper columns by Finance Minister Yair Lapid with speeches by Hitler, stating that although “those who hate religion do not want to physically destroy hareidi Jews, they have wicked plans…to strip us of basic rights.”

Lapid’s office called Walder’s column “dangerous incitement.”

Lapid, head of the Yesh Atid party, successfully campaign in the last elections on a platform calling for “equal burden,” meaning that Haredim in Israel should serve in the IDF or do national service, work and pay taxes instead of receiving money to be enrolled at yeshivas.

Since taking the post as Finance Minister, Lapid also has called for eliminating child support benefits, which Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu drastically reduced when he was Finance Minister in the Sharon government. His move was one of several actions that pulled the Israeli economy out of the doldrums and helped spawned unprecedented growth and stability.

Other Haredi sites defended Walder’s potshots in his column, pointing out that he did not compared Lapid with Hitler, while non-religious media reported the column in a negative light.

Walder indeed took pains to point out that Lapid does not want to physically kill Jews, but he used a line in a column that Lapid, a journalist, wrote two years ago, and compared his expressions with Hitler’s death wish for Jews.

Lapid, whose late father Tomy Lapid was a survivor of the Warsaw ghetto uprising, had written, “Forget ideology; forget that I do not understand how it doesn’t bother you that you live at my expense. I can’t continue paying for it for there is nothing left. I have nothing to give your children and nothing for my own….

“We have to find a way my friend or this will not end well. What does it say in Taanis [in the Talmud], ‘Friendship or death.’” That  statement is similar to those of Hitler, according to Walder.

The Haredi writer referred in his column to “someone famous” who insisted Jews must participate in “productive work” to avoid a calamity. After identifying the “famous person” as Hitler, Welder continued, “Those who hate religion don’t want to physically annihilate Haredim” but have “wicked plans regarding quality of life, the ability to live a normal life. To strip us of basic rights like payments, tax discounts, welfare, food for our children… there are even those who speak of taking the freedom to vote, or of leaving Israel, which is true dictatorship.”

Quality of Life?

Haredim argue that life is better if one learns Torah and does not work for a living.

There no statistics to support either side in the argument over how many Haredi men really learn while receiving stipends for learning. Many learn a bit, or not all, and indeed work, receiving money “under the table” without paying taxes.

That does not make them any different from tens of thousands of secular “independents” who also do not pay taxes. They accept payment for work without reporting the revenue when filing tax returns.

But to say it is a basic right to receive benefits for learning Torah and not serve in the army or do national service essentially demands that the government adopt those values and ignore the value taught by Torah sages – learning Torah and also working.

There actually are many Haredim who do both.

For example, Chaim Walder.

Bill Clinton Tried to Block Israel’s Taxing Newly-Found Gas

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

Former Bill Clinton, the man who unwittingly carried out his promise for a “New Middle East,” worked as a paid lobbyist to pressure Israel against increasing taxes on natural gas from huge off-shore energy fields, former Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz revealed.

Clinton’s wealth is estimated at well over $55 million, making him the richest living president, but no one knows better than him that “enough is never enough,” especially when it comes to “helping” Israel.

One of his most famous “accomplishments” as president was to engineer the signing of the Oslo Accords, with a grinning Yasser Arafat and Yitzchak Rabin at his side on the White House lawn. Clinton promised a “new Middle East,” and we got one when the Oslo Accords literally exploded in Israel’s face in 2002.

Clinton has not given up his version of helping Israel while making pocket money to boot.

Israel has the wonderful problem of figuring out how much to tax the gigantic natural gas pumped from discoveries off the Mediterranean Coast. The energy fields will bring billions of dollars in profits for energy companies, and the government wants a share of the natural wealth.

As Finance Minister, Steinitz proposed raising taxes on companies that developed the natural resources. The energy firms still would be left with envious profits but wanted to stop the tax hike, a reasonable objective for any company.

Clinton’s agreement to be its front-man raises serious questions about the ethics of a former president lobbying a foreign country.

“Pressure [against the tax hike] began from the White House,” Steinitz told the Hebrew language Maariv newspaper.

“The energy companies hired American lobbyists, including former President Bill Clinton, who sent letters and had discussions to dismantle the Shashinsky Commission,” which examined the natural gas issue, “and to stop the tax law.”

“Members of the U.S. Congress asked me for clarifications,” Steinitz said. “We began to feel a sense of pressure, as if we were doing something impeachable to commercial ties between the two countries. I tried to explain that we are among the countries earning the lowest rates from natural gas and petrol, that we get nothing and that the citizens of Israel have as much moral right to profit from public resources as do private companies.”

The Shashinsky recommendations for a tax increase in November 2010, and the pressure decreased, apparently under orders of President Barack Obama.

No one has accused Clinton of doing anything illegal, but the ethics of the former president’s polices and accumulation of wealth following his terms of office deserve examination.

“Between 1997 and 2003 …You went from a period, a regime, where people did have at least some concern about going to jail, to a point where everything is legal. …Looking back I would say that this period definitely started under Clinton,” said Charles Ferguson, whose documentary film Inside Job in 2010 won an Academy Award.

Clinton certainly did not have to lobby against Israel for lack of money.

“I never had any money until I got out of the White House, you know, but I’ve done reasonably well since then,” Clinton has said in an understatement that would be laughable if not true.

“Reasonably well?” Let’s check.

As a lame duck president in December 2000, Clinton signed into law the Commodities Futures Modernization Act, which ensured that derivatives could not be regulated. Two months later, shortly after leaving the White House, Clinton received $125,000 from Morgan Stanley for a speech Clinton he delivered to the company in New York City.  A few weeks later, Credit Suisse also hired Clinton for a speech, at a $125,000 speaking fee, according to the NakedCapitalism.com website.

“It’s not a coincidence that deregulation accelerated in the late 1990s, as Clinton and his whole team began thinking about their post-Presidential prospects,” the site added.

If Clinton was only somewhat rich man before becoming president, he has more than made up for lost change.

In the decade after the end of his second term, he pocketed nearly $10 million for speaking fees. That comes out to a lot more than his hourly wage as president.

And who paid for the privilege of hearing his wisdom?

Citigroup: $250,000; Deutsche Bank, $150,000; Goldman Sachs, $300,000 for two speeches, and that is only three coins in the fountain.

Three Mistakes that Can Get You in Big Trouble

Sunday, March 31st, 2013

Filing taxes is complicated. The forms aren’t particularly user friendly, and if you’re not quite sure what you’re doing you can end up making quite a few errors. The problem with errors on tax forms is that they can be very costly. For people who have multiple citizenships and residences (think olim or folks who spend a portion of the year living in Israel), the challenges of tax reporting are even more complicated.

I spoke with international tax lawyer Dave Wolf (and fellow contributor to a book on tax guidelines for American expatriates) and asked him, “What’s the worst mistake you’ve seen an expat make?”

He said: “The biggest mistake that I’ve seen expats make is believing that once they move out of America, they no longer have to report their worldwide income or report the existence of foreign bank accounts or companies.” Indeed, when it comes to the IRS, out of sight is not out of mind. It’s also important to note that if you have American citizenship through a parent or grandparent, even if you’ve never lived in America and English isn’t your mother tongue, you’re still obliged to report to the American tax authorities.

Mistake #2

Another common blunder that Dave mentioned was that people look for investment opportunities without taking into consideration the U.S. tax code. Specifically, complicated U.S. tax laws basically prevent American taxpayers from investing in overseas mutual funds. The IRS considers those investments “PFICs,” (passive foreign investment companies), and most Americans who understand how they work would not want to get involved with them or offshore mutual funds. When trying to invest smartly, lack of knowledge of international tax consequences can cost you a lot of money.

Final Mistake

The third blunder people make, Dave said, is “They either go to the wrong adviser, one who has no overseas experience, or they just don’t get any professional help at all.” I asked how you can avoid these mistakes. He said, “Make sure to consult with your tax lawyer, accountant, and/or investment manager before you leave the States to avoid any adverse tax consequences of investing or moving money overseas.” Sadly, many people overlook this seemingly small detail before making what could be one of the biggest financial decisions of their lives.

Find out more about what Dave has to say about avoiding making major tax mistakes by reading The Expatriate Guide to Managing Money and Taxes. For Jewish Press readers, get half off the regular price of the book by using the discount code JPRESS. Go to www.ExpatGuideToMoney.com and order now. The discount will expire on tax day, April 15th.

Knowledge is power, and reading this easy-to-follow guide for U.S. expats you can stay in full compliance with the law.

If I Were Prime Minister: the Gov’t of an Anarcho-Capitalist

Sunday, March 24th, 2013

Note: This is satire, but does accurately reflect my feelings towards the Israeli government.

While I do not believe in the legitimacy of any government to exist at all, if I were forced to be Israel’s prime minister at gunpoint (it could happen any day now) and I had to name ministers, what would my government look like, and who would be in it?

I started thinking about this for more than a fraction of a second when I saw who got what in the divvying up of ministerial positions. So-and-so is minister of “strategic affairs.” Some other guy is minister of “agriculture.” Another idiot is in charge of “water,” because after all, if some politician who knows nothing about water supplies is not in charge of all of our water, we’ll all thirst to death and the Kinneret will turn into sewage overnight. This has already happened twice back before politicians were in charge of water.

And agriculture. Thank goodness a politician who knows absolutely nothing about how to grow food is in charge of the entire agriculture sector so he can tell us what we can import, export, buy, sell, when and where and how. Otherwise no one would be able to grow any food and we’d all starve.

But, OK, let’s assume I had to build a government and name ministers. Who would they be? First of all, I’d build a coalition of 120 MK’s and include everyone in my government by promising everyone a ministerial position. First, I would name Yair Lapid Minister of Male Grooming. He will be responsible for training all men in the state who can’t groom themselves and look like shlubs, how to look decent, improve their smiles, and generally look kempt. I will pay him $500 a month and give him a budget of $20 all out of my own pocket, and if he goes over that amount, I will fire him and give his job to Ahmed Tibi.

Instead of only one agriculture minister, there will be 5 ministers of one lima bean plant. These 5 people will be Liberman, Silvan Shalom, Tzipi Livni, and two of the smartest apes I can find in the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo. They will all fight over how to regulate the lima bean plant and can pass whatever ministerial orders they want on how to restrict, tax, and at what age to draft the lima bean plant into the army, but nothing else. If they start fighting, they’re all fired, except for the apes, who can continue regulating at will.

There will be an Interior Minister, but he will only be in charge of regulating the interior of his Knesset office. In fact, everyone in my government can be an Interior Minister. They can all decorate them with lima beans they get from the Lima Bean Plant ministers on the off chance that the 5 lima bean plant ministers haven’t regulated and taxed the lima bean plant to death. I’ll give them each a shekel to buy some gum for their offices from my own pocket.

There will also be a Culture and Sport minister. (Yes, in Israel, there actually is a politician in charge of “culture and sport”. Because without politicians, we’d forget how to play soccer and be cultural.) The culture and sport minister will be Gidon Sa’ar, who word has it likes to go to night clubs. His job will be going to night clubs once a week and writing a report about the number of flies on the ceiling of the night club. If he doesn’t write the report every single week and submit it to my desk (This Week: Eight Flies), he will be fired and his position will not be filled.

The foreign minister will be nobody, as I’m not interested in talking to other state leaders.

The education minister will be nobody, as I’m not interested in telling parents how to educate their kids.

The housing minister will be nobody, as I’m not interested in telling people where they can and can’t build and live.

The communications minister will be nobody, as I am not interested in telling people how they can communicate and what cell phones they can buy for how much.

All You Need to Know About Moving Overseas (Podcast)

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

Are you thinking of moving abroad? If so, you’ve got a lot to think about. Moving to another country isn’t only about booking a one-way ticket. What about taxes, work permits, and other legal considerations? In the second part of this week’s Goldsteinon Gelt podcast, Doug finds out what you need to know when he interviews Darlene Hart, chairwoman of the U.S. Tax & Financial Services Group.

All You Need to Know About Taxes for Expats

Monday, March 4th, 2013

Did you know that America is about the only country in the world that taxes its expatriate citizens, even if they haven’t lived or worked in the States for many years, and even if they haven’t lived or worked there at all? So what do U.S. citizens need to know about taxation before they consider living abroad? And what is Residence-Based Taxation (RBT)? On this week’’s Goldstein on Gelt show, Doug speaks to Jackie Bugnion of the ACA, who heads the tax team of the organization’s executive committee, to find out more.

The Expats: Fiction or Reality? (Podcast)

Monday, February 25th, 2013

Is there anything dramatic or exciting about being an expat? On the first part of this week’s Goldstein on Gelt show, Doug meets Chris Pavone, author of The Expats, a novel that he wrote while living in Luxembourg. Chris had worked as a book editor in New York City for 20 years until his wife was offered a job in Luxembourg, and he became a stay-at-home dad to their young children while living in Europe. This experience became the backdrop to his book The Expats, a best-selling thriller. Find out more on this week’s show.

Obama’s Panama Canal

Sunday, February 17th, 2013

Sitting in the CNN studio today, with an earpiece jammed in one ear and a microphone clipped to my jacket, the disembodied voice of some CNN guest urgently proposing that the government take advantage of historically low borrowing rates to invest in infrastructure howled in my ear. Without a monitor, the voice had no body belonging to it. It was the muse of liberalism. The idiot angel standing on the shoulder of Uncle Sam crying out, “Spend, spend, spend.”

In 1 Time Warner Circle, all the elevators play the CNN feed in small monitors. On the floor, there is more of the same. There’s no escaping CNN in the tower of the corporate parent of CNN. Like some cheap production of 1984, it’s everywhere and nowhere, one long commercial break for the country’s least popular news network, whose most famous figure is doing his talk show on Hulu, still in his trademark suspenders while his third-rate British replacement shrieks nightly about gun violence.

CNN is irrelevant, but in the ugly Time Warner Center, part shopping mall, part unfinished pile of construction equipment arranged to look like two skyscrapers, defacing the view outside Central Park, it’s all that matters. In the CNN bubble, it’s still vitally important and incredibly influential, even if its most influential moment in the last ten years consisted of two shameless doughy buffoons screaming at each other about gun control.

If America ever goes the way of CNN, then it too will be reduced to some badly designed urban skyscrapers full of important people talking importantly about issues while outside the world has moved on. The disembodied voice in the backlit wilderness cries out that we must invest more in infrastructure. “America built the Panama Canal. They said it couldn’t be done and it revolutionized commerce.”

But where exactly is our Panama Canal? For that matter, where after years of insane deficit spending is our anything? What infrastructure achievement has the shovel-ready administration managed to achieve? What has it done besides rename a few areas after politically correct figures and set up some monuments to the destructive energies of the left?

In December we learned that the National Park Service had spent $1.5 million to restore the graffiti on an Alcatraz water tower put there by leftist American Indian activists in the 70s. Their manifesto read, “We will purchase said Alcatraz Island for $24 in glass beads and red cloth.” But 24 bucks in tourist junk would be a bargain compared to $1.5 million spent during a recession to preserve the sort of leftist idiocy that trolls today leave in comments sections.

That water tower is Obama’s Panama Canal. It’s as close as we’re going to come to it. Either that or one of those light rail schemes that gets funded, but never goes anywhere. These are our expensive monuments to a left that occasionally talks like Stalin, but runs things like Castro, talking incessantly without anything to show for it except a bigger mountain of bureaucracy overhead. This is our CNN government full of commercial breaks and breaking news bulletins, but utterly unaware of its own irrelevance. It can still spend money, but it can’t move out of third place.

There is no Panama Canal project in the works. No great plan to revolutionize commerce and transportation. Only a sad failed attempt to get Americans to switch to electric cars which mainly existed as a way of shoving more pork into the orifices of Obama’s donors.

China can build things, for better or worse, because it has the manufacturing capacity to get things done. America no longer has manufacturing capacity, it has bureaucracy. China makes products. America makes government. We make government at home and we export it abroad.

If any country wants to know how to make a big expensive and unwieldy government ruled by the threat of someone screaming racism and someone else promising free birth control for perpetual grad students who one day hope to teach other perpetual grad students or perhaps file lawsuits on their behalf, then we can do that. If you want us to teach you how to make things, go look up some of our books from the first half of the last century. They may have something of relevance to offer on the subject. The America of 2013, whose government is in its own CNN tower, does not.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/daniel-greenfield/obamas-panama-canal/2013/02/17/

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