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April 18, 2014 / 18 Nisan, 5774
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Israeli Election Results Put Focus on Domestic Front

Monday, January 28th, 2013

The Israeli elections last week saw a meteoric rise of a centrist party, and disproved near-universal forecasts of a rise of the religious right.

What do last week’s elections say about Israel’s future defense policies?

Israelis returned Netanyahu to the prime minister’s seat, meaning that the electorate would like him to continue to steer the country through this chaotic and dangerous era. The elections results also showed that voters backed Netanyahu’s hard work on tackling the Iranian threat, but remained deeply concerned over domestic issues, which Netanyahu’s last coalition of ultra-Orthodox and nationalist parties failed to address.

Lapid, located on the center-right of the political map, is no dove. He is pragmatic; he does not hold ideological or religious objections to an Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria, but has recognized, rather, that Israel has no peace partner.

At the same time, Lapid and his party have expressed displeasure over the fact that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has been able to score victories over Israel in the diplomatic arena. Lapid has therefore called for reopening talks with Abbas, if only to prove Israel’s willingness to pursue a peace plan.

Lapid has also advocated a unilateral dismantling of far-flung outposts in Judea and Samaria, while consolidating the major settlement blocs — with or without a peace agreement.

On the most critical question of all — whether Israel should launch a military strike on Iran — Lapid has limited himself to calling on Netanyahu to do a better job of coordinating Israel’s position with that of the U.S.

He expressed concern over the dysfunctional state of relations between Netanyahu and President Barack Obama, and the ramifications of poor relations on future efforts to stop Iran.

In all likelihood, Lapid and his new party will join Prime Minister Netanyahu in forming the next coalition. If he joins the government, Lapid is expected to support Netanyahu’s main focus — stopping the Iranian nuclear program.

How did Yair Lapid and his Yesh Atid [There Is a Future] party — whose members have never sat in parliament — overnight become the second largest political force in Israel?

The answer resides in the quiet and growing alarm mainstream Israelis are feeling over the way the country’s resources are diverted to serve narrow minority interests at the majority’s expense.

Lapid merely pointed out problems that were known to all, but also promised to repair the glaring flaws, while enjoying a clean-cut image, free of the political baggage that had tarred the old guard in the eyes of much of the electorate.

Lapid’s campaign highlighted the fact that middle class Israeli families — the engine of the country’s economy — are struggling to make ends meet, yet significant funds are being diverted to support a parallel ultra-Orthodox society, which has its own education system. Many of those who study at ultra-Orthodox seminaries do not end up joining the workforce, and remain dependent on state subsidies.

While a majority of secular and Orthodox national-religious Israelis risk their lives to serve in the military and protect their families, most ultra-Orthodox do not (although a growing number are.)

Lapid’s proposed solutions: A universal draft to the army or civilian national service for all Israelis, and limiting the number of state-sponsored seminary students to 400 (the current number of students is 60,000).

Lapid has also called for a change to Israel’s proportional representation system, to decrease the number of political parties, thereby limiting the ability of small parties to extort special privileges from ruling coalitions.

Israelis are also outraged by economic oligopolies, which are inflating prices of basic commodities, as well as the failure of past governments to protect citizens from exploitative corporations. The only exception to this is the outgoing communications minister, Moshe Kahlon, who reformed regulations and introduced new competition into the mobile phone industry, resulting in plummeting prices, and as a result became a national hero.

A significant numbers of hardworking Israeli families are in perpetual debt, while others — due to the inflated housing prices as a result of the state owning 93% of all lands, as well as bureaucratic red tape slowing down the construction process — are unable even to dream of owning their own home.

The old guard of Israeli politics is perceived as being out of touch, and tinged by cronyism, as well as by apathy to the common person.

How Obama is ‘Saving’ the Middle Class

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

President Barack Obama won re-election by selling the idea that he was the champion of the middle class.  Now he is forcing them into poverty and driving them from their homes.

That is the effect of new taxes going into effect on Jan. 1, regardless of how negotiations on the fiscal cliff turn out (unless, as seems unlikely, Congress decides to extend all of the Bush tax cuts to everyone).  The new marginal rates on dividends and interest (43.4%) and capital gains (20%, or 23.8% including the ObamaCare surcharge for high earners) will be devastating for the middle class.

Not only will it apply to those not-so-rich high earners who breach the $200,000 level, but it will harm those under the limit by undermining their desire to get ahead.  Why work longer or harder with 43.4% of marginal income going straight to Washington, another 15% to 20% going to state and local taxes, and 55% of whatever’s left going to death taxes when you pass on?  It’s easier to do what Obama wants and just stay poor.

New tax rates are just the beginning.  There’s the failure to address the Alternative Minimum Tax.  And with the president’s unwillingness to negotiate, there’s the restoration of higher tax rates on all earners.  There is also a host of indirect taxes, such as an onerous tax on medical device makers and lower reimbursements to doctors and hospitals, that will be passed on to consumers one way or another.

Altogether, Obama is “saving the middle class” with a $494-billion tax hike, three-fourths of it on the middle class.

Those who will be hurt the most are small businessmen, professionals, and modestly affluent retirees.  Many of these filers claim more than $200,000 on their tax returns, but they are hardly the evil 1% that Obama vilified during the campaign.  They operate family farms and small construction companies.  They are dentists and accountants.  They are the hardworking owners of retail stores and fast-food outlets.  In short, they are middle-class Americans.

Granted, they are successful.  But isn’t success what Americans aspire to?  By raising taxes on the middle class and especially on those among the middle class who are more successful than others, Obama is sending the message that Americans might as well not aspire to anything.  If they do, they too can expect to be taxed back into dependency.

That has been the plan all along.  That’s why the president exudes such spite toward those who aspire to be rich (while the Buffetts and Zuckerbergs who support him get a free ride).  As far as the left is concerned, all Americans should be dependent on government.  When’s the last time Obama celebrated the success of anyone other than someone like Christopher Brian Bridges (aka “Ludacris”)?  When’s the last time he spoke in a heartfelt manner about the great gift of capitalism and the everyday sacrifices of those in the middle class who make it work?

Never.  What he constantly proclaims is the glorious benefit of Big Government, with the implication that those who control Big Government possess an absolute right to rule over the middle class.  That is why he insists that Congress hand over control of the debt ceiling.  And to make government bigger, Obama demands bigger revenues.  Why should he negotiate?  On January 1, he gets up to half a trillion more in revenues to force more Americans into dependency.

Next week, all or part of that half-trillion in taxes is going into effect, including the Obama death tax.  Just think of those family farms whose owners pass away in the new year.  With Obama blocking reform, rates will return to 55% of assets over $1 million (in addition to whatever state death taxes are due).  At current prices, a typical 200-acre Midwestern farm is now valued at nearly $2 million.  That farm will have to be sold or mortgaged to pay estate taxes.  It will be difficult for surviving family members, who may be dependent on the farm for their livelihoods and may already have been operating the farm for years, to continue operating “half a farm.”  But that’s what Obama wants.

Small business owners are in the same boat. In order to pay that 55% death tax, many who inherit a franchise, a retail operation, or even a service station will be forced to sell the business.  And everyone who worked at that business loses his job.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/how-obama-is-saving-the-middle-class/2013/01/02/

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