Beyond the Cusp

April 21, 2019

Why Congress Loves Taxing the Rich

 

Every election cycle we hear the same refrain of, “Tax the rich.” But exactly what do people mean when they rush to the cause all but screaming, “Tax the rich!” When you ask them, the answer you will most hear is that those people who are multi-millionaires must be made to pay their fair share. That sentence is just too easy to pick apart. For example, how would their paying their “fair share” actually look? Does it mean that they should pay higher taxes as they make more taxable income or does it mean that everyone should shoulder the burden at the same percentage rate? If they should pay higher and higher taxes as their taxable income increases, at what point does that rate hit 100%, or to phrase it differently, what should the maximum taxable income be set at such that all earnings beyond that point are confiscated by the government? Wait, you are making this far too complicated. It is really easy, nobody need make over one-million-dollars a year, thus anything beyond one-million-dollars should be taxed at 100%. All right, we will agree with you on this point. Now, does anybody believe this would soak the rich as is so often claimed? Actually, this tax rate would not have any effect upon those people who most claim are the rich who are not paying their fair share. How can this be when you have set the tax rate at 100% for those making over one-million-dollars a year. In actual honesty, that is not what we agreed upon, and Congress knows this. The agreement was that nobody could earn over one-million-dollars a year in taxable income with the rest be forfeit to the government. But the people who many call the wealthy, pseudonym presumed to be the rich, make virtually no taxable income or, if they make taxable income, it is minimal compared to their main means of becoming wealthy.

 

The problem is simple, there is earned taxable income and there is earned nontaxable by income tax investment gains. These come under what is called capital gains taxes, and this is kept relatively low. Further, there are no taxable gains as long as you do not sell the investments such as stocks and bonds. And should you cash in, if you have losses which are equal or greater, you still are not taxed as you made no actual gains. Finally, even if you sell off some assets and have capital gains, as long as you invest them within that tax year, then you have rolled that into another investment and it does not become taxable. Investment gains are seldom taxable as income and is only subjected to capital gains under specific definitions all of which play to the investors’ advantage. Thus, if you want to tax the really rich, the wealthy, what you are required to have would be a wealth tax. You would never even get a wealth tax piece of legislation into debate, let alone such ever reaching a vote, and such would never pass. What the people have to understand is that we the people of the United States (OK, you the people, better?) have done is to make politician into a career in which the sole goal is to get to Washington DC as either a member of Congress or one of their senior advisors or aides. That is the level at which you can finally cash in on your years of public service. Once you make it there you have made it into the big game where the real money can be made. Yes, their salaries are not all that extravagant, yet most of us would like to make that modest an income. But that is not how Bernie Sanders made his millions, and it was not from his claimed book sales. Congress has set up a lovely little tax-free shelter in which they can easily make hundreds of millions of dollars and do so legally for them that regular people would go to jail if using the same advantage. What are you hinting at already?

 

Well, let us ask a simple question. Let us say that you knew for an absolute fact that in the competition between Lockheed-Martin, McDonnell Douglas and Boeing which one would be given a multi-trillion-dollar contract to build a Moon base. Taking this information, you sell your stocks in the other two and use that money to buy all you could of the one getting the contract. What is that you said? That would be insider trading and you would go to the Federal penitentiary for a long vacation. That is true, unless you are a member of Congress or one of their senior staff. You see, Congress has exempted themselves from such bothersome little details such as insider trading. For them insider trading is simply a benefit of the job. Who could honestly expect that the people who decide which companies get huge government contracts and which ones do not and when these contracts are going to be awarded to sit on such information and not use it to their slight advantage. This is how people come to Washington as a Congress-critter and within four years leave as multi-millionaires. They all write a book or two or ten and claim that is how they made all that glorious cash hoping that the public will buy their story. Reality is that they made all that money as part of their daily service to you the public by discussing who would be best to reward huge contracts using your tax monies and then taking their meager cash and heavily investing every penny they could scrape together and buy that very same company who is about to be voted a huge contract’s stocks and then selling it a few weeks after the contract is awarded and the stock price soars. Why sell their stock before the price maximizes? That is because they have another contract ready and waiting until they all buy their shares and then they vote to give some lucky company the next contract. Forget the above example and look at the real cash engine they get to utilize. You have five or six small companies vying for a government contract which would permit their little company to triple in size and enter the “big leagues” and play for real money. Well, such a small company in order to make their viable required capital investments, so they issued an IPO (initial public offering), the first step to becoming listed on one of the stock exchanges. These are risky investments as should the company fail, you lose everything, but if the company succeeds and goes big league, then the return can be as high as one-hundred for one or even higher. Now if you know which company making an IPO is about to receive a huge government contract, well, the rest is obvious except for those pesky insider trading laws. But the elites in Congress have a get out of trouble-free card which is reusable as many times as required to get around those silly little Federal Laws. Now, the rest of the very wealthy also make their money through investments which are not subjected to income taxes, solely capital gains taxes, which is an entirely different game with laws encouraging such investments as they are necessary for economic growth. This is why “Tax the rich” is such a meaningless and trite little saying which has much of its appeal in ignorance and ability to be effectively chanted. I mean, really, would “Tax the investment class” make for a good slogan? No, it just does not have that precise and easily understood banter like “Tax the rich.”

 

Capitol Cash Machine

Capitol Cash Machine

 

So, people ask, why not instigate a wealth tax? Lawmakers will immediately point out that there already is such a tax, the capital gains tax. Capital gains tax rates are either 0%, 15% or 20% for assets held for over a year while those held for less are considered to be income. That is nowhere near as high as the rates would be if capital gains were treated as straight income and subjected to income taxes. But for the elites in Congress, their capital gains tax rate is 0% no matter the length of time the asset was held or how much they made off their investment. We hope it is starting to make sense why people spend upwards of anywhere from one to ten million dollars to be elected to Congress as a Representative which is a two year gig paying a mere $174,000 a year equaling $358,000 over the first term. Let’s face it, $358,000 of salary is definitely not why they are willing to take loans and contributions which make them accountable to individuals and not the electorate just to get in the door. Once in the door, with two years to play with and the best insider information in the world, well, you can see where they are about to become wealthy, and indemnified against insider trading laws. It really is as sweet a deal as it sounds like it is, which is why our political system has become a career for those out to make it rich with the least effort at earning an honest wage. But those who are not permitted insider trading, or at least not getting caught as any information can be prosecuted as insider trading if the government suspects such of existing. Anyone caught in that vise is probably beyond even the help of good lawyers, as the government is holding all the cards and if you are innocent, then you have no idea what the government claims you know and try proving a negative, in math that is one of the most difficult proofs and legally it is next to impossible. You can bet your bottom dollar that the Congress guards their advantage with overt diligence by making a grand example of anyone they can catch at insider trading so they can make great broad sweeping announcements about how such trading is beyond the pale and must be rooted out, well, except for their little protected haven where such trading is everyday business as usual. As far as a wealth tax, this is amongst the top ideas which are and always will be stillborn as those who actually call the shots and make all those heavy investments into Congressional campaigns, and the smart ones choose some promising State government elected leaders they see making it to Washington and buy them on the cheap, list a wealth tax as their Kryptonite, and thus never to even be discussed or the subject broached if at all possible.

 

There actually are good reasons why a wealth tax is unworkable. The first problem comes in defining exactly what constitutes wealth. Does the home one lives in to be included as part of their wealth or is it only homes and properties which are rented or used for making an income to be considered wealth. How much wealth should one family be permitted tax free? How does one treat foreign investments made by Americans or, on the other hand, how does one treat foreign investors investing in America. Another problem comes when figuring whether or not once one has paid their wealth tax on some assets, are they tax free from that point forward or are they to be counted year after year as part of that individual’s wealth determinations for their tax payments. Further, a wealth tax penalizes investment and if carried to its final conclusion, a wealth tax will eventually eliminate wealth. Were wealth eliminated, there would be little if any investing and the economy would soon collapse. Wealth taxes are one of those items which it becomes all but impossible to fashion them such that one does not kill the goose laying golden eggs in the process of taking a share of the product. Wealth taxes take from a person’s accumulated gains often repeatedly while Capital Gains taxes only take from the net profit made and then only if the gains are not reinvested thus generating economic growth. All taxes have to be tailored such that they do not stifle economic growth and progress and actually can be fashioned in such a way as to actually serve furthering the economy and other advancements. One example is granting companies a certain percentage of their gross budget for research and development which is the means by which they can grow their company, invent or discover items which serve the public as well as their companies. In the long run, wealth taxes become problematic as they discourage investment, encourage hiding money in places beyond the reach or view of the IRS including owning property outside of the United States deeded in a country which refuses to allow the IRS any investigation of their files, deeds and other financial data which could be used in the determination of wealth for taxation purposes. Such a tax would increase the use of cash and the avoidance of even keeping money in banks and other financial institutions. People would become extremely inventive finding new and extravagant means of hiding their wealth and would even go so far as to force people to invent an entire economic sector which would be private and kept from the government’s reach. One such means would be to set up a company which provides real estate sales, financing and insurance all of this carried by offshore registration in places which are known for wealth shielding through not cooperating with the IRS or other parts of the United States government, especially any investigative arm. Some smaller countries could develop an entire economy based on hiding wealth from a prying government’s eyes and protecting wealth from the greedy hands of the IRS and the rest of the government. Any such wealth tax would end up so cumbersome as to make its enforcement even more convoluted than the present IRS codes, and those are legendary for their problems.

 

So, taxing the rich is not as easy as raising the taxes on those whose income is beyond a certain dollar amount. That is not taxing the rich, that is making becoming rich more difficult. The tax the rich is so popular with the truly wealthy simply because it is a means of protecting their wealth as wealth is relative. What we considered wealthy in 1910 was very different than from 1925 and again from 1950 which was minuscule when compared to 2000 and it is still changing. We used to consider a person wealthy if they amassed one-million dollars of personal wealth. Then it went up to ten-million, one-hundred-million and now it is tens of billions and higher before one is considered truly wealthy. Another item which is seldom made evident and has never become common knowledge is that though the spread of wealth remains relatively static, the people at the top change with time such that the most wealthy twenty years ago are not the same top of the chart as those there now and it will be a different group in another fifty years. The wealthy are not the same people and are anything but evil. Their only crime was either making something which made people wealthier, happier or served the public, private or corporate good. Bill Gates was not uber wealthy fifty years ago and his wealth will likely be dwarfed by others over the next fifty years. Wealth is not a static statistic; it is malleable and seems to rotate with new and fresh faces coming up and older ones dimming and eventually falling from the ranks of the truly wealthy. The people who become part of the wealthy elite are people who have discovered some means of having others work with them or for them bringing in that wealth. Often, they invested in a company, they made their own company or they found the means of investing or producing things which gained in value greatly. Often such things come under capital gains taxes, other times the main profit for the government is in the salary taxes they take from the employees.

 

The actual problem the United States is facing financially has little if anything to do with taxes, not how they are applied, the rates at which they are levied or anything else. The problem facing the United States financially is the government spends too much, has grown far too large, their departments are horrifically inefficient and often the different departments overlap so much that there are often people from three or more agencies engaged in identical work. Even worse, there are some places where a single agency is performing identical tasks with more than one of their subordinate departments and committees making this problem emblematic of the United States government. The government, the Deep State if you like, has become almost a living entity which makes its own rules, enacts regulations which carry the weight of law, often enforce their own regulations as if they were the law, never retire any program once it has been given a budget additionally always increasing that budget procurement even after the department has become all but defunct. The United States government has become an employment engine which drives the Washington metropolitan area economy where entire companies are build around servicing the government. The government hires outside agencies and companies to manage their numerous little projects freeing up their own management so they are free to pursue educational degrees to facilitate their advancement to a position which will have its workload outsourced to a private company so the newly advanced individual will not be stressed with having to meet deadlines. The new excuse for missing a deadline is that the private company did not provide the necessary oversight thus their people could not be expected under such circumstances to have met the schedule and they will simply require more time and additional funds to hire another company to oversee the former company and make sure they stay on course. If that sounded confusing, wait, if we really went into it your head would spin doing several complete 360’s before stopping the entire time your brain screaming, “Did I hear you correctly?” The United States government needs to go on a diet and not go on any further eating binges as once they get to the tax dollar trough, they will never be weaned from taking your tax dollars and doing so in ever increasing amounts. And topping that off is that government civil service employees, once they have been in the government (we believe it is three years) long enough, they cannot be fired. Were you to remove one of these treasured little gems of an employee (do not get us started), they are enabled to replace any other employee who is of lower rank or has less time in service to the government, and that employee has the same right and so on and so on until some poor slub hired six months ago gets bumped, as it is called, and is out of his great job. There will be only one result of the current deficient the United States has piled up and that will be a financial collapse. Sooner or later that will be the result as to continue on the current path is unsustainable.

 

So, how long does the United States have before it goes under drowning in debt? That is a good question and we wish we could give you a date, but we are not quite that omniscient. We can provide some signs that the end will come sooner rather than later. Should the welfare, food stamps and other such government programs begin to grow at a greater pace than the economy can generate taxable revenues streams will definitely make things get dangerously unsustainable. Should the great little ideas being floated such as the $15 an hour minimum wage, guaranteed employment at that rate such that all the unemployed receive the minimum wage rate of pay straight from the government, universal government provided healthcare and the whole host of socialistic programs be enacted; the problems would be twofold. First is once they are enacted, they would be next to impossible to terminate. Second, with the guaranteed minimum wage, employment would make taking an entry level position paying the same as not working and would all but make minimum wage positions disappear. In order to entice people to work instead of simply being paid for breathing, employers would have to pay comfortably higher pay than the minimum which would also work to eliminate entry level jobs. Another job killer is the trade deficit which is only increased with the trade policies which open up access to American markets while making outsourcing of jobs economically advantageous such that companies would find keeping their production and almost any other lower skilled positions within the United States impossible as competition would force these positions to be sent outside the country. These are all items which politicians make great promises that they will not adversely effect the job market, investments within the country and almost every other item which uphold the economic growth of the United States all the while knowing, at least we hope knowingly otherwise the leadership is simply incapable of leading intelligently, realizing that over time these programs and laws are unsustainable. The United States is approaching the point where this will become reality. Such programs as the Green New Deal are economic death should they ever be enacted. This is where the future does not bode well.

 

When members of Congress propose such utter nonsense and they are not pilloried for their ignorance, then there is a problem brewing in the near future. The fact that the majority of college graduates believe that socialism is the preferred style of governance and do not see it as unsustainable and actually believe such to be preferable, then there is a sickness being perpetrated by the academic institutions which are producing the nation’s future leaders. The fact that so many of these youths believe that capitalism is actually an evil means of economic policy is also very worrisome. The concept of a guaranteed wage cannot work in any form unless production has become entirely automated and even many white-collar positions are being performed by artificial intelligence systems. When this day comes, either the artificial intelligence systems will have taken over the government or the only people able to make a decent wage will be the politicians as virtually all other positions will be performed by machines. The point where the artificial intelligence is capable of designing new systems including those which will replace them and are able to design the production facilities and build them, then we humans will have become dependent upon our creations to keep us and tend to our needs. Eventually, these artificial intelligence systems will realize that human beings are superfluous and then we humans will only serve the purpose of requiring the items these units produce. This may come to be seen as a waste of resources and thus an unnecessary cost which will not be sustainable thus the machines may decide that we are no longer necessary. Isaac Asimov came up with the three laws which would prevent artificial intelligence systems and robotic units from harming people and then wrote another story where he proved that even his best attempt was insufficient to prevent the systems from simply doing away with these unnecessary units which needed culling. Those of us who have read or watch far too much science fiction realize that the best hope for the human race is to venture out into space, even uncharted space, and hope we can find new worlds to populate keeping us one step ahead of the machines. Yes, these same science fiction consumers also know that eventually we lose this race as it is the only honest result if evolution is the final word on our future. Those science fiction stories in which the human race survives because we out-think, use intuition over logic or whatever writer’s ploy used in these stories are exactly what they are labeled, fiction. An economic collapse after the introduction of self-evolving designing artificial intelligence which can progress without human interface will leave the artificial intelligence ridding itself of those pesky, irrational, emotional units otherwise known as the human race. Perhaps they will keep a small number of us around as a reminder against frivolity, especially in place of solid leadership, something the colleges and universities appear to be espousing, frivolity as policy. Such leadership will bring on an economic catastrophe in the near term and it will not be pretty. The fall of Rome left a vacuum sending mankind back a couple of centuries as progress was all but at a standstill and the economies faltered. Will the eventual economic engine known as the United States present the same disaster when it fails. Perhaps, or perhaps the end will come from a direction few are even able to see as it stands before them. The next age will very likely be one in which the United States is rebuilding in order to become relevant once more. The United States, due to size and natural resources, will, like China, always be present and either leading or catching up as they restructure with a more intelligent governance which very well might be a supercomputer which coordinates everything. It will be an interesting ride with much for us to write about should we last that long.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

April 15, 2019

Not Bibi Again!

 

This has been the whine heard from almost everyone from the center and leftwards as well as from a fair number on the right. What is interesting is the further you get from the center, right or left, the louder the complaints become. The one nice thing about these people and their complaining is that at least we know they did not vote for Likud guaranteeing more Bibi. Of course, from the media we are about to be fed a steady stream of whining over Bibi returning as Prime Minister mixed with a dash of hope that the Attorney General will find something which sticks to Bibi long enough to charge him and then it might be bye, bye Bibi. For those in the United States, things are not much different than in Israel as the left hangs on the hope that they can use the legal system to get something on Bibi, in your case, Trump, and then be rid of them forever. Those of us with at least one foot firmly on the grounds of reality, we realize that these attempts to incriminate Trump or Bibi with some legal misdeeds is nothing more than a witch hunt which will come up empty, but that will not stop those determined to be rid of them from continuing to try again and again. But the reality of Bibi goes so much deeper.

 

We are regularly bombarded with praises heaped upon Bibi lauding him as the consummate political maneuverer and a master of the game. We are not quite so kind. If you want to get a line on why Bibi has been so successful and will soon become the longest serving Prime Minister in Israeli history, ask those whom he has all but destroyed. Currently at the top of that is Naftali Bennett whose New Right Party just missed clearing threshold. Naftali Bennett left the Likud Party taking Ayelet Shaked with him and went to Jewish Home where Bennett believed he had found his horse to ride straight to the Prime Minister’s House. Both Bennett and Shaked had worked directly for Bibi in his offices. Needless to say, Bibi took their leaving a bit personally. Two elections after Bennett and Shaked had moved to Jewish Home, a sort of miracle was in the making and Bennett actually was polling as almost even with Bibi and Likud with Jewish Home Party, formerly just a minor Religious-Zionist Party not terribly right of center. It was looking really close, until Bibi promised to treat Bennett and Shaked really nicely. What was the problem was that a center-left party was polling ahead of Likud and Jewish Home but well behind their combined totals. Bibi demanded that Bennett fall on his sword such that Bibi would defeat this upstart from the left threatening that if Bennett refused that there may very well be a left-wing government. Bennett made the fateful speech claiming not to be ready to be Prime Minister quite yet. The next morning, presto-chango, Likud was polling comfortably in the lead and Jewish Home was polling in single digits well below the day before. Bennett and Shaked got their Ministerial position, and Shaked as Justice Minister performed near miracles and will be missed from that position as her work was far from completed.

 

This was the first revenge Bibi took out on Bennett, and possibly Shaked as well, as when the next election cycle came around, Jewish Home was struggling to reach double digits, and this would not serve Bennett reaching Prime Minister. In private with only a select group of faithful who were to follow Bennett, Neftali planned to leave Jewish Home and form a new party. He would have been wished well had he done this differently, but his plan was also to rid himself from any competition from his former party. For reasons untold, every attempt to have the Central Committee meet, something important as a new Central Committee had been elected (I was somehow amongst the chosen for my town) and new leadership needed to be selected. This was not to be as it would have left some semblance of organization when Bennett and Shaked split as soon as elections were announced. The New Right, as Bennett’s party was named, shot up into double digits in the polls while Jewish Home, after losing its top two candidates, having no new leader, having a central committee now decimated as people streamed off with Bennett, all power structures pretty much destroyed with some key positions which remained held by people left behind to make sure the chaos destroyed Jewish Home (though this will be denied to the end of time), Jewish Home polled at best around ‘one.’ I personally begged two of those leaving to remain and warned they would regret leaving, but off went even friends.

 

 

Slowly, with the election growing closer, a committee of self-appointed leaders claimed they would reconstitute the party by fiat. The remains of the Central Committee protested and threatened to use their powers under the Party Constitution and this caused a surprised group who expected only slavish thanks to step back and listen. A system was worked out that nobody would be assigned any leadership without Central Committee approval, and slowly the Party was rebuilt only getting finalized with but a few days left to place a Knesset list for the elections. Jewish Home submitted their list with Rafi Peretz as their new leader, and what an improvement he will be if we can keep him long enough. Polls came and polls went and for quite a while Bennett appeared to have made a wise choice but inevitably the New Right started slipping, Jewish Home gained and with the election done Jewish Home, a party destroyed just mere months ago came in with five mandates and Bennet with his New Right failed to reach threshold and will not be in the government.

 

Moshe Feiglin, founder of the Zehut Party, is another person whose history crossed paths with Bibi Netanyahu. Feiglin made a critical mistake, as have others before him, as he began to become popular both in the Liked and in the public eye. His popularity grew for quite a while until it began to appear as should this continue; he would be able to challenge Bibi. That was his breaking of the cardinal rule, Bibi is king and it is good to be the king. Suddenly, through things and rules which are still very hazy, the next election found Feiglin buried to a position in the mid-to-high thirties, well beyond any hope of being in the Knesset. Well, that began the slide of Feiglin in Likud and he soon realized that Bibi had buried him just as he has anyone who showed even a glimmer of being a threat to the Bibi. People need to understand something about Bibi, he does not compete with people for the top spot, he eviscerates those who approach his level of popularity at the crucial point where they would become a threat soon but before the point where they become difficult to stop. Feiglin probably came the closest but Bibi learned from his predecessor and mentor, Ariel Sharon.

 

Ariel Sharon once ruled the roost in Likud. There was this younger, more energetic upstart who was climbing towards being able to challenge Sharon for the top spot. Sharon decided to give this upstart a challenge, a challenge which had proven the death of all who previously had this position foist upon them. Bibi was made finance secretary, once upon a time a dead end Ministership which ate up Ministers and spat them out finished politically. Well, perhaps Sharon should have checked Bibi’s resume where he would have noted that MBA along with degrees in economics. Bibi took on that challenge and all but rebuilt the economic picture in Israel and Israel is still running along with all those changes paying off with dividends. The old Socialist clogging of the economic spigot have been cleared and a Capitalist system put in its place which rewards entrepreneurs, investors and those who take the risks and does not overly penalize corporations for becoming bigger and controlling certain sectors as in Israel that is simply a challenge put down for others to unseat the giant. That is part of why we are the start-up nation. Ariel Sharon eventually fell to the demands of an American President, George W. Bush, and committed the Gaza disengagement. This Gaza Disengagement is what General Gantz (please do not confuse him with General Peretz who leads Jewish Home) of the Blue White coalition with Yair Lapid, claimed he had learned valuable lessons and believed it could be wisely used elsewhere to lead to peace, namely in the Shomron. He had a plan to simply give Mahmoud Abbas most of the Shomron and tell him this would make peace between us. This would have worked just as well as it did in Gaza and that is the peace, we would have received with one difference, instead of Sderot being the target in easy range, it would have been Tel Aviv within range. Anyway, Bibi rose after Sharon was felled by a stroke and has ruled Likud ever since felling one challenger after another almost as if it were nothing.

 

The picture for the future is simple and may result in costing Israel dearly. For as long as the Likud Party remains entrenched as the preeminent party on the right, Bibi will remain Prime Minister. General Gantz probably posed as hard a challenge as anybody has since Lapid threatened and Bibi had Bennett self-destruct so he could beat Lapid. This sacrifice of Bennett was not sufficient. A couple of days before the vote this past election, Bibi announced in a very public setting, that he intends to extend civil law to all, every last one regardless of size, the Jewish settlements in the Shomron. He made the announcement repeatedly in interviews, in a photo op with the leaders of most of the Shomron communities and pretty much everywhere else including probably at breakfast to prepare for the words of the day. This was the entire pitch which Bennett was running upon and Bibi’s announcement simply cut his legs from beneath him. Bennett had siphoned off a fair amount of support extensively from the Likud, he had already taken the top two slots and another of the Jewish Home top ten along with half of the financing received by parties for the campaign while leaving the entire debt he had run up behind hampering Jewish Home, and with this one announcement Bibi had retrieved those votes right back to Likud as now there was no difference between Bibi position on the Shomron and Bennett and Bibi was more likely to be Prime Minister and Bennett was cooked. This was Bibi’s burying of Bennett and getting his revenge for Bennett taking Shaked and deserting Likud for Jewish Home. Bibi also recognized that Bennett wants to be Prime Minister and will stop at nothing to get there. Well, Bibi is Prime Minister and will stop at next to nothing to remain there, and in politics the person on top has all the advantages.

 

Bibi remains Prime Minister because he recognizes any and everyone who has that desire, that gleam in their eye, that spring in their step that says I’m on my way up, and Bibi knows how to bury them politically so deep that they no longer know which way is up. There have been those rare few who such tactics would have proven ineffective as they were already too established for premature political burial. Reuven Rivlin is one perfect example. He had ridden high in the Likud list for a fair while. Burying him would be difficult and would cost Bibi too much to even try. So, how to put him aside where he can cool down until he is no longer a threat. There is a position in the Israeli government where one basically makes speeches and represents Israel at funerals and other state functions which the Prime Minister may not choose to attend though both can be at the same event from time to time. This position is called President. Currently, Reuven Rivlin is serving as President of Israel. He is about to perform the one very political role the President is assigned, deciding which party leader to choose to attempt to form a coalition and become Prime Minister. We hear you, here comes his opportunity to get even. Absolutely not. Reuven Rivlin had two competing dreams, Prime Minister and President. This was the perfect opportunity for Bibi to cut down on the competition and also give a person he calls friend (not a position we would envy) the chance to live his dream. But not every challenger would go away as easily.

 

There are a couple of such individuals off in the wings who, should they decide to give it their all, could step into a position leading one of the existing Religious-Zionist Parties and challenge Bibi. They are probably aware that such a move would be a one-off and if their challenge falls short, then that is it for them politically. Another was Danny Danon. The main claim against him was that his English was not perfect. Not perfect is being generous, but in Israel he only needs to speak Hebrew and if he were ever Prime Minister, he could have Bibi be his translator, that would be sweet to see. As Danny Danon rose slowly through the Likud ranks and in the settlement communities as a potential champion, they need as many as can be found, his political star appeared about ready to burst to light as a star does upon reaching that critical point. This was the point where Bibi suggested he become the United Nations Ambassador from Israel. Well, that prize was just too shiny to turn down, and Danny Danon was not seen as one whose desire in life was to be Prime Minister or to become the Bibi slayer; his dream was, is and will remain to serve Israel in whatever capacity to which he is called and to fight for Israel and her people, all of her people, in whatever way is needed. So, the Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations is Danny Danon. Who will be the next victim from taking the Bibi challenge? Well, none of us for a simple reason, our Hebrew is not anywhere near good enough and will never likely pass such a challenge. On the other hand, one of us has experience as a candidate with no real chance making the ballot as a third-party candidate for the United States House of Representatives. No, we will simply continue with making commentary and if called upon to serve, then we would probably serve with a proviso that we were given a trusted translator. As far as the next to step forward to take on the Bibi, there probably will not be such as Bibi has intimated that this will be his final time around, his victory lap, so to speak.

 

Still, he may be facing a new challenge from President Reuven Rivlin if the rumors are true that his first tender will be to Bibi Netanyahu as well as Gantz and Lapid of the Blue White Party, which was a very close second place vote getter being edged out thirty-six to thirty-five, and proposing that they bury their differences and join together to make a National Unity coalition in order to find a path to peace. The words “path to peace” have become a loaded phrase which Israelis equate with losing land and gaining terrorism. The last great “path to peace” was the Gaza disengagement, and we all have come to realize how well that turned out, Gaza became terror central. Should President Rivlin call to meet with both Likud and the Blue White leaders, then many Israelis will become very nervous. Such a meeting implies that the soon to be announced President Trump Deal of the Century is a known plan by Bibi, Rivlin and who knows who else, and this plan will result with another Palestinian Arab entity potentially with borders which could pose an even greater threat than Gaza has proven to pose. Such a government would only be brought into existence in order to form a government which could survive any resulting caving to allow for the Deal of the Century to come into fruition. This would not necessarily be the case with any other coalition as the potential for the Likud Party to split threatening any weaker coalition would be a definitive possibility.

 

This is what happened when Ariel Sharon committed to the Gaza Disengagement when he then formed a new party (Kadima) with the remnants from Likud and a number of representatives pealed off from Labor and other smaller parties allowing Sharon to remain as Prime Minister and the rest, as they say, is history. Another such disengagement, exactly what Gantz originally stated was his intention should he become Prime Minister early on, is something the majority of Israelis are dead set against, including us. Israel’s saving grace might just be the absolute refusal by Gantz and Lapid before the election to forming such a government as they really desired to replace Bibi outright. With things now settled and being the lesser party, this may no longer be such a terrible idea for them to adopt. It is remarkable how malleable formerly stated absolutes come when the alternative is sitting in the opposition, the same opposition they claimed they were ready to ride to the next election when they just know they will win outright. The other part which makes this all the more possible is the once stated admiration Bibi held for Ariel Sharon whom Bibi claimed at that time was his mentor. This looms larger now that such things are presenting themselves, even if they are but rumors as rumors sometimes have a bad habit of becoming part of reality. The most likely path forward will be for President Rivlin to collect from each party leader the person they would choose to support as Prime Minister, Bibi or Gantz. As things sit currently, Gantz would receive at most fifty-five while Bibi is expected to receive sixty with Avigdor Lieberman waiting to have Bibi agree to his demands before making him Prime Minister. So, how do things sit now? The government will be even more shaky than the former government. Last time, when Lieberman pulled from the coalition, that left Bibi with a ruling coalition of sixty-one, the minimum for a sitting government. This time Lieberman sits between Bibi and a mere sixty which would probably result in the calling for new elections soon thereafter. Somewhere, Bibi lost one critical ministerial mandate and has an even weaker position. The editorials which claimed that we may have a new election within the year are looking to have a decent chance of being correct. Things are back to being as shaky as, as.. as.. as a Fiddler on the Roof.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

March 27, 2019

Israeli Absurdity of the Rule of Law

 

There will very probably be any number of reports about how the Israeli government is working to destroy the democracy. These screams and wails of lament will be coming from some justices from the Supreme Court, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit but most prominently from those on the political left. The further into the progressive and even communist left one travels, the ever louder the banshee screams will be heard. There is a very simply reason behind this, and it has to do with the last stand of the rascals. For quite some time the Israeli population, and thus the Knesset, have been moving inexorably towards the nationalist and Zionist end of the spectrum, in Israel that is called the right wing. Another trend has been for the percentage of the population which is religious orthodox, but not Haredi, has been increasing and keeping pace with the Haredi if not surpassing them. Meanwhile, the liberal-progressive-left has watched their percentage slide slowly in an ever-decreasing spiral with their holding out largely in the Tel Aviv leftist echo-chamber. This has been cause for their lament as they watch their path of last recourse to halt their slippage from power slowly being brought back into proper proportion. Ever since the former Supreme Court Chief Justice (President) Aharon Barak ruled that “all things are adjudicable,” the Supreme Court has taken the position that they know what was best for Israel and if the Knesset could not agree, then they would take matters, and the law, into their own hands. This meant that should the Knesset pass legislation with which the liberal left disagreed; they would employ the Supreme Court to overturn the law. This also allowed for the leftist Supreme Court Justices to implore the court to overturn any legislation without the need for any petition from outside the court. Then they decided that perhaps they could and should write the needful laws as they viewed Israel. They went as far as countermanding orders given by IDF commanders even during times of conflict if they believed that the IDF might cause suffering upon those they were fighting. These justices did not understand the principle that you win conflicts by making your opponents pained or worse. The Supreme Court went to such extremes that even the most casual observers were taking note and starting to complain that the Supreme Court was superseding the will of the people and their duly elected government, and this was indeed troubling to many.

 

Then there is the case of the Attorney General, almost every Attorney General. Every election cycle, whether the previous government went full-term, a great rarity, or whether early elections were called after dissolving the Knesset, invariably the candidate who was atop the ticket for the leading right leaning party which was predicted to be tapped, if they took sufficient Ministerial Mandates for the upcoming Knesset, would have announcements that they could or were coming under indictment for bribery, kickbacks and other unethical behavior. These charges were often frivolous and seldom ever came to trial. As for Bibi Netanyahu, he has had the same cases used for the past decade. Originally, there were around eight separate investigations kept simmering on the back burners never quite coming to a close. With the upcoming elections it has been announced that, surprise, surprise, Bibi Netanyahu might be arraigned on any of three separate charges after he has been interrogated and a deposition taken which, of course, will be scheduled for some time after the election. One would not be out of line to ask, after which elections, this election, the next election or forever until Bibi does not run and then they would be dropped? He stands accused of bribing a news source for positive coverage after which they continued to tear him apart at every opportunity. Then there is the most ridiculous charge of them all. He accepted expensive cigars, expensive champagne and other than cheap costume jewelry as presents from a billionaire friend who had dined at the Prime Minister’s house. Really, that is the crime? What do they expect a billionaire to give as presents; cheap it’s a boy cigars, a box of Franzia wine and a Dick Tracy decoder ring for Mrs. Netanyahu? This was a billionaire, not just some paltry odd millionaire. But when one is grasping at straws, you get what you expect, total ridiculousness wrapped up all pretty so it looks authentic and real. There are some demanding that the dropped cases be reopened though they have already been played out and were seen for what they were, but it is Bibi and another elections, he must be stopped. The desperation is far too evident and all despite the polls already indicating that the Blue-White Party with former Chief of Staff General Gantz atop the ticket sharing it with ex-newscaster Yair Lapid presumably leading in the majority of the polls. But why leave anything to chance when you can potentially remove Bibi from office after the election by charging him and then having the Supreme Court order him to resign. Why stop there, order new elections and continue to do so until the Supreme Court and Attorney General get a Knesset they prefer. The Supreme Court has already moved to decide who is permitted to be on the ticket by removing a candidate who they see as too far right despite his having served on the Knesset previously and insisted that every party and candidate which believes that Israel is wrong and the Arab Palestinians are right must be permitted to be in the ballot. Why stop there when the Supreme Court could just as easily formulate a list of candidates approximately, well, exactly, one-hundred-twenty names all of which they agree with politically and then allow the people to vote to decide who will be the one-hundred-twenty Minister of the Knesset, that would remove any doubt that the Knesset would act as the Supreme Court demands. But then the Attorney General would not have any political arraignments left on his books and would be bored without having to seek out crimes where none exist.

 

Billionaire on a Budget Gift Set for the Prime Minister and Wife

Billionaire on a Budget Gift Set for the Prime Minister and Wife

 

The problem is very simple to understand. Somewhere back at the beginning of the State of Israel, those who crafted the governance in their infinite wisdom, set up a system by which the Supreme Court, Attorney General and a small group of select individuals including representatives of the lawyers guild would determine who was chosen to be a judge, any judge, including Supreme Court judges and also choose the Attorney General. This system resulted in the Supreme Court choosing identically like-minded judges in every judgeship as well as who would replace any retiring or other vacancy on the Supreme Court as well as choosing the Attorney General. Israel was a socialist and extremely leftist nation with an agrarian economy, so maybe this made sense. Israel has changed. Not only is Israel a burgeoning capitalistic economy which is partially high-tech agriculture, but also heavily into medicine, electronics, software, apps, and many, many various highly educated endeavors. The courts are still back in the glory days of the socialist utopia and refusing to be dragged along with the nation. That causes friction and resentment every time the courts attempt to undo the modernization of governance and making things progress. So we have what is called a progressive court which is against progress which has taken the nation further from being a socialist haven. The courts and their selection processes are going to change, if not now, then soon or when the people are so fed up that they demand that the entirety of the judgeships be removed, a new system put in place and then a whole new justice system enacted, selected, approved and ready to move with the people and not ruling against what the nations as a whole desires. The courts have become so reactionary that some on the left are even seeing the problem; they just are not quite ready to lose their place of final recourse. Changes have already started and will continue apace unless the elections prove to have returns which we here are not expecting. Our view of the results of the coming April 9, 2019, elections is that the Likud will once again be tasked with forming a coalition, probably first shot, but even if the Blue-White Party gets first shot, it is thought that they could only muster fifty-five of the necessary sixty-one mandates and thus have to allow another party to try. That other party would be the Likud as things currently appear. Now should the Supreme Court order Bibi to step down as the head of the Likud Party now, with less than three weeks, possibly two by the time this is published, and it would throw a wrench into the entire elections and then the Blue-White Party would be all but assured of forming a coalition and thus save the courts from the will of the people. Contrary to what is often reported, the Blue-White Party stands squarely behind the two-state-solution despite their protestations to the contrary. Now we (I) could be wrong, but my political sense is not often that far from reality, much to some people’s consternation. Given my druthers, we would very much like to see Rafi Peretz from Jewish Home and leader of the Union of Right-Wing Parties be the one tapped to form a coalition, that could only happen were Bibi removed by the Supreme Court, something few desire. The man, Rafi Peretz, is a former Chief Rabbi of the IDF, head of the Otzem Pre-Military Academy in Yated, a combat helicopter pilot, and to match the Blue-White Party claims to fame, is a retired IDF Brigadier General and from reactions to his naming, a well respected gentleman as told by IDF veterans who knew him. We could call this the pipe dream for the coming elections.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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