Beyond the Cusp

July 4, 2013

A Basic Question for Those Ministers in the Knesset Demanding Share the Burden

There are a number of Knesset Ministers whose parties ran on a platform that included references to a simply idea, an idea they tried to make sound like a new revelation never before addressed that would solve all the ills in Israeli society. They talked about sharing the burden by which they meant serving in the Israeli Defense Force or performing National Service. They were focusing largely on making the Haredi communities serve universally and not be given deferments for every Haredi Jew who wished to study Torah. They implied that a percentage, though the exact amount they were loath to mention, were not taking their Torah study all that seriously and were hiding behind study as a path to avoid their social obligations. Some of those making such accusations should check their own background before throwing stones inside a glass house, or whatever, as it works whether the house is glass or the glass is thrown. Some might claim that spending an enlistment working within one’s intended profession which they have a path to pursue open to them, almost reserved one might say, is not service as much as the young soldier who volunteers for combat arms and especially if they make it into any of the elite units. These claims against the Haredi were made so general that it appeared that the fact that there is a program which includes a number of Yeshiva which combines military service with Torah study was being minimized or even discounted as simply a way of claiming to do military service but not being a part of the real military. When the military is called upon to defend the people and State of Israel those Yeshiva soldiers will risk their lives and bleed the same color as any other soldier and they will follow their orders as well if not better than many. But all of this aside, there are other items which need to be discussed in open public as it will require a change of attitude from many within Israeli society if the burden is to be truly shared. When we as a people ask the Haredi to share, we too mush be willing to share.


My initial question for those calling for the Haredi in particular and others to share the burden is very simply. Have any of you ever when hiring people to work in your business life or to serve on your current Knesset staff hired, or even given an interview, to any Haredi who have applied? If you claim that none applied then I would ask why you think they did not apply? If they had applied would it have made any difference? Do you think it is fair to demand the Haredi to serve a public which in general would not give them even consideration for employment? We have all heard the complaint that the Haredi do not have the skills necessary to be employed in much of Israeli high tech industries or manufacturing and other excuses. The people making those arguments very probably know that there are a good number of Haredi who have studied and received degrees in numerous engineering disciplines and most Haredi should prove to be more than adequately trainable for any manufacturing position and very likely easier to train than some who are currently brought into the manufacturing sector. If the Israeli public as a whole desires the Haredi serve just the same as any other sector of society in the military or public service then first treat them as equals when it comes to hiring and giving the choice entry level positions for those Haredi who have taken the courses and received degrees. It is no secret that one can usually determine simply by an application whether somebody is from the Haredi community, though not always a foolproof determination. And it is not unknown that any Haredi who even gets as far as being interviewed; their chances for being actually considered are less than the chances for a non-Haredi. How about we integrate them into what we laughingly call normal society and then I would bet we would find the Haredi far more willing to serve in the IDF or give time to National Service.


On another front, the argument that the percentage of the population that is Haredi is growing faster than any other segment of Israeli society and because of this they will have to serve in the IDF in order to assure we have sufficient soldiers in the future. There is the other argument that their growth as a larger portion of our society means that the government will not be able to underwrite their Torah study as it will soon prove to be more than can be sustained by a workforce that does not include Haredi workers. Well, the solution here is not to do away with stipends for those students who truly desire to study Torah and have shown a better than average aptitude for such study, the secret is to give the Haredi equal opportunity to be employed and a part of the so-called normal workforce. What choices do the current feelings towards the Haredi offer them in Israel? If they are closed out of much of the high tech engineering sectors, ignored by the retail because they dress differently, refused hire for industry because they do not appear to be inclined for such work, then where are they to work and support themselves? Has anybody ever thought that maybe a fair number if not a majority of the Haredi would not mind joining the workforce and earn their own keep? Until such is given an opportunity we will not know and until such opportunities are a normal part of society is it fair to ask them to serve equally when they are not treated equally?


There is something that the Haredi will also need to find a way of adapting. The Haredi Rabbis are going to have to find some middle ground where they allow for coed work environments. Granted there will be a change necessitated where a certain level of modest dress may need to be expected in the workplace. There may be benefits to that beyond making the workplace more accessible for Haredi workers in that psychiatric and sociologic research has found that there has been proven a relationship between professionalism in the workplace and strict dress codes. They have found that if workers are expected to dress to a special level rather than casual attire that they tend to be more professional and productive. Granted that such findings have been buried because casual is the new dressed up but many of us know that the old studies were correct and dress more formally for work you will act and work at a heightened level. But the Haredi will need to be able to work professionally in a coed environment and such environs must be adapted so as to be more acceptable to modesty requirements. Such changes will in time prove to benefit the non-Haredi workers as well as making society more accessible and accepting to the Haredi population among us. On both sides of the society we need to remember that as Jews we are brothers and sisters in the same very extended family. Myself is probably a good example as my father is Ashkenazi and my mother is Sephardic which makes me confused when pronouncing certain Hebrew words as my Hebrew education was spent switching back and forth from the two schools. But the truth is if we go back some generations we all came from a small group of who lived in Judea and gave Greeks and then Romans more trouble than the entire area of Judea was actually worth to them. It does seem being argumentative is something we have gotten down pat. Perhaps it is time to nurture being more open, especially to each other to all of our brothers and sisters. When the world throws either stones or insults at us it is because we are Jews and they do not differentiate between Haredi and irreligious, Zionist or not Zionist, or any of the other differences we impose on ourselves, they simply see Jews and perhaps the time has come for us to see ourselves as the world see us. We will be stronger, happier and more Jewish together and we can learn from one another.


Beyond the Cusp


August 22, 2012

America’s Choice; Pay Now or Pay Later

There was an old commercial for automotive lubricants where the mechanic holds up a can of oil with a car with smoke pouring from under the hood, up on the lift and says, “You can pay me now” (nodding to the can), “or you can pay me later,” (looking back at the car in the work-bay). Well, the same thing goes for America and her spiraling debt. The election will be a referendum on whether the people choose to take the necessary steps now to bring their budgets back into balance with a fair amount of pain and suffering or whether they prefer to continue blithely on until the financial emergency brings their entire economy and likely both their government and way of life crashing down around their ears. The first route will be uncomfortable until the economy grows sufficiently to allow for increasing spending, the next time hopefully wisely and with extreme caution showing that America had learned her lesson. The second route America will wake up one day with a splitting hangover and realize that the part is over as the creditors begin to claim whatever resources exist and just simply take them with no regard to people, the environment or whatever damage they do in extracting their money’s worth right out of the ground or by clear-cutting American forests. Along with this catastrophic collection on payment the American people will find that their dollar will be next to worthless beyond their shores and that they have little of anything with which to produce the products on the home-front. It will not be a pretty site and it will be from that bottoming-out that America will need to pull on their work boots and climb out of a deep and dreary hole of indebtedness.

Believe this or not, but this is not an advertisement for one side or the other for the Presidency as sufficient others will be making that argument. The Presidency is only one third of the problem, there are two other parts of government that are required to take the correct actions to try and salvage a solution from the critical crisis mode situation America faces. Those are the House of Representatives and the Senate. In the last session of Congress the House of Representatives passed at least three slightly different forms of a budget which actually did begin to address the problem and make a beginning point for responsible management of the budget. The Senate, on the other hand, figured that they had not passed a budget for over two years, why change now as everything is going so swimmingly. So, if the American voters can retain the level of sanity and sobriety in the House of Representatives as they have shown they are capable of committing, they will only have to find people to send to Washington to the Senate and bring about some fundamental changes in that body. The problem with this is that at any one election only one-third of the Senate is up for election so that limits the number of seats which can be changed to just over thirty. Since some of the Senators who are running for reelection are already on the correct side and have attempted to force the Senate to actually perform part of their Constitutionally ordained job, those Senators simply need reelecting. It will be the Senators who have joined with Harry Reid in blocking any attempts at making a budget and by such actually limiting and directing where government spending would be allowed. Instead, Harry Reid and his accomplices have been running the government on this item known as a continuing resolution which simply allows spending to continue at the current rate, often with a percentage increase, for a set period of time, usually a few months, and then repeating as necessary. The advantage for Harry Reid and his accomplices is that they can also pass other legislation to allow or even instigate other spending items which would normally have needed to be placed within a budget but without having a budget are each passed separately and thus debated completely out of any context to actual spending. This allows the conspirators to spend additional funds on those items they favor, usually vote buying types of spending better known as subsidies, without having to debate them in context of a comparison to previous spending levels thus making sneaking larger increases more easily hidden from direct scrutiny. This is especially true as they can add these extra spending allotments multiple times such that they do not appear to be as large as they end up becoming through a method of accumulation. The voters need to ask every Senator one simple question this election, “Will you vote to pass a budget or are you going to continue the deceitful practices of issuing continuing resolution to fund the government?” For any incumbent, just check their voting record and whether they voted in favor of any of the budgets passed by the house should become readily evident. If they opposed every budget vote, then do not give them your vote and send fresh blood to the Senate. And if the person you send does not support doing the hard work and crafting a budget in cooperation and debate with the House of Representatives, then when reelection time arrives, replace them. America cannot continue to proceed without an annual budget and simply voting to spend piecemeal which will always result in superfluous spending and dangerous deficits as we have seen of late.

There is one more place America needs to give careful scrutiny. Fortunately, not every American will find any disasters waiting to happen, already upon them, or potentially just down the road a bit. This problem is at every local level of government, the State, County, City, or Township. Even school boards may need to have a review to determine if they are using the funds well and what improvements may be made. Many States along with a fair number of Counties and Cities find themselves in deep debt or on the verge of large deficits. The American voter must take responsibility for these problems and elect responsible and adult people who will make the difficult choices and find the places where the budget can be cut, slashed in some places, and everything be brought back into a harmonious balance.

We in America have had it fairly good for quite a long time and had sufficient wealth and growth that it often appeared that we could accomplish anything as long as all it required was throwing money at the problem. We have reached the end of the gravy train and in many cases our train ran out of tracks quite a few miles ago. Now we are forced to park the train until we can lay sufficient tracks for it to once again roll forward. The difficulty is so many of us at all levels of income have grown comfortable with receiving gifts from government whether we truly needed the help or not. The time has come where we now need to look at these government outlays and decide if they are still in our best collective interests. If anyone can continue without dire difficulties without the government subsidy or with a far smaller subsidy, then we need to make the appropriate adjustments. This is going to take an honest and mature approach inspired by selflessness in place of the selfishness which got us to where we currently find ourselves, between broke and destitute. Another place we are going to have to change our attitudes is towards what we define as the responsibility of the Government and what is our responsibility to our fellow men. It is not necessary for government to be the giver of all assistance. There was a time not all that long ago where churches, synagogues, temples and organizations ran the food banks, soup kitchens, holiday food drives for those who might not have enough for a special holiday meal, clothing drives, and virtually anything and everything else one can think of to help the needy. This is what is meant by repair the world and giving charity. Paying taxes is not charity despite what many appear to believe.

Charity is given freely and from the heart while taxes are paid while facing the potential of a gun in your face. Americans have a proud history of being the most giving people in this world but we have slowly slipped from that high and proud perch as we have ceded more and more responsibility to government to do for us instead of picking ourselves up and doing for ourselves. We need to return to that America. Doing so will have numerous benefits beyond relieving the financial pressures on governments which do not have the funds to continue in the fashion we have become accustomed. We will also find that by returning meeting this need to the people we will get another gift, the gift of pride and respect and a warm heart when we take the actions to assist those among us who are in need. We need to insist that government not only return this responsibility to we the people, but that they also strike away those regulations which were placed between the people and the free giving of charity. What went along with the government taking this responsibility from us was a series of regulations over the years that had the singular purpose of protecting the government’s ownership of charitable actions. This was not done out of altruism or anything even close to resembling honorable. This was a selfish act by our elected officials who saw that by forcing the needy into dependence on government they could lock up the vote of that section of the population and thus assure in certain districts that those who gave out the goodies would forever keep their seat of power. We need to take that power back as it properly belongs to we the people.

Taking back our responsibility for caring for our brother will have benefits beyond making balancing the budget a little easier to accomplish. Taking back this right to care for each other and to make the world better through our own actions will bring out the best in us and could potentially show the rest of the world how honest, righteous, generous, and good people act and live. Another advantage comes in that we will find that by returning charity to the local people we will also make the act of charity more efficient than having it come from Washington. What many do not realize is that no matter how efficient the government agency might think it is; it cannot break the 80% barrier. The reason behind this upper limit is the IRS which has to allocate one dollar out of every five it takes in from taxes to processing and taking in those very same taxes. A government study once reported, if my memory serves me, that for every five dollars spent by the government the best efficiency managed to get three dollars to the target recipient while the worst got a mere seventy-five cents and the overall average for government was just short of two dollars out of five. One must keep in mind; these efficiency numbers for the government are about funds after the IRS has already wasted one out of every five dollars, so their 100% would actually be 80%. This means these numbers need to be multiplied by 0.8 to get the real efficiency. Compare that to even some of the poorest functioning charities with large overheads such as the United Way which gets and efficiency rating of about 53% while the Salvation Army gets an impressive over 95% efficiency. Oh, if all charity had their efficiency, but then the Salvation Army is a unique and wonderful organization. The average charity has an efficiency rating somewhere between 66% and 80%, both a far cry better than the government even on a good day. So, higher efficiency, a warm feeling in one’s heart, and a closer and healthier community if only we demand to replace government as the proprietors of charity, as it should be. Given time and enough efforts, we could eventually take over virtually all entitlement spending by taking the responsibility onto ourselves. That would free the government to do only that which it was tasked to do by the Constitution. This would allow for tax rates to return to levels not seen for over one hundred years, possibly even do away with income taxes, definitely FICA, and likely all taxes on the people and even on business and run the government off of fees and import and export taxes, as was done, as I like to put it, in the beginning.

The aim, dream and inspired actions of the American voters should be to return to that period of, In the beginning we had a Declaration of Independence which defined that mankind was a noble and proud group of individuals who were endowed with rights which they could choose which ones the government could assist in implementing, but they would always belong to the individual and the individuals could reclaim them at their fancy. Then we drafted a Constitution which tasked the governments among the people with the responsibility of defending those individual rights and never to impinge upon those individuals for it was the individual who was empowered and the government was to be their servant, not their master. The sole problem was that from that point we elected men to high office and they became full of themselves and eventually begot themselves the fill of the individual’s monies. That was not their place and we should never have allowed such theft in the first place. When did we give away that right that was ours and not belonging to the government for an individual is entitled to every ounce of their labor and is free to use the fruits thereof as they see fit without the taxman taking a cut for the government for such is theft by power. We must reassert that we do not agree to permit government to take on the role of a thief and get away with such usury. The time is now for us to reclaim our full rights and place government on notice that their sole job is to protect our rights from the foreigner and from the usury of themselves and we will be watching with more attention this time, let them be forewarned.

Beyond the Cusp

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