- Notably since the early 1980s, neoliberalism began replacing
New Deal/Great Society values to the detriment of millions harmed. It means
markets know best so let them, liberating enterprise to move capital, goods
and services freely, benefitting the few at the expense of the many.
- Britain's Thatcher and America's Reagan were pivotal
figures, endorsing elitism, class power, and private enterprise unconstrained
by rules, regulations or taxes, producing inequality and social injustice.
- It plagues Israel like the West, notably since the mid-1980s
when power shifted from various government agencies to the Finance Ministry
and central bank (the Bank of Israel), similar to American financialization
that empowered Wall Street, the Fed, and US FIRE sector overall (finance,
insurance, and real estate).
- A race to the bottom followed, especially since the 1990s
by mass privatizations, welfare and social benefit cuts, and, like America,
shifting wealth to the rich. Predictable results produced social injustice
and inequality, harming Jews as well as Arab citizens.
- Various studies show it, including annual Latet ones,
its latest saying 1.77 million Israelis are poor. About 850,000 children
live in poverty. As a result, 75% of those affected miss meals, a 21% increase
from 2009. Moreover, 83% of poor children lack proper dental care, most
getting none. Some beg for money. Others steal to eat.
- On May 31, Israel's Taub Center for Social Policy Studies
explained "a marked increase in the share of poor families headed
by an employed person," defining poverty as:
- Households with "income of less than half the national
median household income, adjusted for family size."
- In terms of net income (after taxes and diminishing welfare
payments), Israeli poverty is high, "among the highest in the developed
world." In fact, rates have risen sharply in the last decade, including
in working households.
- According to Central Bureau of Statistics data, the percent
of poor households headed by a wage earner rose from 43% in 1997 to nearly
58% in December 2009. The trend reflects government policy to encourage
work by reducing public assistance, the objective being to elevate people
- In fact, however, many families moved from "the
idle poor to the working poor," little better off than before. Though
mainly an Arab problem, increasing numbers of Jews are also affected.
- Moreover, employed Israelis work more weekly hours than
counterparts in most other OECD countries, while "the country's average
standard of living is lower" by comparison, a testimony to a failed
system like America's after decades of shifting wealth upward to the top
- As a result, Taub sees trouble ahead for Israel's economy
based on three measures:
- -- its standard of living;
- -- poverty rate; and
- -- extent of social inequality.
- When "a major problem" exists in one or more
of these variables, "the society is in danger of a potential crisis."
Moreover, when their root causes aren't addressed, it's "on an unsustainable
long run trajectory." Compared with other Western countries, Israeli
income inequality and poverty "are among the highest...." A growing
crisis exists from failure to deal with them.
- In May 2011, the Adva Center discussed Israel's society
and economy from 1948 to the present, saying:
- "Israel is a classic case of a country whose macro-economic
indicators are good but most of whose households are not invited to the
end-of-year celebration," citing:
- -- high poverty compared to other OECD countries;
- -- high inequality;
- -- low achievement performance in international school
- -- 75% of workers earning one-third or less than high-tech
salaries (on average, about $20,400 annually);
- -- eroding social benefits and safety net protections;
- -- a minority business, political and professional class
benefitting at the expense of Israeli workers.
- For example, through the 1950s and 1960s, union membership
was 70%. It's now from 25 - 30% and declining. Women fare worst, earning
about 60% of their male counterparts.
- To achieve economic improvement overall, Adva believes
"three major transformations" are necessary:
- -- ending the Israeli/Palestinian conflict;
- -- allocating more for education for all Israelis, not
just those well-off enough to afford better schools; and
- -- investing in all sectors of society to create more
opportunities for more people, as well as new labor policies "based
on workers' rights and strict, universal implementation of labor laws."
- On May 14, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel
(ACRI) discussed "social and economic rights in Israel in 2011,"
- Since 1985, race-to-the-bottom neoliberalism significantly
reduced social service spending. "The result has been a marked decline
both in the quality and quantity of the range of services offered to the
Israeli public," accompanied by sharply rising poverty and inequality.
- Social gaps fall mainly along religious, ethnic and national
lines, exacerbating tensions among those left out. Arabs and ultra-Orthodox
Jews comprise the weakest fifth of the population. Others most affected
are elderly people, single-parent families, and children. Gaps also exist
between Jews of European and African/Asian descent, as well as among immigrants
since the 1990s.
- As a result, one-fourth of Israelis are impoverished,
double the average OECD rate. Israel, in fact, has the second highest poverty
rate among OECD countries.
- "Israel's level of economic inequality is one of
the highest among developed countries." Among 34 OECD states, it ranks
fifth. America is fourth and Chile first, testimonies to failed policies.
- Israeli education is way under-funded. Per student expenditures
are 36% lower on average than in OECD countries. As a result, teacher salaries
are low. The profession is declining, and student performance suffers.
As in America, education is being privatized, putting bottom line priorities
ahead of teaching and learning, producing mediocre results.
- In 1994, Israel enacted its National Health Insurance
Law. Since then, services steadily deteriorated for lack of enough funding.
As a result, Israelis are paying more out-of-pocket costs and getting less,
and for many, expensive services and medications are unaffordable. For
example, about one-third of Israelis forgo dental care. As a result, an
estimated 50% of elderly citizens are toothless.
- Budget cuts also impact housing, making it unaffordable
for growing numbers. Large expensive apartments are emphasized. Nearly
half of construction starts are for private investors, buyer groups and
organizations, not working Israelis.
- Moreover, with no in place controls, 20% of Israelis
spend over half their disposable income on rent. At the same time, public
housing is in short supply, less than one-third the amount available in
- While official unemployment is 6.7%, average salaries
are low, especially for women, earning around 60% of their male counterparts.
Moreover, social benefits are eroding. As a result, 39% of Israelis say
they can't subsist on what they're earning, and conditions are worsening,
- In addition, social safety net protections are weak.
Unemployment insurance is one of the poorest among Western countries in
terms of eligibility and what's provided. In 2010, only about 25% of unemployed
Israel's qualified for benefits. Budget cuts also nearly eliminated professional
training programs that once existed.
- Moreover, in the past two decades, social services declined.
Many, in fact, have been privatized to the detriment of recipients. As
a result, complaints are common, especially for vital services no longer
provided or only available privately at high cost, unaffordable for growing
numbers, Jews as well as Arabs.
- ACRI explained that "social, economic, and cultural
rights are not recognized in (Israel's) constitution nor (its) Basic Laws,
(unlike) some civil and political rights." Moreover, some "anchored
in law" rights are only partly provided, including health care and
- Like America, Israel prioritizes military and business
spending. As a result, wealth and power interests are served at the expense
of vital social services eroded or denied.
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
- Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and
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