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Social and Economic Inequality in Israel

By       Message Stephen Lendman     Permalink
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Social and Economic Inequality in Israel - by Stephen Lendman

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.

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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.

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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 from poverty.

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 few percent.

As a result, Taub sees trouble ahead for Israel's economy based on three measures:

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-- its standard of living;

-- poverty rate; and

-- extent of social inequality.

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I was born in 1934, am a retired, progressive small businessman concerned about all the major national and world issues, committed to speak out and write about them.

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