Yitzhak Kadman, chair of the National Council for the Child, is a good man. As soon as he heard of the resumption of the argument about child allowances, he hastened to announce he opposes the cuts in the stipends, which he called "revolting racism" and "punishing people for family size, which exists only in China." And who wants to be a racist or cruel like the Chinese?
The public debate has returned to the headlines with coalition talks between Shas' Eli Yishai and Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with Yishai pushing to reinstate the original allowances and Netanyahu insisting they keep shrinking. The argument heated up yesterday when Haaretz published figures that indicate a drop in the Arab sector birthrate and a freeze in the Jewish birthrate, which also means a drop for all intents and purposes, after consistent increases in previous years.
Some will try to argue there is no connection between the size of the stipend and the number of children. But a glance at National Insurance figures reveals the extent of their error. The NII child allowance for a nine-child family (the average family size in the ultra-Orthodox sector) was NIS 5,658 per month in 2001. It is slated to drop to NIS 1,296 in 2009. Do they believe that a family that size would be indifferent to the loss of thousands of shekels? Doesn't that impact their decision to have another child? Naturally there are many other reasons for the drop in the birthrate, but the stipends are an important factor.
The ultra-Orthodox know this perfectly well. Just ask Eli Yishai. They have been behind destructive scissor-snips for aeons: the Finance Ministry (perennially short on cash) repeatedly cuts stipends on first, second and third children (in other words, for the secular), while the ultra-Orthodox take care to boost stipends for the fourth, fifth and so on children.
The process peaked in January 2001, when the Halpert Law took effect. The law unreasonably increased stipends for the fifth child onward to NIS 856 per month, while the stipend for a first-born was just NIS 171, in other words, one-fifth!
Is this logical, Mr. Kadman? Is this just, Mr. Yishai? After all, the first child is the "most expensive." As the number of children goes up, costs go down on each additional child (Law of Hand-me-down Capital Investment).
So why screw the secular this way? They don't have mortgage payments? That young couple isn't working hard enough? They aren't paying enough taxes - some of which go to finance stipends for the ultra-Orthodox? They don't do enough reserve duty? Why sanctify this absurd discrimination between children?
In 2003 the revolution began. The Likud-Shinui government ratified a law creating parity between stipends, which were set at NIS 144 per child, be they first, second or ninth in the family. This is a just law that Yishai is now trying to change again.
Kadman is taking the opportunity to play the racism card. So are Yishai and Netanyahu. Each for his own reasons. But the idea behind the law has nothing to do with racism. It is meant to end state-encouraged expansion of huge families. Research consistently shows that most of these families are poor, and cannot provide their children with the basic needs of a modern world.
A progressive society must create healthy families that can take care of their children, educate them, ensure they gain knowledge, learn a trade - and not become a burden on anyone. That is the proper way to raise children. Not poor families, with lots of children.
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