From Russia with love
The Histadrut labor federation has never allowed for any streamlining, changes, dismissals, or reshuffling within the public sector and has thus paralyzed this sector altogether. The Histadrut has never stood up for the weak; its main priority has always been the strong, the workers of the large monopolies.
"Bibi's plan is crushing society - it's pushing Israel into an economic and social abyss," cry the huge advertisements in the newspapers signed by academics. They explain that the plan is a "revolution of the tycoons, an eradication of the remnants of the welfare state, and [a way of] pushing lower classes beneath the poverty line."
This is a type of socialist rhetoric that, had it been published before the 1990s, so be it. But now, following the collapse of the Soviet Union and its offshoots, the time has come for these academics to get a grip on reality. What do they want? The "equality" that existed in Romania? The past "wealth" of Albania? The "joie de vivre" that the lucky North Koreans still enjoy?
The victory of the free economy over the kind that is managed from above is playing heavy on them. They are unwilling to understand that the main reasons for the large wage differences in Israel today, for the poverty and the discrimination, are, in fact, their socialist ways.
The Histadrut labor federation has never allowed for any streamlining, changes, dismissals, or reshuffling within the public sector and has thus paralyzed this sector altogether. The Histadrut has never stood up for the weak; its main priority has always been the strong, the workers of the large monopolies - and by protecting them, the Histadrut widens the gaps in the public sector.
Consequently, we now boast the largest public sector of all 21 countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), managing even to outstrip Sweden (see graph). Isn't it time to stop before the system simply caves in?
Take the universities, for example. They are one of the most inefficient incubators in the country; nothing has changed in them for decades. The same is true of the education system. Despite its huge budget, the system is failing: Students' achievements are on a downslide and a school principal cannot reward a good teacher because the Teachers' Union enforces absolute uniformity. The health system is inefficient, too. It suffers from a great deal of redundancy, and when the the Finance Ministry proposes terminating the 600 superfluous well-baby clinics and handing over infant care to the health maintenance organizations, all hell breaks loose.
The academics who have signed the ads are blindly following the Histadrut - understandable, as academia is the only system that offers irrevocable tenure. But this is the same Histadrut that doesn't even pay its own employees on time, that has already fired thousands and intends to fire many more. This is the same Histadrut that has brought the pension funds to the brink of bankruptcy due to corrupt management that allowed the labor federation's apparatchiks and the organization's political activity to be financed with the money of those saving for their pensions. Does this deserve protection too? Can't these learned people put two and two together?
They oppose any privatization, be it of El Al, the Israel Electric Corporation, the Mekorot national water authority, the oil refineries (Bazan), Bank Leumi or Bezeq. As far as they are concerned, the state can go on running everything, because the state is the best manager.
Fact: Note the El Al losses as opposed to the huge success of British Airways following the latter's privatization by Margaret Thatcher. Second fact: Remember the long wait for a telephone line (200,000 people waited five to eight years) when Bezeq was part of the Postal Authority?
They also oppose the unification of superfluous local authorities whose principal function is to exact municipal taxes (arnona) from the public? They oppose merging income tax with National Insurance. They are in favor of the bureaucracy.
They were against the opening up of the Israeli economy to competition from imports. Had it been up to them, Israel wouldn't have seen the development of a high-tech industry, for which the fundamental basis for development was the process of globalization they so despise. As far as they are concerned, we should be busying ourselves to this very day with exporting oranges and sewing shirts, until we reach abject and equal poverty - except among the academics, of course.