From the 31st Floor

To convince us that its impossible to make cuts in the fat and inflated IDF budget, Barak is using the familiar method of scaring people.

Italy, Ireland, Spain and Portugal are deep in trouble. The economic crisis, the deep recession and the high unemployment rates are causing suffering, leading to severe protests and toppling prime ministers. These countries are desperately seeking a renowned economic expert who will extract them from the morass. Ours has already proposed the recipe to us, so why should we be greedy and keep all the wisdom to ourselves?

The recipe proposed by Defense Minister Ehud Barak is simple: Waste billions, spend more, increase government spending, expand the deficit and the economy will grow and flourish.

But the dumb Europeans are having a hard time understanding. They are taking the opposite path from whats being recommended by the economist Barak. They are slashing budgets drastically, cutting spending on welfare, health, investments and defense, lowering salaries in the public sector, dismissing workers in municipalities and government theyre even daring to raise the retirement age.

Whats happening to them? Have they lost their minds? Why dont they listen to Baraks new economic theory? Dont they know that its much more popular to increase spending than cut it?

Now its true that the former president of the European Central Bank, Jean-Claude Trichet, has said government expenditures must be cut rapidly, deficits must be lowered, and reforms and privatization must be carried out. But who is he compared to Barak? What does he know? And its also true that the governor of the Bank of Israel, Stanley Fischer, who is both an economics professor and has extensive international experience, has said that it is important to preserve the budgetary framework and not increase spending because populism kills countries. But who is Fischer when compared to Barak? Did Fischer ever serve in the Israel Defense Forces?

Apparently Barak really does understand economics. Fact he was born on a kibbutz but now lives on the 31st floor of the upscale Akirov Towers in an apartment worth NIS 20 million. And fact he too is a public servant but somehow managed to stay in the Royal Suite of the Intercontinental Hotel in Paris at NIS 20,000 per night, from the taxpayers pockets. The problem is that Barak has such thick skin that no logic can penetrate it. Thats why he continues to propagate the foolish idea of increasing the deficit by NIS 7 billion annually to solve all our social and security problems.

The social issue is so important to Barak that hes willing to make do with NIS 3 billion for defense while the rest of the money provides free day care and then education from age zero, builds thousands of cheap housing units, increases the number of hospital beds and improves roads and infrastructure. He can solve all our social problems with NIS 4 billion, straight from the heights of the 31st floor.

To convince us that its impossible to make cuts in the fat and inflated IDF budget, hes using the familiar method of scaring people. He tells us about the nuclear danger coming from Tehran, the rockets in Hezbollahs hands, the arming of the Palestinians, and the revolutions in the Arab countries. After that, he frightens us with mass unemployment in the military industries if the budget is cut. And for dessert, he scares the other ministers when his aides say that, if there is a cut, the ministers will be personally responsible for the fact that not enough funds remain for military training and weapons procurement and who wants an army without arms?

But Barak is simply pulling the wool over our eyes. He doesnt tell us that the defense budget has grown at a crazy rate since 2006. Five years ago, the budget stood at NIS 46 billion, but in 2012 it will reach NIS 56 billion a 22 percent leap. Part of the increase stems from additions received according to the Brodet Committees recommendations on defense spending, but another part stems from unbridled overreaching by the defense establishment. It is from this excessive spending that they want to make the cuts. Because without cuts, it will not be possible to carry out the Trajtenberg Committees recommendations on socioeconomic change.

But Barak is continuing to scare people and demand billions that will inevitably come at the expense of welfare and social affairs. Its a good thing he doesnt hold a decisive economic portfolio; if he did, we would long be wallowing in the same mire as Greece, Italy, Ireland, Spain and Portugal.