Taking Stock / Saved by the War

Upgrade me to business class. Get me a new 4x4. Expand my department, hire me two more secretaries, at least. Tell the chief financial officer to revisit all his budgets for next year and schedule me a lunch date with my buds in government: The diet is over!

Yes, it's a sunny morning for all those scratch-my-back cronies of high government in Israel, and legion they are. It is a happy day for the top paper-pushers and local governments and all those bodies living off the taxpayer dime. It is a swell time for the top army brass, the suppliers, the fixers, the lawyers, the mediators, the advisers, the directors and the friends of the people in power: The dark times are over and the good times are back.

You have a great prime minister and an excellent finance minister. After four years of budgetary discipline and tax cuts, our two leaders have brought us a terrific solution, fast and simple, to end the budgetary diet and gorge again.

And it's so simple that one has to wonder why we didn't think of it before. All you have to do is - increase the government's spending by 3.3 percent in 2007, which is triple the original target Jerusalem delivered to the U.S. - in return for $10 billion in U.S. loan guarantees.

In parallel, one has to increase the deficit target for 2007 to 2.8 percent of GDP.

These two piffling technicalities, says the treasury, will release NIS 8.3 billion.

Release - actually, lavish on all the cronies of the public sector. Who needs reforms or plans to make the government more efficient? Who needs to see if the gargantuan public sector is laden with redundant manpower, if it is flabby and rotten to the core? No need! We are released from all that tediousness; let the sunshine in.


Forget education reform and don't meddle with issues such as why Israel's spending per pupil is among the highest in the world, while our results are among the lowest. Stop the labor market reform: When the cannons roar, who cares about the details; the quality of public debate is reduced to pap. Stop rooting out flab in the public sector, because plenty of money has been released for all.

As usual, we have been saved by the army smokescreen. One month of battle in Lebanon has coated the land with an opaque black cloud. Quiet! No babbling about the standard of living, corruption, competition, bloat or rot: These are Jews we're talking about here. Anybody asking inconsiderate questions is no patriot, but a traitor. In this time of our enemies rising up to slaughter us, the fate of traitors should be clear.

Who's to blame?

We don't need inquiries into the war either. We know whose fault everything is: yours. You, the public, the taxpayer.

You didn't give us enough money to prepare properly. That lousy NIS 45 billion a year you grudgingly plunk on defense is not enough to prepare for war! Don't you realize we need NIS 50 billion, or is that NIS 60 billion? Why the devil did you think that noncoms riding battle desks in full parade uniform should settle for lousy pensions costing NIS 3 million or NIS 4 million? Don't you know it should be double that? Why did you think NIS 5 billion should be invested in secret, unaudited projects, you fools - don't you realize it should be NIS 10 billion?

Why do you cavil at our procurement delegations, pensions, unneeded headquarters, the military industries, or projects even the army thinks are ridiculous, which do nothing more than supply jobs for the boys?

Now you will pay for those mistakes! We shall raise your taxes! We shall hack at the healthcare and welfare services we give you! We shall halt the structural reforms, increase the national debt your children will have to repay, and hurt all your basic services!

And in two years we will sit back and happily watch the future unfold. The rich, who couldn't care less about all this, will still be rich. In fact, the weaker the top officialdom in Jerusalem, the richer they will be. The poor, whose loyalty can usually be bought with slogans about defense and diplomacy, and naturally the middle class struggling to survive, have neither the time nor the desire to see how their elected officials are robbing them, and destroying their children's future.