Monday, March 28, 2005

The Charedi view of the government and money

I was listening to my favorite charedi radio station again (until I get an mp3 player in my car to listen to shiurim) on my way home from work. they were discussing the winners and losers of Israeli politics over the last few days. The host said that he thinks that Tomi Lapid has to be considered a winner because he got 700 million shekel of government money for his voters. The 2 political analysts disagreed and said that the money was not important to Lapid's voters, but the host could not stop talking about the money and about how the Charedi population would view anyone who got such sums of money.

This made me realize that the Charedi view of the government in Israel is completely different then everyone elses. They view the government as a cash machine, give us money and leave us alone. The budget is a zero sum game, whatever we can save and get for us great whatever doesn't go to us is basically lost. The Charedi population views itself as hardly using any governement services (no, schools, university, roads, police, jails, etc.). They also feel that they have little or no stake in the government, they don't believe in it. In addition, the Charedi population pays less in income taxes because many people don't work, they are poor, and those who do work get a lot of money under the table and therefore when they get money from the government they don't look upon it as their tax money coming back to them. Last but definately not least, the money the Charedi population gets from the government is in many cases the difference between making it through the month or not making it. The governement money is a huge part of their income that they cannot do without. Therefore, when their representatives in the Knesset bring money for Yeshivas etc. it is a big deal and is the way success is measured.

The middle and upper middle class (who vote for Shinui) sees things very differently.
1. They pay the majority of taxes and know that any money in the budget is coming from their pocket, taxes
2. Lapid only got money shifted around, there isn't suddenly an extra 700 million and therefore the cuts will come from somewhere else, like elementary schools, the ministry of environment, infrastructure projects, etc. In other words, because they are engaged in society the cuts elsewhere will affect them and therefore the end result is they are no better off then before.
3. These people are not poor and have money, this money is not going to make the difference to them between making it and not making it.

Therefore they understand that the 700 million shekels is basically meaningless, they would much rather he had said cut taxes by 700 million shekel and give the money to the people. Give the above it is easy to understand why in the secular press he is being branded a failure and getting a lot of flak.

It has always amazed me that the secular majority has not wiped out the money for Charedim yet, I believe that the day is coming and then the Charedi society will be in for a huge shock and adjustment.

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