While Speaker John Boehner (R-OH-08) enjoys a round of golf , Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA-22) and 34 other Republicans are “vacationing” in Israel.
What Mr. McCarthy and the other Republicans may observe may be rather interesting as protests in Israel are now being called a “Sense of Crisis” by the Israeli media.
Unlike in America, where the House seems to be on perpetual “vacation”, the Knesset – Israel’s parliament – has interrupted its summer recess on Tuesday to consider their citizens’ complaints.
The centrist Kadima party introduced a motion accusing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition of “foot-dragging” in addressing demands from the public.
“Israelis have turned this summer into a summer of hope,” opposition leader Tzipi Livni of the Kadima party said at the session.
A little background :
Since the 1990s, Israel’s economy has been transformed. Rapid privatization and a high- tech revolution remade Israel as a world leader in information and medical technology. The country sailed through the world economic crisis. Unemployment is below 7 per cent. Last year, the economy grew faster than the United States, Britain, Japan, Germany or France.
But the new wealth has failed to reach the Israeli middle class. The OECD says Israel’s poverty rate is twice the average of other developed countries, while its welfare and education spending is significantly lower. Thirty-nine per cent of Israelis find it “difficult” or “very difficult” to live on their current incomes.
Economic reform delivered wealth into a handful of pockets. A 2010 report revealed 10 large business groups controlled 30 per cent of the market value of public companies, while 16 control half the country’s money.
Inspired by the tent city in New York’s Central Park during the Great Depression in the 1920s, on Bastille Day, July 14th, protesters put up their first tents … it has grown … dramatically … as demonstrated by “Tahrir Corner” and the more than 1,000 tents lining Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv which are beneath the billboards advertising million-dollar holiday homes.
Soon a so-called middle-class revolt gathered momentum and spread to other cities, spawning several mass rallies. More than 70,000 protesters thronged the centers of a dozen towns and cities across Israel last Saturday. Upwards of 250,000 demonstrated in the business capital of Tel Aviv last week.
The common question is :“If we’re not making money, but the country is, then where does the money go?”
The protests followed strikes by doctors, social workers and municipal workers over low pay and tough conditions.
Medical Association Chairman Leonid Eidelman announced he would go on a hunger strike, which many other doctors have joined. “It is beyond a doubt that justice is with us. Every patient, doctor, and nurse sees clearly that the medical system is collapsing,” he said.
“Unfortunately the state is abandoning medicine, the doctors, and the patients to their fate. After 128 days of struggle we ask, where are you, Mr. Prime Minster and Health Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu?”
There are suggestions for a tax increase for top earners from 40 per cent to 55 per cent, and a cut in VAT (Value Added Tax).
Maybe this will not be a “vacation” for Mr. McCarthy and this group of Republicans (to be followed by another group lead by Majority Leader Eric Canter (R-VA-07) next week) … if they open their eyes to what the citizens of Israel are saying.
But then again, they really did not have to go halfway around the world to see middle class families suffering.