Lapid on budget: Thinking of Mrs. Cohen from Hadera
In Facebook post, finance minister says his team working on plans, reforms to improve lives of middle-class families earning NIS 20,000 a month. 'What about lower classes? We can only dream of such a sum,' ask readers
"We held a meeting during which we discussed plans and reforms that will help 'Mrs. Cohen of Hadera' make ends meet," Finance Minister Yair Lapid wrote on his Facebook
In his post Lapid
said the ministry is seeking ways to help families "earning, together, a little over NIS 20,000 ($5,485) a month. They have an apartment and they travel abroad twice a year, but they have no chance of purchasing an apartment in the future for one of their three children."
Some of those who responded to Lapid's post accused him of being detached from the economic reality in Israel,
claiming the average Israeli family can only dream of earning NIS 20,000 a month.
"A few days ago I told the senior Treasury officials 'I want to talk about Mrs. Cohen.' They became silent, surprised. We were in the middle of a meeting that dealt with, as usual, (reducing) the deficit," Lapid wrote.
"Someone from the end of the table asked 'who is Mrs. Cohen?' I explained, 'She is 37 years old and works as a high school teacher. Her husband works for a high-tech company, not in a senior position, and together they earn a little more than NIS 20,000 a month. We sit here,' I explained, 'Day after day, talking about balancing the budget. Our job is not to balance excel spreadsheets, but to help Mrs. Cohen, because she is the one who helps us. It is because of people like Mrs. Cohen that the State exists. She represents the Israeli middle class – people who wake up in the morning, work hard, pay taxes, and do not belong to any sector but carry the Israeli economy on their backs. What do we do for her?'"
"I told them, 'I want to hold a special meeting about Mrs. Cohen, in which each one of us will suggest how we – as the Finance Ministry – can help her. I want us to devise plans and reforms that will help her make ends meet, improve her quality of life and reduce her living expenses – (plans) that will allow her to feel that the taxes she pays really work for her'," Lapid wrote on Facebook.
The minister said the meeting about 'Mrs. Cohen' took place before Passover. "We talked about the education Mrs. Cohen's children receive (and about the fact that there is no long school day in the school she works at); we discussed the quality of service she receives whenever she enters a government office; about how her children are not certain they want to live in Israel; about the fact that the health system around her is collapsing.
"We talked about how Mrs. Cohen knows that if her home is broken into, the officer will just fill out a form for insurance purposes; about her need for community life and about how there is not enough competition in the financial services she receives; about how she feels like a fool because everyone around her evades taxes while she pays everything," Lapid wrote.
The finance minister said the Treasury officials were "enthusiastic and caring, and mainly not cynical regarding the whole idea. Each one of them has his own Mrs. Cohen – a mother, sister, spouse- but beyond that, because they are professional economists, the best in the field, they know that without Mrs. Cohen there won't be a country here.
"The Israeli economy - actually every economy – is based on the middle class, on the person who works and pays taxes. If you provide normal living conditions for (the member of the middle class) and give him the sense that the government supports him, he will flourish, and the country will flourish with him," the finance minister argued. "It is true that this is a difficult period, and it is true that in order to close a NIS 30 million ($8.2 million) overdraft, difficult decisions have to be made. I will do it, because I won't allow us to become Greece or Cyprus on my watch. The beginning may be difficult, but with time the people who carry this country on their backs will find that they are no longer the ATM the country goes to whenever it has a problem."
Some of those who read Lapid's Facebook post criticized him. One of them wrote in response: "What about the lower class? What about my class? What about the fact that my husband and I live in a rented apartment and earn NIS 14,000 ($3,840) a month together and do not have children because we don't have money?"
Another reader said he "dreams of being Mrs. Cohen and earning NIS 20,000 a month."
Another reader wrote to Lapid, "It is very nice to talk about Mrs. Cohen, but before you see to it that she has enough money to buy an apartment for her children, you should examine how young couples, those who bust their asses under every burden in this country and cannot accumulate 10% of the value of a home, not to mention the 40-50% initial capital that is required to purchase a home in the State of Israel.