Yair Lapid
Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg

A popular finance minister?

Op-ed: Lapid will have to convince middle class to suffer a little while longer so country can finally recuperate

Yair Lapid is trying to do the impossible: Become a popular finance minister; or at least one who is not hated. He speaks to us on Facebook while using colloquial terms, he sympathizes with our sorrow, identifies with our pain, does not try to tell us that our situation has never been better and that we either do not realize this or are just spoiled.


Lapid is suffering with us: We have a minus in the bank, while he is trapped in a ministry he did not really want. Lapid believes it his job to do our dirty work for us.


Can it work out for him? Will the middle class, which gave Lapid 19 Knesset seats in the elections in hopes of finally being able to make ends meet, support a finance minister who tells it like it is rather than present statistics and graphs? Will the average Israeli, who hates being a sucker so much, agree to lend a hand to one more 'beret march,' knowing that this time around the commander is Lapid and not Steinitz, for example?


It is no coincidence that on the eve of the January election Lapid asked: Where's the money? It was not a recommendation to launch a police investigation, but an expression of a feeling which every member of the middle class is familiar with. The finance minister, the prime minister and economic experts all tell the middle class member that Israel has weathered the crisis, but he remains stuck with a stifling overdraft.


Now comes a new finance minister and tells the suckers they are right; that they really are being screwed. But he tells them another thing: The situation is terrible; the country's overdraft is worse than yours; and since the country cannot make ends meet, you'll have to suffer a little longer so that the country that is so dear to us all will finally be able to recuperate and sweep you all to a great future.


In order to get the suffering citizens to go along with his proposal, Lapid must earn trust that only a few Israeli politicians, if any, have been able to earn. Upon entering office, Lapid said he was going to lead. If he will be successful in leading the members of this generation through the desert for another one or two years, and then take them to the promised land, he will not only be Moses, he will be a combination of Moses, Joshua and Santa Claus. And he will also be the next prime minister.


Lapid's attempt to connect with the people and sympathize with them is justified, but it is not enough. He has to go out and prove to the subjects, even in the economic measures themselves, that he is willing to do everything to improve the economic situation as long as the direct burden on our bank accounts is not increased. For example, he wants to cut the defense budget and cancel tax breaks for large plants – but not raise the value added tax or income tax.


Those who want Lapid to fail are linking him to the tycoons; they claim some of them backed loans for Yesh Atid's election campaign. But even if this is true – it is not a crime. I entirely agree with Lapid that harassing the tycoons is just as wrong as harassing the middle class. But on the other hand, in order for us to believe Lapid, - the 'haircuts' (market argot meaning bondholders aren't going to get back all the money they invested) and tax breaks must also stop. Tycoons must pay taxes just like the rest of us. No more, no less.


Lapid will try to convince those who are suffering that the road to economic recovery, while painful, will be short. This is a difficult mission; perhaps the most difficult of all the ministers' missions; but if it succeeds, the status of the members of the middle class will be upgraded, as will the status of their minister, Lapid.



פרסום ראשון: 03.31.13, 13:10
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