Sunday, July 31, 2011

‘The State Is Responsible for the Well-Being of Its Citizens’

Gershom Gorenberg reports on the demands of the leaders of the tent protests, which they made at a press conference today: ‘The State Is Responsible for the Well-Being of Its Citizens’. This is after the 150,000 Israelis they brought to the streets last night.

The demands, as laid out by Stav Saphir:
Last night at the rally we declared our demands, what we define as social justice. These demands are actually dreams more than demands – but all these are dreams that can be made real and turn this country into a country of social [responsibility], in which it will be good for all of us to live.

Housing: A home is not just real estate. The state must intervene, immediately, in the housing market to defend the citizens. We demand decent housing for all via construction of state-owned housing… The state must regulate rent and rental conditions.

Education: A school isn’t a business. We demand a free, egalitarian school system throughout the country – for the religious and the secular, for Jews and Arabs, for everyone. We demand free public education from age zero and assistance for those who need it to pursue higher education.

Health care: We identify with the struggle of the doctors, deeply identify with their struggle, and join in all of their justified demands. We’d demand even more. They deserve more. We deserve more. It’s our health.

Social welfare: The state must be responsible for the well-being of the citizens. This is not the job of non-profits and voluntary organizations. In particular, the state must provide for social workers, police, firefighters, teachers and all others who dedicate their lives to protecting, caring for and defending the entire public.

Fair wages: Contract labor, temporary employment and personal contracts are only some of the evils that have become endemic and deprive many citizens of their most basic rights. The state must make sure that pay is commensurate with the cost of living, and must increase enforcement of labor law.

Those are our demands. We expect them to be accepted as quickly as possible. This is the country that we want to live in.
That's the country that I want to live in too! The idea that "the state must be responsible for the well-being of the citizens" is one of the principles that the state of Israel was built on by its Labor founders, and which has been lost over the last 25 years. Would that the leaders of the United States would also take heed of this principle, rather than squabbling among themselves about how much more to cut from Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, aid to education, and all the other social responsibilities of government, in order to guarantee still lower tax rates to rich people and corporations. The United States needs an Arab Spring also!

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