Monday, July 30, 2012

Let us count the ways: Romney's foolishness in Israel

1. Romney's clueless aides initially scheduled his big fundraiser on Tisha B'Av, a fast day.

2. Romney went to the Western Wall on Tisha B'Av in order to campaign for the presidency.

3. He compared the Israeli and Palestinian economies, to the detriment of the latter, without even mentioning the occupation, and even getting the facts wrong: he said that Israel has a per capita income of $21,000 - actually, it's $31,000. He also said that the Palestinians have a per capita income of about $10,000 - actually, it's about $1500.

4. And what causes the difference in Palestinian and Israeli income? It's culture, baby, culture. A transcript of his speech today from his campaign:
Culture makes all the difference. And as I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things.
So, instead of inquiring into what a 45-year belligerent occupation might do to the Palestinian economy, he resorts first of all to a fairly racist statement - that it's cultural differences between Palestinians and Israelis that leads to the greater Israeli per capita income.

To counter Romney's statement: according to the New York Times:
The Palestinians live under deep trade restrictions put in place by the Israeli government: After the militant group Hamas in 2007 took control of Gaza – home to about 1.7 million Palestinians – the Israelis imposed a near-total blockade on people and goods in Gaza. The blockade has been eased, and now many consumer goods are allowed in. But aid organizations say the restrictions still cripple Gaza’s economy. The West Bank, where 2.5 million Palestinians reside, is also subject to trade restrictions imposed by the Israelis.

In Gaza, according to the C.I.A., “Israeli-imposed border closures, which became more restrictive after Hamas seized control of the territory in June 2007, have resulted in high unemployment, elevated poverty rates, and the near collapse of the private sector that had relied on export markets.” The agency added that “changes to Israeli restrictions on imports in 2010 resulted in a rebound in some economic activity, but regular exports from Gaza still are not permitted.” And in the West Bank, “Israeli closure policies continue to disrupt labor and trade flows, industrial capacity, and basic commerce, eroding the productive capacity” of the economy.

On Monday afternoon, Romney campaign officials did not respond to a query about whether Mr. Romney believes that the blockade of Gaza or trade restrictions in the West Bank have had any dampening effect on economic activity in those areas.
5. Or maybe it's divine providence:
One, I recognize the hand of providence in selecting this place. I’m told in a Sunday school class I attended— I think my son Tagg was teaching the class. He’s not here. I look around to see. Of course he’s not here. He was in London. He taught a class in which he was describing the concern on the part of some of the Jews that left Egypt to come to the promised land, that in the promised land was down the River Nile, that would provide the essential water they had enjoyed in Egypt. They came here recognizing that they must be relied upon, themselves and the arm of God to provide rain from the sky. And this therefore represented a sign of faith and a show of faith to come here. That this is a people that has long recognized the purpose in this place and in their lives that is greater than themselves and their own particular interests, but a purpose of accomplishment and caring and building and serving.
6. Or maybe it's that famous Jewish proclivity for business.
There’s also something very unusual about the people of this place. And Dan Senor— And Dan, I saw him this morning, I don’t know where he is, he’s probably out twisting someone’s arm—There’s Dan Senor, co-author of ‘Start-up Nation,’ described— If you haven’t read the book, you really should— Described why it is Israel is the leading nation for start-ups in the world. And why businesses one after the other tend to start up in this place. And he goes through some of the cultural elements that have led Israel to become a nation that has begun so many businesses and so many enterprises and that is becomes so successful.
As Gene at Harry's Place writes:
But the thing is, Palestinian “culture” isn’t so vastly different from Jewish Israeli “culture” when it comes to valuing education. Palestinians also have a strong tradition of entrepreneurship and business ownership. And clearly the facts on the ground make it a lot harder for a Palestinian in the territories to succeed than for an Israeli with similar skills and drive. Surely Romney could have found a way to praise Israel’s economic achievements without comparing them insultingly to those of its neighbors.
7. And finally, Romney praises the Israeli healthcare system for providing better care than the American system at a much lower cost - without mentioning that Israeli healthcare actually is socialized!
No, if you want to see a system with truly socialistic characteristics, you have to look elsewhere. Israel, for example. And guess who just praised that system? Mitt Romney, while addressing a fundraiser in Jerusalem....

Miller notes that Israel has a truly universal health care system, in which the government guarantees every citizen not just insurance but insurance with a minimum set of benefits and full choice of provider. That’s all true. But there’s more to it than that. Israel also regulates the health care system aggressively, with what would, by any reasonable standard, qualify as price controls. Jack Zwanziger and Shuli Brammli-Greenberg wrote about this in Health Affairs:
The national government exerts direct operational control over a large proportion of total health care expenditures, through a range of mechanisms, including caps on hospital revenue and national contracts with salaried physicians. The Ministry of Finance has been able to persuade the national government to agree to relatively small increases in the health care budget because the system has performed well, with a very high level of public satisfaction.