Socio-Economic Charter – Towards a Government Policy of Social Justice

Categories: Letters From Leadership
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In advance of the June 30, 2012 social justice rally, numerous people and organizations expressed support for this document. They include multiple Zionist youth movements, Stav Shafir of the Social Movement, Bambi Sheleg of  Eretz Acheret, the Kibbutz Movement, the Histadrut, professors, tent protest leaders, the chair of the Hebrew University Student Union and many others.

Last summer’s protest movement demanded that social justice be on the public agenda. The protests showed that the Israeli public will no longer accept the collapse of social services along with ever-rising poverty indicators and a growing income gap. The protests broke out among the younger generation – a generation loyal to its country, contributing to its wealth and terrified of its fate. This generation fears that its future has been stolen, and that its ability to raise a family, build a home in Israel and make a respectable living from the work of its hands has turned into a dream that cannot be fulfilled.

Soon it will have been a year since the start of the public demonstrations, and it seems that the demonstrators who filled the streets of the cities, towns, and villages all across the country will not receive an appropriate answer to their demands. It cannot be said, however, that nothing has changed. There is a new public awareness being formulated, and even a clear demand being expressed, as to the demands of the protests. However, the Israeli government remains indifferent; instead of providing an appropriate answer to the demands of the protestors, it is satisfied with editing cosmetic changes whose only goal is deflection. Moreover, it seems that the Israeli government has decided to stick to the same economic policy that brought disaster and destruction upon the Israeli social fabric. The government’s impenetrable administration requires a renewed deployment of the struggle. This is the time for all the entities of the protest movement to unite in order to create a wide public front – a joint venture of all the elements of the protest movement, including, the Histadrut, the business community, and any person or entity driven to take part. Only this kind of coalition can force the government to bring about fundamental change in its economic policy, a change that is needed to ensure a just and humanitarian society. Two principles stand at the foundation of this struggle:

1) The elimination of inequality and poverty in Israel.
2) A proportional and responsible increase in the government budget that will ignite the engines of development for the benefit of all the country’s citizens.

These two principles are inter-dependent – there will not be real economic growth without a decrease in social gaps, and there will not be a decrease in social gaps without real economic growth. Only this kind of combination will lead Israel towards the aspiration of its founders – a country of justice, an example of humanity, development, and progress. This target is not utopic; it is a practical ideal that has been implemented in many countries. There is no reason that this ideal should not be realized in Israel, the birthplace of the prophets who, in their minds’ eyes, saw this model society, a society of social justice.

Principles of the Socio-Economic Agreement:

1.    The central target of the government’s economic policy will be a decrease in indicators of inequality and poverty, and an increase in the economic and environmental standard of living in Israel, striving to reach the level of equality and standard of living in the Western developed countries. The indicator of success for this target will be a decrease in the Gini Coefficient (after transfer payments) to less than 0.3 within a few years.

2.    Strengthening and rehabilitating the public sector and increasing the government’s share of the GDP: an increase in the types of services provided by the government to its citizens and an improvement in their quality, especially in education, health, welfare, housing, and transportation, through increasing the government’s share of the GDP to a level between 50%-55% within 7-10 years. This measure can only begin with a full retraction of the spending rules that tie the hands of the government, a revocation of the biennial budget, and an end to the transfer of tax surplus and budgetary reserves towards lowering the debt-to-GDP ratio at the expense of the social rights of the Israeli citizenry. This will be done while strengthening the working population and organized labor. Budgetary flexibility in times of slow-down and recession will be maintained.

3.    Changing tax policy and imposing a more equal taxation system by increasing direct (progressive) taxation on those with higher incomes and corporations through income tax, corporate tax, and national insurance tax, equalizing taxation on capital and work, and addressing the failures of indirect (regressive) taxation.

4.    Establishing a monetary policy towards full employment and the use of various measures to weaken destabilizing short-term capital movement.

5.    Comprehensive reform to be conducted by the government regarding the accessibility of health, education, housing, welfare, personal security, and transportation services. The indicator for success in this measure will be reaching the OECD average of the number of services and infrastructure per capita in each of these fields.

6.    Significant emphasis will be placed on eliminating the gap between periphery and center via the construction of major infrastructure in the fields of employment, transportation, education, personal security, and leisure.

7.    Inquiry into privatization processes with the goal of stopping them completely and returning the ownership of public services to the public.

8.    Ending the practice of indirect employment in both the public and private sectors, with the complete cooperation of the labor unions.

9.    Significantly decreasing the cost of living with the goal of ensuring the satisfaction of basic needs (food, clothing, shelter, health, and education) for all citizens at a cost reasonable for all. This will be conducted with significant and varied government involvement (government supervision where necessary, and the provision of services by the government).

10.    Increasing the level of participation in the workforce by developing the abilities and talents of the entire Israeli public through improving education and professional training infrastructure and making such services available to the entire population.

11.    Reinforcing the pension system and insuring it through investing the majority of pension funds in secured bonds issued by the State of Israel.

12.    Exercising the right to housing through a major renewal of public housing and substantive affordable housing policy for the entire population.

13.    Democratizing the budgetary process: revocation of the Arrangements Law and a change in the monolithic status of the Finance Ministry in the budgetary process, including strengthening the authority of other ministries and their professional capabilities.

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