Labor: Netanyahu's 'total capitalism' will deepen economic crisis

Presentation of Labor's social platform brings claims and counterclaims.

elections2009_248 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu's economic policies will only aggravate the current financial crisis, Labor leader Ehud Barak said on Monday during a press conference in Tel Aviv, where he presented his party's economic and social agenda. "Whoever wants to stop Netanyahu's total capitalism should vote Labor," Barak said. "Binyamin Netanyahu represents a doctrine of total capitalism that is collapsing everywhere. It doesn't make sense to ask the man who led to this collapse to come and save the economy." Barak also attacked Kadima's economic agenda, claiming it was confused, that it pandered to popular consensus and would not lead the country to a better financial future. The Labor platform calls for prioritizing steps to minimize mass dismissals anticipated as a result of deepening economic woes. "We are in the course of the severest economic crisis since the 1930s," said MK Avishay Braverman, chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee. "Nine months ago we warned that the recession would reach the Israeli market as well. The government did not react to the impending crisis and maintained its conservative agenda. Braverman said the government had failed to address unemployment, which he called "the main issue" around the world. "American market leaders have already understood that this is the main challenge ahead of them, and they have already started to handle it," he said. "Labor will work to decrease unemployment. We will expand the deficit in a responsible and supervised manner, make sure that as few as possible places of employment are shut down and assist in opening new places of work. Inflation will increase in two years, but we will pave the way to reduce it within a few years," he said. Braverman stressed that Labor rejected Netanyahu's plan to decrease taxation. "It's irrelevant and it would severely decrease the state's income, and that means government funding of services will be reduced in accordance," he explained. Braverman said he believed that canceling VAT on food products and basic services, as well as regulating the capital market and supervising bonuses paid to capital market sector employees, would help the market recuperate. MK Shelly Yacimovich said that Labor was not merely fighting to keep places of work open, but also for the quality of employment. "During Netanyahu's term as finance minister, many people lost their job security. Many people were fired and replaced by temporary manpower company workers who have no employment rights, no economic security, no right of organization, and earn NIS 20.20 per hour." Yacimovich called this the result of "irresponsible privatization," which she said "leads to a state in which almost all workers are treated as slaves and only a few families hold the power. This is the result of a man-made agenda, not of forces of nature," she said. Yacimovich declared that Labor would establish an authority to enforce labor laws that would help hundreds of thousands of people escape poverty. "Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On stands aloof and does nothing when tens of thousands of people lose their jobs," she said. "He rejected plans that were presented to him in order to save those jobs at risk." Bar-On refused to respond to Yacimovich's accusations. Minister of Welfare and Social Services Isaac Herzog expressed concern that a government led by a party other than Labor would undo what's recently been done. "I fear that the next government will erase our achievements and return to a violent capitalism that ignores society's needs," Herzog said. "We don't agree with Bibi and [Kadima chairwoman and Foreign Minister] Tzipi Livni on the social agenda. It must be clear that when it comes to social matters, Bibi and Tzipi are the same," he said. Referring to Barak's much criticized luxury apartment, a spokesman for the Likud mocked Labor's social platform. "Sounded from the 31st floor of the Akirov Towers, Barak's attack on Netanyahu's capitalism is ridiculous," the spokesman said. "Netanyahu saved the market once and he will do so again." Not to be outdone, Labor hit back with a statement of its own. "From the Likud's response on Barak's economic and social agenda, one could be mistaken and think that Netanyahu lives a life of modesty and asceticism," the statement said. "The public remembers his luxurious and corrupt trips abroad, the cigars and the gift his wife Sarah took, and the fancy houses he owns. Netanyahu is a pyromaniac who set the economy on fire and hurt the public, and now he is pretending to be a fireman." Kadima jumped into the fray with charges of its own. "Labor offers an anachronistic and behind the times economic agenda that is irrelevant to the reality of our lives," a party spokesman said. "Shelly Yacimovich's communist approach turns Labor from a social-democratic party to a social-communist party. This is not what Israel needs and wants," the spokesman said.