August 20: Going awry

When governments micromanage economic activity, the results are seldom limited to what was desired.

Going awry
Sir, – Regarding “Egg, milk and chicken prices expected to rise” (August 16), the law of unintended consequences ensures that when governments micromanage economic activity, the results are seldom limited to what was desired.
One of US President Barack Obama’s decisions earlier in his term was to mandate that gasoline for consumption in the United States be diluted with up to 10 percent ethanol. The ostensible reason was to reduce the dependence on fossil fuels by replacing petroleum with a renewable resource, and also to reduce CO2 emissions.
As a sop to American farmers, the importation of cheap ethanol produced from sugar cane in Brazil was banned. In addition, ethanol distilleries in America were subsidized. The predictable result was to reduce the amount of corn available for animal feed.
As America is a significant exporter of corn, the immediate effect was a sharp rise in world prices. Other crops, such as soy beans and wheat, were also affected because farmers found it more profitable to grow corn and planted accordingly. This year, after a disastrous failure of crops in the US, the problems have been exacerbated and the whole world suffers.
In the case of Israel and other developed countries, the result for most of us is merely an inconvenience – we will pay more for our basic food products.
In the case of poor countries, many people will be faced with malnutrition or even starvation.
STEPHEN COHEN Ma’aleh Adumim
Strong symbolism
Sir, – The business editor either purposely or inadvertently made a powerful statement by placing two articles – “Inflation accelerates as housing costs, taxes increase” and “Cabinet ministers to get BMWs within a month” (August 16) – side-by-side.
On the one hand we are informed that our government ministers are going to get their luxury cars after all, while on the other hand we are heading for more price increases, higher costs-of-living and inflation.
Nothing could be more effective in demonstrating how detached and insensitive our elected officials are toward the people who elected them.
The fact is, however, that they really have no reason to care much about the voter since not one of the dire economic predictions and realities affects them one iota. They simply continue to enjoy and even flaunt their privileges and perks with impunity while the already overburdened taxpayer foots the bill. Our leaders should be setting an example by showing sympathy with the general public and foregoing this latest flaunting of their prestigious and very financially lucrative positions.
Shame on each and every minister and any other official who ends up with the BMW. The symbolism is just too strong to ignore.
GERSHON HARRIS Hatzor Haglilit
Sir, – It is comforting to know that our cabinet ministers will receive their new BMWs in time for the High Holy Days. After all, we wouldn’t want them to feel deprived just because many families will have to tighten their belts, literally and figuratively, due to rising taxes and prices on food and basic items.
Maybe a little deprivation would create some empathy for the Israeli citizen who can only afford a car that is less luxurious.
Or maybe a week on a limited budget and public transportation would do it.
The campus shaft
Sir, – I am an oleh who arrived three years ago from Los Angeles and has now graduated with an MA in crisis and trauma studies from Tel Aviv University’s international program.
The experience was fabulous. I learned so much about stress, crisis and trauma from leading experts in the field, and had the opportunity to be a student intern at Mesila, working with the foreign communities of the Tel Aviv-Jaffa area.
One of the great things about being a new immigrant is that if you want a higher education the government will help pay. Well, not anymore – due to recent decisions by various government agencies it looks like student scholarships for olim are a thing of the past. But what I’m really angry about is how this will affect olim who are currently enrolled in studies.
Back at the beginning of the school year I signed a contract to receive a sum of around NIS 26,000, which would cover about a third of the cost of the intensive one-year program. I had to promise that I would get good grades and notify the Student Authority if I decided to drop out or leave the country. In return, the Authority deposited half the sum in my bank account during the first semester, saying it would deposit the balance if I received good grades in the second semester and during the summer session.
I did much better than the minimum required by the Authority, so I can assure you that I was shocked when I received an email from my contact there saying: “Due to budget cuts this year, the Student Authority will not be financing the summer semester portion of 2012.”
What kind of nonsense is this to publicize such a decision only after students have already signed up and paid for classes, expecting to be reimbursed? Where is the accountability? My hard-working parents depend on this money. Times are not the easiest and I have two younger siblings also in need of financial aid for expensive university programs back in the United States.
I write this letter in hope of finding support from other students who are currently dealing with the same situation, and to create awareness so that the Israeli and Jewish communities know to what extent new immigrants on campus are being shafted. I believe that this shameful decision by individuals who are supposed to serve the public gives current and future immigrants a negative impression about the way Israel welcomes olim.
On the plus side...
Sir, – The Comment & Features section of Thursday, August 16, included nearly a full page of endorsements for presumptive US presidential nominee Mitt Romney via opinions about his choice for vice president, Rep. Paul Ryan.
Regardless of what negative thoughts one may have regarding President Barack Obama, there is one that is positive for Obama and negative for Romney and which folks seem to overlook: There is absolutely no possibility that a new president would bomb Iran during his first year in office absent a 9/11-type of event on American soil.
Israel needs at least the possibility that the US will bomb Iran in the coming year or so should Israel’s own efforts prove ineffective.
...a decided negative
Sir, – I agree totally with Douglas Bloomfield (“Will Romney’s VP choice motivate Jewish voters?” Washington Watch, August 16) in that, if anything, Mitt Romney’s choice of such an arch-conservative will certainly turn off most Jewish voters, particularly Paul Ryan’s ideas about women.
I’m not sure about the rest of American males, but certainly the Jewish ones will hesitate to take a chance on a man who believes that a woman’s place is in the kitchen, not the board room. His ideas about abortion and women’s affairs certainly don’t jibe with those of most Jewish voters.
I think Ryan will be a hindrance rather than a help to Romney.
CLARIFICATION The story “Ancient Shiloh: A new stop on the tourist map?” (Frontlines, August 17) was written by Felice Friedson/The Media Line.