Monday, February 02, 2009

Fistful Of Diamonds

You may remember my previous fuming and ranting on the subject.
My wife showed me a beautiful article yesterday: Kiryas Yoel is the poorest place in the USA – median income $15K/YR. To weep, mamish.

Welfare programs are necessary to keep poor people afloat – whether disabled, down on their luck, or even to a certain extent lazy people, as they are part of our society, whether we like it or not. And the rich benefit from it just as they benefit from roads being maintained: it keeps crime rates lower, and helps poor people shop in cheap stores like NWL owned by rich taxpayers. So the poor people are part and parcel of the “economic food chain”.

But this big, bad, mean, cruel capitalist US of KKK-A offers the best welfare and social help programs in the world. Full health coverage – including free taxi (both ways) to your doctor of choice – yes, even if such a doctor is available next door, if you like the one 80 miles away, you’ve got it. Welfare checks, WIC (basic food for Women, Infants and Children in low income households – the easiest program to qualify for), food stamps, HEAP benefits will cover your utilities, and section 8 will pay your rent. And such runaway handouts are simply addictive, and kill the incentive to find jobs or build businesses.

Of course, in order to qualify for all these programs and live like a king (in your own home on sec. 8!) you’ve gotta give something up – just your honesty. If you’re willing to cheat, lie, steal from your “fellow” taxpayers – and help certain politicians hold office for life – you’ll qualify for all these programs, no questions asked.

I hereby gracefully bid you join me to the aforementioned fortress of sanctity, piety and modesty. Here you will see the holy mothers of 14, clad in fist-sized diamond earrings, $2000 fur coats, $300 Gucci teichels, $400 crocodile shoes and purses, pushing $800 bugaboos (a new one for each new baby). All this on a mere 15,000 dollars. Did I mention the gigantic breakfronts with dozens of pounds of sterling silver? The tasteless, repulsive, grotesque yet ultra-expensive furniture? The shtreimels (winter, summer, fleischig, milchig, pessach, sukkos, etc.,) and different outfits. Did I mention most couples are legally divorced to reap some more single mom benefits and alimony? Did I tell you the different therapies offered by the county are gobbled up and used as babysitting service?
They’re not poor because they have so many children. They have so many children because they can easily afford it, at other people’s expense. And contrary to delusional morons’ claims, their neighbors are fully aware of what they do. The people who certify them for the programs see their extravagant jewelry and clothing. Not only do they beat the system – they do it openly, with arrogance and an in-your-face attitude.

The problem is not that there are poor people. The problem is not that there are such frauds. The problem is that it’s systematic and their establishment rests on it. That’s how the Rebbe’s court can continue to exist – as long as you keep the uniform and the formalities, anything goes. That’s how the shul, the kollel, the cheider, the tznius patrol, the girlschool, the gmach and the yeshiva survive. And that’s how peer pressure corrupts the honest, and crushes those who refuse to cheat. And that’s how many people who really need the help don’t qualify. That’s why so many roads are broken and neglected (roads don’t vote, remember). That’s how many children who really need help are denied therapy.

Go ask your posek whether your income taxes qualify for maaser, since they feed the hungry hassidim.
When is the last time you heard any rabbi denounce this massive theft? I’m sure as soon as they fix the frivolous not-thick-enough-stockings problem, the rampant plague of yeshiva boys buying pizza at 9:30PM and the atrocity of kids arriving 6 minutes late for shacharis, they will immediately fix the problem.
Unless, of course, they decide to sue the government for not providing chalak Bais Yossef to innocent victims of false child molestation charges in prison first.

Yeah, I also want a fistful of diamonds.

© Joseph Izrael 2008


Anonymous said...

Wow, I've got to say that this is the most brilliant, clearheaded, and honest assessment of the state of affairs in the ultra-orthodox world today.

Our no-nonsense hardworking ancestry of yore are rolling in their graves right about now.

The Leader, Garnel Ironheart said...

First of all, side point: The Canadian medical system is more indulgent than Medicare in the States. Immigrants to Canada generally worry about getting a health card before any other official document, then they go for a drug benefit card, and then they go for things like food and shelter.

But the main point is: the system exists and it is abusable. It is only the internal ethic of the eligible person that prevents it from being so. A single mom could be offered a low end job that pays slightly more than welfare but which includes daycare. Or she could stay at home on welfare for a few pennies an hour less. Which is she to choose? The choice she makes says what kind of a person she is.
It's the same with any large group, chasidim included. Time was Jews took pride in supporting themselves without having to rely on "the system". Times seem to have changed, and it's the people who don't admit that times can change that are taking advantage of it!

J. "יהוא בן יהושפט בן נמשי" Izrael said...

Garnel, this time I totally disagree with you.

It's very far from just one's "internal ethic" that prevents from doing dishonest, and very often outright illegal things. Besides, it's irrelevant. They do someting that's ossur, forbidden, disgusting, repulsive, and it comes at other's expense.

The fact that times change changes nothing. Time has passed at the same rate since since it begun. What changes is the circumstances and situations, but the basics are the same: it's forbidden to kill, steal, rape, humiliate others, eat fleishig and milchig together and drive on shabbos. We live in human history's most abundant period - it got rid of many challenges, and created new ones.

These people cheat because it is easy and they bribe politicians with bloc voting.
The answer to that is called term limits and protests from honest rabbis (a rare specimen indeed).

I'm not saying I'm perfect, I wish I'd be even 80% honest. But turning yiddishkeit into a posh-fest with a shtreimel is simply stomach turning - even if the money is made honestly. Kal vachomer ben bnoi shel kal vachomer when it's outright stolen from the taxpayer.

And yes, the government if fully complicit in this. There can be a lot of preventive measures. Such as better & more effective unemployment insurance. Requirement for all women on most programs to have permanent birth control installed for as long as they're on the program. And to stop illegal immirgation so people can make a normal living from menial jobs, instead of diluting education and the value of true degrees.

Hille hazokein was a lumberjack, and spent most of his time studying Torah. Do you think his wife strutted around in monk coats, rubys and $5000 shaitels?

(BTW, what Canada does is irrelevant, and I was talking medicaid, not medicare. Which is also abusable and abused, but it's the least of the problems)

Garnel Ironheart said...

I'm not sure we disagree because I don't have a problem with anything you wrote.

My point was this: There is an old maxim that "it's only illegal if you get caught". There is also a saying in Israel the chilonim use to describe chareidim who cheat the system in violation of halacha: "Zot hadat, aval zeh haesek." That's religion but this is business.

It's only a person's internal conscience that prevent him from abusing the system. A person can learn all the Torah they want but without a moral compass, it matters nought. They will abuse the system and engage in denial to justify how what they're doing isn't against Torah.

J. "יהוא בן יהושפט בן נמשי" Izrael said...

I had a teacher telling us befor every test "mutar lehaatik, assur lehitafes" (it's permitted to cheat, it's forbidden to get caught.)
But you see, it's NOT It's only a person's internal conscience that prevent him from abusing the system. Why do you think there scores of ther things humans are inclined to do and still don't do them? Why don't they simply rob banks, print money, have whorehouses, aren't there treif restaurants and cabs operating on shabbos openly in KJ? Because certain laws are enforced, as are societal norms. So it's not just one's personal ethics. When a society accepts something it becomes OK, just like it's OK for Hamas to raise children for suicude bomber fodder. That is the great problem here.

BTW, why aren't you the leader anymore? ;-)

The Leader, Garnel Ironheart said...

> it's NOT It's only a person's internal conscience that prevent him from abusing the system

Yes it is. A person's conscience may give him a sense of guilt at trying to cheat the system. Or it may fill him with a sense of fear at the consequences of getting caught. But it's also the inner voice that matters.

Look at New Orlean's after Katrina or LA after Rodney King. People who otherwise would normally never loot and riot joined in with gusto as the social order broke down. With no police to stop them, they committed acts they never would have if they thought they would suffer some kind of punishment.

People don't rob banks or print fake money because they know they won't get away with it. And since we see bank robberies and counterfeit schemes all the time it shows there are people who think they will so they try. Whorehouses? They're around aplenty (I'm NOT speaking from personal experience)but fear of getting caught and being hung out to dry by the wife keeps many guys out. Not all, I'll grant you, because for many they have an inner voice that provides moral direction but my point is that it is only fear of punishment that keeps many (not all) people from becoming complete savages.

J. "יהוא בן יהושפט בן נמשי" Izrael said...

You argue against yourself.

You first stated that "It is only the internal ethic of the eligible person that prevents it from being so." (emphasis mine).

Maybe it was a typo and you meant it's not only a person's..., but I doubt it.

I never argued that personal moral has no role - venahfoch hu, I say it's very important, more important than laws and rules in a sense. But it's by far not the only thing that prevents crimes.

As you yourself write, people who otherwise wouldn't loot or steal do it when they join the herd, even though they know it's wrong (or the herd "convinces" them that it's not wrong)

"People don't rob banks or print fake money because they know they won't get away with it." Of course not. First they must convince themselves that it OK for them to do it, THEN they have to believe they won;t get caught. Think of it as approaching a stop sign. What you thing about is "is there a cop hiding somewhere", and not some Kantean philosophy about whether it's OK to run the stop sign.

"Whorehouses? They're around aplenty" Imeant in Satmar. They use the secular ones.
"(I'm NOT speaking from personal experience)" No? Agh, you don't know what you're missing! ;-)

"being hung out to dry by the wife keeps many guys out." And again you shoot your argument down with a 12ga shotgun. So it's the fear of the wife, and not their famed "personal internal ethic" that keeps them out.

And here comes the grand finale: "point is that it is only fear of punishment that keeps many (not all) people from becoming complete savages." Which is the exact opposite of your initial claim.

My point is there is a strong need for very strong internal moral/ethic/discipline, coupled with a strong and as effective as possible law system. Because in the final analysis those writng and enforcing the laws are also humans and corruptible, and also need morals/ethics as well as policing.
TC now.