This could sound like yet another bad-taste Oscar night joke, but turns out that the U.S. economy is run by Jews.
Well, at least the federal government’s top advisers.
On Wednesday, the Senate confirmed the nomination of Jack Lew, an Orthodox Jew, as Treasury Secretary. He will joined by Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council at the White House, Alan Krueger, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, and Jeffrey Zients, who heads the Office of Management and Budget. All are Members of the Tribe.
With Lew’s confirmation as Treasury Secretary, he is officially no longer the White House chief of staff. But the Jewish community, a former official with the administration assured, will not lose access. His replacement, Dennis McDonough may be Catholic, but he still has a soft spot for Jewish activists. During his tenure as deputy national security adviser, McDonough launched a tradition of monthly conference calls with Jewish leaders for updates on international issues and was known to meet with almost every major Jewish federation delegation that came to Washington.
A week ago, I spent part of the day scrambling in ditches in the south of Israel as rocket alarms sounded when I was on the road. Today, the situation is calm and the children are back at school. But residents are left wondering who will foot the bill.
They aren’t talking about the cost of Operation Pillar of Defense itself, but of the financial cost that they suffered as a result of it. Many families had their homes or property damaged, and while public compensation funds are available, they take a long time and lots of form filling. But even in families where homes and cars are fine, the bank balance often isn’t.
Lots of people missed almost two weeks of work for the military operation and preceding rocket fire, and while some will be getting paid as normal, it depends on their employment arrangements and many won’t. For small businesses, the conflict spells financial woes.
It’s unclear exactly how southerners will be reimbursed for lost income and how long it will take. But the political context is important. Labor, which is the main challenger to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Beytenu list, has just put the issue on the campaigning agenda, releasing a five-point socioeconomic rehabilitation plan for the south. which prioritizes compensation.
The last thing that Netanyahu will want is Labor having poster boys and girls from the south saying they are still suffering economically from the war that he started. The fact there’s an election coming up seems to mean that they stand a better chance than normal of getting things sorted out promptly.
My latest editorial lamented how the debacle over the debt ceiling debate in Washington could be bad for the Jews. First, because we are Americans, and second, because a weakened America will lead to a weakened Israel.
The Israel connection was, in my mind, a geopolitical one — that is, Israel depends on American military aid and diplomatic muscle to remain a power in its rough neighborhood and to fend off challenges to its existence. I hardly thought a direct economic connection would emerge so quickly.
But then I saw the weekend’s news about the Israeli stock market.