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The Republican Roadblock to Prosperity By Robert Alan Brown

July 5, 2014
by Lawrence Gulotta

The Republican Roadblock to Prosperity

When Republicans neared Government Lock Down Land, their stubbornly self-righteous, intransigent attitude backed everyone into a corner. Around that corner was the shutdown, beginning October 1, 2013. It became a super layoff of 800,000 federal workers and many thousands more state and private workers.

Although brief, by its end (October 16), state employees’, non-government workers’, and businessmen’s pockets were lighter by $24 billion. Congress did approve pay for furloughed federal employees, however.

Oddly, Republicans have no qualms about causing worker and business “deficits” and losses, but go “ballistic” over Democratic deficits. The Republicans’ anti-deficit views are disproved by positive economic results and by economists’ testimony that John Maynard Keynes was right about deficits being necessary to fight economic downturns. After all, if businesses and consumers stop spending money, somebody must continue spending to keep the economy afloat. That somebody is the federal government.

Since that $24 billion is unrecoverable, many state and non-government workers and businesses lost out big time. Fittingly, Republicans should be sent a symbolic bill for those losses and held accountable for the damage they inflicted on America and the suffering of its people.

But the harm they cause goes beyond the shutdown: Food stamp cuts, more Medicaid/Medicare cuts, opposing sorely needed infrastructure work (which would employ many and save lives and property), and refusal to enact job plans and support a minimum-wage increase to $10.10 an hour–a consumer spending/economic boost of about $160 billion annually, at the increase’s $10.10 level.

They also deserve castigation for their heartless refusal to restore long-term unemployment benefits. (So much for GOP claims of caring about the well-being of the American people.)

Whatever became of the Christian ideals: “Love thy neighbor” and “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”?

Because of cutbacks, many won’t receive medical care; others won’t have sufficient food. Still others will succumb to untreated illnesses, or die in accidents on our dangerously deteriorated roadways. And some will harm themselves from despair over seemingly endless unemployment.

Picture this cartoon: The GOP elephant, in a hospital room where the patient is labeled “U.S. Economy,” sits on the patient’s oxygen tube. Returning to reality, the Grand Old Party is deliberately blocking–sitting on–the “oxygen” needed by our ailing economy.

In short, the Republicans are the problem, not part of the solution. (Any wonder Congress’ approval rating is so low?)

The GOP’s calculation: Blocking passage of anti-recession bills and making voters angry with Democrats will deliver a GOP victory November 4. Is their hide-in-plain-sight strategy, with its concomitant economic and personal devastation, the Republicans’ best hope to beat the Democrats? They seem to think so.

They are also forcing cuts in many safety net programs (such as food stamps and Medicaid), hypocritcally claiming such programs create a “‘hammock’ of dependency,” as if, for example, single people, receiving an average of $133 monthly in food stamps (according to The Washington Post)–and food stamps don’t cover rent, utilities, clothing, or anything but food–would turn down or not seek jobs in order to live on that $133 in food. Such malarkey would be laughable if it weren’t also terribly damaging.

Their harmful Republican legislative embargo and draconian cutbacks result in: Continued high unemployment, narcoleptic business and consumer activity, bankruptcies, businesses just closing down (disheartened by ongoing poor revenues), and families without enough food or any medical care.

Again, what about “Love thy neighbor” and “Do unto others….”?

Although the administrative shutdown ended, the Republican Congressional Shutdown continues. Further, the Republicans aren’t doing their job of serving people’s needs and aren’t earning their pay. In the private sector, they would be fired. Perhaps voters in November will see the wisdom of that.

After this long GOP legislative blockade, isn’t it time they and their Tea Party cohorts get out of the way of economic recovery? Isn’t it time they drop their negative, obstructive tactics, which have made them Nay-saying Nattering Nabobs of Negativism?

But going positive might mean bipartisanship. That’s highly unlikely, since Republicans–at war with the Democrats–don’t want to cooperate, although that would best serve the American people. They fixedly believe their obstructive gambit will win them political control, no matter how much harm it causes.

The GOP legislative sit-down strike is forestalling prosperity; if voters get the picture, the Republicans won’t be able to hide behind their artificial rationalizations of “concern” over the deficit (which, incidentally, has fallen 38 percent from $1.1 trillion in fiscal 2012 to $680 billion for fiscal 2013, and is projected, by the Congressional Budget Office, to drop to $468 billion for fiscal 2015). Another “concern”: the long-term unemployed would get unemployment benefits but not seek work. (Would many people unemployed six months, a year, or more, supporting families and needing to pay bills, actually shirk employment?) Let’s get real here.

In reality, many employers mistrust people out of work a long time, perhaps blaming them for their predicament rather than the economy–but such employers are also taking advantage of surplus labor conditions and exacerbating the problem of those out of work a long time by hiring less experienced people with less desirable resumes at lower wages.

Worse, Republicans are going all out to block or kill anything to grow the economy and increase employment.

Shockingly, they let long-term unemployment benefits (with economy-boosting power) die, and refuse to renew them for those whom they have condemned to desperate joblessness.

Such cruel, cynical politicians deserve a visit to the political woodshed–or, better yet, being voted out of office.

Remember: politicians fight over who divides the economic pie and determines how we live. If the GOP wins the Senate this November, expect much more pie for the 1% and corporations, and much less for the middle class, working class, working poor, and underprivileged–another giant step toward income inequality.

Presently, the major obstacle to greater business activity, increased employment, and ending our economic doldrums is the Republican Party.

What the GOP elephant must hear is: “Get your haunches off economic progress and off the backs of the American people!” What the American people should say is: “We are mad as hell and are not going to take this obstructive, do-nothing, economic sabotage by Republicans anymore!”

Interview: Mayor Ignazio Marino–Rome, Italy

December 14, 2013
by Lawrence Gulotta

Mayor Marino discusses Bill de Blasio, Mike Bloomberg, transportation, “investing in our children, ” and the homeless. I think you will find the interview of interest.

http://www.cityandstateny.com/last-look-ignazio-marino-mayor-of-rome-italy/

THE LIBERAL SOCIALISM OF CARLO ROSSELLI by Andrea Ruini Translation by L. Gulotta

October 28, 2013
by Lawrence Gulotta

THE LIBERAL SOCIALISM OF CARLO ROSSELLI

by Andrea Ruini
Translation by L. Gulotta
 Carlo Rosselli come a Spazio
Carlo Rosselli ((November 18, 1899 –  June 9, 1937)

When Gramsci began to write the Prison Notebooks, between 1928 and 1929, Carlo Rosselli was writing Liberal Socialism, during his confinement on Lipari ( later published in France in 1930). While Gramsci sought to give a version of Marxism- Leninism suitable for advanced industrial countries, Rosselli asserted instead that Marxism, and especially Leninism, were obstacles for the socialist movement,  obstacles that must be overcome, if we wanted to work with effectiveness in Western Europe.

At that time, Marxism constituted the doctrine not only of the Communists, but also the vast majority of Italian socialists. Rosselli’s book met with harsh criticism. Rosselli’s critique of Marxism was, first and foremost, a philosophical criticism. Rosselli contested  the nature of Marx’s mechanistic and naturalistic philosophy of history, which considered  necessary and inevitable a proletarian revolution that would bring the overthrow of capitalism. A deterministic concept that left no room for the conscience and the will of men. A conception flawed by a catastrophic, apocalyptic messianism that history had blatantly denied. Capitalism had not collapsed, rather it was developing in many countries. There had been no immiseration of the proletariat, which had surely seen a marked improvement in its economic and social conditions.  Society had not been polarized between a small elite of capitalists and the mass of proletarians, but there was an expanding middle class. Marx had studied the start-up phase of capitalism, and had described its “laws of capitalism,” elements that characterize only a transitory situation destined soon to dramatically change. Capitalist development had gone in a direction opposite to that which Marx had prophesied.

The consequence was that the revolutionary myth had lost its charm in the most developed European countries, but had taken root in a backward country like Russia, also as a result of exceptional circumstances. Rosselli gave a completely negative judgment on the Bolshevik Revolution, which through a ruthless dictatorship, had imposed “untold suffering” on the Russian people.

Analyzing the Marxist myths and the Bolshevik Revolution, in this way, Rosselli espoused his conception of socialism and socialist ideals, giving the following definition: “Socialism is neither socialization nor the proletariat in power, or even material equality. Socialism, grasped in its essential, is the progressive implementation of the idea of ​​freedom and justice among men: an innate idea that lies more or less buried by the centuries, and is at the foundation of every human being. And ‘ the progressive effort to ensure that all humans have an equal chance to live a life that is worthy of the name, removing them from the bondage of matter and materials needs that today still dominates the greatest number; ability to freely develop their personalities in a continuous struggle against bestial primitive instincts and against the corruptions of a civilization preying on the demon of success and money. “

Rosselli was aware that his views on socialist doctrines were held by a minority. Nothing remained of the old dogmas. Also in light of the Soviet experience, Rosselli rejected the old collectivist, centralizing program, which was the administrator of the State, the universal manager. Rosselli denied that the simple fact of expropriation, the transfer of production activities from the middle class to the community, could lead to a miraculous transformation. Rosselli did not believe that socialization and collectivization of the economy could guarantee production and multiply wealth, the automatic suppression of classes, the struggles and wars, the triumph of brotherhood, justice and peace. For the Socialists “serious, educated and prepared,” said Rosselli, “these are now tales of which it is better not to talk.” This is because “all appear open to the dangers of bureaucratic elephantiasis, intrusiveness of the state and the dictatorship of incompetence, the flattening of each individual freedom and autonomy, to the absence of creativity in the leaders, as the performers.”

Rosselli writes that “capitalism must relinquish its hegemony, submitting itself more and more to the restrictions and interventions of public authorities” and it develops a form of regulated economy, in which the principle of need prevails over the principle of profit.” Rosselli had studied Keynes, watched with interest the English sympathy toward Laborism, had known Labor theorists and scholars such as Tawney, Cole, Hobhouse and had attended meetings of the Fabian Society at the London School of Economics. His training allowed him to have real contact with the experiences of a more developed capitalist world. For Rosselli ” socialism interprets the needs of the working class, it fights against actual conditions, in the name of the majority, for the majority’s needs and a superior principle of freedom and justice, that awakens the masses from their ancient servitude, giving them awareness of their “situation of inferiority” in which they are located, here is the liberal and liberating political movement.”

Rosselli’s position was also his firm defense of liberal democracy, the “rules of the game” that all warring parties must undertake to comply, and which consist of the principle of popular sovereignty, in the representative system, while respecting the rights of minorities and the role of the opposition, in solemn recognition of fundamental rights and the rights of freedom of the individual and in the explicit condemnation of violence.

Rosselli had come to the conclusion that without permanent protection of the rights of freedom and absent a framework of public intervention in economic and social conditions, there does not exist a “shared freedom,” an” equal freedom,” which manages to combine the reasons for individual autonomy with those of justice, in the formation and distribution of resources and opportunities. He polemicized against the annihation of the individual’s personality, desired by the totalitarianisms of the ‘90s. Rosselli’s goal was to combine freedom and equality, individualistic motives and the needs of social solidarity, not in the form of a future proletarian revolution, but in the possible ways of a democratic constitution of the present.

The main heir to the liberal socialism of Rosselli was Norberto Bobbio. Among the studies devoted to the life and thought of Rosselli should be mentioned , in addition to those of Bobbio, books by Aldo Garosci , Nicola Tranfaglia , Paolo Bagnoli , Zephyr Ciuffoletti , Carmelo Calabro , Mimmo Franzinelli , Gian Biagio Furiozzi , Stanislao Pugliese , Franco Sbarberi .
http://www.rosselli.org/
http:// www.circolorossellimilano.org/

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IL SOCIALISMO LIBERALE DI CARLO ROSSELLI di Andrea Ruini
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Quando Gramsci incominciava a stendere tra il 1928 e il 1929 i Quaderni del carcere, Carlo Rosselli scriveva al confino di Lipari il libro Socialismo liberale (pubblicato poi in Francia nel 1930). Mentre Gramsci si proponeva di dare una versione del marxismo-leninismo adatta ai paesi industriali avanzati, Rosselli riteneva invece che il marxismo, e a maggior ragione il leninismo, fossero un ostacolo per il movimento socialista, un ostacolo che doveva essere superato, se voleva operare con efficacia nell’Europa occidentale.

Il marxismo costituiva allora la dottrina non solo dei comunisti, ma anche della grande maggioranza dei socialisti italiani. Il libro di Rosselli incontrò le aspre critiche degli uni e degli altri. La critica di Rosselli al marxismo era prima di tutto una critica filosofica. Rosselli contestava al marxismo il carattere di filosofia della storia di tipo meccanicistico-naturalistico, che considerava necessaria e inevitabile la rivoluzione proletaria che avrebbe portato all’abbattimento del capitalismo. Una concezione deterministica che non lasciava spazio alla coscienza e alla volontà degli uomini. Una concezione viziata anche da un catastrofismo apocalittico-messianico che la storia aveva clamorosamente smentito. Il capitalismo non era crollato, anzi si era sviluppato in molti paesi. Non c’era stato nessun immiserimento del proletariato, che aveva invece visto un netto miglioramento delle sue condizioni economiche e sociali. E la società non si era polarizzata tra una ristretta elite di capitalisti e la massa dei proletari, ma c’era stato una grande diffusione dei ceti medi. Marx aveva studiato la fase di avvio del capitalismo, e aveva definito come “leggi del capitalismo” elementi che invece caratterizzavano solo una situazione transitoria destinata presto a modificarsi radicalmente. Lo sviluppo capitalistico era andato in una direzione opposta a quella che aveva profetizzato Marx.

La conseguenza era che il mito rivoluzionario aveva perso il suo fascino nei paesi europei più sviluppati, ma era riuscito ad attecchire in un paese arretrato come la Russia, anche in seguito a circostanze eccezionali. Rosselli dava un giudizio del tutto negativo sulla rivoluzione bolscevica, che attraverso una dittatura spietata aveva imposto “sofferenze inenarrabili” al popolo russo.

Liquidati in questo modo il mito marxista e la rivoluzione bolscevica, Rosselli esponeva la sua concezione del socialismo e degli ideali socialisti, dandone la seguente definizione: “Il socialismo non è né la socializzazione né il proletariato al potere, e neppure la materiale eguaglianza. Il socialismo, colto nel suo aspetto essenziale, è l’attuazione progressiva dell’idea di libertà e di giustizia tra gli uomini: idea innata che giace, più o meno sepolta dalle incrostazioni dei secoli, al fondo di ogni essere umano. E’ lo sforzo progressivo di assicurare a tutti gli umani una eguale possibilità di vivere la vita che solo è degna di questo nome, sottraendoli alla schiavitù della materia e dei materiali bisogni che oggi ancora domina il maggior numero; possibilità di svolgere liberamente la loro personalità, in una continua lotta di perfezionamento contro gli istinti primitivi e bestiali e contro le corruzioni di una civiltà troppo preda al demonio del successo e del denaro”. Rosselli era consapevole che nella sua concezione restava ben poco, per non dire nulla, delle dottrine socialiste così come si erano manifestate storicamente. Non restava nulla dei vecchi dogmi. Alla luce anche dell’esperienza sovietica, Rosselli rifiutava il vecchio programma collettivista, accentratore, che faceva dello Stato l’amministratore, il gerente universale. E Rosselli negava che il semplice fatto della espropriazione, che il passaggio delle attività produttive dalla classe borghese alla collettività, potesse determinare una trasformazione miracolosa. Rosselli non credeva che la socializzazione e la collettivizzazione dell’economia potessero garantire una produzione e ricchezza moltiplicate, un lavoro ridotto e reso gioioso, la soppressione automatica delle classi, delle lotte e delle guerre, il trionfo della fratellanza, della giustizia e della pace. Per i socialisti “seri, colti, preparati”, diceva Rosselli, “queste sono ormai favolette delle quali è meglio non parlare”. Questo perché “a tutti appaiono chiari i pericoli della elefantiasi burocratica, della invadenza statale, della dittatura dell’incompetenza, dello schiacciamento di ogni autonomia e libertà individuale, del venir meno dello stimolo nei dirigenti come negli esecutori”. Rosselli ritiene probabile “che il capitalismo debba rinunciare alla sua egemonia, sottomettendosi sempre più a limitazioni e interventi da parte dei pubblici poteri” e che si sviluppi una forma di economia regolata, in cui il principio del bisogno prevale sul principio del lucro”. Rosselli aveva studiato Keynes, guardava con interesse simpatia al laburismo inglese, aveva conosciuto studiosi e teorici laburisti come Tawney, Cole, Hobhouse, e aveva frequentato le riunioni della Società Fabiana presso la London School of Economics. La sua formazione gli permetteva di avere un contatto reale con l’esperienza del mondo capitalistico più sviluppato. Per Rosselli “il socialismo che interpreta le esigenze della classe lavoratrice, che lotta contro l’assetto attuale in nome dei bisogni del maggio numero e di un principio superiore di libertà e di giustizia, che risveglia le masse dalla servitù antica dando loro coscienza della situazione di inferiorità in cui si trovano, ecco il movimento politico liberale e liberatore”. Nella posizione di Rosselli c’era anche la sua ferma difesa della democrazia liberale, delle “regole del gioco” che tutte le parti in lotta devono impegnarsi a rispettare, e che consistono nel principio della sovranità popolare, nel sistema rappresentativo, nel rispetto dei diritti delle minoranze e del ruolo dell’opposizione, nel solenne riconoscimento dei diritti fondamentali e dei diritti di libertà della persona, nella condanna esplicita del ricorso alla violenza.

Rosselli era giunto alla conclusione che senza una tutela permanente dei diritti di libertà e senza una quadro di intervento pubblico in materia economico-sociale non esistono le condizioni di una libertà condivisa, di una “libertà eguale”, che riesca a coniugare le ragioni della autonomia degli individui con quelle della giustizia nella formazione e nella distribuzione delle risorse e delle opportunità. Polemico contro l’annichilimento della personalità dell’uomo voluto dai totalitarismi del Novecento, il proposito di Rosselli era quello di unire libertà ed eguaglianza, motivi individualistici ed esigenze di solidarietà sociale, non nelle forme palingenetiche di una futura rivoluzione proletaria, ma nei modi possibili di una costituzione democratica del presente.

Il principale erede del socialismo liberale di Rosselli è stato Norberto Bobbio. Tra gli studi dedicati alla vita e al pensiero di Rosselli vanno ricordati, oltre a quelli di Bobbio, i libri di Aldo Garosci, Nicola Tranfaglia, Paolo Bagnoli, Zeffiro Ciuffoletti, Carmelo Calabrò, Mimmo Franzinelli, Gian Biagio Furiozzi, Stanislao Pugliese, Franco Sbarberi.http://www.rosselli.org/
http://
www.circolorossellimilano.org/

 

 

 

Solving Israel’s Housing Crisis with US Cooperative Model

September 4, 2013
by Lawrence Gulotta
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
This article appeared on the Blog of  the Partners for a Progressive Israel:  http://partners4israel.blogspot.com/

A Matter of Housing Equity

Gentrification and housing affordability are contentious issues in Israel’s major cities.  The sales prices of apartments, and rental rates, have experienced a striking increase. The Jerusalem Post, no lefty newspaper, proclaims: “Homes prices in Israel are unquestionably among the highest worldwide when looking at price per square meter.”According to the Bank of Israel, the price of the average Israeli home has risen nearly 50 percent since December 2007 with rent prices also climbing sharply. Over the past year alone, apartment prices have risen 15 percent in some urban areas. The real estate bubble has created new and deeper social class stratification among Israelis, in an already polarized class structure. 
Only the wealthiest 30% of Israelis can afford to buy a home and take out a reasonable mortgage to do so, according to a Technion-Israeli Institute of Technology study by Drs. Danny Ben-Shahar and Yakov Varshavsky of the architecture and town planning faculty. 
This group qualifies at the currently institutionally accepted “loan-to-value ratio” (“LTV”) for a residential mortgage loan of no greater than 60% of the asset’s value.  The income to debt service plus maintenance costs ratio is not to be greater than 30% of the buyer’s income. The loan to value ratio is defined by the Appraisal Institute as “The ratio between a mortgage loan and the value of a property pledged as security, usually expressed as a percentage.” The equity ratio is defined as “The ratio between the down payment paid on a property and its total price” also expressed as a percentage.
The study found that half of Israel’s households could buy a home with a mortgage LTV of up to 80% of the home’s value.
A change from one third to one half, or a 34% increase.
The researchers also showed that working class salaries have not kept pace with home price increases over the past 20 years, 1991-2011.
They found that the average home price was equal to 51.7 monthly salaries of a person in the fifth decile; now the figure is 90.7 – a 75% increase, 1991-2011.
The study concludes, “…these findings show the need to consider far-reaching reforms that would drastically alter a households’ ability to buy homes.”
Contrary to the study’s recommendations, the Bank of Israel has tightened mortgage lending terms for loans greater than 60% of the asset’s value. The Bank has raised its reserves, to discourage mortgage lending. It has also reduced interest rates. The US interest rates and the Israeli interest rates for mortgage loans are moving in opposite directions (see schedules below).   In the US, a loan-to-value ratio of 60% would be considered a very conservative underwriting guideline. That being said, Israeli homeowners have maintained stronger equity positions in their homes than homeowners in the US and Spain. Underwater mortgages are not a mass phenomena in Israel, like in parts of the United States.
There are secondary markets in Israel for financing a home. First Israel, advertises, “Whether you are making aliyah, looking for an investment, or buying a second home in Israel,” call First Israel. “When purchasing an existing property or constructing a new one, First Israel provides mortgage financing up to 75% of the value of the home. Financing of up to 100% may be obtained for borrowers with equity in additional properties.” First Israel notes, “Obtaining financing for the purchase of a home in some areas of Israel can be difficult.”
The Bank of Israel appears to be lowering its interest rates for mortgage lending. The following schedules are illustrative of the lending rates as of August 2, 2013:
 
Average Rate of Interest on CPI-Indexed Mortgages
הריבית הממוצעת על משכנתאות צמודות למדד
ממוצע
מעל 25
מעל 20 ועד 25
מעל 15 ועד 20
מעל 10 ועד 15
מעל 5 ועד 10
עד 5 שנים
שנה
  שנים
  שנים
שנים
שנים
Average
More than 25 years
From 20 to 25
From 15 to 20
From 10 to 15
From 5 to 10
Up to and
Years
years
years
years
including
5 years
2.10
3.16
3.17
2.75
2.24
1.75
2.07
Bank of Israel 8-02-2013
US rates are higher:

US-West Average 30-Year Conventional Commitment Rate
Chart update 08/01/13
Current
08/01/13
4.36%
Month ago
07/03/13
4.28%
Year ago
08/02/12
3.5%
The average 30-year commitment rate is the rate at which a lender commits to lend mortgage money in the United States-West as reported by Freddie Mac. The western region includes CA, AZ, NV, OR, WA, UT, ID, MT, HI, AK, and GU. More information is available on Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey report.
The ongoing social protest movement in Israel and the center-left political parties have raised their voices over the chronic inability of the average working Israeli family, the young, and senior citizens to afford decent housing. Israelis find it difficult to accumulate 40% of the sales price of a home in cash equity. The 60% loan-to-value ratio imposed by the underwriting guidelines and policies of the Bank of Israel effectively excludes or delays homeownership opportunities for first time homebuyers.
Not everyone is convinced the social protest movement has an answer to Israel’s housing shortage and the challenging first time homebuyer market. In “Dragging Israel Back to its Socialist Past” Jonathan S. Tobin, Commentary, July-August 2013, notes:

If it [Israel] is currently in the best economic shape of its short history, it is because its recent governments have understood there can be no going back to the “social democratic” nightmare that once created multi-year waits for phone installations and other vestiges of a largely state-run economy. As the Jerusalem Post notes in an incisive editorial, the protesters and those egging them on have no coherent program to offer as an alternative to the government’s policies. Instead, all they have are “empty populist slogans articulating nothing more than inchoate discontent.”If Israel is to continue on its current path toward greater prosperity, Netanyahu should stand his ground. While there can be no denying that problems exist and must be addressed, those who care about Israel’s future should not give encouragement to those who are trying to drag the Jewish state back to its troubled socialist past.

Notwithstanding Jonathan Tobin’s admonition that “recent governments have understood there can be no going back to the “social democratic” nightmare that once created multi-year waits for phone installations and other vestiges of a largely state-run economy,” the Israeli government response has been the opposite of Tobin’s desires and understanding of real estate markets and the elusive affordability index.
Nimrod Bousso writes in Ha’aretz, in an article entitled, “Government weighs new plan to set target prices for homes”:

The initiative… represents a sea change in the government’s attitude to the housing market. In the past, it has preferred free market solutions to housing and other industries over more government intervention.

“There’s no doubt that we’re talking about deep regulation on the part of the government, but we face a deep crisis,” said Chairman Bentzi Lieberman of the Israel Lands Authority.  He continued, “We have to develop an effective process for lower prices in a situation where the Bank of Israel, by continuing to lower interest rates, isn’t helping.”
Jonathan Tobin places his free market ideology above pragmatism and the “facts on the ground.” The problem in Israeli housing is that there is a “troubled present” and not so much a nightmare-ish socialist past.  The Netanyahu government is finally beginning to understand the dimensions of Israel’s current housing crisis and the need for proactive intervention. 
Israel needs to adopt new approaches and reform measures to create affordable/starter homes. Housing prices and rents are difficult for young couples to reach on their salaries. In Israel’s case, the government owns over 90% of all land, so it is certainly within its control to find many creative solutions to assist buyers and renters to make housing affordable.
Although Israel has a high homeownership rate by international standards, in the past 15 years, the homeownership rate in the country has been gradually declining as more households are renting due to the shortage of affordable housing. In 2008, the homeownership rate was 68.8%, down from 73% in 1995.
The many luxury high-rise residential towers planned for downtown Jerusalem and Tel Aviv also stand in stark contrast to the difficult state of housing affordability in the Region.
The following schedule from the Bank of Israel illustrates the problem of soaring sales prices across Israel’s three major cities and by region:
Jessica Steinberg notes in her JTA article of 08/2011, entitled, “Just how expensive is it to live in Israel?”:

According to figures from the real estate company RE/MAX Israel, apartment prices in central Tel Aviv run $5,714 to $7,142 per square meter. In Jerusalem, the peripheral neighborhoods of East Talpiot and Kiryat Hayovel offer housing from $4,285 to $5,714 per square meter, while prices in the tonier neighborhoods of Baka, the German Colony and Rechavia range from $7,000 to $8,571 per square meter.
That means that in Baka or the German Colony, a typical two-bedroom apartment starts at $428,571, according to Alyssa Friedland, a broker for RE/MAX. In the peripheral neighborhoods, some of which are built on territory captured from Jordan in the 1967 Six-Day War, a two-bedroom apartment runs for about $343,000. According to RE/MAX figures, two-bedroom apartments in Beersheva, Haifa, Hadera and Afula cost between $143,000 and $286,000.

Zionism’s founding father Theodore Herzl maintained a vision of a limited-equity model of home ownership for Israel.  This model has worked effectively in the US to create affordable housing. The most promising aspect of the limited equity model is that, when it works, it truly frees its participants from dependence on predatory bank lending and the regulatory actions of the state.
What makes “mutual cooperative housing” more democratic, affordable and egalitarian than other forms of multi-family housing?
Mutual cooperative apartment units require an initial, modest down payment; significantly, there is no direct mortgage loan or “end loan” to the homebuyer, thus eliminating the need for commercial banks, mortgage brokers, and so on. The homeowner assumes a “proportionate” or “pro-rata” share of the project’s total underlying mortgage obligation. Profit at resale is limited to fixtures installed by the owner. Apartment owners receive an income tax deduction for their proportionate share of real estate taxes and mortgage interest paid, thereby giving them the tax benefits of homeownership. At present, it is not possible for an Israeli citizen to deduct interest charges from their personal income tax. There has been talk about this becoming possible in the future. 
Risk of default by an apartment owner is minimized, again collectively, by spreading default risk equally to the other cooperative owners. The governance of the co-op is democratic by design, if not always in its execution. Democratic politics takes place within the co-op. A board of directors must be elected annually to administer the budget and maintain the project. Political parties, cliques, and factions develop and compete for seats on the board. It is not the architecture as much as the form of ownership and governance that is democratic. The limited equity mutual co-op is more egalitarian than any other form of multi-family housing.
There is a long tradition in support of “mutual cooperative housing,” pioneered by old-line social democratic trade unionists for their memberships. Numerous union-sponsored housing developments have proven to be an important solution to housing crises. This type of multi-family housing promotes democratic governance and social equality. It is “affordable housing.”
On a relatively large scale, in NYC, there is Penn South, Co-op City, and East Harlem’s 1199 Plaza. Penn South was sponsored by a local of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union headed by Charles Zimmerman. The Amalgamated Clothing Workers also built many thousands of units in the Bronx. There have been inspiring, long-lasting successes, and some near failures. The successful projects are examples of “democratic housing” in the metropolis. The near failures have succumbed to bureaucratic governance, mediocre building quality and uninspired Soviet-style architecture.
Israel has an opportunity to re-cast the limited-equity cooperative model of multifamily housing to its own needs. The limited-equity model is flexible, affordable and democratic. The limited-equity cooperative is structured to make the dream of a home or apartment of one’s own affordable to the working class, moderate income and low income Israelis. It is not the only solution, but it is a viable one for Israel’s cities and suburbs.
An Israeli Affordable Housing Corporation (“IAHC”) can be created and funded annually by the Knesset. The role of the IAHC would be to offer financial assistance to income-eligible first-time home buyers for new construction, acquisition/rehabilitation and home improvement. The IAHC would issue a ten-year self-extinguishing conditional grant at 0% interest to income-qualified first-time home buyers. The homebuyer must reside in their home for ten years, and the principal balance of the grant is reduced annually until it is extinguished in year 10.  If a sale occurs during the ten year residency period, another income-qualified family may assume the grant. If not, repayment of the balance due on the grant is made from proceeds of the sale. Typical grants average $35,000-$40,000 per unit in high cost areas.
Self-extinguishing grants have been issued by the US government since the enactment of the 1862 Homestead Act, during the Civil War. The Homestead Act required a five-year residency period.
Israel can create its own mortgage agency to assist first-time homebuyers, thereby circumventing the absurdly restrictive impositions and vagaries of the market. Mortgage loans can be financed through the sale of tax-exempt bonds. In the United States, tax-exempt mortgage bond programs generally feature competitive interest rates, low down payment requirements, flexible underwriting guidelines, no prepayment penalties and down payment assistance. Each of these features is designed to make a home purchase more affordable. The limited equity cooperative can be financed with tax-exempt bonds or more traditional bank financing.
Information Resources for “A Matter of Housing Equity”

Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Jerusalem Post
Commentary magazine,
Dragging Israel Back to Its Socialist Past” by Jonathan S. Tobin http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2011/07/29/israel-back-to-socialist-past/
Global Property Guide-Israel
Ha’aretz, August 11, 2013, “Government weighs new plan to set target prices for homes” by Nimrod Bousso http://www.haaretz.com/business/.premium-1.540934
Bank of Israel
Bank of Israel, 08/03/2013, “Average Rate of Interest on CPI-Indexed Mortgages”
First Tuesday Journal, August 1, 2913, “Current Market Rates”
New Israel Fund“Israel’s Affordable Housing Protest Catches Fire,” Written by Ruby Ong
New Left Review 81, May-June 2013, Dr. Yonatan Mendel “New Jerusalem”
Ha’aretz, May 29, 2011, “Homes too expensive for 70% of Israelis,” Technion-Institute of Technology Study: by Shlomit Tzur and Arik Mirovsky
http://www.haaretz.com/business/study-homes-too-expensive-for-70-of-israelis-1.364655
The Appraisal of Real Estate, 13th edition, Appraisal Institute.
Dissent magazine, “Democratic Housing” and Architecture,” by Lawrence Gulotta, January 23, 2012.
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Lawrence Gulotta is a New York-based observer of Israel who is informed by a background in real estate economics and affordable housing finance. His most recent article for the blog of Dissent magazine is “Starchitects in the Promised Land.”

Italian Lessons: ‘Turati and Gramsci’ Book Review

August 17, 2013
by Lawrence Gulotta
Book Review by Roberto Saviano, “La Reoublic” newspaper
Translation by LG
a review of “Turati and Gramsci” by Dr. Alessandro Orsini, Professor of Political Sociology at the University of Rome
Praise the reformists
What does it mean to be left? You can still be Left? It is a feeling of belonging to a deep history of freedom, a tradition of social criticism and dream, to a path that seems to have torn, severed. With an immense past and an uncertain future? And most of what we talk about left and what tradition? And how do you combine the two souls of the left, the reformist and revolutionary? What kind of dialogue was there between them?
Questions that plague activists, intellectuals and party. Questions that plague me forever. Alessandro Orsini, a young Neapolitan Professor of Political Sociology at the University of Rome tried to give answers. He wrote a book called Gramsci and Turati. The Two Lefts (Rubettino). The title seems like an essay, by one of those academicians, long and winding. But I think it’s the most beautiful theoretical reflection on the left made in recent years. Who is not afraid to handle delicate matter. Alessandro Orsini shows us two souls of the old Left Italian (exemplified in Gramsci and Turati) and shows us how, over time, one has had the upper hand over the other. The idea from Alessandro Orsini is simple: the Communists have educated generations of militants to define political opponents as dangerous enemies, to insult and ridicule  It has a certain effect. Reread the words of a refined intellectual such as Gramsci calling an opponent, no matter what: “His personality has for us, in comparison of the story, the same importance as a rag menstruating.” He invited his readers to resort to profanity and personal insult against opponents who complained of injuries received: “For us, if you say “a pig is a pig”  it is not vulgar, is the property of language.” He even praises a “punch in the face” against the Liberals. The fists, he said, had to be a “political agenda” and not an isolated incident. Of course, the thought of Gramsci can not be confined in this violent stretch, and besides, his words were affected by the influence of the political rhetoric of the time. It was (not only on the left) on virulent  pyrotechnics. Political correctness had not been invented yet. Yet, in those same years Filippo Turati, forgotten thinker and leader of the Socialist Party, led a tenacious campaign to educate for respect of political opponents in an attempt to combine socialism and liberalism: “All opinions deserve to be respected. Violence, insult and intolerance are the negation of socialism. We need to cultivate the right to be heretics.  The “right to dissent.” Socialism can not exist where there is no freedom. “Orsini collects and analyzes songs, writings, evidence that shows how that vice of origin has influenced and affected the left wing lives and how the legacy of the worst pedagogy of intolerance built for a century by the Communist Party still survives. Of course, today, the Democratic Party heir to the Communist Party, there’s no trace of that maximalism, verbose and violent language.

But there is on the other hand, outside of Parliament, some on the left who live for dogma.
They are the survivors of a maximalist extremism that claims to have the only truth in its hands. They are the followers of the only possible idea of ​​freedom. They love Cuba and are not liable for the crimes of the Castro dictatorship – I happened to talk to people wary of Yoani Sánchez only because at this time he is a critical voice from Cuba; not liable for the crimes of Hamas or Hezbollah, have a liking for ferocious regimes only because they are anti-American, tolerate the worst barbarism and are indignant because of the contradictions of democracies. For them, all the others are sold out. The idea never touches them that being marginal and unheard in their case is not synonymous with purity, but often simply lack of merit.

Orsini believes this to be Turati’s most important pedagogical legacy, the right to be heretics. But the hatred for the reformists, – explains Orsini – is the cornerstone of pedagogy intolerance. Since the reformers seeking to improve the living conditions of workers here and now, are perceived by some as revolutionary allies of the capitalists. This book shows how, in the revolutionary culture, the worsening of the living conditions of workers is a good thing (as said by Labriola) because it increases hatred against the system and raises the revolutionary initiative: it is the infamous “worse the better.” The reformists, however, do not believe in a perfect society, but in a society that progressively lifts the cultural level of workers and betters their living conditions through active participation in the management of public affairs. The reformists – explained Turati – are realistic and tolerant. Realists because they believe that it is not possible to build a society in which conflicts are banished for ever. Tolerant because, rejecting perfectionism, they are placed away from the belief that they had access to the ultimate truth about the meaning of history. Turati paid dearly for his tough battle against the teaching of intolerance. When he died in exile, in poverty, Togliatti wrote an article in The State Worker, in which he said that he had been “the most corrupt, the most despicable, the most repulsive of all the men of the left.”I recommend this book to those who feel lost on the left. It could be a tool for understanding and above all, I think, of defense. Defend the young reader from the enemies of dialogue, by proponents of the quarrel, the brawler ready to speak on behalf of the working class, the marginalized, the “invisible,” from the pacifists, violently using peace as an instrument of aggression against those who think differently.  Turati helps to understand how much power there is in reformism, often considered to be weak, fearful, even a loser, one would say. Reformism, says Turati, scares powers, corporations, caste, because it proves, trying consent, placing doubts, reasoning and debating, to resolve the contradictions here and now. Involving people, not frightening them or shunning them because they are “contaminated.”It is no coincidence that the fascists before and now  had to hate the Socialists, especially the reformists. It is no coincidence that the fascists were afraid of Matteotti who had denounced electoral fraud. It is no coincidence that the Fascists were afraid of reformist judges and  efficient state officials . Because for them the corrupt and reactionary allies were confirming their idea of ​​the State for slaughter.

For Turati Marxism can not be considered a “perpetual cookbook ” a place to find solutions to all problems, because the same problem, such as the empowerment of workers, may require different solutions according to the context, to historical periods and the resources available at any given time. Better to be wary of those who claim to know everything in advance. Turati was convinced that the cultural perspective from which we view the world was crucial to the development of our actions. For this reason  the greatest importance is attributed to the role of education policy: To first transform the world you need to open your mind and confront you prejudices and absolutes. Intolerance saps even the most acute minds: the pedagogy of tolerance is the first step to building a better society.

 

Elogio dei riformisti

di ROBERTO SAVIANO, La Republica

La tolleranza di Turati, quella piccola lezione per una sinistra smarrita. Un saggio ripercorre la figura del leader socialista e una tradizione da sempre minoritaria in Italia

Che cosa significa essere di sinistra? È possibile ancora esserlo? Sentire nel profondo di appartenere a una storia di libertà, a una tradizione di critica sociale e di sogno, a un percorso che sembra essersi lacerato, reciso. Con un immenso passato e un futuro incerto? E soprattutto di quale sinistra parliamo e di quale tradizione? E come si coniugano le due anime della sinistra, quella riformista e quella rivoluzionaria? Che genere di dialogo c’è stato tra loro?

Domande che affliggono militanti, intellettuali e uomini di partito. Domande che affliggono me da sempre. Alessandro Orsini giovane professore napoletano di Sociologia Politica all’Università di Roma Tor Vergata ha provato a dare delle risposte. Ha scritto un libro intitolato Gramsci e Turati. Le due sinistre (Rubettino). Il titolo sembra presentare un saggio, di quelli accademici, lunghi e tortuosi. E invece credo sia la più bella riflessione teorica sulla sinistra fatta negli ultimi anni. Che non ha paura di maneggiare materia delicata. Alessandro Orsini ci presenta due anime della sinistra storica italiana (esemplificate in Gramsci e Turati) e ci mostra come, nel tempo, una abbia avuto il sopravvento sull’altra. L’idea da cui parte Alessandro Orsini è semplice: i comunisti hanno educato generazioni di militanti a definire gli avversari politici dei pericolosi nemici, ad insultarli ed irriderli. Fa un certo effetto rileggere le parole con cui un intellettuale raffinato come Gramsci definiva un avversario, non importa quale: “La sua personalità ha per noi, in confronto della storia, la stessa importanza di uno straccio mestruato”. Invitava i suoi lettori a ricorrere alle parolacce e all’insulto personale contro gli avversari che si lamentavano delle offese ricevute: “Per noi chiamare uno porco se è un porco, non è volgarità, è proprietà di linguaggio”. Arrivò persino a tessere l’elogio del “cazzotto in faccia” contro i deputati liberali. I pugni, diceva, dovevano essere un “programma politico” e non un episodio isolato. Certo, il pensiero di Gramsci non può essere confinato in questo tratto violento, e d’altronde le sue parole risentivano l’influenza della retorica politica dell’epoca, che era (non solo a sinistra) accesa, virulenta, pirotecnica. Il politicamente corretto non era stato ancora inventato. Eppure, in quegli stessi anni Filippo Turati, dimenticato pensatore e leader del partito socialista, conduceva una tenacissima battaglia per educare al rispetto degli avversari politici nel tentativo di coniugare socialismo e liberalismo: “Tutte le opinioni meritano di essere rispettate. La violenza, l’insulto e l’intolleranza rappresentano la negazione del socialismo. Bisogna coltivare il diritto a essere eretici. Il diritto all’eresia è il diritto al dissenso. Non può esistere il socialismo dove non esiste la libertà”.

Orsini raccoglie e analizza brani, scritti, testimonianze, che mostrano come quel vizio d’origine abbia influenzato e condizionato la vita a sinistra, e come l’eredità peggiore della pedagogia dell’intolleranza edificata per un secolo dal Partito Comunista sopravviva ancora. Naturalmente, oggi, nel Pd erede del Pci, non c’è più traccia di quel massimalismo verboso e violento, e anche il linguaggio della Sel di Vendola è molto meno acceso.

Ma c’è invece, fuori dal Parlamento, una certa sinistra che vive di dogmi. Sono i sopravvissuti di un estremismo massimalista che sostiene di avere la verità unica tra le mani. Loro sono i seguaci dell’unica idea possibile di libertà, tutto quello che dicono e pensano non può che essere il giusto. Amano Cuba e non rispondono dei crimini della dittatura castrista  -  mi è capitato di parlare con persone diffidenti verso Yoani Sánchez solo perché in questo momento rappresenta una voce critica da Cuba  – , non rispondono dei crimini di Hamas o Hezbollah, hanno in simpatia regimi ferocissimi solo perché antiamericani, tollerano le peggiori barbarie e si indignano per le contraddizioni delle democrazie. Per loro tutti gli altri sono venduti. Mai che li sfiori l’idea che essere marginali e inascoltati nel loro caso non è sinonimo di purezza, ma spesso semplicemente mancanza di merito.

Turati a tutto questo avrebbe pacificamente opposto il diritto a essere eretici, che Orsini ritiene essere il suo più importante lascito pedagogico. Questo fondamentale diritto ha trovato la formulazione più alta nell’elogio di Satana, metafora estrema dell’amore per l’eresia e dell’odio per i roghi. Satana, provoca Turati, è il padre dei riformisti: “Non siamo asceti che temono i contatti della carne, siamo figli di Satana (…). Se domani viene da me il Re, il Papa, lo Scià di Persia, il Gran Khan della Tartaria, il presidente di una repubblica americana, non per questo rinuncio alle mie idee. Non per questo transigo o faccio atto d’omaggio, ma resto quello che sono, e ciascuno di noi rimane quello che è”.

Ma l’odio per i riformisti,  -  spiega Orsini  -  è il pilastro della pedagogia dell’intolleranza. Dal momento che i riformisti cercano di migliorare le condizioni di vita dei lavoratori qui e ora, sono percepiti da certi rivoluzionari come alleati dei capitalisti. Questo libro dimostra come, nella cultura rivoluzionaria, il peggioramento delle condizioni di vita dei lavoratori sia un bene (come diceva Labriola) perché accresce l’odio contro il sistema e rilancia l’iniziativa rivoluzionaria: è il famigerato tanto peggio tanto meglio. I riformisti, invece, non credono nella società perfetta, ma in una società migliore che innalzi progressivamente il livello culturale dei lavoratori e migliori le loro condizioni di vita anche attraverso la partecipazione attiva alla gestione della cosa pubblica. I riformisti  -  spiegava Turati  -  sono realisti e tolleranti. Realisti perché credono che non sia possibile costruire una società in cui siano banditi per sempre i conflitti. Tolleranti perché, rifiutando il perfettismo, si pongono al riparo dalla convinzione di avere avuto accesso alla verità ultima sul significato della storia. Turati pagò a caro prezzo la sua durissima battaglia contro la pedagogia dell’intolleranza. Quando morì in esilio, in condizioni di povertà, Palmiro Togliatti scrisse un articolo su Lo Stato Operaio, in cui affermò che era stato “il più corrotto, il più spregevole, il più ripugnante tra tutti gli uomini della sinistra”.

Consiglio questo libro a chi si sente smarrito a sinistra. Potrebbe essere uno strumento di comprensione e soprattutto, credo, di difesa. Difenderebbe il giovane lettore dai nemici del dialogo, dai fautori del litigio, dagli attaccabrighe pronti a parlare in nome della classe operaia, degli emarginati, degli “invisibili”, dai pacifisti talmente violenti da usare la pace come strumento di aggressione per chiunque la pensi diversamente. Turati aiuta a comprendere quanta potenza ci sia nel riformismo, che molti considerano pensiero debole, pavido, direbbero persino sfigato. Il riformismo di cui parla Turati fa paura ai poteri, alle corporazioni, alle caste, perché prova, cercando consenso, ponendosi dubbi, ragionando e confrontandosi, di risolvere le contraddizioni qui e ora. Coinvolgendo persone, non spaventandole o estromettendole perché “contaminate”. Non è un caso che i fascisti prima e brigatisti poi avessero in odio soprattutto i riformisti. Non è un caso che i fascisti temessero Matteotti che aveva denunciato brogli elettorali. Non è un caso che i brigatisti temessero i giudici riformisti, i funzionari di Stato efficienti. Perché per loro i corrotti e i reazionari erano alleati che confermavano la loro idea di Stato da abbattere e non da migliorare.

Per Turati il marxismo non può essere considerato un “ricettario perpetuo” in cui trovare la soluzione a tutti i problemi perché uno stesso problema, come l’emancipazione dei lavoratori, può richiedere soluzioni differenti in base ai contesti, ai periodi storici e alle risorse disponibili in un dato momento. Meglio diffidare da coloro che affermano di sapere tutto in anticipo; meglio “confessarci ignoranti””. Turati era convinto che la prospettiva culturale da cui guardiamo il mondo fosse decisiva per lo sviluppo delle nostre azioni. Questa è la ragione per cui attribuiva la massima importanza al ruolo dell’educazione politica: prima di trasformare il mondo, occorre aprire la mente e confrontarsi con i propri pregiudizi. Le certezze assolute fiaccano anche le intelligenze più acute: la pedagogia della tolleranza è il primo passo per la costruzione di una società migliore. (28 febbraio 2012)

La Republica: http://www.repubblica.it/spettacoli-e-cultura/2012/02/28/news/elogio_dei_riformisti-30626737/