Hamas War

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Bready Argument With a Comment

I'm making an exception here. I'm going to argue with a comment to my blog, something I never do. It would have had been left as a comment, but blogger was out of sorts and pulled an error message, and my comment got swallowed up in cyber space. The commenter is a frequent one (or the same name as a "regular") to my blogs, and usually I agree with or appreciate his words. This time there are two problems:
  • one- his facts are totally wrong
  • two- he doesn't understand the issue

This concerns the post I wrote about why Shas, the Israeli political party isn't one I could ever support.

It just voted to rescind bread subsidies, preferring charity to poor families, as if only the poorest families need inexpensive bread. And we all know how bad and abused welfare is.

And here's josh's comment:

josh said...
I'm wondering if maybe it ain't such a bad idea anyway. The last time I visited a Shoprite in the States, there was an entire aisle for breads. Here, since most stores work with only one bread supplier, you have virtually no choice of the standard rye bread (without the rye), and the other breads (whole wheat or 'lite') are quite expensive (this was where the bakeries made their profits since the regular bread was price controlled). The price-controlled challah on Fridays would be good enough until just before Saturday morning kiddush.Hopefully, the bakeries and the nation will use this opportunity to upgrade our bread experience, one of the only products in the supermarket that has not changed in the last 60 years.

And my reply:

I don't know where you shop, but even out here in the Biblical Heartland of Shiloh our grocery store has an enormous variety of breads from many different suppliers.

When we made aliyah 37 years ago there wasn't much more than the standard, subsidized "white" and "brownish" bread plus pittot. Bread was neither wrapped nor sliced. It may sound boring, but the bread was delicious, sans all the emulsifiers and chemicals of today. Soon after, when my older children were little, I began buying a regular week's worth of "Weisel bread," a super healthy "sprouted" whole-wheat bread. It came to only one of the grocery stores in Bayit V'Gan, Jerusalem once a week. I froze what I wasn't using, since there were no preservatives and it got moldy very quickly.

If I lived closer to our local store, I'd run down right now to photograph the bread section. There, also, are all sorts of bread stores all over the cities here in Israel. Josh, how could you say that nothing has changed "in the last 60 years?"

Now for the second problem with your comment. You obviously don't understand the issue of bread subsidies.

Poorer families serve more bread. In Israel the basic "white" and "brownish" breads have always been price-fixed and subsidized. Many families not in the official "poor" category according to welfare also save money by buying the cheaper, but still very delicious, breads.

The compensation approved by the government is a one-time payment of NIS 60 to 180 ($15 - $45) to low-income families to cover the cost of the price hike from August through December. The cash subsidy, to be distributed December 1, is expected to cost the state a total of approximately NIS 60 million ($15 million), in place of the subsidies it was paying to the regulated bakeries. All those who receive income assistance from the National Insurance Institute, including elderly citizens and families who receive child care payments, would receive the sum. (complete article)

This paltry payment won't cover the added cost, won't go to all the people affected, nor is there any guarantee that regular welfare payments will be permanently raised. Families on welfare don't have enough money for other basic necessary expenses, so they certainly won't feel any richer after getting such a small sum of money to add to the food budget of almost half a year.

Josh, I hope you're not insulted. I figured that if you don't understand the issue, then plenty of other readers don't, so I elaborated.


Anonymous said...

It's cool, I understand the issue, but I also am skeptical about the often thrown around idea that the vast majority of poor people eat only bread and margerine all the time. Not only poor families buy the cheap brand, the vast majority of us do. I've only seen one company over the past couple of years advertise that it adds vitamins to its cheap bread, the other companies don't bother cuz there is no competion.

Let's compare the situation to cheeses. The stable of 'poor' families is yellow cheese, white cheese spread, and prili yogurts (bordering on not even being yogurt). In the past, all we had was tnuva. But now there is a selection, specials, and health improvements to the products.

As for the available selection, sure I exagerated about that,(you might in fact find a whole three metres of shelf space at the very largest supermarkets like hezi hinam and rami levi) but check with the store manager about where all the bread comes from. It's likely to come from only one of two bakeries. On your next trip overseas, check out how many different options of reasonably priced breads, bagels, and pitas are available. Here the whole wheat is absurdly expensive because of the lack of competition. In the States, whole wheat, or enriched bread is the norm, here, with the subsidies, the poor will continue to eat healthless white flour and water.

Batya said...

Josh, your comments about the variety of breads here are past the realm of exageration. Look at the labels and packaging. One of the reasons the shelves may seem small to you is that Israelis like their bread fresh, fresher than Americans do, so restocking is more frequent, meaning less on the shelves. And that's one of the reasons that the Rami Levi type discount stores don't have a lot of bread. Those are the stock up once a week,or less frequently, stores verses your more local stores used for daily bread/rolls.
Yellow cheese is outrageously expensive. White cheese is for the poor. Less complicated kashrut supervision, too.
Hey, Josh, where do you live? I've been visiting the states every year for the past few, and no bread there, including the private bakeries, compares to what I can find in my local grocery store.

Anonymous said...

As a not rich person, my family goes through at least 2 packages of the formely subsidized bread a week. The price of each package in the stores near me has now now gone up from under 5 shekel to around 7 and a half.

I'm now paying an extra 5 shekels a week or 20 shekels a month to feed my family. We don't "qualify" for social benefits so we won't see anything else to make it up.

It may not sound like a lot to you, but we are on a super tight budget, so that 20 shekels will be coming out of somewhere else.

And just remember, the price for electricity went up at least 15 percent over the past few months, and do I need to mention the rising cost of gas.

In short, this is just one more nail in the coffin.

Batya said...

We're not bread eaters, but I can sympathize. It really isn't fair at all.