Greenwald: Israel has a “Higher Standard of Living” than the U.S.

Glenn Greenwald, in the midst of a typically ridiculous, over-the-top [update: and false in its underlying premise] screed about American policy toward Israel, writes (emphases mine):

In other words, Cantor wants American citizens to sacrifice in the extreme, to lose all sorts of benefits and security in the name of austerity, but wants to shield Israel — with a higher standard of living — from those cuts. Put another way, Americans should give up Social Security and Medicare benefits so that they can continue to transfer billions of dollars every year to Israel, a foreign country which offers far more of a safety net to its own citizens.

For the record, the U.S.’s GDP per capita is about 75% higher than Israel’s, Israel has about the same level of income inequality as the United States, and Israel has approximately 25% of its population living below (a much lower) poverty line, compared to 15% of American living below the U.S.’s (much higher) poverty line.

I understand that these facts don’t directly address the issues raised by Greenwald regarding whether Israel “deserves” U.S. foreign military aid , much less whether Eric Cantor is a neocon pro-Israel stooge who is disloyal to America, or whatever exactly Greenwald’s broader point, beyond his well-known obsessive hostility to Israel and all supporters of Israel, is.

But at least it’s worth pointing out that Greenwald’s obsessive hostility is not based on much actual knowledge of the country in question. Indeed, while Israel’s economy is indeed booming of late, no one with any real familiarity with Israeli life would suspect, even without looking at formal statistics, that Israelis have a higher standard of living or a stronger social safety net than do Americans. And it’s really not worth getting into a debate over the substance of policy with someone who substitutes vituperation for knowledge.

UPDATE: In a response, Greenwald reiterates “that the notion that the Israeli standard of living is higher is perfectly accurate,” and cites a few statistics [update: none of which go to “standard of living” per se] that he claims support his point. [He apparently concedes that Israel doesn’t have such a great “safety net.”]

We can go back an forth on precisely how to measure standard of living all day [update: which is not to suggest that Greenwald has come up with anything that remotely rebuts the evidence from the GDP data], but here’s a rather simple metric, which is hardly surprising given the GDP numbers: I know many Israelis who’ve emigrated to the U.S., and a smaller number of Americans who’ve moved to Israel. If you ask members of the former group why they’ve moved here, they will almost always respond that “a higher standard of living” or something similar was at least a significant factor, as, often, is getting away from mandatory military and reserve service, a not insignificant drag on quality of life. The Americans who’ve moved to Israel (many of whom have come back because, tellingly, they couldn’t make a decent living there), by contrast, almost never cite standard of living as a factor, but rather as a sacrifice they decided to make to pursue their dream of living in Israel. This is true even of Modern Orthodox families with three or four kids who get free religious public school education for those kids in Israel, as opposed to paying three or four day school tuitions in the U.S. [While I understand that this is “merely” my anecdotal experience, as I wrote in the comments, EVERYONE who knows anything about Israel and American Jewry knows that Israelis move to the U.S. for economic reasons, and the reverse very rarely occurs. And there’s an obvious reason for that, which is that Israel is a much poorer country with a much lower standard of living]

Maybe the Israeli government can hire Greenwald to explain to prospective emigrants and reluctant potential immigrants that they are exhibiting false consciousness, not recognizing the dazzling value of Israel’s national health system and public universities.

FURTHER UPDATE: Commenter Manju writes:

I find it hard to believe Greenwald is unaware of the role resentment has historically played in enabling anti-Semitism, and how economic populism and racism go hand-in-hand during recessionary times. The Greenwald quote provided by Bernstein is the biggest cornucopia of xenophobic fear-mongering this side of Joe Arpaio…. Back to GG. Considering the role memes like the “all powerful rich Jew” play in anti-Semitic lore, and considering how anti-Semitism explodes during economic downturns, Greenwald’s unique metrics for calculating the standard of living of a Jewish state is about as transparent as Rush Limbaugh calling Obama a “Juvenile Delinquent.” [Editor’s note: I haven’t followed, or for that matter even been aware of, the latter controversy.]

Of course, Greenwald can’t be guilty of xenophobic fear-mongering because he’s a progressive and a civil libertarian.

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