Some thoughts about the state of things in America and Israel this week:
- Despite most of the nation’s pundits obsessing regularly about the midterm elections, not all of American cares. A new poll conducted in late June shows only 28 percent of young voters ages 19 to 29 are certain they’ll vote in November. When it comes to the stories and issues you’re freaking out about, it’s always a good idea to remember that it’s likely your freak out isn’t everyone else’s freak out.
- Speaking of freak outs, despite all the shouting when President Trump removed the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accords in 2017, we learned this week that the U.S. posted the biggest reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of any country in the world last year. This is highly unusual in a time of economic expansion as these reductions are usually connected to recessionary periods when factories close down and fewer people commute to work. But this is mostly thanks to the increased use of natural gas instead of petroleum and coal, and the jump in Americans telecommuting effectively on smartphones and tablets because of the sharp decrease in the cost of unlimited mobile data plans. Technological advances, not government regulations, will always do more to clean up our environment.
- What exactly are we supposed to be so angry about when it comes to Russia? Is it President Vladimir Putin’s destruction of Russian democracy? No, we aren’t hearing much about that. Is it his likely approval and/or ordering of the killing of Russian ex-patriots abroad? Nope. Apparently it’s all about this: Hillary and the DNC colluded in the 2016 election to make sure no one else got the Democratic presidential nomination. Maybe the Russians “hacked” a ridiculously unprotected DNC server and found the emails proving this collusion. (Or maybe the “hack” was actually an inside job by a Bernie supporter). That DNC collusion goes public on WikiLeaks. Additionally, the Russians use a clumsy system to post super lame campaign ads on Facebook. This is a national security crisis? This is a major threat to the United States? Yes, we should talk tougher on Russia and protect our voting system from cyberattack by anyone, but the rest is an unjustified freak out. Let’s hope you didn’t lose too much sleep this week over it.
- As anyone who follows these things could have expected, the Gazan uprising against Israel that began with violent protests at the border fence, then moved on to fiery kites, finally became a massive 200-plus rocket barrage into Israel over last weekend. Iran-backed Hamas is becoming more desperate in the face of growing cooperation between Israel and Sunni Muslim states, especially Saudi Arabia. Like Saddam Hussein tried to do in 1991 by bombing Israel with Scud missiles, Hamas hopes to lure other Arab states into a new fight with Israel. In this sense, Hamas has now become more of an agent of Iran than an organization solely aiming to attack Israel.
- Social media is no longer the only place where supposed debates and issue discussions are one-sided slam fests. College debating societies used to have each team practice debating two opposite sides of an issue all year. This sharpened student intellectual skills, and taught them a degree of empathy. Even the Talmud lauds this kind of approach to debate as the Gemara in Eruvin notes that Beit Hillel was extremely righteous for not only being willing to mention the opposing views of Beit Shammai, but the students of Hillel would make a point of mentioning Shammai’s opinions first. But in public forums today, political opponents are denigrated as being terrible people first, last, and always. A legitimate debate on the merits of any major political issue is becoming so rare that no one can really be sure where to find one anymore. If you can’t find a way to refute an opposing opinion without resorting to name calling and demonization, there’s a good chance you really don’t understand the issue well enough to truly debate it in the first place.
- Universal Basic Income is the most dismal form of welfare or “charity” there is, and Chicago is considering giving it to 1,000 people. UBI is a monthly cash payment to poor people who can use the money for whatever they please and there are no strings attached other than being poor. While some well-meaning people understandably think this might help people, it’s actually something of a death sentence for the human spirit. Instead of using that money to improve educational opportunities or pathways to work, these payments are supported by politicians looking to buy votes and elites who fear they may be attacked one day by the poor. Lost in all of this is the good news is that poverty is on the downswing worldwide. In the year 1800, nearly 85 percent of the world’s population lived in poverty. It’s about 10 percent today. This is because of capitalism and free markets, not welfare programs. Without some kind of meritocracy instilled in society, civilization falls apart. UBI is the opposite of meritocracy, and countries like Finland that tried the UBI program found that they failed miserably. It’s truly the furthest thing from the Rambam’s lesson that the highest form of charity is to give someone a job that truly needs to be done.
Jake Novak has been a TV news producer and editorial columnist for more than 25 years. He has produced shows at CNBC, CNN, FOX, and several local stations across the country. Novak is a graduate of the Yeshivah of Flatbush, has a bachelor’s degree in political science from Columbia University, and a master’s degree from Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism. Follow him on Twitter @jakejakeny and watch out for future columns on 5TJT.com.