As Bismarck said, politics is the art of the possible. The traffic light coalition is trying the impossible when it comes to citizen income: it wants to enforce it against the CDU/CSU.
However, the red-green-yellow government in the Bundesrat will not achieve a majority without the countries in which the Union governs. That’s eight out of sixteen countries.
Citizens’ income is a prestige project of Labor Minister Hubertus Heil and his SPD. The primary aim is to give those who receive basic security more money. In essence, it’s about something completely different: the SPD wants to finally put an end to Hartz IV and with it the principle of demanding and promoting.
A new chapter is to be opened, especially in relation to the DGB unions, which have always opposed Hartz IV. So that the alleged “unified union” stands even more clearly on the side of the SPD.
One thing is undisputed between the traffic light parties and the Union: the increase in salaries by 12 percent on January 1st. A single person then gets 502 (449) euros per month, a couple 954 (853) euros. For a family with two children, up to 768 (687) euros are additionally due, depending on their age. Makes a total of 1722 euros.
In addition, the job center pays the entire rent including ancillary costs plus the costs for heating. In big cities with high rents, that quickly adds up to another 1,000 euros.
Employer President Rainer Dulger sees the potential for dividing society in the planned basic income: “It cannot be that some of the people who go to work in the morning only have a little more money available than someone who does not go to work in the morning.”
The CDU/CSU, on the other hand, is prepared to support this increase. The opposition rightly fears that a rejection of this increase would be interpreted as social indifference in view of inflation and rising energy prices.
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The Union cannot participate in the planned six-month period of trust if Ludwig Erhard’s party does not want to completely give up its claim to be a market economy force. Trust time means: During this time, recipients of citizen income payments hardly have to reckon with sanctions if they are not willing to accept jobs that are offered.
The state gives recipients of citizen income a blank check, “trusts” that they want to go back to work as soon as possible and therefore also accept less attractive jobs from their point of view. It is assumed that humans are basically “noble, helpful and good”, which would be nice, but unfortunately is not the case.
Anyone who gets money for six months without having to seriously look for work quickly gets used to the idea that the state does not expect anything in return for the support.
The SPD and the Greens will hardly be willing to compromise here. Because they want to replace the principle of demanding and promoting that was once introduced by Red-Green with “Promoting first”. In any case, many Greens and quite a few Social Democrats are flirting with an unconditional basic income that would leave everyone free to work or not. Seen in this way, the six-month sanction-free citizen’s income is a “basic income light”.
A compromise could probably be found with the so-called protective assets. According to current law, the state expects applicants for Hartz IV benefits to first touch their own reserves before they receive money from the office. Until now, this financial asset was limited to a maximum of 10,000 euros (not including money for old-age provision). In the future, a family of four should be allowed to have 150,000 euros on the high edge in the first two years of receiving basic income, plus a home, two cars and other savings for old age.
Now there should be a very manageable number of potential recipients of basic income who have above-average assets, apart from large inheritances. Six-figure fortunes are more likely to be found in clan families, whose members sometimes drive up to the office in luxury cars to take care of their “support”.
One solution could be to take a closer look at how these fortunes came about. In any case, even Social Democrats will find it difficult to explain to the financiers of the welfare state, i.e. the employees, why such wealthy families can live on citizen income for two years at the expense of the general public.
The traffic light at the Union is likely to hit granite when it comes to renting. With Hartz IV, rent and heating costs are only covered for apartments up to a certain size. With citizen income, the state should pay for everything for two years, no matter how big and how well furnished the apartment is.
This also goes in the direction of a basic income, i.e. a state-guaranteed benefit independent of the respective lifestyle and attitude to work. The possibilities for compromise are limited.
There is every indication that the citizen’s income will not find a majority in the Bundesrat because the state governments under the leadership or with the participation of the Union will abstain. Then the matter goes to the mediation committee. A compromise negotiated there would then have to be decided again by the Bundestag and Bundesrat. This meant that the citizen’s income could not be introduced on January 1, 2023, as planned. At the same time, this meant that the current Hartz IV recipients would have to continue to make do with the lower rates – despite high inflation.
The obvious solution would be to separate the ruleset boost from the other changes. The CDU and CSU have already announced that they will take part. The traffic light and above all the SPD and the Greens must now make it clear what is more important to them: the implementation of a left-green prestige project or, from January, more money for those who need it most.
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