Hartz Vier becomes “citizen’s allowance”. It is much more than social reform: the SPD is freeing itself from a long-term trauma. There are two reasons why this reform is socially explosive.

The Minister of Labor is right: the introduction of citizen income is the biggest reform of the welfare state in 20 years. What Hubertus Heil does not say: Hartz Vier will be abolished, and that is the biggest reform of the SPD in 20 years. Prize question: Does the reform of the traffic light coalition create social peace and is it socially explosive?

First of all: 20 years ago, the federal government set up the Hartz Commission under Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. It was named after VW Labor Director Peter Hartz. The trigger for this was not only a placement scandal at the Federal Employment Agency, which, according to the accusation, had largely falsified alleged successes in placing the unemployed in jobs.

At least as important as the situation of the precarious on the labor market was the precarious situation of the federal government: the social security funds were empty at the time, which Schröder had commissioned his Chancellor Frank Walter Steinmeier to tell in a shocking report to the cabinet members. And there was mass unemployment.

Unemployment should no longer be managed expensively because it is ineffective, but the unemployed should be put into work, if necessary by force. This had fatal consequences for the SPD: the Left Party was able to establish itself in Germany, while the SPD permanently shrank. For them, “Hartz Vier” developed into a party trauma.

What took place this morning in the Bundestag was not just a welfare state reform, but: social democratic coming to terms with history. The SPD leader at the time, Andrea Nahles, was the first to question the Hartz system. That was four years ago. Now the traffic light has buried the system. The ugly Hartz Four becomes the empathetic “citizen money”. A threat should become a promise. A case of linguistic “red washing”, if you will.

The architect in 2002 was Peter Hartz, the Hartz manager was Wolfgang Clement, Schröder’s super minister for economy and labour. Shortly before his death, Clement was asked what he thought of such an abolition of the Hartz reforms. He only needed one word for his answer: “Crazy”.

However, the situation in Germany has changed fundamentally. Firstly, there is no longer mass unemployment, but a shortage of workers. There are 860,000 job vacancies and the economic loss as a result is in the billions. And secondly, money is obviously not the federal government’s most pressing problem at the moment. The time was particularly good for the SPD to finally come to terms with its trauma.

The Greens had been of the opinion for years that the Hartz system was wrong. It wasn’t the liberals, on the contrary – and in fact the Schröder reform had significantly reduced unemployment, so it was also internationally regarded as a success of a new social policy.

The FDP can now participate in the citizens’ allowance because they were able to enforce the principle that anyone who is trained or works as a young person up to the age of 25 can keep more of their money. So far, what young people from Hartz-Four families earn has been counted towards the social benefit. This gives young people a perspective on the labor market. As a reminder: In the most recent federal election, the FDP was the shooting star among young voters.

Anyone who wants to know what the new perspective is doing to the young should watch the nine-minute video that the FDP spokesman for citizenship money, Jens Teutrine, shot. Alex, Zara and Ferhat tell their stories there without make-up and without social mumbo-jumbo, which is also one of integration and opportunities.

When it comes to citizen income, the following now applies: support more, demand less. The assets of the long-term unemployed (those who have been unemployed for more than a year are considered long-term unemployed) are “spared” for longer, and those who are dependent on citizen’s income should not have to immediately move out of an apartment that is actually too expensive to “support”. to get.

As the opposition, the Union criticizes, according to the long-standing social politician and ex-minister of health Hermann Gröhe from Catholic Neuss, that the “protected assets” could amount to up to 150,000 euros.

The SPD, according to Labor Minister Heil, calls this “respect for life’s work”. The Union finds something like this disrespectful towards low-income earners, who could hardly ever get such assets, which aid recipients are allowed to keep for the time being.

Gröhe quotes a social-democratic district administrator as saying that citizen income makes it easier for people to become unemployed. Norbert Kleinwächter from the AfD criticized that those long-term unemployed who never wanted to gain further qualifications were treated the same as those who couldn’t. Norbert Kleinwächter called those who didn’t want to “couch potatoes” – those who sat on the sofa eating chips.

The left argues original in the Bundestag. For years she made a good living from the social competition with the SPD, personified by the long-standing chairman Oskar Lafontaine, who had switched to the left in protest at the “new” Schröder-SPD in order to torment his old party from there. The left does not want to do without it any longer. Instead of citizen money, their parliamentary group leader Dietmar Bartsch speaks of “Hartz Five”. Will this use of language prevail?

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Now to the initial question: Is the citizen’s income a social benefit or a social explosive? There are two points in the future debate that could even become dangerous.

First, no one knows how low-income earners who go to work every day will behave when comparing their income to what recipients of citizen income receive. Because the so-called wage gap is falling. The answer of the SPD, given today in the plenary session by party leader Saskia Esken, for example: wages have to rise, collective bargaining coverage has to increase. Esken ignores a subtle difference: citizen income comes from the state, wages come from the economy.

Secondly, many long-term unemployed – whether it is “half”, as the AfD claims is anyone’s guess – are refugees. For Afghans, for example, it is more than 40 percent and for Syrians more than 60 percent. This is discussed in the plenum exclusively by the AfD, no speaker from the Union comes up with it. The main speaker of the Union is Hermann Gröhe, one of the closest confidants of ex-Chancellor Angela Merkel.

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And: Immediately after its introduction, which is targeted for January 1, 2023, Ukrainian refugees will be among the beneficiaries of the 11.8 percent increase in citizen income compared to Hartz Vier. This is politically desired. According to a European agreement, those who fled Ukraine before the Russian war of aggression are not covered by the Asylum Seekers Benefits Act, nor do they have to go through an asylum procedure.

The only representative of a democratic party who questions this as a privilege is not in the German Bundestag. It’s a local politician. The Mayor of Tübingen, Boris Palmer.