As soon as a crisis is approaching, the federal government runs through the country with the watering can to give everyone generous gifts of money. Even those who don’t need them at all. Now the SPD-led traffic light also wants to replace Hartz IV with a comfortable “citizen’s allowance”. This is a slap in the face for low earners.
Whether recession, pandemic, energy crisis or Ukraine war – “Father State” helps where it can. With a fully comprehensive mentality, German citizens expect the state to always bail them out. It can also get more expensive there. But which German politician will be stingy during the crisis and turn over every euro twice? Especially when citizens have become so used to the all-inclusive comfort of the welfare state in recent years?
Also read on the subject: Citizens always cry out for “Father State”: This fully comprehensive mentality is priceless
In the GroKo, Federal Finance Minister Olaf Scholz (SPD) and Economics Minister Peter Altmaier (CDU) took out the “Bazooka” and burned hundreds of billions to save companies and jobs. Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) was just as diligent in feeding the Moloch health system – whether the money arrived or seeped away somewhere did not matter. “Aimless with the watering can”, “Balance sheet of failure” or “Tax money party” was the title of FOCUS Online in the pandemic.
So now the energy and Ukraine crisis: In two relief packages, the traffic light ministers for economy and finance, Robert Habeck (Greens) and Christian Lindner (FDP), are granting further gifts that are intended to alleviate the need.
The price shock at the gas station has passed for months, but in the summer there are three months of almost free train travel from the state for everyone and a fuel tax reduction of almost 50 percent, plus an increase in the commuter allowance. One might almost think that ADAC and Stadtwerke are also sitting at the cabinet table.
Instead of exclusively helping low-income earners, the traffic light partners – whether they are socialites, ecologists or liberals – run through the country hand in hand with the watering can. Why do higher earners need a child bonus, the heating subsidy or the energy price flat rate? You can take that with you on Prenzlauer Berg, in the villa districts of Mainhattan or Grünwald. But why is Father State also pampering those who have never thought about electricity or fuel bills and who don’t care more or less whether a kilowatt hour of natural gas from the supplier costs seven, 17 or 27 cents?
Didn’t the traffic light with its Green Economics and Climate Protection Minister Habeck want to make fossil energies more expensive in order to finally advance climate protection?
Didn’t the traffic light want to strengthen personal responsibility and tighten the debt brake again with its economically liberal finance minister Lindner?
Surf tip: Expensive Germany – turbo inflation only because of the war? How the federal government is heating up prices
Former Chancellor Helmut Kohl (CDU) once said: “Socialism begins with a state quota of 50 percent.” Since the share of state spending in gross domestic product has been larger than that of the private sector since 2020, we would have already reached the ideal state of the old social democratic doctrine . And that’s where the SPD wants to stay: the debt brake remains suspended with Chancellor Scholz.
Instead, it is now continuing with new multi-billion dollar KfW loan programs and federal and state guarantees for companies – “a protective shield to secure liquidity,” Habeck calls it. Apparently, the companies also fit into the 50 percent socialism without complaint. And the longer and higher Corona short-time work allowance and the full assumption of housing costs for Hartz IV recipients also continue to exist. And the latest statements by SPD leader Lars Klingbeil do not indicate that this will end at the end of June as planned. Apparently tax money is unlimited.
And Klingbeil announced further relief after the electoral defeat in North Rhine-Westphalia: “If we look at the numbers and analyses, then we see that an issue has not been adequately addressed,” Klingbeil analyzed the lousy election result in North Rhine-Westphalia. The issue of inflation and rising prices is what has concerned people the most. “This is a clear signal to the SPD to take this issue more into account,” said Klingbeil.
Klingbeil’s conclusion on the voter flight was to do even more “social politics for you” – as promised by the SPD slogan in the federal election campaign. And: There are still many benefits hidden in the traffic light coalition agreement, such as minimum wage, citizen benefit or basic child security. “All of these are projects that we are now putting forward.”
The SPD leads the traffic light coalition. SPD Chancellor Olaf Scholz sets the direction. Together with his party boss, the welfare state is now being pumped up further.
The restructuring of unemployment assistance is obviously a matter close to the heart of the SPD – even if it has failed to modernize Gerhard Schröder’s Hartz IV legacy in all the years of the grand coalition. In the current coalition agreement between the SPD, Greens and FDP, the “citizen money” for its implementation is now slumbering – and thus definitely the end of Hartz IV. It says:
“In the first two years of receiving citizen’s income, we grant the benefit without taking assets into account and recognize the appropriateness of the apartment. We will increase the protective assets and reduce the bureaucracy of checking them…”
That sounds relaxed. And on the way to the planned citizens’ income, the traffic light coalition wants to suspend the Hartz IV sanctions longer than originally planned as a first step. The option of reducing benefits by up to 30 percent in the event of a breach of duty should not be applied until mid-2023. This is what the federal government’s current draft law envisages – a slap in the face for low earners who struggle to get to work every morning instead of swinging in the social hammock at the traffic light. Low earners can also only dream of all the Hartz IV subsidies (e.g. school trips), exemptions (e.g. radio license fee) and benefits e.g. (public transport, theatre).
In the hearing in the Bundestag, the Federal Employment Agency asked in vain for a “handle if individual beneficiaries completely refuse the joint efforts to reduce the need for help, for example by not accepting reasonable job offers.”
Will the former workers’ party SPD attract more voters with its policy of cuddling the long-term unemployed? That may be doubted. The Social Democrats are continuing their haphazard welfare policy of the full watering cans of GroKo times, instead of focusing on working people – the little people and the middle class.
It is clear that the Social Democrats will use the current crisis to distribute even more benefits across the board because they think it is a good strategy. And it is also clear that the policy of the borderless welfare state of the FDP will continue to cost votes. A Jamaica coalition with the Union would certainly have benefited the liberals better. And the greens? They can implement their core issues with both the Union and the SPD and always score with their clientele.
The Scholz SPD has now returned to where it was before Armin Laschet’s flood laughter and Annalena Baerbock’s biographical discrepancies last year: with only around 20 percent approval, close to the abyss.