Chancellor Olaf and with him the German state are behaving like “Hans im Glück” in a fairy tale. They want everything to be alright, but fail to realize that well-intentioned is not well-done. There is a risk of relegation under Scholz – despite all the rescue packages.
Our state often behaves like a big clumsy. He always wants to make himself useful and thereby impress his citizens. He wants to help us, support us, relieve us. The savior pose is his favorite.
But the opposite of well meant is well done. And so it is that after each of these bailouts there is more government and more debt – and less wealth. If he keeps this up, the clot will save us to death.
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The Brothers Grimm wrote the screenplay for this film with their fairy tale “Hans im Glück”. The likeable simpleton Hans is given a rich nugget of gold by his teacher. But because he is always tweaked by a new difficulty on his journey – the gold nugget is too heavy for him, the horse he swaps it for is too fast, the cow that replaces the horse is too leisurely, and so on – he finally ends up with a millstone around his neck.
And this Hans, and in this respect he is similar to our state, does not want to see that his barter deals are in fact loss-making deals that mean a downward spiral for his asset management. He feels exhilarated and thinks he’s clever, even when the millstone finally falls into the well: “His eyes shone with joy, ‘I must have been born lucky,’ he exclaimed, ‘everything I wish for comes to me like a Sunday child.’”
In the case of our state, everything began with the global financial crisis. Although the state was not as innocent as it made it out to be – the US government-sponsored subprime loans for poor families had triggered first a housing crisis and then a banking crisis – it plucked up courage in the hour of need.
He created – especially in Europe – new and tightly meshed rules for operating a bank. He put a politically empowered banking regulator in front of bank executives. The prices of the German banks tell the story of a bank bailout that did not do the rescued well.
When the big debtor states in southern Europe were also affected, the savior state really got going. Interest rates have turned negative. The money lost its price. And when that didn’t help either, the central bank started buying up the government bonds that had become worthless. Our Hans was now called Mario and he called out with a light heart: Whatever it takes.
The rescued states are now more indebted than ever. And the excess money wanted by the central bank, which Prof. Hans-Werner Sinn puts at 5.3 trillion euros, fuels inflation. The result of this rescue policy is an impoverishment program, a whole people swapped the cow for the goose via the detour of the pig.
In the corona pandemic then the same game, only with new players. This time it is a virus that is to be fought with courageous interventions in economic life. Because the state cannot ban the virus from infecting, it bans airlines from flying, carmakers from building cars, dealers from trading, and artists are punished in unison for performing their art.
In the end, the virus is not defeated, but the economy feels weak and has a cruel near-death experience. Again the state injected money that it actually doesn’t have.
And then Putin comes into play. He attacks the Ukraine in violation of international law – and the rescuer state tightens its limbs. But instead of helping the Ukrainians in need with military equipment, he launches a complex sanctions regime that won’t give Ukraine back a square meter of its land, but will once again intervene deeply in the economy. Smart Hans – now called Olaf – wants to hunt down Putin without firing a shot. He wants to win the war without fighting it. Yes, how smart is that.
So the savior state forbids all transactions with the aggressor – with the unsurprising result that Russia no longer has any desire to do business with the savior state. While Putin and his gas dealers, like the Bremen Town Musicians once did, move on to China and India (“We will find something better than death everywhere”), our Hans has been looking into the pipes ever since. And what he sees in the Nord Stream 1 and 2 tubes is not gas, but nothingness.
Energy prices are beginning to explode before our eyes because everyone now knows that we are afraid of freezing and fasting. Millions of citizens hang their electricity, gas and petrol bills, including the expected ones, around their necks like a millstone.
For the state, he believes at least, none of this is a problem. Now he’s really in top form. He nationalized the country’s largest gas dealer. He charges gas customers a billion-dollar levy in order to be able to save other gas traders. At the same time, he distributes checks to car drivers, rail customers and renters of all income groups. He feels, to put it in Dieter Bohlen’s language, so horny that he now continues to speak to his citizens in English: You’ll never walk alone.
As if in a frenzy, new relief packages are put together, profits skimmed off and work is also being done to change the previous pricing on the energy market. The savior state is now completely on its own. He doesn’t want to think or calculate now, he wants to take action and save.
He wants to feel himself.
He wants to impress us.
He wants to be big and strong now – and not be sane first.
This is how a political perpetual motion machine comes into being, which never runs out of work because it now regulates all damage cases in life, especially those that he previously brought about himself. The state, Wolfgang Schäuble warned at the weekend, should not create the illusion that its help is unlimited.
It’s a good thing that Schäuble is old and CDU, an SPD chancellor doesn’t have to reply to him. So that the illusionary character of the rescue policy, Sloterdijk speaks of a “cure for the incurable”, is no longer noticeable, Olaf Scholz can now be anything but thoughtful. His great Hamburg contemporary, Rudolf Augstein, showed him the way to willful impudence: “The hand that forges the bill of exchange must not tremble.”
So the government, with a light heart, lets the assets of present and future generations slide down the deep abyss of the well. The gleam of gold was transformed into the thud of a stone. Germany – rethink. And if he hasn’t died, Hans lives on in Olaf: “’As happy as I am,’ he exclaimed, ‘there is no one under the sun.’ With a light heart and free from all burdens, he now jumped on until he was at home with his mother.”
Gabor Steingart is one of the best-known journalists in the country. He publishes the newsletter The Pioneer Briefing. The podcast of the same name is Germany’s leading daily podcast for politics and business. Since May 2020, Steingart has been working with his editorial staff on the ship “The Pioneer One”. Before founding Media Pioneer, Steingart was, among other things, Chairman of the Management Board of the Handelsblatt Media Group. You can subscribe to his free newsletter here.