The SPD and the Greens praised the citizens’ income law in high tones after the agreement was reached in the mediation committee. The day after, we were able to see how the mood in the SPD and the Greens really was.

Dear FOCUS Online readers,

This week, for the first time in a long time, there was a mediation procedure between the Bundestag and the Bundesrat. The federal government has a comfortable majority in the German Bundestag, but not in the Bundesrat. Two weeks ago, after the states co-governed by the CDU and CSU did not agree to the new “Bürgergeld” law, an agreement could only be reached in a formal mediation process.

In the talks between the Union and the federal government, agreement was reached on one very important point, among others, namely on the obligation of the beneficiary to cooperate. In the future, there will be no “time of trust”, during which there are practically no obligations to participate in further training or integration measures into the labor market.

But that was the core of the “citizen’s benefit” law, along with a significant increase in the protective assets and the waiting period until which one’s own assets do not have to be used for living. There will also be obligations to cooperate from the first day of receipt of benefits, which can be reduced by up to 30 percent in the event of refusal. Gerhard Schröder already called this principle “promoting and demanding” – anyone who receives tax-financed social benefits must help ensure that at some point they will be able to earn their living again on their own. This means that the essential part of the “Hartz IV” reform of Agenda 2010 of the former red-green federal government remains in place.

The SPD and the Greens nevertheless praised the law in high tones after the agreement was reached in the mediation committee. What else should they do? Anything else would have come too close to admitting that there was too much willingness to compromise.

The day after the compromise, we could see what the mood of the SPD and the Greens really was after the compromise, from the sometimes exceptionally rude tone of the socio-political part of the budget debate. “Social coldness” and “shabbyness” towards the needy were the harmless formulations.

Behind this disagreement, however, there is quite obviously a very fundamental dissent. We agree with the traffic light that the needy in the country, regardless of whether they are in need through their own fault or through no fault of their own, must be helped appropriately and not pettily.

But does the welfare state of the Federal Republic of Germany really have to pay transfer payments for long and longer periods of time without making use of its own cooperation? Should we seriously keep moving towards an unconditional basic income? Is it no longer possible to talk about personal responsibility without being accused of a lack of social empathy?

In addition to the principle of competition, the concept of the social market economy is based on the principles of subsidiarity and personal responsibility. “A free economic order can only exist in the long run if and as long as a maximum of freedom, private initiative and self-provision is guaranteed in the social life of a nation.”

That’s how Ludwig Erhard once put it, and that’s how it also applies in the new “Bürgergeld” law of the traffic light – even if the name expresses something different, and even if the coalition wanted something completely different.

But despite the fact that the budget of the Federal Minister for Labor and Social Affairs has increased to 163 billion euros, at least some of the principles of the social market economy have been retained in social law.

I wish you a nice weekend!

Yours Friedrich Merz

Friedrich Merz is a lawyer and politician (CDU). From 1989 to 1994 he was a member of the European Parliament and from 1994 to 2009 of the German Bundestag. There he was chairman of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group from 2000 to 2002. In 2018, Merz ran unsuccessfully for the presidency of the CDU, just like in 2021. Only at the third attempt was he elected party leader at the CDU party conference on January 22, 2022. Now Merz is again a member of parliament and chairman of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group.

In his “Mail von Merz” the CDU politician analyzes and comments on current political developments in Germany and beyond for the readers of FOCUS Online.