Numbers for the crisis

After the north rhine-westphalia election, the federal government is arguing about vat increases and taboo savings. Economic liberals want to use the crisis to grind down social standards

The pessimists could be right after all. After the north rhine-westphalia elections, the black-yellow federal government will present the unpopular measures that it has so far left in the drawer with regard to the voters, it was said again and again. Immediately after the disastrous outcome of the north rhine-westphalian elections for the cdu and spd, the plans for tax cuts disappeared into the drawer without much resistance from the fdp, and now the federal government is passionately arguing about tax increases.

Leading cdu/csu politicians want to increase the vat rate and also put the tax relief for the hotel industry, which was only passed in december 2009, on the back burner. The fdp, which had propagated this reduction as a first step towards the low-tax paradise for middle-income earners it had been promoting, is not at all pleased about this. Liberal economics minister bruderle and fdp secretary-general lindner have left little room for compromise with their declaration that there will be no tax increases with the fdp. And without the fdp? The obvious question then is.

Threat of a coalition crisis?

Finally, the austerity package is to be discussed at a closed meeting of the federal government on june 6. And 7. June to be fixed. In fact, an end to the coalition is not out of the question.

It depends on whether the fdp sees its perspective more in a right-wing liberal movement and has become the avenger of the disenchanted tax burghers who speak out resentfully in online comments in the handelsblatt, or whether it wants to act as a functional party, as it has done in the past. There are signals in both directions.

In north rhine-westphalia, the state fdp had positioned itself to the right by refusing to even talk about a traffic light coalition with the spd and the greens. In the meantime, however, there is also support within the party for a traffic light coalition. Westerwelle has also come under increased criticism from within the party. A categorical rejection of any tax increases could mend some rifts within the party, because there is widespread agreement about this.

But the latest plan by health minister rosler to make higher earners pay more for health care reform is already causing controversy among the liberals. The fact that parallel to the debate on tax increases, the cdu/csu is also debating austerity plans was again entirely to the fdp’s liking.

"Differentiated lawn maher method"

Roland koch, who after his announced resignation will probably not be so easily integrated into the coalition discipline, made the clearest comments. Die bundesregierung habe nur die wahl zwischen steuererhohungen und einem rigiden sparprogramm ohne tabus. In doing so, he took up the savings proposals for education, which had already been heavily criticized in his party a few weeks ago. In addition, koch suggested cuts in employment subsidies for the unemployed, coal subsidies and subsidies for local public transport.

This austerity program is a "differentiated lawnmower method". Merkel continues to reject cuts in education, but she can envisage savings in programs for the unemployed. Finance minister schauble also sees further opportunities for savings in hartz iv benefits. The president of the association of german chambers of industry and commerce, hans heinrich driftmann, wants to review not only benefits for the unemployed. He also suggested abolishing the pension guarantee decided by the grand coalition. Such proposals are intended to make it clear that there really can be no more taboos when it comes to grinding down social standards.

Saving for the better or for the worse?

The prere to save money is presented by the german government and also by the spd as an unquestionable necessity. Only the question of where and how savings should be made is disputed. Also in the current mirror the headlines "how the republic can save itself" and "how education spending can be cut" already show that a medium is acting as a political consulting agency. Questioning the savings discourse does not occur to the editors of a newspaper that once praised itself for its critical reporting.

But in the readership there are quite critical tones here. Thus, in a survey, several users described an austerity program as poison for the economy. They are not alone in this. The grunen calls for higher taxation of high earners. Even dgb chairman sommer and union-affiliated economists point out that the empty coffers are primarily the result of a policy that cut taxes for the wealthy and, with the debt brake, wrote a gag into the law without necessity, which it now wants to sell as a necessity.

So it is not the economic crisis that is now forcing these taboo-free austerity plans. Rather, the crisis is being used as an argument for lowering social standards that economic liberals have long considered dispensable. The crisis discourse is a good opportunity for this because, at least in germany, the idea has taken hold in wide circles of the population that in times of crisis, people have to make even more sacrifices. This spirit also characterizes the agreements reached last week between the opel ag and the trade unions on safeguarding the company’s future.

Does the austerity debate cause resistance from below??

The resistance to the crisis program in greece and the strikes against raising the retirement age in france showed that other reactions are possible. Whether such actions also met with sympathy in germany could be seen on 12 december. June show.

Then a country wide anti-crisis alliance calls in berlin and stuttgart to demonstrations under the slogan "we do not pay for your crisis". Meanwhile, the berlin spokesman for the alliance, michael prutz, expressed optimism that the demonstrations will be more coarse than expected. The debate about the austerity plan could contribute to this. Then a new actor would speak out: the people, who had not been included as a braking factor in the dispute between politicians.

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