Starting this year and continuing next year, Germany entered a series of state-government elections that will find its culmination in the federal elections next year. OK, given the fact that both major parties were to weak to dominate the politics and (fortunately) to stubborn to put their differences aside, the last three years were a low-intensity election campaign.
After the technocratic reign of Gerhard Schöder (who not only managed to trash the social security systems by granting tax breaks for the rich and boosting the replacement of ordinary jobs into a new low-wage job sector (low wage jobs are exempt from paying taxes and from contributing to the social security system), the Social Democrats got massively slapped for their right-wing politics. As the “social” party’s actions were indistinguishable from the actions the conservative and neo-conservative parties would have done if in power, these parties got slapped in 2005 as well (for not only allowing but actually actively supporting this policy). With both major parties throttling each other, the government was finally busy just blaming each other than doing yet another reform. This way, the country at least got a break.
But with the formation of a new left-wing party to fill the gap the declining social-democratic and conservative parties, everything is open now. The new party already is strong enough to win a massive number of seats in the parliaments – and it’s movement still growing. To the traditional parties that used to be in power since the end of the war, this possible loss of influence is horrible. Loosing 20% of their market share within two years is a shocking experience. And shocked people tend to react in strange ways. But listen:
Of course, (despite the fact that banks are crashing and the weak dollar is a deadly thing for the export-oriented German economy) we are at the beginning of a boom. (Remember: Its election time, so truth is one of the few things you can’t expect from the propaganda system right now. If you’d only listen to the media coverage, you would have known that we have been at the beginning of the boom since the dot-com bubble crashed.) And so, officially, the number of unemployed people is as low as never before in the last 20 years. Right now, the official number tells that 3.413.921 are officially unemployed. This is the number you’ll hear throughout repeated by politicans and media all the time. But reading the statistic tells a different story: 1.531.940 people were “employed” in so called trainings and employment incentives and therefor do not count as unemployed. The effect of these trainings is proven to be equal to nothing, but hey, we cannot afford the negative image of 5 million unemployed people.
(Compared to March 2005, the number of people receiving well-fare or unemployment support did not change much; it went up from 7.977.502 in March 2005 to 8.027.980 in April 2008. But we are in a boom! You just have to believe in it and it will become true.)
According to the report of April 2008 a total number of 8.027.980 persons depended on additional well-fare subsidiaries for their survival. Given the official 40 million people that form the German workforce, this means that 20% of the people out there either have no jobs or cannot live from the minimum wage jobs they have. Of course, Germany does not have minimum wage laws, as this would harm the market. Therefore in some regions where hourly rates of 2 to 3 Euro for full-time jobs have become common.
The social-democratic* changes of the poor-laws already introduced lowest-wage work throughout the country. Nowadays, it is common (especially in the declining traditional industries) to find yourself replaced by temporary workers or subsidized workers from one of the many employment incentives. Why pay 15 or 20 Euro, if you can get workers that are forced to work (quitting or getting fired means you would not get well-fare support anymore) and that are guaranteed to not complain? And of course, these forced-labor workers have no union-rights, no job-security or any other protection a regular worker might enjoy.
The negative impact of that policy now starts to become widely visible. The costs for the social security explode, as the income generating high-wage jobs erode and cost-generating low-wage jobs grow like cancer.
In that situation and with a clear road to destruction ahead, what is the most stupid thing you can do? Right: More of the same bad medicine. The latest plans (as usual paid for by the Bertelsmann foundation, a neo-conservative think-tank of the worst kind) outline a model where everyone who receives well-fare is forced into a low-wage job. But as there are not enough of these jobs, the industry should be allowed to participate on these programs. Of course, the industry would never ever think of replacing their regular workers with these slaves. Never, especially as the plan forces the industry to offer the products created by this system not under a minimum price that is equal to the price of the product when created by regular workers. Or in other words: they get a guaranteed profit margin for all the troubles they have.
Of course, this only speeds up the decline of the whole social system, and makes sure that the Inverted-Robin-Hood principle comes true: Take it from the poor, give it to the rich. Or as all criminals know: It is easier to extract small amounts of money from a million persons than to extract millions from a bunch or rich persons.
The study itself talks about the positive effects a similar system had in the US. Hmmm .. funny, Michael Moore tells otherwise. And even such old studies like Gabriel Kolbs “Wealth and Power in America: An Analysis of Social Class and Income Distribution” (1962) tell us, that only one third of the unemployed are covered by social security and that 35-40% of the families in the US were forced to live below the maintainance standard (which is the minimum income needed to maintain a sustainable living) a while 12-25% even lived below the emergency standard (which is the minimum income needed to survive for a short time) (Source: Wikipedia). Well, if the future our politicans want to achieve looks like the past and current state of the U.S., then our society will be back in the same dark times as before the war, with extreme differences between the poor and the rich and no or only minimal connection or exchange between these two worlds.
What a brave new world we build.
* I use the term ‘social-democrat’ loosely here, as the words ‘social’ and ‘democratic’ should not to be mixed with the party or social system we have today. Calling the ‘social-democratic’ party social is like calling the roman-catholic church a progressive think-tank.