Germany lives beyond its means

Germany lives beyond its means

Dhe true face of the turning point, the Olaf Scholz the coalition’s cause a year ago is only becoming apparent now, in the battle over the distribution of the billions in the budget. However, this is already the first illusion with which the traffic light serves the public. Because the household is no longer what it seems.

Roughly the size of the budget, there are crisis funds and sub-budgets in which focal points of government policy are hidden. That can certainly be justified – because of the three acute crises: Corona, Ukraine, energy, which brought extraordinary burdens with them in a short time. Not to mention climate protection.

If at the same time almost as many debts and credit authorizations were accumulated in just four years of the crisis as in the 70 years before, this is not due to crisis management, but to a second illusion. It has a lot to do with the 100 billion special fund that Olaf Scholz made a focus of his “Zeitenwende” speech a year ago.

Much talked, little acted

Much has been said about guns since then. But the rearmament of the armed forces keeps waiting. Apparently she doesn’t have priority. Orders and procurements are not progressing. And the defense budget is still not what was promised.

The delay can be explained by the fact that Scholz not only needed the 100 billion euros to equip the Bundeswehr, but above all as a protective shield for the coalition peace. Because the extra money saves the government from having to save elsewhere for the “turning point”.

Imagine if there were no special fund and the entire national defense would have to be financed from the current budget. Scholz did not want to tie the traffic light to the failures of previous governments. This has the absurd effect that the routine from the time before the turning point has returned very quickly.

The Bundeswehr has to wait (once again).

In any case, the money for the projects agreed in autumn 2021 was decided and planned much faster than what was announced by the Federal Chancellor a year ago. This is also part of the core of his “Zeitenwende” speech: At that time, Scholz gave the impression that although times have changed radically, his government does not have to do without any item on its wish list.

Once again, the Bundeswehr is the first to feel this. The scenes are similar: the secretary of defense begs for money while other departments announce their luxurious claims in the old routine. It almost seems as if the thought plays a role: now more than ever.

The exorbitant, outsourced effort was repeated in the energy crisis. It did mean that Germany was spared from the chaos. The result, however, is state finances that can hardly be controlled. The dispute over basic child security shows where the conflicts of interest lie.

How much does that cost? Nobody knows.

Not that it isn’t necessary child poverty to fight. However, as in many other projects aimed at perfecting social security, this is associated with additional welfare, the amount of which cannot be calculated. The intention of facilitating access to government support and thus reaching those who actually need help has turned into a rain of money that benefits almost every second child. How much does that cost? Nobody knows.

Almost every social service is created and thrives on this pattern, which has survived the turning point faster than anything else. It is always more expensive than planned, it is always insufficiently financed, it always suffers from the fact that desire and reality soon diverge. The contradictions crystallize in a personnel shortage that cuts across state, municipal and private services of general interest. Daycare centers, schools, care, hospitals, job centers, police officers – they all threaten to no longer be able to keep what was promised.

In this way, social policy lets the burdens of the household rise like yeast. It has meant that the space for free design has shrunk to niches. In a welfare state, there is nothing fundamentally wrong with that, as long as other vital needs are not suppressed. But that is the case in Germany.

If even national defense no longer fits into the budget, the country lives beyond its means and politics in the illusion of setting the right priorities. According to the Federal Minister of Finance, part of the “turning point” is a “reprioritization” of government policy. So far there is no sign of this. The federal budget is no longer the art of government cast in numbers, but an expression of a gradual loss of credibility of the state.

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