Yesterday was budget day in Germany. Sort of. What happened was that Finance Minister Wolfgang "Bilbo Baggins" Schäuble presented the country, or at least a handful of assorted hacks, with this fetching brochure.
I studied it carefully, and came to the conclusion that all the numbers were smaller on the right than they were on the left, while all the bar-chart bars were also getting shorter, especially the yellow ones. This was definitely really good. The German cabinet also gave their approval, which was reassuring.
I then watched Schäuble’s press conference, and the wily old ruffian put on his most comforting manner, to which he has easy access, as any hobbit-like man should. "But," he muttered all honey-throated, putting hot-buttered crumpets and tea on the table, "there will have to be cuts of course."
"Oh," we said, our eyes glazing over like Mowgli getting hypnotised by that snake, "Where will the money come from?" "Oh, you know, we’ll get some money back anyway, because of the Konjunktur."
"What’s the Konjunktur?"
"Fucked if I know," says Schäuble, "They keep going on about it in the office. I just nod whenever anyone says it. It was much better being interior minister. Another muffin? And we’ll have to do something about all those scroungey poor people, obviously."
"Oh right," I said, and I got distracted because some melted butter dribbled down my chin. Anyway, it turns out that the 3.8 percent cut in the federal budget will mainly come out of unemployment benefit and parental allowance, in case you wanted to know. The Labour Ministry – which deals with unemployment – is taking an 8 percent budget cut.
Still, at least we don’t live in England, where the Conservative government has decided that teachers, nurses and social workers were mainly responsible for the financial crisis, and has sacked them all. The 20 billion pounds that the UK is cutting in the National Health Service alone is twice what Germany is cutting from its federal budget altogether. That’ll teach those pesky nurses to cause a recession.