Do you ever feel sorry for Angela Merkel? I do sometimes. I mean it can't be easy, trying to think of laws and keep Europe from imploding and hold a coalition together with some extremely stubborn Bavarians and go to see the football all in one week. These things are all priorities for Angela Merkel, but those stubborn Bavarians have been coming far too near the top of the list recently.
This is because the Christian Social Union – the bizarrely named Bavarian sister party to Merkel's Christian Democratic Union – just keeps on banging on with the Betreuungsgeld. This is a new benefit for parents who don't need the money (people on unemployment benefit are excluded) – who will get €150 a month for each child they keep at home rather than send to kindergarten.
There are a lot of arguments for why this is not a good idea – education experts say that kids learn better if they've been to kindergarten, and economic experts say it will cost the tax payer €2.2 billion a year which could be spent on expanding kindergarten places, which would help people get a job and improve the economy.
The main argument for it seems to be that it will help people who live out in places where there are no kindergartens.
In fact, it has become clear in recent weeks that most of the government – the FDP and a lot of the CDU including Merkel herself – don't believe in the benefit. It's just a desperate need of the CSU, whose leader Horst Seehofer has even threatened to break up the government coalition over it. Two things about it make me hopping mad:
1. The fact that Merkel is perfectly prepared to ignore the advice of educational and fiscal experts, common sense, her own principles, and is prepared to spend a shit load of cash just so she can preserve a fake alliance with those stubborn Bavarians.
2. The fact that Seehofer keeps pretending he is in some kind of a different party to Merkel. The CSU only exists because of its ancient pact with the CDU not to field any candidates in Bavaria. It is a national party without a national mandate.
Anyway, just thought I'd mention it.