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  • Konrad Werner: Coalition of the chilling


Konrad Werner: Coalition of the chilling

The new government says it's going to be all about fairness. But Germany under Merkel is getting less and less fair.

After the ill-advised excursion into economic theory last week (even though I won the ensuing HEATED DEBATE hands down, which proves that capitalism definitely makes no sense at all), it’s back to more familiar terrain – railing against the government. Finally, after about 854 years, during which apocalyptic disasters devastated the planet and empires rose and fell, Angela Merkel and Sigmar Gabriel (and the Bavarian one) rounded off their glacial coalition negotiations by signing a deal and divvying up the ministries and looking satisfied with themselves.

The coalition agreement they signed goes on quite a lot about Gerechtigkeit – “fairness”, and then it uses a string of German compound nouns that become slightly meaningless when you translate them to English, like “generational-fairness,” “opportunity-fairness.” The fairness thing is ironic because what the new coalition agreement doesn’t do at all is consider reforming Hartz IV, which was criticized again this week by a new poverty report. This report found that the gap between rich and poor in Germany has grown wider still since 2006, and that the percentage of poor people in Germany had risen to 15 percent. “Whole regions are in downward spirals of growing poverty and collapsing economic power,” the report thundered, like it was the Book of Revelation.

The poverty standard they used, by the way, was the EU one – that is, anyone living on 60 percent of the needs-adjusted national average, which works out at €869 for a single household and €1,826 for a four-person family – which, by the way, is well above Hartz IV.

This tied in nicely with a new study from the Bertelsmann Foundation, which found that the poorer you are the less likely you are to vote, and that at the last election, some 17.6 million voters chose not to choose. That’s 2.7 million more than voted for Merkel. In other words, poor people in Germany are becoming poorer, and less and less represented by the political system. And really, it’s no wonder they’re not voting when they end up with a coalition like this.