German Politics

Franz, oh mein Franz.

Franz Müntefering (source: Müntefering demonstriert (wohl) unfreiwillig, wie sehr die SPD Führung, aber wohl auch die Basis der Partei im Moment an sich selbst und der Welt (der Linken) verzweifelt. Es ist schon ein wenig tragisch, mit ansehen zu müssen, wie eine Partei wie die SPD mit Bezug auf die glorreiche Vergangenheit jede Gelegenheit ausläßt, sich für die Zukunft zu wappnen. Die Auseinandersetzung mit der “Linken” – ob sie nun ein Ãœbergangsphänomen bleibt oder nicht – wird der SPD keine Wahlen gewinnen.

Die Dauerdiskussion über das Selbstverständnis, die den logischen Kanzlerkandidaten und Vorsitzenden Kurt Beck zum Direktor eines Flohzirkus macht, ist das dümmste, was die Partei zur Mitte der Legislaturperiode einfallen konnte. Andererseits ist das zumindest nicht wirklich untypisch…

WELT ONLINE – Müntefering will gar nichts ausschließen

SPD-Chef Beck würde gern sicherstellen, dass Sozialdemokraten und Linke auf Länderebene nicht koalieren. Vizekanzler Müntefering sieht das ein wenig anders. SPD-Fraktionschef Struck hat derweil errechnet, was eine regierende Linke kosten würde.

German Politics

Tell me something I don’t know – Kurt Beck wird Kanzlerkandidat.

Kurt Beck - Quelle - Sie, verehrte Leser, sich auch manchmal, wie ruhig und gesittet es eigentlich auf der politischen Bühne zugehen könnte, wenn sich alle nur über die Dinge streiten würden, die a) tatsächlich strittig und b) gegenwärtig relevant sind? Die Antwort ist – es wäre ruhig. Sehr ruhig. Und das ist dann auch schon wieder die Erklärung dafür, warum die oben genannten Bedingungen grundsätzlich geflissentlich ignoriert werden. Aktuelles Beispiel?

Peer Steinbrück erklärt (und die FTD berichtet), daß Kurt Beck 2009 als Kanzlerkandidat antreten wird.

Man könnte meinen, wir seien alle ins Sommerloch gefallen. Ja wer soll denn sonst für die SPD 2009 antreten? Andrea Nahles etwa? Peer Steinbrück? Frank-Walter Steinmeier? Franz Müntefering vielleicht? Matthias Platzeck – vielleicht für die erste Hälfte des Wahlkampfs? Und danach dann nochmal Gerhard Schröder? Das wär’s doch. Am bestern gleich in der Troika mit Rudolf Scharping und Oskar Lafontaine. Oder einfach Willy wählen.

Kurt Beck wird Kanzlerkandidat. Aber wenn die SPD nicht bald ihre Positionierung auf dem Wählermarkt überdenkt und die Wahlkampfgeschenke von Wolfgang Schäuble weiterhin verächtlich links liegen läßt, dann wird es wohl bei der Kandidatur bleiben.

German Politics, oddly enough

I’m leaving the country.

You know what? A sizeable portion of Germans are probably truly mad, after all. I have just learnt of a poll result indicating that a third of Germans would support a political comeback of Oskar Lafontaine, the loony left former chairman of the Social Democrats, who blocked each and every economic reform initiative in the 1990s. Yes, *that* Oskar. The “I’m against it, what are we talking about?” Lafontaine.

Frankly, if Lafontaine had been born in the US, he would be advocating Creationism and write op-eds about the failure of science to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the earth is not flat.

I mean, has anyone ever “really” seen the entire globe?

German Politics

She Was Not Surprised?

I’m a little confused about a statement by the Chancellor’s spokesperson, Bela Anda, as reported by Netzeitung.

As you might have heard, yesterday, an unemployed teacher was able to approach Mr Schroeder during a campaign rally in Mannheim and slap him. The Chancellor was, according to Mr Anda, not seriously injured by the “attack” and the perpetrator, who, interestingly, is – and for technical reasons will remain – a candidate for the Social Democrats in next months local elections despite immediate cancellation of his party membership, was released from police custody later in the evening. He faces charges of assault and insult.

Physical attacks on politicians are, luckily, very rare in current German politics – so there it is always surprising to hear about them. Or maybe not – apparently, Mrs Schroeder has been expecting such reactions to her husband’s politics all along – or how else is one to interpret Mr Anda’s statement that she “had been startled but was not really surprised.”

compulsory reading, Economics, German Politics, Germany

Zeitenwende. End Of An Era.

It took some time and more of their money to make Germans understand.

It took more than ten years of subsidizing consumption and unemployment in a previously bankrupt former communist economy and virtual non-growth to make us see that it is not only necessary to think about the problematic long-term consequences of the current incentive structure in the German version of the continental model of the Welfare State but to actually change them.

It was no joke when, earlier this year, two people working in a zoo, who were fired for grilling the animals they should feed, successfully sued their former employer for a golden handshake. An extreme case, of course, but one indicating rather lucidly what’s keeping Germany from growing (possibly apart from too high interest rates, but that’s another story – albeit a connected one).

For ages, Germany’s consensus democracy was unable to get reforms going because, well, there was no consensus to speak of – whichever party was in opposition made a bet that it would pay off to block government reforms as far as possible because the electorate would not believe change was necessary. Sure, such a perception is partly a consequence of failed leadership. But only to a small part. Because they were right – the electorate did not want to see.

Then Schroeder won the 1998 election, largely because of the implicit promise that he would become the German Blair – that he could transform the German Social Democrats into some sort of NewLabour without the need for a Thatcher or a “Winter of Discontent”. But when he had just won his first power struggle and made the loony left’s star propagandist Oskar Lafontaine quit the finance ministry in March 1999, he realized that the internet bubble induced growth (weak, in Germany, but real economic growth nonetheless) would allow him to put off fundamental reforms and to mend relations with the loony left with even more rigid labour market reforms.

Unfortunately, after the bubble burst, it was too late for reforms that would have paid off for the government in last year’s election. A fiscal expansion was impossible and, moreover, unwise given strained public budgets. So Schroeder had to play the hand he was dealt – rectal rapprochement to the trade-unions, exploiting the flood-disaster in East-Germany, and betting on the public’s opposition to the American stance on Iraq.

Having narrowly won last year’s election, Schroeder knew that he would have to deliver on his 1998 promise, even thought the economic climate was far worse than it was back then. And even if though delivering would probably lead to the most serious conflict the SPD ever had with trade unions which, for no obvious reason given the steady decline in their membership, still claim to be speaking for “ordinary Germans” when it comes to “social justice”. The readjustment of the social security system, as well as the “intellectual” separation of the Social Democrats from the unions – developments that will undoubtedly be beneficial to both the SPD and Germany as a whole – will be a lot harder now than they would have been back in 1994, under Kohl, or in 1998.

The difference is that now, for the first time, a growing majority of Germans seems to be willing to give up something for a risky future benefit – or put differently, a lot more people are scared by what they think could happen to them, their children, and this country, if the social security system is not dealt with right now. Let’s hope it remains this way for sometime. The tough reforms are still out there in the think-tanks waiting to be pasted into bills.

Of course, the loony left is barking and whining about its loss of discourse hegemony on “social justice”. But don’t we all know that dogs that bark don’t bite?

If only because they have lost their teeth.

German Politics, quicklink

Oskar Lafontaine and the “loony left”

Whenever people start talking about the “loony left” I can’t help but thinking about Oskar Lafontaine, the former chairman of the Social Democrats and German finance minister who luckily stepped down in March 1999. This week’s English edition of the Frankfurter Allgemeie Zeitung reports that I am not the only one who is being driven mad by his seemingly scheduled attempts to obstruct the government and regain influence in the SPD.

German Politics

Hayek for Social Democrats.

While reading the following excerpt from a speech called “Flexibility for the Labour Market” given by Germany’s new economics & labour super-secretary Wolfgang Clement’s at a conference in Berlin yesterday, you might become a little confused about the current position of the German Social Democrats on the economic left-right scale. Has the SPD become a proponent of Hayekian laisser-faire econmics instead of state-regulated intervention? Hardly. But let’s see (quick-and-dirty translation by myself)

we tend to continuously pass new legislation to improve social welfare. But this well-meaning attempt can be perverted if those whose lifes are supposed to be improved by new legislation are getting lost and drown in the wave of regulations that are imposed on many different levels. In addition, there is the danger, that too strict rules are making the necessary development of processes more difficult or are preventing them entirely instead of speeding them up.”

But let me assure you: It’s just words. And words can be, at most, a promise for deeds. They are a lot more credible if backed by acredible record or credible committments. The problem with the former is, there is no credible SPD record regarding deregulation for the post 1998 period. Social security reforms, yes, to some extent. But labour market DE-regulation? No. If anything, things have become worse due to the still rampant union inducied insider-outsider problems.

Actually, Clement somewhat recognizes the lack of a record in the excerpt. So past experience does not quite work to help convince the public of the truthfulness of his (speechwriter’s) words.

And there’s the core of the government’s communication problem (which is huge, but evidently pales in comparison to the fiscal and regulatory ones.) It has no idea how to credibly commit itself to the reform rethoric it is once again employing.

That’s why so many people are wary believing the SPD today when it employs libertarian rethoric. They believe it just means further state regulation and more unemployment, however much disguised.

Shame on you if you fool me once, shame on me if you fool me twice…

German Politics

New Left, again.

OK, now that the left has really come round to understand the coordinating value of markets, they want to apply their knowledge whereever they can. This is an excerpt from a campaigning website of the SPD which tries to motivate people to volunteer for their Online Campaigning Team. Funny…but in German.

Wie werden die Aufgaben an das Online Campaigning Team verteilt? Das geschieht auf dem Jobmarkt.

Der Jobmarkt ist eine Art Marktplatz. Er funktioniert wie ein Internetforum. Die Einträge sind nur fär OCT Mitglieder sichtbar. Wer Aufgaben an das OCT zu vergeben hat, kann hier ein Angebot aufgeben. Die Mitglieder des OCT können auf jedes Angebot antworten. Auf dem Jobmarkt werden die Informationen ausgetauscht, wer bis wann welche Aufgabe erledigen kann und welche Fähigkeiten dafür benötigt werden. Für eine Aufgabe benötigt man z.B HTML Kenntnisse, manche Aufgaben sollen von vielen OCT Mitgliedern bearbeitet werden, manche nur von einem. So soll sich der Markt selber regeln und Angebot und Nachfrage zusammenführen, so dass jede Aufgabe von dem bearbeitet werden kann, der dafür am besten geeignet ist.