KSmall diamonds, large diamonds – what is the best basis for writing a story of new beginnings and progress? So far, one can only speculate about the content of the sketch pads of the SPD, Greens and FDP. But that leaves room for ideas on how set pieces from election programs can be put together in an interesting way.
The simple scheme would be: The SPD increases Hartz IV and the minimum wage, the Greens prohibit CO2 emissions, and the FDP does not increase taxes. That would have at least one catch: the tax hike would have to be made up soon in order to service the debt. That wouldn’t be a good story. Much more exciting, on the other hand, is the approach of building completely new concepts out of the seemingly contrary, the party-political value of which cannot be determined by counting bullets. That requires strong trust – all parties are surrounded by relentless lobby groups that only know the “pure doctrine”.
Prime case of “natural opposition”
But what would something like that look like – for example in social policy, which is considered a prime example of “natural opposition”? As is well known, the SPD wants to overcome an old trauma by turning away from Hartz IV. The Greens have even pondered an unconditional basic income. And both always fought the FDP as a party of social cold. However: During the election campaign there were already shifts in emphasis: The SPD hardly talked about Hartz IV, but much about respect for employees. And the Greens hammered into the audience the term “basic child benefits”.
This is a concept which, on the one hand, aims to provide unemployed households with children with more money; instead of the current rate of 283 to 373 euros, they would receive 547 euros a month for each child according to the Greens’ teaching. But it also aims against invisible welfare state walls, which today often make the transition from unemployment to work, from basic security to social security, absurdly more difficult. The new benefit would not only replace the Hartz standard rates for children, but also the child benefit, the child allowance for workers with limited incomes.
What is very interesting about it is that the FDP is also fighting against these very walls. She has plans to rearrange the existing undergrowth of competing social benefits for working low-wage earners so that advancement through work is more successful than it is today. Today it looks like this: Anyone who is unemployed (and does not receive unemployment benefit I) receives Hartz IV. Anyone who combines the Hartz IV receipt with a mini-job increases their income noticeably – and then things get complicated: Who, for example, through part-time work earned, sometimes receives supplementary unemployment benefit II depending on the size of the household and place of residence – but sometimes not if there are entitlements to housing benefit and child allowance; which, in case of doubt, have to be applied for from other offices.
But it also depends on the extent to which work is worthwhile: Depending on the social benefit, your own wages are offset against it to different degrees – with Hartz IV so heavily that working above the mini job limit is hardly financially worthwhile. And households with several children can at some point drop out of the child allowance and housing allowance and fall back into Hartz IV when gross earnings rise – because the minimum requirement rates there can be above the upper earnings limits of the other aids.
So far, the ideological rifts in the welfare state debate have effectively prevented this kind of botch from becoming a political issue. The shouting whether the Hartz rule rate should be 3, 10 or 50 euros higher drowns out the question of how people can get out of Hartz IV more easily. Unfortunately, the same applies to the assertion that a minimum wage of 12 euros can effectively protect against being dependent on social transfers: earnings are not sufficient, especially where people do not work full-time, where housing is very expensive and where several children have to be looked after .
But all of this leads to an honorable task that the SPD, Greens and FDP can possibly solve more convincingly than any other coalition. Precisely because they come from different directions, they could resolve the demotivating social state mess in a politically convincing manner. Maybe like this? Hartz IV recipients who take up work subject to social insurance but still need help are no longer managed in the same system as the long-term unemployed – instead of topping up with unemployment benefit II, there is a new “Aufstiegsgeld” for everyone, which also replaces child allowance and housing benefit. If the planned alliance succeeds in doing something like this, the chapter on social policy would definitely have deserved the title “Awakening and Progress”.