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Schroeder’s homage to the ten years of the “Agenda 2010” and the delaying of minimum wages

Whenever politics celebrates the anniversary of something, it somehow becomes a little embarrassing. The once so fulsome promises and goals have petered out unappreciated in the best case, in the worst case are still under dispute, and they are of no use to the so-called “man in the street”, who still has to pay for them.
So it is with the once almost revolutionary idea of the restructuring of the country under the motto “More courage”, which Chancellor Schröder called for in his government declaration of 14th March 2003; when he called for peace and for change, and called the whole affair “Agenda 2010”, because “Agenda” sounded so positive and energetic, and 2010 seemed as far away as 2000 had once sounded. The objective was that the economically sluggish Germany should finally become competitive again. This was measured by the number of unemployed (2003 5 million; today 3.18 million), who almost without justification (and that in a welfare state) were burdening the national treasury, all this should be brought to an end.
The plan according to which these figures were to be reduced, the agenda, is now ten years old, and it can be seen to what extent the aim of economic recovery has been achieved. Judging by the numbers of unemployed, the agenda seems to have been a success; measured by the economic recovery, the agenda is a boomerang which still leaves much to be done.
In this respect it became very embarrassing for Schröder when he spoke ten years ago from the SPD benches, because the SPD has become morose over the reform, so much so that even Steinmeier and Gabriel remained subdued, and the Chancellor candidate Steinbrück preferred to stay in Lower Saxony rather than to take part in the celebrations. And everyone in the hall could still hear the words spoken by Schröder ten years ago: “I would like to set out to you today point by point, what measures must be taken as a priority and implemented in the opinion of the Federal Government – for the economy and the budget, for employment and business, for security in old age and during illness. We will have to curtail payments by the state, promote self-responsibility and encourage greater performance from every individual.”
This objective at least was achieved. The state curtailed payments; the coffers were already empty in Schröder’s time, and self-responsibility and greater performance had to be delivered above all by those who had nothing more to give: all recipients of support. And they had already been better off under Schröder, because the Agenda envisaged regarding support no longer according to need or making it dependent on tax, but allocating support to recipients according to grounds. The Merkel austerity government however rejected this status, and so recipients of support are today once again considered as scroungers and parasites, and that in a country which finances its budgets mainly from tax revenues, calls itself social and claims to enable participation for everyone.
Meanwhile, the Merkel government pretends to be consistent when it comes to determining the amount of the unemployment benefit and pays by far no reasonable amounts, but only what the state can save elsewhere from cuts (in pension entitlements and social allowances), because the state coffers are even emptier today in 2013 than they were in 2003, so it is of little help when the actual national debt is one of the least regarded subjects, because national debt comes in two forms: The so-called explicit debts, i.e. what Germany owes to other countries in terms of liabilities, usually funds in its own or foreign currencies, which Germany needs for its budget, its special funds and the budgets of the states. The country is running up debts by the second, as can be seen from the debt clock; the commitments inherent in the social systems are also debts, which are increasing year-by-year, for example because of assured pensions, support for the unemployed, future, expensive baubles such as the care allowance (and that only because Bavaria does not want to be in the position to open the agreed number of kindergarten places, depriving the Federal Government of the maternity allowance; it does not become due so simply, but is partly offset as pension entitlements, and will therefore lead to injustice for future generations, because these funds will have to be provided by future generations), the extension of care payments or the planned tax reform.
These assured pensions or health payments must be financed in future, an also represent a further claim on the state which burdens future taxpayers and contributors, as well as the national debt. How high these implicit debts have become in the meantime is probably the most closely guarded secret of the Finance Ministry, because they render impossible any saving such as that always advocated by Chancellor Merkel. They are assumed today to be € 10 to 12 trillion (according to a study by the IMF, these debts already stood at € 8.5 trillion by 2006).
If the state were a company which had to balance its books, it would become apparent that Merkel is not making any savings at all – on the contrary, she is not forming the necessary reserves in order to cover these implicit debts. To this extent, every budget is just yet another trick from this point of view. And also trickery for the confidence of the voter.
With the Agenda, the SPD managed above all to avoid the introduction of the minimum wage and the setting of minimum (and maximum) wage limits, and the splitting of the employment market. It belies until Schröder’s appearance on the SPD benches, in commemoration of the day of the announcement of the Agenda, how little the Agenda has contributed to an improvement in the social conditions of people in Germany. The Germans today work just as hard as they did 10 years ago, although full-time employment with social security contributions has fallen (from 24 million to 22.5 million) in favour of part-time jobs with social security contributions (2003: 4 million; 2013: 5 million) and mini-jobs (these did not even exist in 2003; today over 7.5 million Germans are mini-jobbers) and in favour of a growing army of contract workers (from 300 000 in 2003 to almost 1.2 million in 2013).
Working hours were curtailed; employees earned less, because the new jobs do not guarantee any wage compensation in relation to full-time jobs. This resulted in more and more insecure jobs; the security once enjoyed by employees disappeared. Today, 5 million Germans worked in the so-called low-wage sector, irrespective of their qualifications. These 5 million Germans earn less than € 8/hour; 1.2 million contract employees have to accept any work at any price – they frequently earn less than € 5/hour. But since these wages are not enough to earn a living, employees still remain dependent on state support. But since they are not classified as unemployed, they do not appear in the corresponding statistics, thereby enabling politics to operate with figures which do not correspond to the reality, but still look good in reports and make good political propaganda. And this also applies to the other parts of the reform: The so-called health reform, also laid down in the Agenda, which revealed itself as the privatisation of the health service, and meant that medical and assistance would be denied to those who could not pay for it; and the so-called pension reform, which meant that people worked longer and longer, but receive lower pensions, because the state did not create any reserves for their financing, and also due to the privatisation of the risk coverage, contributed to the impoverishment of people in old age, because due to their insecure jobs they could not work long enough or had to work at too low a wage. Seen in this way, this Agenda can only be regarded as part of the Lisbon calculation, which aims to align social systems, even if this rides roughshod over German laws.
The whole thing is therefore a form of social euthanasia, approved by Germany’s governments, which is leading to a Europe in which the right to work, to an acceptable wage, to care and a livelihood in old age, no longer exist. Seen in this way, this Agenda is an abrogation of the basic law and the intended ruin of Germany, which is leading to a common Europe which no European ever wanted, and in which all leaderships are free to break all European treaties which they themselves have made, and so cannot be Europeans any longer, in the same way as the individual peoples. The state provided no care for its citizens, the Agenda did not allow for this, but instead the state continually increases taxes and social charges – Germany is currently short of € 7.85 trillion, more than four times the GDP, in order to pay for the national debt and to ensure the budgets of the future.
The cornerstone for all this was laid by the Agenda; the web continues to be woven today by Angela Merkel, who is officially saving, but unofficially is not at all in a position to save Germany from ruin or the reduction of debt which has long been called for by the Alliance for Democracy, or the loss in purchasing power of the Euro, which is already underway. And so the government bends both European and German law. The SPD would share this fate, if it were in power, despite or rather even because of all the so-called corrections to the Agenda. The whole Agenda is simply a form of insurance for governments (present and future) that the Europe they have dreamt of must come about sooner or later – a Europe led by Angela Merkel, in which Germany is a sort of federal state, which functions like a country, but has no economic power, and only democratically disenfranchised citizens.
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