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Operation Citizens’ Money: The Union is not letting up

Operation Citizens’ Money: The Union is not letting up

CDU leader Friedrich Merz wants to abolish citizens’ money in its current form – and his party is going along with it. Now even the workers’ wing is supporting him. Why?

There is also a lot that can be argued about in the CDU; this is not an exclusive habit of the traffic light parties. Not all Christian Democrats can rally behind calling for a German “leading culture” in the new basic program. Or just not touching the current debt rules. The analysis that the Greens are the “main opponents” in the federal government is also not universally shared.

On one topic, however, the CDU appears united as rarely and follows a common line: Citizens’ money, in its current form, needs to be completely overhauled. Even CDA boss Karl-Josef Laumann, the social policy conscience of the CDU, is now firmly in favor of reform. “The citizen’s money has failed in this form,” Laumann told the star.

Three things emerge from this. First: At least on this issue, no disagreement with CDU leader Friedrich Merz is desired. Second: The largest opposition faction in the Bundestag is likely to make social policy one of its main topics in the election campaign. Third: After the election, things could get complicated.

CDA boss Laumann: “Citizens’ money has failed in this form”

The details of how radically the CDU might want to restructure citizens’ money are not yet known. The federal party conference in May could provide clarity. Then the new basic program should also be decided, in which the Christian Democratic maxim on social benefits is defined: “Anyone who can work should work!” The principle of “promoting and demanding” must always apply.

That is currently not the case, argue CDU leader Merz and his general secretary Carsten Linnemann. Among other things, they cite the significant increase in standard rates at the turn of the year – due to a recalculation – which makes working in the low-wage sector less and less attractive. In general, the CDU does not see the wage gap requirement as being upheld. So it questions whether benefit recipients have enough incentive to do regular work instead.

Citizens’ money “in its current form” will therefore be “abolished,” announced Secretary General Linnemann. It is the Union’s “first major reform project” in the event of future government participation. Linnemann is now receiving support from the employee wing of the party, which once expressly welcomed the introduction of citizens’ money.

In times of labor shortages, says CDA boss Laumann, it is crazy for a healthy person not to do any work. This only applies to some of the recipients. “But I think that the citizens’ money created the wrong incentives,” said Laumann, who is also the labor and social minister in North Rhine-Westphalia. Support is no longer in balance with demand. “There is a lack of support from the population for such a social system.”

There are currently 5.4 million recipients of citizen’s benefit. That sounds like a large number, even given the shortage of skilled workers in Germany. However, a distinction must be made here, not least between so-called “workable” and “non-workable” benefit recipients. Because many recipients of citizen’s benefit cannot or are not allowed to work. Because they are still children, for example, or because of an illness or disability. To put it bluntly.

The bottom line is that there remain around 1.7 million employable people entitled to benefits who are unemployed – that is, who can work but do not. The reasons for this are difficult to determine statistically. There is also no reliable data on the extent to which citizens’ money itself contributes to this number.

However, a calculation by the Munich Ifo Institute recently showed that working in Germany always leads to higher incomes than doing nothing. The claim that those who only receive social benefits receive more net income than a low-income earner is “simply wrong,” said the researchers.

Nevertheless, citizen’s money is controversial. Is it fair? Does it actually create false incentives? These are also ideological questions that are discussed controversially.

In any case, the majority of Germans (64 percent) are of the opinion that the recent increase in standard rates creates an incentive not to take up regular work. . This could reveal a more fundamental skepticism about social benefits. With consequences? A few weeks ago, Federal Labor Minister Hubertus Heil, SPD, tightened the sanctions for so-called “total refusers” (). Because the government wanted to save money – but also because of public pressure.

The SPD reacts in a decidedly calm manner

“We have to be careful that acceptance of basic social security does not change,” warns CDU politician Laumann. “As a Union, we will tackle a reform of citizens’ money.” He is thinking, for example, of sanctions, additional earnings limits and the way job centers work. “But it is also clear that anyone who really needs help must receive it and in an appropriate amount.” The current increase was therefore correct. Laumann believes that people need to be fundamentally qualified for the job market. “One measure after the other is the wrong approach.” The job centers now have to primarily mediate and show perspectives.

CDU boss Merz is more clear about this. He clearly sees the issue as having potential to mobilize the working class for his party and all those who view citizens’ money with suspicion. In the general debate last Wednesday, Merz accused the SPD of having now become “a party of subsidized unemployment” and no longer a party of workers. Conversely, this probably means: This is now the CDU. Even beyond the citizen’s money, Merz is currently trying to distance himself as much as possible from the unpopular government. The Union and the traffic light parties have different views “on all essential issues,” said Merz in the Bundestag, “not in detail, but in principle.” He fundamentally ruled out collaboration with the traffic light coalition.

The clear words suggest a tough debate in the election campaign. And difficult conversations afterwards. If the Union can convert its poll percentages into election results, it would win the federal election and could therefore also rely on the SPD as a coalition partner.

Citizens’ money makes sense for the SPD. It is seen as a liberation from the agenda politics and the harsh sanctions regime of the previous Hartz IV regulations. But also as an ID card and proof of having kept the “respect” promise from the election campaign. This is where the CDU comes in and tries to turn the winning issue into a losing issue.

So let’s ask it the other way around: Does the SPD still want to work with the CDU?

Co-boss Saskia Esken is emphatically calm. “We are proud of this citizen’s money law,” said Esken on Monday morning in the atrium of the SPD party headquarters. The introduction and recent recalculation was “exactly the right thing to do”. And as far as possible cooperation with the Union is concerned: the Social Democrat has heard different signals.

At the weekend, Merz spelled out possible coalition options after the federal election in his weekly newsletter “MerzMail”. He continues to firmly rule out a coalition with the AfD. He appeared open to alliances with the SPD, FDP and the Greens. Under the leadership of the Union, of course. “Obviously it depends on your form on the day,” said Esken, “so I wouldn’t put too much emphasis on it.” Merz’s opinion on the SPD’s prestige citizen money project, however, is clear.

Source: Stern

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