First the pension guarantee, now a 15 euro minimum wage: Olaf Scholz is strategically planning his social election campaign. And regardless of losses.

The minimum wage should never be set by politicians. This was the promise that the then Federal Labor Minister Andrea Nahles made when the minimum wage law was passed. A political minimum wage “opens the door to arbitrariness and populism”. Nahles is a social democrat.

Ten years later, it is not just any of Nahles’ comrades who breaks this central promise of the grand coalition at the time, but the Chancellor himself: “I am clearly in favor of raising the minimum wage first to 14 euros, then in the next step to 15 euros,” said Olaf Scholz in one “Stern” interview.

Today the minimum wage is 12.41 euros, from next year it will rise to 12.82 euros. This is what the Minimum Wage Commission proposed, which, in Germany’s tradition of social partnership, consists of half employees and half employers.

This equal minimum wage commission was set up ten years ago to counter fears that the minimum wage would disempower the collective bargaining partners through politics. Because of this fear, trade unions were initially skeptical about the minimum wage, as it was a fundamental violation of the principle of free wage determination by employees and employers.

Scholz is now going a big step further – and fundamentally denies the Minimum Wage Commission the ability to decide on the lower wage limit. Members of the Minimum Wage Commission “unfortunately broke with the social partnership tradition of making decisions by consensus. Employers have only insisted on a mini-adjustment. That was a breaking of a taboo.” This view of the Chancellor is at least oblique.

It is in the social partnership tradition in Germany that employees and employers agree – but not automatically on the idea that only one side has, in this case the unions. Scholz is now taking the work off their hands. More than that: it is a question of the collective bargaining partners being incapacitated by politics, a vote of no confidence against employers and employees alike because they are unable to decide what a Social Democratic head of government who is campaigning for the election has in mind. No wonder that a coalition partner immediately stands in the way.

“Anyone who makes the minimum wage a purely political football disempowers the collective bargaining parties and disregards the work of the minimum wage commission,” says the Parliamentary Managing Director of the Liberals, the budget administrator Torsten Herbst.

For the second time, Scholz has broken the promise that the Social Democrats made when the minimum wage was introduced: no politically determined wage floor. The SPD leadership knows exactly what it is doing here. Party General Secretary Kevin Kühnert said before the SPD convention in December: “The SPD’s goal is not to keep printing new minimum wage levels on posters.” That is exactly what is happening now. Basically, it is a minimum wage lie by the SPD.

As a reminder, the statement by the then Federal Labor Minister Andrea Nahles on the introduction of the minimum wage verbatim:

“As soon as the minimum wage law was passed, we were able to quickly agree in the grand coalition that we did not want a politically set minimum wage. This opens the door to arbitrariness and populism. Rather, we want, and this has been tried and tested in Germany, the social partners to set the minimum wage in an independent, independent commission. They have the knowledge and they have the experience. In the future, it will be up to you alone to check what level of the minimum wage is suitable in the future to contribute to an appropriate minimum protection for employees, to enable fair and functioning competitive conditions and not to endanger employment. In doing so, they ensure that millions of people in the low-wage sector receive the wages they deserve and are protected from wage dumping. The minimum wage commission, which is made up of equal representation by the leading organizations of employers and employees, means a strengthening of collective bargaining autonomy.”

The depoliticization of the minimum wage, which was well justified by Nahles at the time, has its purpose, and that is: balancing interests. Higher wages are always in the interest of employees, the more, the lower the wages are. But in a functioning market economy, this interest of employees is balanced with the interests of employers – and consumers. Basically, higher wages first make production more expensive and then prices. Employers will always try to pass on the increased prices to consumers, less out of profit interest than out of self-protection.

In plain language: An increase in the minimum wage to 15 euros, as the Chancellor is calling for, will ultimately make all products manufactured by minimum wage earners more expensive by around 20 percent. And because the minimum wage sets the lower limit, the next highest wage will also rise, and ultimately all wages, in order to keep the gap to the minimum wage the same.

With a certain delay, the Chancellor’s plan will make everything more expensive. In Germany – which means a competitive disadvantage for German companies. Increasing the minimum wage at a time of drastic increases in production costs and prices increases the pressure on companies to deal with migration abroad – to places where labor costs, energy prices and bureaucratic costs are lower than here.

Olaf Scholz’s 15 euro demand even exceeds Sahra Wagenknecht’s demand. The party leader of the alliance named after her had called for a minimum wage of 14 euros in a motion in the Bundestag – the BSW’s first ever. The Left Party had previously demanded this.

Since the 15 euros were also called for on the political left, including the Greens, from whose ranks – Katrin Göring-Eckardt – there is already an outbidding competition for the highest minimum wage. He is driven by the fight for lower middle class voters.

With his initiative, Scholz accepts that his relationship with employers will be further strained. Most recently, employer president Rainer Dulger accused him of being responsible for the “most expensive social law of the century” because of the pension increase.

But despite all the objections of economic experts, liberals and Union politicians: when it comes to the minimum wage, just as with pensions, Scholz has the most powerful of all conceivable allies at his side: the people. Most recently, Forsa found a clear majority for exactly what the Chancellor is demanding. 57 percent of all respondents were in favor of a minimum wage of 15 euros.

Scholz and the SPD have long been preparing a peace and social election campaign. With Scholz as a double – social and military – security guarantor at the center. And with Sahra Wagenknecht, Scholz is currently having a new alliance option. Which would also allow him, the SPD and the Greens to get rid of the FDP, which is so unpopular on the left.

Some in the CDU believe, given their own strength in the polls and the Social Democratic poll weakness, that the next head of government will certainly come from the CDU. A prominent Social Democratic campaigner has already shown how to win elections with exactly these two issues: Gerhard Schröder. The defamatory role that the then election campaigner Kirchhof, “that professor from Heidelberg,” had intended, Scholz has now reserved for a millionaire with a private plane: Friedrich Merz.