Current pension policy – ​​and not just retirement at 63 – is unreasonable. But popular with the people. That’s why the FDP has now taken on an almost overwhelming opponent. Not for the first time.

If you want to study the difference between “well-intentioned” and “well-done,” you only need to look at retirement at 63. A prime example of social democratic social policy, implemented by Andrea Nahles in 2014 in a grand coalition with Angela Merkel’s help. The goal was certainly honorable: people who had been insured for a long time, especially low earners, should be able to retire early after 45 years of “hard work” when their health was at an end, and without any deductions.

The FDP questions this in the traffic lights. The SPD defends what it once introduced with the personified triple whammy of Chancellor, party leader and general secretary – when you ask Social Democrats about social “accomplishments”, they show no quarter. Olaf Scholz only needs one word to express his disgust at the liberal attempt at socio-political rationality: “absurd”.

Your social and budget politicians then argue that external security should not be “played off” against internal security or against social security. Of course – every budget battle is always a distribution battle. Social Democrats do not have a sole subscription to this.

Only: It’s not about acting out. Playing acts as a taboo here. In order not to have to discuss it at all: social, what is that anyway? The citizen’s money, in order to bring another social subsidy worth billions into play, may have been a real blessing for Ukrainian refugees – Germany not only granted protection from Russian persecution, but also social security.

But: In other countries such as Denmark or the Netherlands, Ukrainian refugees went to work, and in Germany they received state support. What is social as a result? Wouldn’t it be classically social democratic to say: Social is what creates work?

Not only Ukrainian women and their children benefit from citizens’ money, but also Ukrainian men of military age who have avoided military service in Ukraine. This is understandable from a human perspective, but is it also sensible from a financial and social policy perspective?

Germany supplies Ukraine with weapons worth billions, supports potential fighters through the welfare state that the Ukrainian government urgently needs, and now also prevents them from returning home to their country after their visa has expired. Viewed coolly, the government is counteracting its own aid to Ukraine with its policies. This point also plays no role in the budget discussions.

As Minister of Social Affairs, Andrea Nahles planned a pension at 63, which due to demographic developments has long since become a pension from 64, for the roofer with back problems. This was already the socio-political reference point for Gerhard Schröder. A look at the numbers turns a well-intentioned idea into a poorly crafted illusion:

Anyone who moves to Balconia without deductions from their job after 45 years of pension contributions is generally in better health than regular retirees. The German Economic Institute found this out a long time ago. It is not the poor who use this social policy instrument, but rather people with average earnings who also receive above-average pensions. Most of them are also decently educated, and the consequences of retiring at 63 are fatal:

The social democratic invention increases the skilled worker gap, costs the welfare state enormous sums and also helps the wrong people.

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In the words of Freiburg social state professor Georg Cremer, who served for 17 years as general secretary of Germany’s largest welfare association, Caritas, for which around 700,000 people work: “Retiring at 63 was counterproductive. It is mainly used by people who are well qualified and receive above-average pensions – not just the roofer with back problems for whom it was supposedly intended.” Prof. Cremer mercilessly coolly described the pension at 63 in the “Wirtschaftswoche” as an “avoidable increase in costs” .

With the pension at 63, the welfare state generated billions in costs that even missed their social policy goal – pure waste. Things don’t look much better with the so-called pension package two of the traffic light coalition. BDI President Rainer Dulger calls it the most expensive reform of the century. And the Freiburg economist Bernd Raffelhüschen judges the idea as follows: “Leaving the pension level at 48 percent and not increasing the retirement age is economic madness and would be a six in math.”

Proposals to prevent or at least mitigate the pension disaster, this social-political catastrophe, have been around for a long time. Like the rational suggestion by economist Veronika Grimm to link retirement age to life expectancy. Alone: ​​There is no talking about this with Social Democrats; after the Schröder years, the SPD has internalized again: Social is what benefits the largest possible number of people, and not: the largest possible number of those who are really in need. Critics derisively call it: the watering can principle.

But that’s exactly what explains why we can’t discuss this with the SPD. Retiring at 63 may be wrong, but it is popular. On average over the past few years, more than 250,000 people gratefully used this instrument devised by the Social Democrats. In addition to a further increase in the minimum wage and a citizen’s allowance that has already been increased twice within a very short period of time, it is the most important social policy component in Olaf Scholz’s re-election campaign.

And that’s exactly why the Free Democrats have now taken on an overwhelming opponent. It may be desperation in view of the lousy surveys or the cultivation of its own economically knowledgeable “clientele” – the FDP can hardly win this battle. Because the price for this gain would be the capitulation of the SPD in its most important field.

That would be as if the FDP were happy to throw the debt brake overboard or the Greens were excited about their climate protection.

And so that not everything in this text goes down with the SPD: The Union has also had good experiences with the drastic strain on pension finances for electoral purposes, and the CSU has had particularly good ones. Their mother’s pension also healed an injustice, but according to them it also costs the pension insurance around 13 billion euros a year.

Incidentally, the mother’s pension was decided in 2014 in the same pension package as the pension from age 63. It was a pension deal between the two major popular parties, an agreement by the grand coalition of social politicians – at the expense of the coffers. The workers’ party was allowed to do something for the “little people”, the family party was allowed to serve the mothers. You can always rely on the cross-party coalition of social politicians. That’s how it’s always been.

The biggest of all pension reforms, the linking of pensions to wages (“dynamization”), was passed by the German Bundestag with the votes of the CDU/CSU and SPD. The FDP voted unanimously against it. That was 1957. It had this political background:

The Adenauer government had become increasingly unpopular in the second half of the 1950s. The most important social reason for this was that pensioners did not take part in the economic miracle. The second most important reason was the expansion of the Bundeswehr, which was unpopular among the population. Konrad Adenauer countered the criticism of the “remilitarization” of Germany with the largest social reform in the Federal Republic.

Sometimes history does repeat itself. Adenauer then won the only absolute majority in the history of the Federal Republic.