Corona pandemic, disrupted supply chains, climate crisis, inflation, Russia’s war against Ukraine, dangerous tensions between the USA and China – the parallelism of the crises threatens to overwhelm our country.
The most visible symbol could be the energy prices, which have explosive potential in two respects: Firstly, in terms of costs for large parts of the population and many companies. On the other hand, for the social cohesion of our democracy. Ultimately, desperation, feelings of powerlessness and fears about the future are the breeding ground for rage and fury, which are looking for a political outlet.
Never before in the history of the Federal Republic has a government faced such a test. At the same time, it is about the fight against climate change, the joint defense of Moscow’s claims to become a superpower, economic and social upheavals caused by the impending stop of Russian gas supplies and, last but not least, the realignment of our export-oriented economic model, which is enormous in view of rising energy and raw material prices and growing trade barriers is under pressure.
Not to mention the dramatic investment backlog in infrastructure, schools and education. Whatever mistakes, inconsistencies and corrections in the actions of the federal government one may recognize: There is no “blueprint” for this parallelism of crises and, measured against the challenges, Germany has so far been kept on a very stable course.
A lot of money is needed to manage all this, to prevent economic and social crises and at the same time to start a large investment program that extends from the energy sector to education and transport infrastructure to the military budget.
The tax and levy relief alone, which is necessary to ensure that people with low and middle incomes are not overwhelmed by skyrocketing energy bills, costs billions. One may argue about the sense or nonsense of the gas surcharge, but it will by no means be enough. Without a government cap on energy prices, companies and consumers alike will be brought to their knees economically and socially.
That will cost the state a lot of money, because you can only cap consumer prices, not the purchase prices for energy suppliers. And of course the fight against “cold progression” planned by Federal Finance Minister Christian Lindner is also expensive. Up to 15 billion euros can quickly come together.
And that’s not all: more money for the Bundeswehr, for the stabilization of the weaker European member states and for economic cooperation with the countries of the Global South. Because Germany and the rich north are currently buying up everything that is available worldwide in terms of natural and liquid gas at crazy prices, the poorer countries are getting into an increasingly hopeless situation.
The global South has long regarded the armed conflict in Ukraine as a proxy war between two old empires of the North – the USA and Russia – from which they have to suffer. At the moment, the western camp will probably find it difficult to get a majority of 144 votes against Russia’s war, as it did at the UN General Assembly in March. If something is to change, it takes far more than just good words.
None of this can even begin to be achieved if compliance with the debt brake in accordance with Article 109 of the Basic Law were to become the top priority of financial policy again in the short term. Nothing justifies the exception under Article 109(3) like the current situation. What else, if not a war, should fulfill the exceptional circumstances?
In any case, an economically strong Germany in a politically united Europe will be in a far better position to put its state budget back in order later than a Germany that adheres to the debt brake but otherwise implodes.
At the same time, of course, the FDP has a right to be more in the government than a mere accomplice of red-green spending requests. Anyone who demands that the liberals “leap over their own shadow” must first jump themselves and give up the unjustified resistance to the FDP proposals to combat “cold progression” – especially since it is not primarily a few top earners who benefit from it, but above all those employees who, as master craftsmen, technicians, commercial employees or skilled workers, have to bear the inflation-related rising living costs, but do not benefit from the wage and salary increases achieved at the same time because they are subject to higher tax rates as a result.
Just like the SPD proposals to increase housing and child benefits or the allocation of energy flat rates and fuel discounts, combating “cold progression” serves to maintain disposable income and has a stabilizing effect on purchasing power and domestic demand.
Another topic of the liberals could become the seal of quality of the federal government: cutting a deep swath in regulations, possibilities for objection and procedural obstacles, which in the meantime have probably become the greatest obstacle to innovation in Germany.
If five to six years elapse between planning and erecting a wind turbine, the energy transition is doomed to fail. It would be promising to write a legal entitlement to the realization of the project in the administrative procedure after a certain period of time has elapsed.
“A turning point” also means having to do the opposite of what has been in one’s own election programs for decades. Social Democrats are buying weapons and delivering them to war zones, the Greens are desperately looking for fossil fuels and the Liberals are incurring new debts every day. The federal government could make a virtue of their necessity.
The challenges are so great that almost no voter will ask what was actually in the election manifestos. Because voters cannot be bought. As much as election gifts to individual groups are “taken away”, they have little effect in times of political crisis.
What really counts now is the ability to lead Germany safely and stably through extremely challenging years. Of course, in the end there can still be a political electoral defeat. But if the country has become stronger as a result of the policy that was voted out, that wouldn’t be too high a price to pay.
Winston Churchill led Britain victoriously through World War II – and still lost the UK’s first peace election. Later, however, he returned to the stage as prime minister – and is still considered a giant among politicians of the 20th century.