Whether I check my e-mail inbox, whether I talk to people in my Berlin citizen office or whether I am approached on the street – these days I hear and read justified complaints about rising prices again and again. There is the young mother who suddenly has to pay 400 euros more on the gas bill. There is the pensioner who is afraid of the next utility bill. There is the family whose weekly shopping no longer costs 80 but 120 euros. I feel every day: something is brewing.
Incidentally, this does not only affect low earners, people with small pensions or single parents. Homeowners are also worried: Can I still pay the loan installments, can I still afford my home?
What worries me is that many don’t even see the explosives being touched by the current situation. The word “anger winter” is already doing the rounds. The impression is often given that it is inevitable that the country will be overwhelmed by a huge wave of protests. However, this is too short-sighted. First and foremost, protests are a democratic tool for expressing concerns and dissatisfaction with those in government. Consequently, it is primarily their responsibility to do everything possible to ensure that a “winter of anger” does not occur. Protests do not fall from the sky. The government cannot evade responsibility here.
Leading also means bringing together – that is the order of the day. Olaf Scholz’s promise “whoever orders a tour will get it” could have awakened hope. However, he probably promised himself more. Because there is no sign of leadership. On the contrary: the Scholz government is unsettling, it is leaving enormous problems unsolved, and in doing so it is also fueling doubts about the ability of “those up there” to act.
We could manage the crisis better – with a sensible plan, with the right decisions and with clear communication. Let’s start with clear communication and relentlessly name the causes and consequences of the energy crisis. The main person responsible is Vladimir Putin, who is waging a war of aggression against Ukraine and has severely reduced Russian gas supplies.
We must strictly reject calls for cheap gas on the backs of Ukraine. Leadership includes standing in the wind and finding clear words. The German head of government is not in a position to do this. The Prime Minister of Estonia, Kaja Kallas, is doing just that. During her visit to Germany, she said: “Energy may become more expensive. But freedom is priceless.” Clarity creates orientation and trust.
Then it’s part of admitting mistakes openly and learning quickly from them: It was wrong to become dependent on the Kremlin for energy. It will not be easy and cheap to replace Russian gas with other energy sources. But there is no way around it – in our own interest.
Leading and merging – that also means doing everything to ensure that stress does not become overload. We can all expect pragmatic action. No option that brings relief can be ruled out for ideological reasons. By that I mean, above all, the future of nuclear power. The federal government is obviously more considerate of the sensitivities of a coalition partner than of the concerns and needs of the population.
In this situation, it would be negligent and irresponsible to forego the electricity from the three nuclear power plants that are still in operation, while at the same time firing up climate-damaging coal-fired power plants, turning off the street lights for Germans and recommending washcloths for personal hygiene. People laugh at us in Europe.
And finally, the main thing is not to leave the citizens alone with the exorbitantly rising energy prices. Olaf Scholz promises loudly: “You’ll never walk alone.” Sounds good, but no one believes him anymore. With the gas levy, the Scholz government is doing the opposite and causing chaos. This gas levy is a single chaos levy. Criticism is now hailing from the ranks of the government. And so we now not only have a chaos levy, but also a chaos government. That’s how you lose trust.
What would a CDU-led federal government have done differently? We would not have initiated a botched gas levy, but we would have supported companies at risk of insolvency directly from the state budget. Not only for me the question is very topical: Why does this government continue on its wrong path without consideration? She might see that she’s lost her way and finally take the right path.
The first step would be: get rid of the gas surcharge. And then relief must above all be fair and targeted. But here, too, the Scholz government is not doing enough. So she decided on an energy price flat rate, which is withheld from pensioners as well as students. They too must receive the 300 euros. Everything else splits.
Another example: The Scholz government is forgetting those people from the middle of our society who go to work every day and keep the shop running. If employees receive a wage increase to compensate for inflation, they have to pay a higher income tax. Instead of compensating for this so-called cold progression – as the CDU has done since 2016 – the working people are left alone.
To put it bluntly, this is not about a merciful gesture by a government towards the governed. It is simply about protection against further tax increases. It must not be the case that a salary increase ends up directly with the Federal Minister of Finance and not in the wallets of the employees.
After all, measures based on the principle “get in the potatoes and get out of the potatoes” must come to an end. A nine-euro ticket is being launched that expires at the very moment when price increases hit the mark. The same applies to the tank discount. Instead, people with low incomes should be given targeted support. In addition to an increase in housing benefit, electricity and gas cuts and terminations by tenants who cannot pay their ancillary costs on time must be prevented.
I can understand anyone who is worried and angry about how to pay the high electricity and gas bills these days. A “winter of anger” does not have to be automatic, however. The government has it in their hands and should deliver as soon as possible.