BERLIN (Own report) A grand coalition of parties in the Berlin parliament has decided to dismantle significant social security benefits which, until now, helped to stabilise the cohesiveness of German society. In spite of warnings from church and charitable organisations against the exclusion of whole sections of society, the government is already discussing further far-reaching measures. The unresisted demolition of the German social security system is fostering aggressive reactions which are being directed abroad.
The most recent government decision has the objective of putting Berlin ,,Again at the top (...) in Europe" 1)and to sharpen the world-wide competitiveness of the economy. To save German firms from proportionate contributions for the medical care of their workers, the government is cutting the total amount of health contributions. Complete branches of care are being cut. All payments for false teeth are discontinued. Furthermore ordinary visits to a General Practitioner will usually incur a consultation fee. Hospitals will levy a daily bed charge.
The capitalisation (i.e. privatisation) of the public health system has been accompanied by appeals which nationalistically minimise the material loss and make play with the weaknesses of other states. In a government announcement the Chancellor said ,,We Germans can be proud of the power of our economy, of the earnings of our people, of the strength of our nation (...) Notwithstanding that, our national economy, the German national economy is what we have to improve - the strongest in Europe".
Decline of the middle classes
The demolition of the public health system complements similar measures against the unemployed. According to unofficial internal estimates there are now 6.5 million Germans without work. 2)The highest levels of unemployment are reported from East Germany where up to 30% of the population is unemployed. Their claims for payment are currently being reduced or cut completely. According to ,,The Federal Office for Work"the number of unemployed members of the middle classes is rising significantly.
Ready for action
Research by German sociologists shows that fear of social degradation can lead to reactions of passivity and resignation as well as aggression. It favours the predisposition to accept authoritarian promises for the future. In view of high youth unemployment, offers of military and paramilitary training have increased. Job advertisements for foreign operations by supposedly non government organisations (NGOs) have taken on an added attraction. Service pay in areas of political crisis and war zones, offered by ,,Private Military Companies"(PMCs) appear to offer a secure social basis for a respectable life. In this way the expansionist elements of Berlin's foreign policy are creating a pool of experienced personnel which, hoping to escape pauperisation, will be highly motivated for world-wide operations and at the disposal of a future, professional German army.
1) Government statement by German Chancellor 14 July 2003
2) Official german unemployment figures of 4 million are generally seen as unrealistic.
See also earlier article The price of expansion
Government Statement by Federal Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to the German Federal Parliament 3 July 2003