Why not competitive cheer competitions have brackets
CSU: Hartz laws don't go far enough
Markus Söder: It is a first small step for what would actually be necessary, because if we look at our entire situation, especially in comparison to our European neighbors, especially in comparison to the globalized challenge in economic competition, then it is only very, very small steps - some in the right direction, but they are nowhere near enough.
Detjen: They say 'small step'. If you take it all together, it is an enormous volume of reform that many citizens and many observers may not yet grasp in all its scope and dimensions. The HANDELSBLATT, for example, writes in its Friday edition of a 'turning point'.
Söder: I think that is far exaggerated, because we need so many changes - whether it is in tax law, whether it is in the labor market in terms of flexibility, whether it is also in the question of social security systems - there is what, for example, now about Hartz IV is discussed, a very, very small step. We have not managed to create the really big relief for the municipalities. It has been improved in response to pressure from the Union, but it is nowhere near enough to significantly strengthen the municipalities' financial basis. It is not entirely certain how in the implementation - one of the biggest problems for example in Germany of this federal government - that the implementation of Hartz IV can take place in such a way that it takes place on time and that it takes place in the form that it works . Many experts say that we have now achieved a breakthrough in the agreement, but we are still a long way from implementing it. And by the way, that is the decisive factor for the citizens. Just the agreement between the groups in parliament is one thing, but what matters to the people, the possibility of living, is something else. And that's why you have to wait and see what these implementations will result. A few good steps have been taken, but I don't think so to speak of a 'turning point'.
Detjen: But if you say 'what is the decisive factor for the citizens': What is decisive for the citizens is what is now summarized under the keyword Hartz IV, which means for the individual. The question of how that is then divided between the municipalities and the Federal Employment Agency is a more technical question. The cuts for the individual affected will be enormous. That calls for a change in awareness. The state makes it clear that it will do what it has promised as a welfare state so far, namely a - more or less - guarantee of a constant standard of living to ensure that it can no longer do that.
Söder: Social is what creates work. Our problem is that we have persistently high unemployment in Germany, that we are lagging behind other European countries in terms of economic growth. We have to adjust to this competition. It's like in football: 'Run or lose' is the motto - fight, make an effort, make an effort or lose. And we can no longer lose in Germany, we have to get better. And there a number of topics and subject areas are required. And precisely in this situation, one case is that we have problems in the area of the low-wage sector because, for example, the transfer income that the state offers is ultimately almost as high as the possible wages that can be achieved on the labor market. So there is a lack of effort, so there is a lack of motivation. With such laws we can achieve something that is important: We can create more jobs, and that is the bottom line. That is, the change we have is that we are moving back to it - the chance to be competitive. Something is not taken away - at least that's how I see it - but the chance is given to become stronger. And that is in the interests of everyone in Germany.
Detjen: But the price is enormous. I just want to stick to what has now been decided with the merging of unemployment and social assistance. It is up to the individual unemployed people concerned that, although they have paid into unemployment insurance for their entire life - possibly for decades - after one year of unemployment they will in fact plunge to the level of social assistance.
Söder: It means we are becoming more competitive overall. Of course, it is initially hard - at first glance - for the individual. But it will lead to it - by the way, Hartz IV does not stand alone - brackets - who understands these many laws from Hartz I to Hartz IV from the point of view of the citizen? Hartz IV is about unemployment benefit II. I mean, who should understand that? The whole thing means, and that is the problem in Germany, that we do not need a single reform measure. We need a bundle. To do this, we need these lower taxes, and for that we need flexibility in the labor market. Because if the protection against dismissal is not made more flexible, then, for example, no more people will be employed. If we do not manage to cut government spending as a whole, for example, then we have no chance of investing in the future. One requires the other to arrive. Incidentally, this is also how people understand the problem. They say: My God, what kind of wave of problems is ahead of us. And because politics - and above all because red-green has reacted too little to the whole thing in the last six years - has also started hectically in the last year to try to change things, most of the time they have implemented it really dubiously the success low. And that's why people initially perceive it as a burden rather than a glimmer of hope. And people need that too. In this respect, the speech by our new Federal President was important. They need a vision, a guideline and also, so to speak, a way that can show them: If you accept this or that in a dry spell, then in the end there will be something positive, namely growth and work.
Detjen: But for many, of course, the first thing that is specific is their concern. Many people are starting to calculate: What will I have to do if I am unemployed, if I am threatened by the situation of not being able to get a job again after a year? Asked personally: Would you say of yourself that you can put yourself in such a situation from the point of view of the politician - in the situation of a person who is faced with these questions and these problems?
Söder: To be honest, I don't think any politician can really judge that at the moment, because when you have a job, it's relatively easy to talk about how the other is doing. But I think I have to think differently, I don't have to think about what happens, what comes out in the worst case, but I have to discuss what the actual wish is. And the wish is from everyone who is unemployed. . .
Detjen: . . . but let's be specific. As a politician - could you now tell a citizen what he is actually getting? What does a father of two get for his family if he is unemployed for more than a year in the future?
Söder: I would now have to calculate exactly what the corresponding social assistance rate is for two children, for example. There are also the various circumstances.
Detjen: Can you guess it?
Söder: Well, I think the problem is different. It also depends on where he lives, in what environment, for example - whether that is more or less for him. For him, for example, it also has to do with whether he pays more ecological tax or whether he pays more VAT. Because what the bottom line comes out of is not just the individual, but all the accompanying circumstances that come with it. And the really bad thing is that everyone who becomes unemployed today does not have the goal of saying: What will I get from social welfare at some point, but his goal is to make sure that he gets work again. There is job growth in all countries in Europe, only not in Germany. So something must be wrong in Germany. That has to change. By the way, other countries have taken this path and have flexibility in terms of protection against dismissal. Take Denmark, for example: there unemployment benefits drop incredibly quickly within a year, starting with 90 percent in the first month and then decreasing to ten percent of your last income. So a completely different situation. The result: more work.
Detjen: But to stay with the example: The father with two children, who may have earned many times as much before, drops to 1,035 euros as unemployment benefit II - in West Germany - it is even less in the East. What happens is an effect that actually not only affects individuals, but changes the attitude towards life in society - which leads to something that we did not have in Germany: namely that larger population groups, that people in the middle class relatively have lived stable, are suddenly faced with a social fall that we have never had in Germany.
Söder: The federal government's policy is to blame for this, because it does nothing that creates growth and jobs. The basic problem is not how I benefit, how I somehow better distribute social benefits, but the basic problem is: I have to strengthen economic power, only then will there be more jobs - as you can see, by the way: Even in former welfare states such as the Benelux Countries, Scandinavia, which used to be way ahead of Germany in terms of their welfare state, which had a huge social network, have started to convert because they say: We have to mobilize growth forces. Only then will there be jobs. It doesn't help the father of a family whether he gets 500 euros more in welfare or less. He is helped when he finally has a job. Because the problem is not just financial, it is also the problem that you are no longer worth anything if you don't have a permanent job. And arranging unemployment, arranging social assistance, that can't be the basic principle of German politics. The basic principle must be: more growth and employment.
Detjen: That is what this reform is supposed to promote. It is also what Federal President Köhler, which, by the way, was also reminding Herzog at the time: that it must be about a change in awareness. People are burdened with more personal responsibility. And you can also say: Fear of a social crash - when you see what it does in America, for example - can mobilize productive forces, can mobilize personal responsibility
Söder: So it is crucial that we finally manage to be competitive. We in Germany have closed ourselves to realities for too long - and the red-green federal government plays a decisive role in this. We have not seen that other countries around us not only work more, work longer, that some work is done at the same and better level. In the end it doesn't help, we don't live in paradise. It would be nice to live there, but that's not how it is. That's why we have to make an effort to be competitive. It's like the European Championship: the others can do it too. And that's why we have to improve our system, we have to become more efficient. In Germany there are so many strong forces, talents and ideas, in Germany there is also so much will to work. You just have to mobilize them, free them up, throw off the shackles that rule the country. Then there are many employment opportunities.
Detjen: But the horror of the reforms that have been decided extends far into your party, into the CSU. Horst Seehofer, for example, spoke of anti-social or unjust effects.
Söder: I think quite the opposite is the case. Social is what creates work. We have to lay the guiding principle like this: What creates work is social. As a young politician, I have to ensure that this country has prospects for the future. I can't just talk about how we manage to distribute things in the long run that we don't have. Distributing debts, incurring new debts, paying interest - 100 million euros are spent every day on debt servicing, an unbelievable number, all the money that silts up somewhere. If you were to handle this privately - an unbelievable debt, that is the oath of revelation for each individual. It can't really be our principle, it can't be Germany's principle. Germany is strong and has to work its way forward again with its own strength, and therefore not only whine and complain about what may be a little less, but see how we can mobilize more.
Detjen: But for me it is simply about the question of whether our and how our concept of welfare state - from the welfare state - is changing here, precisely in that more is expected of the individual, is demanded, in that forces are also to be mobilized, should be addressed. And that must also hit a party, especially a party that carries the social promise in its name. Incidentally, that unites the CSU and the SPD.
Söder: But that seems to me to be the only thing that could be this connecting factor. Otherwise I don't notice anything about this SPD that I would like to complain about, that it would also be the case in the CSU. In Bavaria, if you look at the absolute votes, the SPD only managed five percent in the European elections - to make a comparison. Of course the question is. . .
Detjen: ... again on the understanding of the welfare state: can you define that? How does the understanding of the welfare state - the concept of the social - at the CSU differ from that of the SPD? You can also be asked further: Are there any differences to the CDU?
Söder: The bottom line is this. The principle is: what work creates is social. That is the principle, that is the guiding principle that we have: what work creates is social. Only when we have jobs do we also have social justice. That is the basic idea. And we have to work to ensure that those who can no longer help themselves receive support from the welfare state, that is the decisive factor. But those who can - who could - either because they don't want to or because certain obstacles may have been imposed on them by the bureaucracy, have to get back to work. It cannot be, for example, that we only come up with the idea of cutting welfare benefits abroad because of a large German daily newspaper.
Detjen: ... you mean the BILD newspaper ...
Söder: It can't be that we in the large German fields - whether it's the asparagus farmers or the hop harvest - that we have an abundance of seasonal workers, for example, who find work there, but don't have a German to work there because possibly the offer of wages is just as high as in the area of social transfer income. It cannot be in the long run that we will come to terms with the fact that in East Germany - in the new federal states - we have almost 50 percent social transfer income or that we will come to terms with the fact that in Germany one third works and two thirds co-finance. The relationship has to change. It is shown all over the world that it can be done. It's social.
Detjen: Mr Söder, we have just spoken to the SPD before. If you, as Secretary General of the CSU, look at the state of the SPD, then you actually still have the - shall we say - legitimate satisfaction of your political opponent, or the state of this major people's party at the moment also fills you with a concern that perhaps the entire political system is in Affects Germany, which has lived off the stability of two large popular parties?
Söder: In fact, it worries me, less about stability and the SPD itself. The SPD itself is responsible for the disaster in which it is stuck. It is bad because people are increasingly losing confidence in politics in general. You see a government that is disoriented, that does what it does technically wrong, mostly corrects it, explains something completely different the next day, is stunned in front of politics in general and automatically loses and automatically withdraws its trust in politics as a whole. Incidentally, all parties suffer from this. It is also so bad because we have a situation that we cannot vote this government out now. She gets a clear lesson with every election, and people clearly say: We don't want to have anything more to do with this government, with this Federal Chancellor! But - they are sagging. It looks a bit like on the Titanic: Schröder as the captain sits upstairs, reads the maps again, and the ship is slowly filling up with water and nobody does anything about it.And then the people rebel, they want to get away from this ship. They say: That can't be true. And that is why it is for us as a Union now that we do not think according to party tactics - as one or the other thinks we would have a different opinion on reform issues arising from party tactics. We want to help the country, not the SPD, but help the country. That is why we try to help shape issues such as a security law and the control of immigration, for example also with Hartz IV, in order to achieve an improvement in the communal situation. We cannot support what is wrong. And God knows there is a lot from the government. But we would prefer and it would be best if this government resigned today - now, at this hour. It would be a blessing for Germany.
Detjen: Can you really care to come to the government now, in this situation, with the reform tasks that are still to come? There are many members of the Union parliamentary group who admit quite openly and say: Actually, it is a good thing that the Social Democrats are pulling the dirt out of the mud at the moment.
Söder: What is the job of politics? The task of politics is not to have any office, to earn money. The task of politics is to do something for the country, to help the people. And our country needs help, it needs change. And we as politicians have to do that. Incidentally, we as a Union also have to achieve this. We only have one shot free for this general election in 2006. I warn against believing that the election has already been won, even in the disastrous state of the SPD. But if you should really make it in 2006, then we have to prepare very, very seriously for what ideas we have. We have to have a clear concept for changing and shaping the country, and then we have to implement it 1: 1, and it has to be technically perfect. Mistakes like the toll and similar breakdowns - can deposit - that shouldn't be allowed. This also leads to people losing trust. If we can manage to achieve a kind of national pact - a national pact that is called - it will not be possible in a year or two, because the effects will take longer until the results are finally achieved. But this form of - let's call it 'patriotism', we need in the country. Incidentally, everyone is part of it, not just us, but also the collective bargaining partners.
Detjen: But how can you be sure that the electorate, including the trade unions, would be more likely to accept the reform tasks from a Union-led government, would accept them more willingly and accept them more convincingly than from a government led by Social Democrats? You have just mentioned the European elections. That was actually the example that all governments across Europe who are faced with such reform tasks are punished by the voters.
Söder: I can give you a good counterexample, namely the CSU in Bavaria. . .
Detjen: . . . she lost too, lost too. . .
Söder: . . . Well, you really can't say that, we achieved the best result by far. . .
Detjen: . . . but six percent - I think - lost compared to the last election!
Söder: Compared to any party, it is the best result that a party has ever achieved in Europe, not just a conservative one, but overall we have a fantastic result, one of the best election results ever achieved in history - with 57 percent. The last time - I'll say it - we had a 10-0 win with 64 percent, now we maybe won 8-0. Perhaps the goal difference is of interest, but above all I have to say that we have taken one of the most ambitious and committed austerity courses - reform courses - that a government in Germany has ever undertaken. We have . . .
Detjen: . . . You also felt that in the election results, the loss of votes. Didn't that make you think?
Söder: No, not at all, on the contrary. It strengthened us. Surely you cannot expect that if you are really on a reform course, everyone will say - one to one - that they support us exactly as they did before. But if you reach the vast majority - 57 percent of the people in Bavaria say: This is exactly the course we support. Exactly the difficulties of working longer: We'll go along with that. They say that it is also right to switch between consumer spending and investment, then they say: Yes, that is correct. So we feel very, very empowered, very, very secure in it. . .
Detjen: . . . isn't that a special Bavarian situation where you have such a cushion of votes. A federal government, which naturally has to govern with much tighter majorities, cannot afford such declines?
Söder: That is too virtual and tactical for me. I have to approach people. Incidentally, I also believe that completely different forms of majorities are possible in Germany than was previously the case. It used to be discussed that way between two percent or not. All these tactics don't interest the people in Germany. They want solutions. And for this they are ready to give clear majorities. People expect clear solutions. We offer it in Bavaria, we also appear very openly in front of people. The SPD, for example, tried to do the opposite in Bavaria. She said at the time: It is wrong - and give me a lesson for such a policy. People said 'no'. By the way, the association democracy is something else, it is on shaky legs. Some of the associations and their leaderships will feel in the long run, more sustainably than they now suspect, that their legitimacy is dwindling ...
Detjen: ... say who you mean ...
Söder: ... for example the unions, but also others. But the question that will arise with the trade unions over the next few years is: what future does a trade union actually have if it no longer manages to represent the interests of the people. Not just any functionaries, cadre forges. there are, may be okay. But in the end it is always a question of whether I am fulfilling the overall mission for the common good. For example, we fight for every job in Germany, with or without a trade union, with or without the SPD - it doesn't matter. This is about jobs, we do everything for that.
Detjen: Mr Söder, in his inaugural speech, Federal President Köhler, with a view to the Union parties, demanded that the opposition must have the courage to formulate its alternatives clearly. How did you feel addressed?
Söder: He is right, our Federal President, absolutely right. We do that too. We have for example. . .
Detjen: . . . sufficient? . . .
Söder: . . . yes, of course we have to continue working, we are not yet finished in all fields. For example, we have now presented a tax system that would offer the lowest tax rates anywhere here in Germany - between 12 and 36 percent. That would be sensational progress for our country. We have presented the first reform concepts to make the labor market more flexible, reform of protection against dismissal, more fixed-term contracts for older workers, alliances for work in companies, longer working hours - a very, very important model -, models of activating social assistance, for example to reduce non-wage labor costs, and, and, and, and - a wealth of programs that are already on the table. We still have some work to do because in some areas - health reform, for example - we are still debating in the Union, for example. . .
Detjen: . . . But there is still considerable work to be done in the Union. . .
Söder: . . . But that's not a problem, work is always there to work. Not only can we ask people to work hard, we also have to work hard ourselves and think about how it works. I already said it earlier: the things that we get off the ground have to work. We haven't had the time to come up with any half-flocked compromises in the endlessly tormenting Commission debates. No, we need clean concepts. We do that and we will have the opportunity to implement these things in a very short time.
Detjen: Mr Söder, you have just said that you do not expect elections to take place before 2006. Do you think that the federal government will hold out until 2006?
Söder: I hope the federal government will step down. That would be one last great service that Gerhard Schröder could render his party and the country. I fear, however, that the wish and also the mandate salaries that stand behind it, so to speak, force this party to remain in office. We are preparing for 2006, but we are working so cleanly and seriously that we would have ideas for implementing things in a very short time. Incidentally, the two most important things that we would have to implement would be the question of a very large tax reform, as we have decided, and of course more flexibility in the labor market. With these two large areas, which, by the way, can also be implemented very quickly, we would make a huge leap forward so that we would also have the necessary time to reform the social security systems.
Detjen: The critics of Gerhard Schröder's reform course, above all from the ranks of the trade unions, are taking another step this weekend towards founding a new Left Party. What will that mean for the future of the SPD and - seen further - for the party landscape in Germany, if that should actually happen?
Söder: The least important thing Germany needs now is a left party that has no economic expertise. That doesn't improve the situation, it makes it worse. But that will not increase any potential either, whether a few disappointed, scattered semi-communists or trade unionists who cannot find each other decide something. I'm not interested. By the way, people don't care either. People finally expect solutions to improve the economic and social situation. We focus on that. More Lafontaines are not good for the country.
Detjen: What can we, Mr Söder - asked at the end - learn from the decision of your party chairman, the Bavarian Prime Minister Edmund Stoiber, for the federal political ambitions of the Union and from himself from the fact that he rejected it - rejected the offer - to be nominated as a candidate for President of the EU Commission?
Söder: That it is not possible that Germany can hope to be rehabilitated through Europe, but that we have to make progress on our own. We cannot hope that Europe will adopt a few guidelines and make difficult decisions for us, as one or the other put it behind closed doors, but rather the signal that Edmund Stoiber is sending that he, together with Angela Merkel - both, both can use the strength to change this country, to finally move forward again. That the older people have the perspective that means: What they have achieved in life, that must also be reflected in the end of their life, but that the young ones have a real perspective again - and perhaps that people all over the world are saying: Take a look this country, Germany! I want to go there, something is moving there, there is prosperity and growth.
Detjen: Angela Merkel's position at the head of the CDU has meanwhile been strengthened to such an extent that it is only a matter of form at some point that she will officially become candidate for chancellor. Many say it's just a question of time, when do you do it? Is Edmund Stoiber the type of ambitious politician who then submits to cabinet discipline to a candidate for chancellor? Can he do that
Söder: Angela Merkel and Edmund Stoiber have one goal: to move Germany forward. And that is the decisive factor to which everything else has to be subordinated. By the way, the question of who has which office where and when is ultimately the last thing that interests people in Germany. One is interested in it - the people -: What can we finally create to get out of this situation, this misery. . .
Detjen: . . . people are already interested. There are now statements from the CSU that indicate that they have come to terms with the fact that a ranking is now clear.
Söder: The bad thing is, many people in Germany have almost resigned themselves that Germany cannot improve in order to move forward. We want to change that. And that's why we don't get involved in such virtual debates about who gets which positions and when, but rather we orientate ourselves on the matter - Edmund Stoiber and Angela Merkel together.
Detjen: Mr. Söder, thank you very much for this interview.
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