At the beginning of this week, Gitta Connemann (CDU) got carried away with a remarkable sentence: "Everything that comes from Hubertus Heil's ministry is an attack on the economy," said the head of the Mittelstands-Union at a panel discussion.
The statement makes clear how shattered the relationship between salvation and the opposition is. This is relevant for the Minister of Labor because, unlike the GroKo, the traffic light government does not have a majority in the Bundesrat and legislative projects – such as citizen income – can be blocked by the Union.
Something has happened with citizen income that has hardly existed before: the Minister of Labor Hubertus Heil (SPD) is shown limits. His reform is coming, albeit in a significantly slimmed-down version. So far, Heil has always succeeded in getting most of his wishes passed as law through skilful negotiation. However, critics have been complaining for a long time that the “turning point” in social policy has not materialized.
The Minister of Labor, the accusation goes, spends too much money without providing convincing solutions to problems such as the labor shortage or the ability to finance future pensions. And indeed: The budget of the Ministry of Labor should be around 163 billion euros in 2023 and thus increase by two billion. No ministry spends more money, the share of the total budget is more than a third. As of now, citizen income will amount to four billion euros in the coming year; In 2026 it should already be six billion.
Despite the compromise, some now see the reform as the end of the principle of “demanding and promoting”; the others speak of “dictated poverty” under a new label. Beyond the ideological debates, it is worth taking a look at the details. The change in the additional income limit is particularly important: Anyone who grows up and works in a Hartz IV family has had to give up most of their wages up to now. What madness!
The SPD and the Greens should also be able to cope with the fact that the protective assets are not 60,000 as planned, but 40,000 euros. In practice, the number of such cases will be limited anyway. Perhaps the better solution would have been to link the special assets to the number of years of employment to date, for example. Anyone who has worked longer and thus paid more taxes is entitled to a higher level of protection.
The end of priority placement also makes sense: instead of the unemployed having to take the first job they find and give up again after two weeks, the focus should now be on long-term integration. Whether this will also succeed, of course, only becomes clear in the future. The nice thing is that the success or failure of the citizen's income can be seen relentlessly from the labor market figures.
It is now important that the standard rates are increased quickly. An adjustment to the price level lags behind the actual inflation rate. That doesn't mean that Heil shouldn't pay more attention to his finances. However, a turning point in the social budget must not mean that the needy slip below the subsistence level.
But it is also clear that the gap between basic income and net wages for jobs in the low-wage sector is shrinking. The debate about the value of work is therefore by no means a mutual "playing off" of groups, as Heil calls it. In view of the diluted wage gap requirement, his party is now calling for higher wages. Perhaps a debate about lower taxes and levies would be more appropriate.
Anyone who misses job center appointments must expect that benefits will be reduced directly. Ampel and Union were able to agree on this in the dispute over citizen money. Johannes Vogel (FDP), Britta Hasselmann (Greens) and Katja Mast (SPD) comment on the results.