The expected heated, sometimes extremely emotional debate in the Bundestag about the citizens' allowance planned by the traffic light coalition could teach observers three things:
That members of parliament – please – have to stop when the speakers are answering their interim questions.
That the relationship between the Union and the SPD has finally collapsed and has reached an all-time low.
And finally, that the coalition must clearly revise its citizens' income plans in the sense of the CDU and CSU. Otherwise, the Union parties will fail the draft law in the special session of the Federal Council next Monday.
With the votes of the traffic light coalition, the majority of the members of the Bundestag voted in favor of the draft law on citizen income. 385 yes votes opposed 261 rejection. But immediately before the vote, Hermann Gröhe (CDU) brushed aside any hope that this vote could be a preliminary decision: "Do you seriously believe that the arrogance of the majority in the Bundestag increases the chance of a majority in the Bundesrat?" asked the Union parliamentary group vice during the debate with a view to the special session of the state chamber.
This meeting is the decisive moment in the struggle for citizen money. The necessary majority there would only exist if at least one larger federal state with Union government participation voted for it.
But after the speech duels in the Bundestag and the contributions of the deputies of the CDU and CSU, the Union prime ministers could not agree to the citizen money, as the traffic light plans. At least not without triggering massive turbulence in their own camp - regardless of what the coalition offers the state heads of government in return.
In the run-up to the adoption in the Bundestag, the governing parties and the Union had campaigned for their respective positions in shrill tones and attacked each other with unusual severity. The CDU and CSU would spread lies and fake news about the planned standard rates for citizens' income recipients and the relationship with low earners, "follow the path of Donald Trump," as SPD leader Lars Klingbeil rumbled.
Cross-shots from the former SPD chairman Sigmar Gabriel, who criticized the basic income, were then used with relish by Union parliamentary group leader Gröhe in the Bundestag debate: After their attacks, the SPD would now have to “speak about Comrade Trump” with a view to Gabriel.
Citizens' income is a key election promise made by the SPD and the Greens; it is to be the “biggest welfare state reform of the past 20 years”. The coalition is correspondingly stubbornly opposed to the Union making a small reform out of it.
The Bundestag has voted with the majority of the traffic light coalition for the introduction of citizen income. It is to replace the Hartz IV benefits in 2023. "It is important that the citizen's income comes into force on January 1st," says Federal Labor Minister Hubertus Heil.
Because the CDU and CSU basically want to keep the Hartz system introduced under SPD Chancellor Gerhard Schröder unchanged and only increase the monthly payments to the recipients as planned from 449 euros for single people to 502 euros. But the traffic lights, especially the SPD, want to leave Hartz IV behind - they want a system change.
There should be a two-year waiting period during which the assets and the suitability of the apartment will not be checked and sanctions will be significantly reduced if those affected evade a job placement service. All of this is going too far for the Union. "We support higher standard rates, here is our outstretched hand," said CSU labor market expert Stephan Stracke in the Bundestag. The rest of the plans "breath the spirit of the unconditional basic income" is out of the question for the Union.
It was Stracke, a Christian Socialist, who defended the Hartz reforms developed by the SPD with all his might. In response to an interim question from SPD leader Saskia Esken, the FDP slogan, according to which the "hammock" Hartz IV becomes the "springboard" citizen income, rejected as disrespectful for all those who had worked their way back into working life from basic security. Stracke warned the SPD chairperson to stand still until the end of his answer, as is customary.
At its core, the dispute between the coalition and the opposition is about how many loopholes the new citizens' allowance offers to all those who actually don't want to work. And whether, in view of the higher standard rates, low earners still have an incentive to go to work. According to Union, this is lost; Work would no longer be worthwhile after this reform, was the slogan of the past few days.
It was the Green MP Stephanie Aeffner who accused the Union of meeting all beneficiaries with a basic mistrust. "For 97 percent of those affected, the job placement service works." And she pointed out that 60 percent of the recipients of unemployment benefit II and social benefit would find a job again within a year, and another 20 percent in the second year.
It was Minister of Labor Hubertus Heil (SPD), the main driver of the citizen's allowance, who clearly stated the opposition of the Union in its argument against the traffic light plans: First, the CDU and CSU declared that the citizen's allowance would put recipients on a practical financial level with low earners, and that work would become easier so no longer worth it. And then the Union would agree to higher standard rates. "That's amazing," says Heil.
It is clear that the citizen's allowance takes the pressure off those affected and wants to meet them "at eye level". And that can facilitate abuse. And not every attack by the traffic light politicians was successful.
"Anyone who thinks about whether they are coming to the wedding party in a jet, plane or car has no connection to the reality of life," Green party leader Britta Haßelmann attacked her Union colleague Friedrich Merz. Say: He has no idea about the worries of the unemployed. As a member of parliament, Haßelmann himself receives 10,323.29 euros per month (gross), plus allowances.
The struggle for citizen's income is thus continued with undiminished severity; after the Federal Council meeting, probably in a mediation committee that could meet the week after next. So it should be tight with the traffic light schedule to start the citizen’s allowance on January 1, 2023.
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