by Ulrich Biele

Oh Angie, Oh Angie, when will those clouds all disappear?
Angie, Angie, where will it lead us from here?
With no loving in our souls and no money in our coats
You can’t say we’re satisfied
But Angie, Angie, you can’t say we never tried...

~ The Rolling Stones, 1973
Today, the Bundestag has elected Angela ("Angie") Merkel as the first female Bundeskanzler in history. After a long and painful period of negotiations, a grand coalition had been formed, reformed, re-reformed. They finally succeeded in signing a coalition contract, which excluded some of the worst problems Germany is facing nowadays.
Despite of having been warned by almost everyone and his granddaddy, the Merkel administration is going to augment the sales tax (a.k.a. "Value Added Tax") from sixteen per cent to nineteen per cent in order to save the mandatory unemployment insurance system from collapsing. This will be as effective as the raise from fourteen to sixteen per cent, which was sold to the broad public as the saviour of our social security system (mandatory as well). In 2006, the mandatory contributions to the social security in Germany will exceed twenty per cent of the gross income, despite all taxing. This year, for the first time in German post-war history, the social security system will have to borrow money from the state. People born after 1976 will have to wait two more years for the social security benefits, retirement age will be raised from officially sixty-five now to sixty-seven then.
This sounds nice, but reality sings a different tune: only a small minority of the employees and workers are working till the age of sixty-five, many retire at sixty, many more over fifty are unemployed or living on social welfare as it is practically impossible to find employment in Germany if you are over forty years old. Therefore, the raise of retirement age only shifts expenses from one account to another without curing anything.
The next issue, this oh-so-grand coalition tries to dodge is the overdue reform of the German health care system. For people below a certain income level, membership in one of the almost three hundred health care providers is mandatory. What looks like a well-stocked market with competition, is, on second look, a nightmare. The traditional Allgemeine Ortskrankenkasse (AOK = common local healthcare corporation), founded by Bismarck to please the socialists, is still the largest provider and in control of the market. To make sure that this will not be changed, the deficit this clumsy bureaucracy fabricates, must be paid by the other providers. Those providers, who work economically with their members’ money are being permanently punished as they have to pay for the waste in the AOK. If you think that’s all, think twice, were in Germany: persons with higher income, civil servants and self-employed people can take a private health care provider, which is, though much more expensive that the mandatory ones, much more attractive as well. Doctors’ fees, hospital care and other services are heavily regulated in Germany, and the mandatory providers are paying less and less every year. Private providers can pay up to three times more for the same service, they are paying for ethical drugs where the mandatory providers try to enforce the prescription of generic drugs only, therefore an incentive to join the private providers does exist. By the way, most free-lance physicians would long since be bankrupted by the policy of the mandatory providers, if it weren’t for the "private" patients. Now, our wise and inspired leaders will restrict the payments of the private providers to the level of the mandatory ones. At the same time they are whining about so many physicians leaving Germany. These lousy patriots!
Dodged issue number three: the tax system. About sixty per cent of the world’s tax law literature is about the German tax laws. To say that these laws are beyond comprehension is a gross understatement. Neither our tax attorneys nor our Finanzamt have a clue about what they are doing. Revenue is being levied as well as split up between federal government, states, cities and communities, the more complicated, the better. Since the Schröder administration, several taxes are being (ab)used to bail out failing Ponzi schemes such as social security and unemployment insurances, and this seems to be he new fashion. Our economy is severely handicapped with such a complicated system, and lots of major and medium-sized enterprises are leaving Germany solely or this reason. Czechia, Poland, the Ukraine, even Belarus are thankful recipients of these benefits. The additional three per cent augmentation of the income tax for higher incomes will not be helpful either. We are going to see people who intend to be paid for their performance leaving Germany in increasing numbers.
There are more problems the Merkel administration is going to face, and that is all they are going to do: administrate. By forming a coalition of equal strength, there is no way to get anything done which requires leadership. The unofficial stale mate situation of the Schröder administration has now been cast into official contracts, and I doubt that it will last the entire four year period for which they have been elected. That only 397 of her 448 coalition members voted for her as the first German chancelorette, is a clear sign that life will remain interesting for her.
This election was a crucial one for Germany: Our country is at a parting point where a decision had to be made between more state and more control or more liberty, growth and stability.
Europe has grown to be a nice and cozy place to live in. Really.
Erschienen am 23.11. bei

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