Two years ago, the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) switched from the opposition to the government bench. Today it is engaging in self-congratulation at its party congress in Berlin. Evaluation of the first half of the game: the team has a striker who should be taken seriously; the other players tend to make own goals.
Parts of the SPD lack basic economic knowledge. Unfortunately, this lies in the nature of things: The party is scarcely represented in the Bundestag, Germany’s lower legislative chamber, through direct mandates (only 58 of 193 SPD seats), but in three out of four cases by list positions. The SPD had fewer direct mandates only when it was pursuing socialist goals before its adoption of the Godesberg Program in 1959, whereupon it came to advocate a market economy and national defense.
The candidates on the lists are selected not by voters, but primarily by mid-level, ideologically committed party functionaries who derive their income from the state or from the unions. They have little contact with the private economy that is constantly struggling to remain rooted on site while being buffeted by the storms of competition.
Without a blink of the eye, most SPD functionaries call for a higher inheritance tax on entrepreneurial wealth, although this money is tied up in machines and people, i.e. in jobs.
These state functionaries lack an understanding of the importance of proprietary capital, which creates stability, innovation and new jobs. But this economically naïve circle heedlessly accepts that the funds laid aside for company-guaranteed pensions hollow out equity, because companies have to constantly inject money due to low rates of interest. Without a blink of the eye, most SPD functionaries call for a higher inheritance tax on entrepreneurial wealth, although this money is tied up in machines and people, i.e. in jobs.
The head of the party, Sigmar Gabriel, knows quite well how Germany can remain economically competitive. But he is repeatedly hampered in this endeavor. He deserves praise for remaining steadfastly in favor of the free trade issue at the core of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – against the resistance of the unions. With regard to energy policy, Mr. Gabriel seeks to sort out the tangle of laws and regulations arising from Germany’s transition to renewable energies and to dare a more extensive market economy.
Of course we family entrepreneurs wish for more courage, more forcefulness, more progress and a more rapid reduction of subsidies for renewable energies. These subsidies seem to be the holy cow that no one is allowed to touch. But slowly they are being deprived of at least their fattening, concentrated feed.
Furthermore, Sigmar Gabriel is a strong advocate of trimming bureaucracy. Here as well, more can be done, but we entrepreneurs acknowledge the steps that have been taken. The same is true for the institutionalization of the SPD Economic Forum.
If, on the other hand, a look at what Mr. Gabriel’s party comrade Andrea Nahles – whose parliamentary seat, incidentally, comes from a list – has come up with at the Ministry of Labor causes heads to spin among family entrepreneurs. Pensions at 63 flushed out the experienced professionals from firms who today desperately require assistance in integrating younger – also foreign – employees.
Then came the minimum wage, which is flooding companies with bureaucracy. With new laws, she wants to paralyze the most important instruments for reacting flexibly on the rigid labor market – part-time work and service contracts.
Policies regarding the economy and the labor market belong together. Therefore is it important that the to some extent positive impulses coming from the Ministry of Economic Affairs aren’t immediately strangled by the excessive regulations of the Ministry of Labor, and that the rank and file of the SPD line up behind their party leader regarding economic issues. This is especially important if we want to successfully meet the challenges coming from the ceaseless influx of refugees.
The essential question is how we will turn refugees into employees and colleagues in the future. Only if we succeed in putting people into jobs can we integrate them into our society. But how can these additional jobs be created in our companies for mostly low-qualified refugees who can’t speak our language?
With an Agenda of Work for Refugees, the SPD could once again also win direct mandates.
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