Agreement on citizen money: For the SPD, the end of Hartz IV counts


Status: 11/24/2022 3:24 am

The basic income compromise bears only a partial social-democratic signature. Critics speak of a “better Hartz IV”. Why is the SPD still so demonstratively satisfied?

An analysis by Daniel Pokraka, ARD capital studio

Manuela Schwesig has to cough twice. The first time, the SPD Prime Minister of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania turns to the side when the CDU member of the Bundestag Hendrik Hoppenstedt talks about the fact that recipients of the citizen’s allowance “in the event of a breach of the duty to cooperate” must expect sanctions from the first day. The second time, Schwesig coughs when Hoppenstedt is happy about the reduced assets, which have to be touched on even earlier than planned – two more negotiating successes for the Union.

Schwesig is a full professional. But it’s probably just a coincidence that she interrupts her counterpart in the chair of the mediation committee exactly when it’s uncomfortable for the SPD.

Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania’s Prime Minister Manuela Schwesig (SPD) and the CDU member of the Bundestag Hendrik Hoppenstedt explained the agreement reached by the mediation committee on citizen income.

Image: dpa

Heil is demonstratively happy about a compromise

Hubertus Heil is also a full professional. You can see that with him on this Wednesday evening by the fact that he seems as if he had never wanted anything other than this compromise on citizen income. “The citizens’ allowance is coming – Hartz IV is going,” the federal labor minister rejoices. More additional income opportunities for benefit recipients, work and training are worthwhile. Less wealth? Most beneficiaries would hardly have any savings anyway. The bottom line, says Heil, is that citizen income is the biggest social reform in recent years.

Critics, for example from social organizations and the left, find that the basic income that has now been decided is just a kind of newly painted Hartz IV. The SPD – Heil, Schwesig or General Secretary Kevin Kühnert – counters that the priority of qualification and further training over placement in got some job, which is a big step forward. The Baden-Württemberg Prime Minister Winfried Kretschmann from the Greens argued the same way on Wednesday evening.

Citizen’s income only “better Hartz IV”?

However, the original claim to citizen income was greater: it was supposed to fulfill a new understanding of the welfare state – with rules that were sufficient to live in dignity and enable social participation, says the Berlin political scientist Gero Neugebauer ARD Capital Studio. Materially, however, the citizen’s income is more of a “better Hartz IV”.

On the other hand, and that should explain the SPD’s demonstrative satisfaction: more was just not possible. The debate over the past few days and weeks has made it clear that the Union did not want large parts of the citizens’ income and was willing to let it fail. Perhaps, from the SPD’s point of view, this has become so clear that they believe they can always appeal to criticism: the Union is to blame.

The term “citizen’s income” is already established

Apart from that, the long-planned introduction of the citizens’ income had – in addition to the content – one main reason for the SPD to get rid of the term “Hartz IV”, which had brought it electoral defeats and a competing party to its left, once and for all. That seems to work. Despite criticism, the term “citizen’s allowance” has established itself in the media and in everyday language, even before its planned introduction on January 1, 2023.

You can also see it this way: In the past, in the days of the grand coalition, the SPD regularly managed to downplay its own successes, such as the introduction of the minimum wage. Today she celebrates a plucked citizens’ income as a social reform.

The Bundestag and Bundesrat are likely to agree to the compromise reached between the traffic light coalition and the Union this week, which the mediation committee of the Bundestag and Bundesrat basically just nodded.

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