Thursday, August 8, 2013

Merkel's "Government Program" for the Next Four Years

Next month there will be elections in Germany, and every party has a program, which nobody will read, and no one in the party will care about after the elections anyways. So, up until now I had not checked the CDU government program (German pdf) for the next four years out. But, Wolfgang Münchau did take a look; and finds it that is  "shocking, because it shows no ambition". He concludes that this "program is not suitable for governing." So, I also had to take a look. It is actually, well, worse than Münchau says.

The program basically only consists of wants. The CDU wants: competitive corporate taxes, sustainable growth, research and development, a curious country, a good climate in firms, a stable currency, an independent ECB, full employment, prosperity for everybody and the euro in its current form(no euro bonds or other means of debt sharing). So, how do they want to achieve prosperity for everybody for example (page 17)?

Prosperity for all through opportunity for success and promotion for everybody
This is neither a sentence (ok it's behind a colon) nor does it make any sense, whatsoever. But fear not the next paragraph has "detail". They call this a "opportunity-society":

In a fast changing world we need a curious and imaginative Germany for a opportunity-society. Unlike red-green [SPD and the Green party], we believe in new technology and want to keep researching [in those fields]. We believe humans are capable to use the chances of new technology; and are able to handle risks responsibly. We are open for new [products], not fundamentally opposed.
This could be about genetically modified crops, if it is not, it a blatant lie about the opposition. Also,  they could have just written "me want research, it good, it produce prosperity", and that would have made more sense. The primary method of reaching the wants seems to be starring at stuff. Another example? Good climate in firms: good! How do they want to improve it? Page 23 has the answer:

Overall, we are convinced that the responsibility for a good climate between employers and employees rests primarily on the social partners [employer and unions] and in the firm.
 Good climate. yes. Doing something: no, that is not the CDU's task. In fact, they only seem to care about lower public debt, unnamed structural reforms in other countries, and R&D. On the latter they actually seem to have a plan involving corporate taxes, but they keep any specifics their secret. In fact, almost all numbers seem to be confidential. The program mentions 25 billion for infrastructure and 500 million for teachers, but there is nothing on the time frame. So, these numbers are utterly worthless.

Münchau is right this program is not suitable for governing a country. What makes it even worse is the total lack of understanding of the economy. Let's look at the "full employment" want, and pretend that starring  at unemployment will be all that is needed. So it is 2016, the CDU has looked at unemployment ("diligence, new ideas and technical progress" will achieve full employment [page 7]) for two and a half years and it has gone down to 4 percent and is close to zero in the R&D relevant fields (this last part is already true in some parts of Bavaria). Significant wage increases start to show and prices are going up. Monetary policy is not available, since it is not the ECB's job to only watch out for Germany (euro are inflation below 2 percent). What now? Higher taxes on higher income could help, or the state could reduce R&D subsidies, or much more immigration (which is mentioned elsewhere, another one of those problems they plan to gaze at) is needed, or more likely. they will blame the ECB; and do nothing.

Should we reach full employment, fiscal policy (strong tightening) will probably have to substitute monetary policy. They say they are able to achieve it then they should give at least some thought to where they want to tighten once they have reached their goal (yes they talk about sound finances all the time, but that wont be enough).

If one asks any random kid, what it would do if he/she were chancellor the second answer behind free candy, will most definitely be: "I would make sure everybody has a well-paying job." Then "taxes should not go up"; and "I want everybody to be happy." This is exactly what the CDU program is. It is the wants of a small kid. There is no substance, and "actions" (starring at stuff) have no (or only positive) consequences in a CDU world. On matters European, unspecified structural reforms will make the boo-boo go away; and then each country can be export world champion, and we can all live happily ever after.

The whole program is an absolutely horrible read, lacking any substance. Of course, the last CDU program was pro nuclear power; and Merkel had no problem to get rid of this former core of conservative policy in an instant. The election is about people, not topics; and Merkel will almost certainly lead her party to victory, which could be part of the reason for this non-program. Also, to be fair their program seems to have more substance than that of the 30%-unemployment-hell-yeah, the science-sucks and also the slave-labor-is-awesome parties.

Next, I will torture myself by reading the SPD program.

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