Wednesday, March 21, 2018

School Story

I noticed short news piece from Focus this morning.....talking over an attack in the Baden-Wurttemberg region. 

Within a grade-school operation, down near Freiburg.....a German teacher got into some type of dispute with a kid in the class (press says the kid is seven years old ).  Kid felt the teacher showed disrespect and then pulled a knife on the teacher.  Initial report says that the teacher is injured.....probably a minor cut, but enough that it required medical attention.

Naturally most folks would freak out and fail to read the rest of this story.  It's an odd thing.....the knife doesn't belong to the kid.....nor did the kid bring the knife to school.  The knife is apparently school property and used in some structure of the class atmosphere.  I'm guessing it's there to cut items (maybe apples) for school activities.

In my mind.....this event though....causes folks to ask more questions and wondering if schools in German are 'safe'.  The answer is.....yes, they are safe.  But to prevent public anxiety, you can anticipate some effort to psychologically analyze kids and label or categorize kids in some fashion.  The 'aggressive' types will be noted and teachers will know as each year comes with different kids.....three or four kids in the group are potential problems.

As for knives remaining in schools?  Oh, I'll bet within a month....most schools have removed knives from the open structure, and they are only held by one single teacher. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Tariff Game to Be Played?

For a number of days, there's been hyped news in Germany and a lot of political commentary over the tariff business with President Trump.  There's a high-level German minister in DC this week to chat over the topic and I anticipate four things occurring out of this 'mess'.

1.  Once it starts, the counter-reaction will occur, and various tariffs will occur.  It's not a trade's simply tariff attached which pumps up the cost factor.  So it's likely when I walk into my local grocery (REAL, pronounced RE-al) and see pop-tarts up there for some outrageous amount of 4.9 Euro (in reality $5.9) BEFORE the whole tariff'll now likely go to 5.40 ($6.4)....for a box of four sets of pop-tarts.   People will still buy it, because it's the only product like that.  Regular Germans don't eat it'll be a special treat situation.

2.  Germans will find their specialized steel still being imported into the US for the time-being....but six to twelve months down the line.....some US steel-makers will arrive and say they can make the same type steel product.....for 25-percent less.  At that point, import of German steel will start to decrease.  For 90 days, I see nothing really changing attitudes.  It's one year out that you need to worry about things.

3.  The Germans want this resolved, and they are going to find Trump standing there and asking where their EU representative is....because he doesn't want to talk to anyone without any real power.  At that point (probably even with Pete Altmaier visiting this week)....the new reality will occur that Germany can't repair their trade issue here, without EU work or participation. 

4.  All of this.....leads onto one single topic....a new TTIP.  Yep, and if you go back to the fall of 2016 and remember how it failed with the Obama Administration and the EU team.....well, you have to wonder how the Germans feel now.

For the EU?  The non-German folks can drag this out and really make Germany stressed.

In the first month or two of the Trump administration....there was this face-to-face meeting between Merkel and Trump.  Trump wanted to talk trade.....Merkel gave the push-back and said that that the EU handles all trade, no deal. 

In this case, I think Trump is posed for a long-term deal, and will refuse to engage with any German on trade.....telling them that only the EU can handle their trade issues, and they'd best go get them enthusiastic.  The Germans will then realize that nationally....they don't run their trade business anymore, and this is something they'd never really thought about.

Somewhere in the middle of 2019....I expect Team-Trump and the EU trade folks will sit down and try to rebuild TTIP.  The Germans will be amazed at the lack of willingness on the EU side and some jobs will be lost by that point in this little tariff 'war'.   

My View on Universal Income

I read through a number of articles and chat yesterday on the German topic of Hartz IV (the German welfare system).  Surprisingly's moved from a top ten probably topic number one in the past month. 

Some people sense that a period of change is going to arrive in a lot of discussions are held this year, and criticism will continue to mount. 

The solution talked about?  Universal Income.

The way this would work?  In draft form, and based on at least twenty people describing their vision....I will offer my vision of how the Germans will implement it.

If you are on welfare status today....they'd slip you over tomorrow to Universal Income.  Your monthly 'allowance' would go to roughy to 1,600 Euro.  That would be there to cover rent, utilities, health care insurance, cellphone, IP service, car insurance, car repairs, income taxes, etc.  Everything.

If you had some partner living in the house, there would likely be no added income (not unless they worked).  Kids?  As long as it was two kids or extra income.  More than two kids?  Yeah, there's likely to be added money.

Each would be required weekly to show up at some local job-center and apply for jobs.  I would mandate job-training for virtually everyone.  Anyone being uncooperative at applying for jobs or accepting job-training?  Slap a 200-Euro fine upon their account each month that they act in this way.  In some cases....mandate behavioral classes just to make them understand changes are necessary.

But here's the thing.  As much as everyone will be hyped up and all super-positive in the first two years....reality will eventually come and announce itself.  In some regions, cost of living will be unfair.  In some areas....finding affordable housing will be impossible.  Some people are bound and determined to live without working. 

To afford this extra cost?  More taxes will have to occur, or you cut somewhere (like that stupid military budget).  All of that additional taxation will trigger additional problems down the line.  So as much as people say this will fix'll simply lead onto a new set of problems in five years.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Spahn and Hartz IV Talk

A couple of weeks ago, CDU Party member....Jens Spahn..made a comment or two on Hartz IV (the German welfare program) and a number of political folks wanted to challenge him upon the program.

They've collected up a petition of 150,000 signatures, and demand that he live for one month on normal income that you'd have for Hartz IV. 

Focus had a brief article about this petition and what is coming along with it.

Spahn says he'll privately meet with the person who sponsored the petition and discuss the idea.  The basic suggestion?  You would have to take the 404 Euro for the chief partner, the sub-partner would get 364 Euro (Spahn is married, if you were curious).  So he'd have to survive off 768 for the cover his cellphone, internet, heat, garbage, water, electrical, and food (for two).

My guess is that both Spahn and his spouse have at least 200 Euro a month going out for cellphone coverage, internet and that will be difficult for them to figure into the challenge.  The fact that both work would also present problems as well. 

My guess in the end is that Spahn and the spouse will agree to a food allocation deal of 280 Euro (more or less). 

My German wife brought up this whole planning strategy. In her mind, she'd need 4.50 Euro a day per person (135 Euro monthly).  On this, you could eat exceptionally smart-wise, buy cheap beer, cheap meats, etc.....and survive.

The problem with this concept though....there is no extras built into the system.  If you had a'd be a problem.  A dog?  No way.  Gifts for someone?  You'd have to forget about that.  It's meant as enough to marginally live and put some enthusiasm into you to find a job.

I suspect that Spahn will take the deal and show over the course of 30 days that you can live off the Hartz IV sum. 

Altmaier Trip to the US

This week, the new German Minister for Economic Affairs (Pete Altmaier) is supposed to fly into the US and have various talks with US officials....mostly over the upcoming steel and aluminum tariff business. 

He's hoping to get something out of the Trump administration to halt the US action.

I think he'll run into a brick Trump officials note that this is an action being conducted worldwide.....with only Canada, Mexico and Australia on the free-pass deal, and Altmaier is only there to represent Germany....(hint: he's not an EU-representative), then this talk won't go far.  I'm also of the opinion that some references will be made over the TTIP Treaty that failed toward the last quarter of 2016, and no willing nature from the EU to go back to the table. 

Altmaier will then do some falling upon the sword and suggest that Germany has been a fair partner of the US. 

In the end, the US will agree to meet in a month, with EU officials on this topic, and that a rebuild of the TTIP would be in order. 

Sunday, March 18, 2018

A Jobs Story

Welt am Sonntag (a good Sunday newspaper in Germany) had an interesting piece today.

There's this odd shortage going on.  You come up with a project in the house....say a new wallpaper situation for a room, and you do the interview to find the right guy at the right price.  So you finally find this guy, and he gives you the waiting period (roughly ten weeks) before he can start.  This is now the national average.

Why so long?

There's a national shortage being noted right now with these handyman crafts.  It's just not a field that attracts people as an occupation.  Painters, electricians, plumbers, wallpaper folks, carpenters, roofers, etc.

The thing that Welt points out.....these professional German handymen are making as much as most academics.


Focus, the German news magazine, picked up an interesting topic today.....public TV and radio taxes on the public.

There was a meeting last week (Tuesday) with ARD/ZDF (the public TV group) and the commission that sees over their operation. 

Over the past couple of years, various Germans have tried to challenge the monthly fee situation and hoped to get it dumped.  So far, none have succeeded.  The commission though....seems to be thinking along the lines that eventually, some challenge will succeed.

It's pointed out that in a recent poll.....nearly 40-percent of the public is fed up with the media tax and they want it gone.  55-percent want it to remain.

What the ARD/ZDF crew point out in public discussions, is that for this period of 2021 to 2024.....they are are more than three billion-Euro short on income.  So, they need the monthly amount (17.50 Euro) to go up.  My guess is that it'll have to reach 20-Euro per month as a minimum.....unless of course....they downsize.

The commission?  They aren't attached to any political agenda (at least they claim that), and their enthusiasm is simply to ensure the mechanism survives on.  But finding three billion Euro in savings? 

The Twitter Story

At some point in the last couple of days....someone took up the comment of the new Minister of the Interior of Germany (Seehofer), "Islam does not belong to Germany".....except they rephrased the comment on Twitter....."Bayern (Bavaria) does not belong to Germany".

Most folks had a laugh over the comment.  Historians....less so.

There are two states within Germany which were forced into Prussia (1870s era).....Nassau (today Hessen) and Bayern (Bavaria).  Both had a pact with the Hapsburg Empire, and were allowed to exist as individual states in Europe.  When Prussia threatened the Hapsburg Empire, that protection pact went down the drain.

What can be said since that era is that both would have done well economically on their own, but being part of the Prussian and later German landscape.....probably helped them even more.

Around a year ago....a poll was held in Bavaria and roughly one-third of population would prefer that Bavaria be their own nation.

So this brings me around to this odd Bavaria a bit different from the rest of Germany?  The simple answer is 'yes'.  Course, you could probably say the same about the state of Hamburg, and the state of Hessen.  For that matter, most all German states have a unique character about themselves.