Friday, April 6, 2012

Just Another Gerhard Day

About a decade ago in Germany....then Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder (SPD) tossed a remarkable piece of legislation into the middle of the Bundestag.  There were two basic pieces to this.

First, it would change employment laws...which would make it easier for companies to hire people.  This was supposed to stimulate the unemployment situation and bring more folks onto the tax roles.  In essence....more tax revenue would be forthcoming.

The second piece was controversial in would change the German welfare system.  It would flip the whole system upside down, decrease the amount of money flowing out, and force people sitting around at home to be a bit more aggressive about getting a job.  It lessen the burden on the tax revenue pot by decreasing funding going out.

This was not a simple sell....even to his own party members.  It took around eighteen months to get enough folks on board, and it finally was state law.

To be honest....the change to the employment laws was not a negative thing.....and it was quickly accepted by the public.  It was a positive step.

The welfare change?  From day was hated by those on German welfare.  The name.....Hartz IV (four) would be brought up on a daily basis by various new media people.....usually in a negative way.  Story after story would be told of some poor couple....both unemployed for five or ten years....barely surviving now off soup.  Around 2009, there was a report that around five million Germans had fallen into the Hartz IV pit during that year....some temporary, and some permanent.  It was a big deal.

Time has passed, and in the past year....several journalists have come to view the "greatness" of Gerhard Schroeder and how Merkel today is enjoying the fruits of what Gerhard planted.  This repainting of Gerhard Schroeder is kind of comical in some ways....because he was disliked by a vast number of Germans toward the end of his Chancellorship.

At the end of his first period as was a pretty fair bet that he would lose in the election.  Most folks came to regard him as a empty suit.  He had no real leadership values, but he looked like a first-class Chancellor.  Luckily for him....the potential invasion by the US into Iraq was being debated, and he turned it into the only significant topic for the election.  So Germans were voting to stop America from the invasion.....if they voted for him.  By the narrowest of margins.....Germans awoke the day after election to discover that Gerhard Schroeder would be around for another four years (potentially).  The negativity poll a month before the election?  Well.....he barely had thirty percent of the nation behind him.  A month after the election.....he barely had thirty percent of the nation behind him.

Comedians made weekly jokes on Schroeder, and respect for the guy went to a all-time low within three months after the election.  Within months, there was enough of a challenge....that another election was being discussed.  If you simply stood on a street'd be hard-pressed to find twenty adult Germans out of a hundred, that readily supported the guy.

So the next election occurred on 18 September 2005.  The CDU/CSU folks took a slim one-point lead....which would allow them to form the government.  The problem was....their FDP friends who ought to be the partner to make the 50-percent point....didn't have enough make that possible.

So in walks Gerhard Schroeder, who says that the SPD would refuse a partnership with the CDU/CSU....and this would mean that the Merkel team would be unable to partner with anyone.  It was a odd moment on TV when this hint was given.  It meant that after X number of days....the number two party in this election....the SPD (Schroeder and team) would be given a chance to bring together a government.

But now, this odd comment comes out of the FDP folks.  The SPD and their Green associates.....didn't have 50-percent.  So they would need the FDP to partner-up in a three-party government.  And the leader of the FDP....didn't just hint, but boldly announced that they would never (under any circumstances) partner with Gerhard Schroeder.

Over the next day or could sense by various comments on TV that the entire top level of the SPD was disappointed with where things were going.....and the support for Schroeder disappeared in a matter of days.

As Gerhard Schroeder walked out the front door.....he ended up with a job working for the Russian natural gas folks.....which infuriated almost all of his former associates.

Eight years have passed, and with this effort to make Gerhard's ideas look great and bring back the love-ability of Gerhard....comes this new suggestion that Gerhard has a new economic plan for Germany.....entitled Agenda 2030.

My humble guess is that a handful of journalists are taking the ball on this....because almost no one in the SPD party wants to bring up Gerhard's name anymore.  Folks are hoping that the unhappy feelings from 2005 are gone....that the Hartz IV welfare folks have forgotten who put them into miserable conditions.....and that everyone will just accept some kind words from a handful of journalists on this topic.

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