Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Missing German Residents

This is one of those German stories that takes a minute or two to explain.

In Germany....there's no individual state taxes or city sales tax.  So you as a city, depend on the state and federal government for an allocation.  And this allocation is based on a decades-old concept of statistical population numbers.  If you are a village of 1,000 residents.....you can pretty much get down to the planning process easily.....with the state check that's going to be issued to you.....and be fairly sure of it's amount.  It doesn't really go up....it doesn't really go down. No gimmicks, no getting companies to move into your state or city for more tax revenue just for you.  This is all pretty simple for city planners to work with.

Well.....it worked fine as a method, up until this 2011 census episode.  Strangely enough, Germany lost population.  Around 1.5 million Germans just plain disappeared from the statistical data.  So far, the census folks aren't willing, or able, to explain how this occurred.  Maybe their last census was lousy.  Maybe half of these 'lost' Germans just left the country because of high taxes or lost enthusiasm.  It's hard to say.  Adding to the mess.....a bunch of Germans moved, and that really screwed up the idea of simple planning.

So this all leads to a brand new problem, which the mayors and cities are frustrated with.  A great portion of cities of decent size.....lost populations.  This means their check from the state or federal government....will be less.  Trimming budgets.....you see....is not a friendly topic to discuss with German politicians.  Someone in the food chain has to lose funding, and this generally gets folks riled up.

Court action?  Yeah.  There's talk by various cities of going after the census folks and claiming it was all done wrong.  The courts?  I imagine that they really don't want to walk into this mess.  It means a review of the process, the collection, the data, and the intention of what was started decades ago.  No one ever imagined that they'd lose populations.

The truth?  Over the past two or three decades.....big cities have tended to become less attractive.  So when a guy gets into the better income level.....he'd look for a better house.....way out away from the bigger cities, and in smaller villages.  The schools were better.  Crime was less.  And the state folks were often fairly kind in building better roads and autobahns to transport you to the big city where your job was located.

I believe you could go state by state, and show how 100,000 residents here and there....moved around and found better locations to reside.  I'm also of the belief that half-a-million Germans have left the country quietly, and found somewhere else to reside.....with cheaper costs, less taxes, and more opportunities.  From the Canary Islands, to Ibiza.....they've discovered life can be cheaper.

As for the cities?  They've got a addiction problem.  They'd like to believe that they have 250,000 residents in their city, and the truth is.....they barely sustain 230,000.  So they keep chatting up the fake 20,000 residents and pretending they exist enough.....to get them the right payments.  All the while, they really can't figure out where the heck that 20,000 went, or if they went anywhere.  Maybe they didn't even exist in the first place.

Finally, I should add this odd comical note from the statistical folks.  On the spreadsheet that shows all current and past resident numbers.....they have a column to show the upswing or downswing.  Some towns actually went up 230-percent, and some towns went down by as much as 47-percent.  You can imagine a political figure standing there, and in disbelief that you could go up or down in such a manner.  God just didn't make Germans that mobile.....at least in their mind.

As I said in the beginning.....this story would take a while.  Thank God that US cities don't function this way, and they tax the heck out of you for sales tax.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I live in the community where BMW built their US plant. With all the auto suppliers that came with BMW, I'd say all those missing German are here.