Last night, on state-run Channel One (ARD), they ran the news format show "Plus Minus". This is a formatted show....which typically picks up a complicated subjects and transforms them into simplified yet detailed information shows.
So the topic for the evening was....."Reset 2016, How a Crisis Could Be Turned Into an Opportunity". This drew up the topic of the refugee and immigration crisis......adding Merkelism ("We Can Do It")....sprinkling some innovation and government funding over a wide-range of issues....and giving Germans a marvelous new world to live in. Yeah, I know....it does sound a bit far-fetched.
One of the topics of the show was housing, and they wanted to show that the current lack of affordable housing could be fixed by two things. The first was the strategy used by Vienna.....for the government (state and city) to finance the building and ownership of homes (something that German political figures aren't that hot about).
It's an interesting topic for me.....I've actually been to Vienna and noted the homes they are talking about. For a city of 1.6 million.....there are approximately 220,000 residences or apartments in the city which are city/state-owned. The locals will note that this has been public policy since the 1920s, but really took off after WW II.
If you take the average number of residents per residence (2.5), then you come to roughly one-third of the city living in a state-owned apartment. One of the nifty things about this is that rent is kept at a certain rate.....so people are very happy over what they pay. Rarely does the rent go up....and never drastically (otherwise, they'd go and fire some political figures).
But as you walk around, you tend to note that the structures are very plain in design, and it does not appear that much renovation has occurred with such structures over the past forty-odd years. In some cases, I'd say the last exterior paint job was in the 1970s.
One of the things which Plus Minus didn't mention is that a lot of the residents in the state-owned apartments.....moved in years ago when they were making X amount of pay, and today make a fair amount more....but they've never seen their rent escalate. Some political figures in the city would like to remake the rules (upsetting people of course) that a continual review of your pay situation would occur, and that if you made more.....you'd pay more on rent. So twelve renters could be in one building.....all with the same square footage and accommodations.....and each would be paying an entirely different rent. It is pure socialism, but for the political folks....it's this necessity because they really need to build more apartments and there just isn't enough tax revenue to accomplish this.
A dishonest angle by Plus Minus? It's just something they didn't mention.
Another segment dealt with the fantastic public transportation system in Vienna.....with a ultra-low percentage number of daily commuters in the city who don't use cars. This is a true comment.....mostly because the city simply doesn't have parking to handle the flow of hundreds of thousands of cars. If you look around.....unlike Frankfurt or Mainz or Berlin.....there just aren't many parking houses for handling sitting cars.
If you look at the metropolitan public transportation system in Frankfurt.....it does just as well as Vienna. You can walk out of any building.....be on a bus or subway car in five minutes....go twenty minutes across town to your job.....and with a five minute walk be in your office or shop. My impression is that the Plus Minus guy hasn't been around Frankfurt much.
Oh, and the chatter about Vienna people paying only 365 Euro a year for their public transportation? I admit.....in Frankfurt, you''d pay a lot more (86 Euro a month if you live within the city limits for 24-hour coverage). But the Vienna folks also dip into state and federal funding for renovation and upgrades.....so the 365 Euro a year isn't really the final cost. You would pay out of your other pocket for the taxes which funnel off into a station upgrade, or a new series of subway cars.
At one point, the Plus Minus crew went into the ultra modern view of a new infrastructure....people on bikes commuting to work....fantastic communities with grassing growing on roofs....city parks everywhere....and peaceful harmony existing (as much as a German can dream about).
I looked at this and tried to imagine how drug dopers, thugs, and robbers would fit into the new vision of German inner cities. They seem to have been left out of the wonderful image that Plus Minus drew up. I know.....I'm a bit of a cynic....but I know that life in a highly urbanized German city has certain elements which simply aren't going to be dissolved by these fantastic innovations.
If you were watching the show.....by the end....you would have felt a bit of the Merkelism hitting your soul ("We Can Do It"). The chief issue is that you'd need a fantastic amount of money to reinvent or 'restart' Germany with this innovation business. If you ask any German today.....they've hit rock bottom on more taxation, and can't afford any more taxes. The only vehicle left, which Bundestag political figures almost weep over....is this impending 2019 end to the Solidarity Tax. Billions would revert back to the typical average German who've been forced for years to pay for East Germany's infrastructure repairs. The law says the tax must end in 2019.
I have this odd feeling that the Plus Minus show from last night.....will be run over and over across the nation....to convince Germans to permanently keep the Solidarity Tax in place and pay to remake Germany....in the image of Vienna.