Why should we be fairer

Georg Cremer"Germany is fairer than we think"

The talk of social imbalance, social cuts and a lack of distributive justice are of no use to anyone, says Georg Cremer in his new book. Germany must - quote: "get out of the decline discourse". The halving of the unemployment rate since 2005, is that nothing? How can one always talk about "small and small" and at best state an "Americanization of the labor market"? The formulation of the poverty researcher and hopeless presidential candidate of the left, Christoph Butterwegge, of a "soup kitchen social state" was described by Georg Cremer in his book "Armut in Deutschland" as a "scandalous escalation". Here it is quoted again - probably as a particularly destructive example. Because the gloomy painting of the present - according to Georg Cremer - leads to fear of the future and this in turn spoils the joie de vivre.

"But not only that. Distorted perceptions make a future-oriented policy more difficult. So we should counter exaggerated fears. [...] The excess of general outrage is also dangerous. If what the welfare state does is badly talked about, [...] ] this is a massive problem in the confrontation with populist forces. Their mobilization strategy includes the slander that politics does not care about 'the concerns of the people'. "

So for fear of AfD and Pegida no more criticism of the fact that in many German downtowns life is now unaffordable for members of the middle class, that more and more working people can no longer finance their lives without transfer payments and are threatened by old-age poverty or that in a country where the richest tenth of society owns around two thirds of total wealth, one of the lowest top tax rates in Europe is paid?

Arguing about justice differently

Not at all, says Georg Cremer. His book is intended as a counterpoint. "Germany is more just than we think" does not mean that Germany is just and that one should stop arguing about justice.

"But we should speak and argue in such a way that a solution-oriented policy is promoted. That can only be done in a debate that is differentiated and objective. It must recognize what the welfare state is doing."

In his book Georg Cremer first devotes himself to widespread moods and views and tries to take the wind out of the sails of the populists and alarmists with statistics and calculation examples, in order to then come to his central topic: the welfare state. This is namely much better than most think, to which the course set by the much-scolded grand coalition has certainly contributed. For example, Germany has a "health care system with low access barriers", a mother's pension and pension at 63, a legal right to daycare, a disability right geared to self-determination and participation, child benefit for home ownership and and and.

The much-lamented and criticized neoliberal cuts in social welfare, so Georg Cremer's conclusion, simply did not take place. There is no such thing as social cold. That too is just "talk", mood-making or based on a quote: "changing sensitivity", which means something like: The conditions are not getting worse, we are only becoming more sensitive to certain problems and sensitivities. For example, the increased need for psychotherapy places is by no means the reason why mental illnesses have increased.

"What has increased - fortunately - is the sensitivity to mental illnesses, as well as the number of professionals who can recognize and treat them. The stigmatization of mentally ill people has also been reduced. In the past, mental illnesses often went undetected and were not treated properly. "

Playing down is as unhelpful as exaggeration

That may be true. In this example, however, it is not mentioned that the number of specialists with health insurance is not sufficient and that those with statutory health insurance wait up to nine months for a therapy place, while those with private health insurance can find a psychotherapist immediately. That is felt to be unfair. However, there can be no question of two-tier medicine in Germany, says Georg Cremer, following the argument of the SPD health politician Karl Lauterbach that treatment by chief physician, for example, is not necessarily an advantage. It is obvious that many statutory health insurance patients do not feel that they are being taken seriously with such a statement.

And what is the point of mentioning an increased sensitivity for certain problem situations, if it is not connected with the criticism of excessive welfare expectations? The state cannot react immediately to sensitivities that did not exist in the past with supply programs. With arguments of this kind, Georg Cremer will certainly have to put up with the allegation of trivialization. And trivialization, as well as escalation of objectivity in the debate that Georg Cremer is calling for, is not helpful.

To a large extent, his book reads like a justification of social democratic social policy of the last two decades - the Agenda 2010 explicitly included. His "inventory", as the book is called in the subtitle, could well be understood as a pamphlet and primarily raise the question: Is Germany really as fair as Georg Cremer thinks?

Georg Cremer: "Germany is fairer than we think. An inventory",
C.H. Beck, 272 pages, 16.95 euros.