• Germany's news in English

Westerwelle attacks ‘socialist’ welfare debate

DDP/The Local · 12 Feb 2010, 17:00

Published: 12 Feb 2010 17:00 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

“Those who walk all over the willingness of citizens to achieve something should apologise,” he told daily Passauer Neue Presse. “Those who work should have more than those not working. One must be allowed to say that. Anything else is socialist.”

Westerwelle, who is also vice chancellor and leader of the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), sparked widespread outrage for claiming his countrymen were heading towards “late-Roman decadence” by supporting increasing Hartz IV welfare benefits instead of the tax cuts he favours in an editorial published on Thursday.

“There’s a Pavlovian call that suddenly there can be no more relief for citizens because the money is need for higher Hartz IV payments,” Westerwelle wrote in a contribution for daily newspaper Die Welt. “Those that pay for everything are hardly acknowledged anymore.”

Earlier this week, Germany’s Constitutional Court kicked off a national debate about welfare by ruling that the amount of unemployment benefits under Hartz IV was not transparent in the way it was calculated and not gauged according to real-life circumstances.

In particular, the method of calculating children’s payments as a percentage of benefits given to adults was unconstitutional. The court ruled benefits should instead be calculated to ensure welfare recipients could at least live according to minimum humane standards.

Members of the opposition have accused Westerwelle of wanting to betray Germany’s cherished welfare state and trying to drum up support for his beleaguered FDP by attacking those on the dole.

“The vice chancellor and foreign minister doesn’t understand the basic principles of our welfare state and he apparently doesn’t care about them either,” said Cem Özdemir, head of the opposition Greens party.

Story continues below…

But even Chancellor Angela Merkel distanced herself from Westerwelle on Friday.

“That certainly isn’t the chancellor’s manner,” said a government spokeswoman, adding Merkel’s entire government was committed to reforming Hartz IV after the high court ruling.

DDP/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

17:29 February 12, 2010 by Der Grenadier aus Aachen
I kind of suspected he was a moron. This more or less proves it for me.
17:40 February 12, 2010 by tollermann
Der Grenadier aus Aachen I don't get it. Is it the fact that he is a homosexual pro-business anti-socialist? Or is it because he believes should not be lifetime recipents of welfare? I am so glad I left Europe - enough of the we are the world socialist policies. They don't work!
19:11 February 12, 2010 by Talonx
Tollermann, it's because he is just like you.
19:35 February 12, 2010 by Der Grenadier aus Aachen
I love it when people say that social democracy doesn't work. Yes, because Germany is obviously doing so poorly. And it starts lots of financial crises. And people have an incredibly poor standard of living.

Oh wait. None of that is true. As a matter of fact, we usually bail out most everyone else. Glad I remembered that.
19:45 February 12, 2010 by Talonx
Herr Grenadier, oh and don't forget the horrible public transport system, one of the worst employment ratings in the world, the unreasonably priced (often times unaffordable) higher eduction and health care systems, and absolute ignorance when it comes to the past . . . wait a minute, that's not Germany either.

Hmm, where are Tollermann's legs anyways? I don't see exactly what he has to stand on.

As an American, I couldn't be happier to live in Germany today. When people like Westerwelle throw their ignorance around, people don't just sit their and take it. (Unless you're a very nervous Angie wondering why you ever associated yourself with these idiots)
20:00 February 12, 2010 by nepo77
Yep finally somebody said it.
21:13 February 12, 2010 by tollermann
Talonx he is not like me....I have been married to a woman for 25yrs and I have 5 kids - no western death wish in my home. As for Talonx comments, why is it that when someone does not agree with the Robin Hood syndrome (in this case it is the government robbing from everyone to feed their insatiable appettie) they are automatically ignorant. As far as an American living in Germany, you are the ignorant one, calling everyone names, sounds a little like Uncle Adolf to me. As far as higher education, contrary to what you think my german classmates all wanted to stay in America because of the opportunity unlike most of Europa!
21:29 February 12, 2010 by Talonx
Tollerman, I wasn't reffering to you being gay, but it's telling that that's the thing that sets you off. I was reffering more so to the xenophobia and what not.

Anyways, I don't think I need to take lessons in history or economics from someone who can't tell the difference between socialism and nationalism. Why don't you actually do a bit of studying before talking out your arse.

As for name calling, I don't do it to hurt you, I do it because I want you to know how you come across to the rest of the world outside the little reality you've created for yourself.

I hope you haven't passed on your selfishness to the next generation, America's got enough problems now.
22:46 February 12, 2010 by Bushdiver
¦quot;Those who work should have more than those not working." I agree with that statement. As we all know there are plenty of people that actually need welfare but there are lots more that don't and just abuse the system. You see it everyday in the streets unless of course you live far away from other people. I know quite a few people on Hartz IV that have no interest in any kind of employment, they may not be able to afford all the little extras in life but the ones I know don't seem to be suffering all that much. I see plenty of them on the streets begging who are younger and I'm sure in better shape than my 60 year old butt and don't say that these poor individuals can't find work. You may not find what you like, but work is there if you want it. Maybe we should throw in a vacation week or two as well to the benefits. I think the biggest problem here in Germany is that the taxes are so high on what you earn that you really don't lose that much by staying on unemployment.

@ Talonx . Yes I see that you're an American. You are as ignorant as most Americans about what's going on in the world.
23:10 February 12, 2010 by Logic Guy
Well, the truth is, those that need welfare should get it.

But it benefits no one, if a person just sits around and relies on government, year after year to take care of them.

The responsibility of every government is to create a social structure that allows people to safe, independent and prosperous.

Don't misunderstand Westerwelle. He is simply being responsible. It takes character to stand up and speak the truth, because most people are afraid to do so. Surely we would have a better world if more people were like him.
23:41 February 12, 2010 by wxman
Wow! A real German looking after the interests of the hard working German citizen. Didn't think any still existed.
02:59 February 13, 2010 by CalBill
This guy is 110% correct. The only problem is he doesn'r go far enough. No, if you don't work, you don't deserve or need as much as someone who does. I mean, you're probably already on some welfare housing and food programs which working people have to pay for plus you don't have to pay for work clothes, transportation and other work related expenses. Way too much Euro welfare whining by lifelong couch potatoes.
05:56 February 13, 2010 by 1FCK_1FCK
Since all poor and unemployed people are obviously lazy ingrates happy to steal from the hardworking, honest people in the world, I have a solution. Let's line up all the poor people and shoot them dead. They're just a drain on society anyway, the losers. All they do is grovel and ask for more more more. It's their fault they don't have a job. Look around - there must be millions of jobs just waiting for someone to take them.

What? There aren't? Huh? Is that how the job market works? When there aren't enough jobs some people go unemployed through no fault of their own? How can that be? That must be wrong. Unemployed people are lesser humans. Let's just eliminate them so all that's left are us good, hard-working honest people who got what we have the old-fashioned way. We earned it.
08:15 February 13, 2010 by Talonx
1FCK_1FCk, there are actually classical economists that try to explain unemployment in just that way friend. F#cked up sh#t, eh.

Bushdiver, you seem to keep pretty horrible company (lots of social parasites). And your essentialism shines through, it's understandable then that you would make sweeping generalizations based on your subjective experience. In any event, contrary to what you want to believe Germany has a 7% unemployment rate, and the underemployment (people that would need full employment but are only partially employed, e.g. mini jobbers) rate is worse still, this isn't because people don't want jobs. it's because those jobs don't exist. Don't get me wrong the situation is much worse in the U.S. right now. Point is, the facts just don't support your argument.
10:13 February 13, 2010 by The-ex-pat
¦quot;Those that pay for everything are hardly acknowledged any more.¦quot;

The one line that has been missed by every post here. A welfare state is a must, but those who pay (the tax payer) are regarded as having a bottomless pocket and can stump up every time for those who don't. Hartz IV is for heat, food and clothes. It is meant as encouragement to get back to work, but the German work mentality does not fit this model. Retraining, why, I have been a XYZ for years and an XYZ is what I will be, so I will remain unemployed until the XYZ industry picks up again. The second problem is that if you do retrain you start at the bottom and are the lowest of the low. No points for age, previous experience, ability etc.. As this system does not work due to experience in life standing for nothing, the usual miracle answer is tax and more money for the unemployed after all he MUST BE ENTITLED to his 42" LDC TV in the same way that I paid for mine with a 7 day night shift! Westerwelle, at last is a politician that is starting to speak for the hard working.
10:43 February 13, 2010 by 1FCK_1FCK
Talonx - Indeed! It's a mad, mad world, and even worse here in the states where unemployment is skyrocketing and benefits are a pittance, especially here in the south (I'm in Texas.) The blame is squarely on the unemployed who are universally viewed as at fault for their predicament, thanks to the legacy of Calvinist protestantism which so many subscribe to here. That, combined with the decline of organized labor, means that there is virtually no pressure on the govt to help the unemployed, much less blame those who caused this economic catastrophe.
18:33 February 13, 2010 by Talonx
1FCK_1FCK, sandwiched in between our comments is the proof of what I was just saying, 'The-ex-pat', must not have even read what we wrote.

The-ex-pat, How can you blame the unemployed for not having jobs when there aren't any jobs to be had? What crack do you smoke? Do you even know what the definition of a recession is?
13:18 February 15, 2010 by Edmond Schindler
Expaticus: You stated your support for Westerwelle directly and to the point. I believe that is too what I like about his position and confrontational approach, being direct without candy or sugar coating. In this matter I support Westerwelles' point of view.

Myself, I am 100% dependent on the earnings I made and contributions from those earnings I paid over 32 years into SocialVersicherung. I became 100% disabled and draw my living from the living I previously earned. Too, I am sure because of my disabilities that others are contributing to my well-fare and well-being as I believe over the remainder of my lifetime my initial contributions would not cover all costs. I would rather be fit and working but I am grateful to have my dignity and enough to squeeze by.

We are in for some interesting times, I hope that change is led by need, ability and lastly compassion. In that order.
13:31 February 15, 2010 by Talonx
Edmond, do you realize that Westerwelle is trying to rally support for the abolition of the wellfare state? Every single social policy they've proposed has been along such lines. This is no overstatement, they want to privatise and deregulate everything while at once stacking on protections to the wealthy few that aren't available to the other 90% of German society. There is no place for those with disabilities or those for whom jobs are not available in Westerwelle's vision.

If Westerwelle was talking merely about reform to the point of insuring that Hartz IV money get's to the children recipients it's meant for, then the situation would be different, but that's not what he's talking about. He's talking about reduction in aid.
Today's headlines
Outrage over ruling on 'brutal' gang rape of teen girl
The now convicted suspects, sitting in court in Hamburg. Photo: DPA.

A 14-year-old girl was gang-raped and left partially clothed and unconscious in freezing temperatures. Now prosecutors are appealing the sentences for the young men found guilty, most of whom will not set foot in jail.

Dozens of Turkish diplomats apply for asylum in Germany
Demonstrators holding a giant Turkish flag protest against the attempted coup in Istanbul in July. Photo: DPA.

Since the failed putsch attempt in Turkey in July, Germany has received 35 asylum applications from people with Turkish diplomatic passports, the Interior Ministry confirmed on Wednesday.

Hertha Berlin fan club criticised for 'anti-gay banner'
Hertha BSC beat FC Cologne 2-1. Photo: DPA

A 50 metre fan banner apparently mocking the idea of gay adoption has overshadowed Hertha BSC's win in the Bundesliga.

Germany stalls Chinese takeover of tech firm Aixtron
Aixtron headquarters in Herzogenrath. Photo: DPA

The German government on Monday said it had withdrawn approval for a Chinese firm to acquire Aixtron, a supplier to the semiconductor industry, amid growing unease over Chinese investment in German companies.

Politicians call for tough sentences for 'killer clowns'
File photo: DPA.

Now that the so-called 'killer clown' craze has spread from the US to Germany, elected officials are drawing a hard line against such "pranks", with some threatening offenders with jail time of up to a year.

Nearly one in ten Germans are severely disabled
Photo: DPA

New figures reveal that 9.3 percent of the German population last year were considered severely disabled.

The Local List
Germany's top 10 most surreal sites to visit
The Upside-Down House, in Mecklenburg–Western Pomerania. Photo: Olaf Meister / Wikimedia Commons

From upside-down houses on Baltic islands to a fairy-tale castle near the Austrian border, Germany is a treasure trove of the extraordinary.

Bavarian critics back Merkel for Chancellor again
Photo: DPA

The Christian Social Union (CSU) have long delayed backing Angela Merkel as their candidate for Chancellor in next year's general election. But now key leaders are supporting her publicly.

Four taken to hospital after hotel toilet bursts into flames
File photo: DPA.

Four guests at a Nuremberg hotel were taken to hospital due to smoke inhalation early Monday morning after a toilet there burst into flames.

Creepy clown scare spreads to Germany
Two of the clowns were apparently equipped with chainsaws. Photo: Pedro Pardo / AFP file picture

Police said Friday five incidents involving so-called scary clowns had occurred in two north German towns, including one assailant who hit a man with a baseball bat, amid fears that Halloween could spark a rash of similar attacks.

10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd