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Schäuble talks down chances of welfare boost

DPA/The Local · 13 Feb 2010, 18:13

Published: 13 Feb 2010 11:35 GMT+01:00
Updated: 13 Feb 2010 18:13 GMT+01:00

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After Germany’s highest court ruled earlier this week that the way Hartz IV benefits were calculated was unconstitutional, Schäuble firmly insisted in an interview with daily Frankfurter Rundschau that this did not mean benefits would have to be lifted.

Instead, he cautioned that the federal budget – which has already gone into unprecedented deficit this year – was under strain and could not bear additional burdens.

“The constitutional court didn’t specifically say the Hartz IV rates were inadequate, only that the method for calculating them should be changed. I don’t see that that has to have an impact on the federal budget,” he said.

Schäuble continued: “We must not lose sight of the fundamental idea of Hartz IV: the necessary social benefits must not make it unattractive to accept a job. In other words, the principle that wages should be higher than benefits has to be maintained.

“This country pays out about a trillion euros per year in public services, including social security. That is on average €12,500 per person. So you have to ask whether can’t improve the efficiency of our public services.

Asked whether that meant there would be no more money for Hartz IV, he said: “Those are your words. But I don’t think you have misunderstood me.”

This contrasted sharply with the rhetoric of Labour Minister Ursula von der Leyen who, while not precisely calling for a hike in benefits, has repeatedly interpreted the court’s decision as grounds for a more generous approach.

“The Constitutional Court has made it clear: the minimum humane existence in our welfare state must be guaranteed, because it’s about the dignity of people,” she told Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

Von der Leyen was responding to controversial remarks by Foreign Minister and pro-business Free Democrats leader Guido Westerwelle that it was “socialist” to suggest people should not be substantially rewarded for choosing work over welfare and warning Germans they were showing signs of “late-Roman decadence.”

“We really don’t need to get stuck in such debates,” von der Leyen said of Westerwelle’s remarks. “The priciple that people should work is deeply rooted in the court’s ruling. Only through work do you get back out of Hartz IV. If we prevent people getting stuck in unemployment and poverty, it will also benefit the middle classes, who would otherwise be burdened with additional costs.”

Westerwelle has refused to back down despite widespread anger over his remarks. He told Sunday's Bild am Sonntag: ''The criticism of my statements from the left is pure sanctimony. I have nothing to back away from.''

Story continues below…

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.

DPA/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

14:03 February 13, 2010 by jhonywillsh
These are th true leadership qualities showed by Schäuble. What i believe in is one who speaks never proves that by doing it and one who want to do something will never say something.Still he is so much excited in regards for the future up comings of the Germany welfare, lets see what results does he come up with and what all resolutions he wants the citizens to be followed.

8gb m2 card
16:45 February 13, 2010 by lordwilliams629
I have to hand it to the local, they couldn't have put up a better picture when talking about welfare. In america it would be a picture of a black women with five or six kids next to her, or a white women with a cigarette hanging out of her mouth while her uncleaned kids are hanging on her. Another analogy to that would be the father's to those black kids would be long gone, and the father to the white kids would be out in the parking lot waiting in the car so he can get back home to play his video games and eat, also in the case of the white father he's not always the father of all the kids either. The overall moral to the story is the black father of welfare children takes off and finds another ho to get knocked up, while the white welfare father sticks around and leeches till the he gets kicked out. Yea thats how our welfare case's do it in america. One thing thats always the same between the two differnt fathers is they are always drunk's.
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