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Steinbrück chastises the 'excesses' of Germany's rich

The Local · 17 Sep 2010, 09:00

Published: 17 Sep 2010 09:00 GMT+02:00

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“Parallel societies don’t just exist on the lower end, but also at the top of the income pyramid,” he told daily Westdeutsche Zeitung. “There some say, ‘We don’t need the state, every euro of taxes is too much. We don’t need public services, we can buy them privately.”

These people, and not left- or right-wing extremists, are the true danger to German society, he told the paper.

“It is the privileged, who through their excess and false sense of balance and proportions, and the mentality of personal gain, saw through the branch on which they’re sitting,” the centre-left Social Democrat said. “These people lack a sense of social connection for integrating the losers.”

People in the upper class must understand that “their exaggerated profit expectations lead to the destruction of the market economy,” he told the paper, adding that their “personal income development cannot go on like this.”

But the government can’t instil a sense of common welfare in the wealthy through laws, Steinbrück said, explaining that only widespread debate would bring success.

Story continues below…


The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

10:43 September 17, 2010 by pepsionice
Steinbruck sounds like one of those folks who believe in "enough is enough". It's a comical situation. German taxes are geared toward an element of the rich paying more than anyone else. The attitude is that they can afford to pay it. So after a while, when realize its a unending attitude, they just start to shuffle funds around and never admit they made a profit in Hong Kong or some Pacific location.

The comical thing now is that regular people like plumbers....hide money. About six years ago, I was watching a German documentary which had a couple of customs guys at the border of Luxembourg and they stopped a German RV from entering Luxembourg. They went through the vehicle and there was this huge coffee can in the vehicle. There must have been 30k Euro in the can. Nothing much was said except the seizure of the money. No matter what story was invented, the Germans were going to take the bulk of the money in the can. The guy was a plumber and you knew that he had all of this weekend work that he was doing on the side and never reporting.
10:49 September 17, 2010 by frankiep
Is anyone else sick of this class warfare crap?

Rich people have money and use it to enjoy themselves - and we are supposed to be outraged about this. Give me a break.
10:50 September 17, 2010 by Essertpitay
People who have benefited from an economical environment provided by their own country to become wealthy and then start "moving money around" should be stripped of their citizenship.
11:47 September 17, 2010 by catjones
My fear is for the Rich Roma who just converted to Islam. Three strikes.......
13:41 September 17, 2010 by chimpansi
so what about taxing the lotto winner?

or a capital gain tax?

or fixing all the loopholes in the tax system

or reducing the number of tax exemptions...

The so called rich became rich by using their brain & their balls. Its counterproductive to target them..

Rather get those lazy grumpy fatties to move their arse..
14:01 September 17, 2010 by Johnne
@catjones "lol" I can´t stop laughing! lol......
15:56 September 17, 2010 by derExDeutsche
Sounds like the 'Integration' is going just fine! You shall all be DDR Germans soon!

How DARE anybody be Rich!?!?!? Don't they know Prufrock is watching? Don't they know what Chomsky would say?!

BASTARDS! we will not rest until we are ALL equally RICH!

The streets will erupt in flames!
17:13 September 17, 2010 by Expat Canuck
One of the perverse effects of socialism is that it entrenches the status quo.

Socialism does this by replacing capital and hard work with the currency of political connection as the means to succeed.

Entrepreneurs take enormous financial risks in an effort to get their business off the ground. In doing so they provide meaningful employment for many. Along with the opportunity to learn new skills for the people they employ, the entrepreneurs lay the foundations upon which future prosperity is built.

Peter Steinbrueck doesn't mention the 16 hour days that these so called rich worked to get their businesses off the ground. If they take lavish vacations after all of that then so what, they've earned it.

Germany needs to ditch socialism once and for all and return to it's roots as a Hansa Stadt. We're a nation of traders, engineers and builders. Let us succeed with what we do best.
22:55 September 17, 2010 by 1FCK_1FCK
If the rich don't like the tax system maybe they should put pressure on the govt to change it, rather than metaphorically hiding in the corner, hoping no one will notice the huge amount of Euro they've hidden under their shirt.
14:56 September 18, 2010 by Talonx
Every single one of you speaking against this man is a hypocrit. You rage and rail about the poor being a drain on the world, and then when it comes to the lucky idiots that happened to win the what-sort-of-privilege-where-you-born-into game and flaunt the rules it's all of a sudden ok.

You folks don't seem to know what to argue, you just know that money = correct, which is about the dumbest logic on the face of the planet.

Let's take a census of the idiocy:

1.)Canuck argues for a return to mercantilism (what the Hansa were). Even though this would produce, as it always did, indentured servitude (a.k.a. slaves)

2.)Pepsionice argues that because a plumber hides money it's not as bad that the rich do it to, even though the effects are qualitatively different given the marginal utility of money.

3.)Frankiep apparently didn't even read the article or he would have noticed that it was about nobody being exempt from taxes and not class-warfare

4.)Chimpansi apparently believes that people that inherit money earned it somehow (the balls portion of the arguement I assume). Or that figuring out how to game the system to become rich by avoiding taxes, makes you deserve what you gamed.

5.)Finally, derExDeutsche agrees with all these people I criticize, which only further dooms their validity. That's the only argument that needs to be made against any of you.
19:12 September 18, 2010 by tallady
absolutely correct,every body knows socialism is the greatest until you run out of other peoples money,,I think Margret Thatcher said that,,the rich ,who are they to spend our money
19:49 September 18, 2010 by wxman
People who busted their asses working 60-70 hours/week qand risked what little capital they had to start their business deserve the money they earned. What they choose to do with it is their business and their's alone. The only rich I tend to distain are those who inherit their wealth and who did nothing to earn it. They also tend to fall into the political affiliation that I also distain.
23:42 September 18, 2010 by wood artist
I may be wrong, but it sounds to me like what he's saying is more along the lines of...

Those in the extreme upper income brackets (the rich), while living in a different world, seem to have no idea that the poor exist, or how they exist.

Like others, I don't begrudge those who have risked and worked hard to generate a sizable income. More power to them. Heck, I'd like to join them. However, in any society, there is a danger when one group, regardless of which group, simply can't even understand that the others exist. I'm stuck in the middle class, unlikely to rise and hoping not to fall. However, I do understand that others are not so fortunate, and I think I have some sense of their pain and frustration.

00:57 September 19, 2010 by Expat Canuck
@ Talonx

Your logic escapes me. Indentured servitude was the product of a different time. In the modern world no one can have that type of arrangement imposed on them. What evidence do you have for making a statement like that?

In that portion of the world not afflicted with the disease of socialism it is possible to attain great heights of achievement in either academia or business based on your willingness to work hard. Unfortunately people are different and with differing ambitions there are a variety of outcomes. This is not the injustice that the socialists would have us believe. The important point to remember is that in any modern non-socialist society, the opportunities are equal for all. It is what we do with those opportunities that govern the outcomes we will have in life.

How hard are you willing to work to achieve your dreams? Many people like to take it somewhat easy and as a result they don't achieve much. We all know people like that. We also know of those that have worked hard for years and have not made it initially, but guess what? Hard workers always seem to do better in the long run than the lay-abouts.

Also don't tell me that privilege begets privilege. My parents were Volks-Deutsche from Poland and had no education. After the war they came to the West with NOTHING, not even a skill or trade. Their only possession was a deep and burning desire that their children would succeed. My sister and I had NOTHING growing up but we worked hard and now if I take my family on a fancy vacation, so what. I've earned it.

It seems that the only hypocrites here are the socialists.
11:59 September 19, 2010 by JohnPaul44
Don't forget that Germany, like any other developed country, needs the rich far more than they need Germany. If the whim strikes them, they can take all their money, their factories, their investments, and go to live very comfortably anywhere in the world they want, while all the thousands of employees of their closed businesses wonder what happened to their paychecks.

Also, though I don't have the statistics at my fingertips, even with all the loopholes, the rich pay far more in taxes, with all their business interests, than the masses of people do. They do far more to support the country than the masses of people who often draw more in government benefits than they contribute.

Developed countries are developed because the rich, successful people developed them.
13:46 September 19, 2010 by Talonx
@ Canuck

Firstly, concerning privilege, assuming that you're white, compare your situation with that of a black man migrating to the states from North Africa. All things being equal you were treated differently because you were a white male growing up in the States. This comes about as the result of institutionalized racism and violence against those that don't fit the mould of more-moneyed societies image of the middle class identity. Note, that this is not an argument that you haven't earned what you have, only that others, as a result of being female (I know your not male, because you would have understood my argument concerning privilege right away) or as a result of being non-white have not had it as fairly as you.

Secondly, mercantilism, only functions when large trading business interests have the complete run of all regulatory mechanisms in all things related to the economic sphere of life (some countries seem to be returning to this model). In order to exist coninuously and unthreatened, they must put into place regulations which prevent the formation or the challenges of other businesses. Further, and ultimately, in order to obtain the continuous support of the non-moneney population, in such an environement, it is the case that those who are not responsible at some level of the coporate power structure (as either traders, brokers, or heads) will fall into the production end of things and generally be forced to work or kept indebted (as is commonly the case in sweat shops in the so-called 'developing' world, which, in some proper sense, are the last remaining vestiges of mercantilist policies).
01:11 September 20, 2010 by JohnPaul44
If you could wave a magic wand and cause all those rich successful people to disappear, not only would your paycheck disappear with them, but you would suddenly find yourself sitting in a cold dark cave, dressed in a stinking wolf skin and grunting and throwing rocks at your neighbors, instead of sitting comfortably in a warm room and typing on your computer.
01:35 September 20, 2010 by Talonx
@ Johnpaul44

Who are you trying to build a strawman out of here. Nobody said anything about making the rich disapear, Steinbrück is filthy rich himself.

The point was, that as even Adam Smith and Milton F. adovocated, the rich have an obligation to society just as much as any poor man and then some given his comfort.
02:14 September 20, 2010 by Expat Canuck

Do you honestly think that just because you're black that hard work will get you nowhere?

Two of my friends are black, one from Rwanda who happened to earn a Ph.D. in mathematics and another gentleman from Nigeria who has a M.Sc. in mathematics, and what about Thomas Sowell the black conservative who earned his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago during the '50s. What these men have in common is that they didn't revel in victimhood. They worked hard and earned both high academic honours and material success.

The myth of systemic racism is a socialist device designed to enslave ethnic minorities in the cesspool of victimhood, thus preventing them from striving and achieving success in today's world.

Struggling to achieve your dreams is hard, very hard! By convincing whole groups of people that they have been victimized and that there is nothing that they can do about it, socialists have themselves enslaved these people in the service of their agendas.

As Eric Hoffer once said, a belief in their own victimization insulates people from having to take responsibility for their actions or inactions. By instilling a culture of victimhood, socialists destroy the very society that they claim they are trying to save.

Socialism has been an abject FAILURE where ever it has been tried!

Let us be rid of the disease of SOCIALISM once and for all.
04:59 September 20, 2010 by Talonx
@ Canuck

Sounds like your friends are survivors.

And you still have no idea about privilege. Maybe ask your friends with PhDs what they came up against in the 50s. Bunch of white guys calling them 'boy' for one, I bet.

You ever even heard of the march on washington? Your friends were black in Chicago, one of the most 'seperate but equal' (segregated) cities in America in pre-60s.

That you can claim that your two friends were not the victims of any instituionalized racism in the 50s is absurd. Get a clue.
09:03 September 20, 2010 by JohnPaul44

Maybe no one said anything about making the rich disappear, but a few seem to begrudge them their money.

As for economic philosophers, I prefer Ayn Rand. Just what "obligation" do the rich have, beyond carrying their own weight? If any obligation is involved here, it is the welfare recipients and the consumers who owe the society which the rich have built.

So you think their money gives them an unfair advantage? It has been said that if all the wealth in the world were gathered together and then redistributed equally to each person, within ten years, most of the money would be back in the same hands again. Ability really does count!
09:28 September 20, 2010 by Talonx
@ JohnPaul

Slaves and servants built the world, the rich just forced them to do it their way.

As for Rand, she forgot to factor in sociality, the one feature of human existense that is truly unmodifiable, that cannot be escaped, is that it is impossible for us to act purely in our own self-interest (see Dawkins 'Selfish Gene', the whole section on Kin Selection and has since expanded to population selection. Ants would be the extreme example of this situation.

Finally, it's not ability the counts overall when it comes to the consolidation of resources, it's the mind-virus of valuing production above all else. I don't care about random anecdotes attributed to the whims of those you adore. The facts on the ground are as follows, it took at least 30,000 years (conservative estimate for the agricultural revolution) for all that wealth to get concentrated up at the top, it started with the lie of magic and special favour from the gods, and it's ended with reverence of money for the sake of reverence of money (Frazer's 'Golden Bough'). Today the rich are their own explanation, if they were to lose their money over night, that would be the end of that. Not too mention that most of the rich today have inherited their wealth or earn it in a weird way (e.g. acting or playing sports; are these jobs really so worthwhile as the job of a teacher or garbage man, imagine the world without those and than without the sportsman or actor, which is worse).

My point is, your faith is easily contravertible.
02:19 September 21, 2010 by Expat Canuck

You've been watching too many movies and your generalizations are far too sweeping. Thomas Sowell himself has said that he encountered no racism at Chicago. As for my well educated friends, they learned the value of hard work and they profited from it. Quite well as a matter of fact.

Sounds like you have no idea what hard work even is. As for privilege, I had none to begin with. For your information I joined the infantry as a private soldier, worked my way up to machine gun sergeant before becoming an officer. Do you have any idea of what that takes? Probably not. All you can think of is some white boy getting ahead solely because of skin colour. That is not how the world works. Not now or ever. In fact when I joined, my sergeant was black. He was well respected even in the 50s and 60s for his capabilities, not for his skin colour. So don't lecture me about not knowing what the issues are surrounding racism.

Did racism happen in the past. Yes and was it overcome? Yes it was, to the extent that Obama was elected by a majority of white folk. The fact that he's fouling things up by trying to advance a socialist agenda is besides the point. The man is a fool for thinking that he can radically transform a fundamentally conservative society to socialist principles.

After the army I completed my education and went on to start my own business. Again do you think anybody would buy my goods just because I'm white? You have got to be kidding me if you do!

You really need to ditch your socialist world view for something a little more in tuned to reality.


Expat Canuck
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