Left government

The newly confirmed Union parliamentary group leader Ralph Brinkhaus commented on the exploratory results of the SPD, Greens and FDP as "the strongest left agenda in decades". So much defective vision is amazing. The exploratory paper promises a modern and more digital policy, but socio-political accents are in short supply. Rather, it seems that the FDP has prevailed here across the board. In any case, not much has remained of the red dots in the programs of the SPD and the Greens.

To be clear: an exploratory paper is not a coalition agreement. It describes the guidelines on the basis of which the detailed questions will be fixed in the coalition negotiations that are now underway. The three parties willing to govern have agreed on only a few specific points. Much remains vague, represents more of a declaration of intent and, strictly speaking, is nothing more than a speech bubble. Who doesn't want to fight child poverty, strengthen social cohesion or pay fair pensions? However, how to define this is often very subjective. Therefore, this analysis can only be preliminary at this stage. However, sometimes it is more interesting to pay attention to those points that are not addressed. And there are plenty of them in the exploratory paper.

Thus, the concrete and vague statements on climate policy are very comprehensive. No wonder, since this topic was considered one of the central stumbling blocks for cooperation between the three parties in the election campaign and in the run-up to the explorations. The exploratory paper calls for active efforts that cover all areas – from transport to construction and housing, power generation, industry and agriculture. It is clear that more climate action in all these sectors is not free. But who pays the bill in the end? The paper is silent on this. The "energy money" designed by the Greens as a central component for social compensation in the energy transition and climate protection has not been included in the exploratory paper, for example. And otherwise there is no indication of how the traffic lights want to make it so that the costs of climate protection do not lead to an even greater social imbalance. Only the planned end of the financing of the EEG surcharge on the electricity price is mentioned in the paper. However, additional burdens of a different kind for the end user are not even addressed. In the end, the end consumer bears the additional costs of all sectors anyway, as these are included in consumer prices.

The wording on working hours and collective bargaining issues is also vague. They want to allow more flexibility, but "develop it further" with the collective bargaining partners. This should then lead to fair conditions and fair wages. This is certainly good for the trade unions, who will be at the table, but bad for the millions of workers whose employment relationship does not fall under the classic collective bargaining agreement. The two-class society of employment contracts threatens to fragment even more here.

Far from "left" is also the outlined pension policy. The positive thing here is that the three parties categorically rule out pension cuts and an increase in the retirement age. For this, however, one wants to enter "in the long term" in a "partial capital coverage" of the statutory pension insurance. It should now be possible to "invest your reserves on the capital market in a regulated manner". The capital stock for this should be provided by the federal Government from budget funds. This is especially true for BlackRock and Co. the champagne corks pop, because these financial groups offer exactly the tailor-made solutions with which an investment of the reserves of the pension insurance can be realized.

The real main gain for the financial groups, however, is that the three coalition partners also want to "fundamentally reform" private pension provision and "examine the offer of a publicly responsible fund with an effective and cost-effective offer with the option of deselection". If the exploratory paper were a tender, one could say that this formulation aims to be one to implement the "PEPP" eagerly lobbied by BlackRock and Co. in Brussels. By the way, the supporters of this model include not only the FDP, but also the Green politician Sven Giegold, who took part in the exploratory talks.

At first glance, however, the wording sounds positive and laudable, one wants to replace Hartz IV with a citizen's money. However, what this citizen's money should look like is only vaguely outlined in the exploratory paper. In any case, you want to stick to the "duties of cooperation" – but a social benefit with the threat of sanctions is Hartz IV, no matter what name you give the child. In return, however, they want to improve the earning potential. This, too, certainly sounds good for many of those affected, but it is also a danger for the misuse of citizens' money as a kind of second labour market in order to circumvent employment relationships subject to social security contributions, which enjoy special protection. Here we will have to wait and see how this model is defined more concretely in the coalition agreement.

The three negotiating partners also remain surprisingly vague on the not unimportant question of who should pay all the costs for the joint plans – in particular the energy transition. They do not want to introduce any substance taxes and do not want to increase income, company or VAT. But they also want to stick to the debt brake. However, due to the wording chosen, the paper raises the suspicion that one wants to circumvent the debt brake by referring to the investment nature of certain expenses. That's not wrong. Ultimately, however, this leads to an even greater differentiation of expenditure. The "good" expenses are investments and can be financed away from the debt brake, the "bad" expenses are consumption and must not rise above the permitted level. Of course, all social expenditure then falls under the latter category and is therefore subject to financing. In the end, the debt brake will be an "excuse" to cut certain expenses that benefit citizens who are not on the sunny side of life from a socio-economic point of view.

What should be so terribly "left" at all these points, therefore, probably only the CDU knows. A conceivable exploratory paper between the SPD and the Union parties would have looked very similar in almost all points. In the end, the only point that immediately catches the eye remains: the traffic light parties want to increase the minimum wage to 12 euros immediately. Although this is still too little, it is certainly the most positive point of the entire exploratory paper compared to the circumstances. However, the paper certainly does not make this a "tight left agenda".