The German welfare system punishes, demoralises and hurts those in need, writes Thorsten J. Pattberg.
The Germans invented socialism. Karl Marx was German. The invention of the kindergarten – preschool training for the masses – was German. So was the dual education system, die free state school system, and the invention of the research university, all paid for by the state and thus the taxpayers. The Nazis were "national socialists". It is hard to do anything in Germany without absolute state control.
So is unemployment. In Germany, all those who work pay compulsory unemployment insurance, lest they lose their jobs. If they do lose their job, they earn for half a year about 70% of their last salary in unemployment benefits. After that, they become long-term unemployed. The State now provides welfare. But because under socialism things are never called the correct names, the Germans call welfare just this: "Unemployment II" (Arbeitslosengeld II).
To receive the minimum in welfare state support, which is currently 424 euros a month in cash plus free rent in social housing, a long-term unemployed person has to demonstrate that they have no income, no savings, no property, no valuable possessions and no family support.
A great number of the unemployed would rather live on the streets and beg instead of being screened and vetted by the welfare state. That’s because once the Government has identified you and clocked you into the system, it is almost impossible to get out. It is like a prison sentence.
Again because of socialism, the unemployment offices are incorrectly called job centres. Here, the poor are interrogated, demoralised and exposed. All they say can and will be used against them. How, because some welfare officers treat them like failures and punish them all the time.
Welfare usually starts with social welfare applications and various needs applications. Need a new washing machine? Can’t afford the school trip for your kids? A gigantic state apparatus oversees about six million people who live in a household that receives welfare benefits. More than 1.5 million are children whose parents are long-term unemployed.
Not all poor people in Germany are registered with the welfare state, though. There are an additional 12 million people who work in 1-euro jobs (subsidised, again, by the state), have fallen into old-age poverty or experienced sudden hardship. According to official Government data, about 20% of the entire German population (or 16 million in total) live in poverty, which is defined as having earnings of less than 13.152 euros a year.
The administration of the poor is a huge industry, with tens of thousands of contractors such as job centres, city councils, real estate developers, banks, re-education centres and staffing services companies. Trained psychologists cross-examine the poor, collect intimate details about their lives such as mental illnesses, substance abuse, spousal support and so on. They screen bank accounts and question all money transactions. Those on welfare must not earn a single cent. They are forced to be dependent and helpless.
Those who are caught holding back information, start a little side business or worse: possess money and you will be prosecuted.
The unemployed have to show up for meetings on random days, show evidence of their job-search, follow arbitrary directions, attend re-education seminars and ridiculous courses such as "Intercultural Coaching". And if they disobey or disrespect the officers, or reject the few, often horribly underpaid menial jobs more than 100 miles away recommended to them, they are punished.
If an unemployed person does not show up to interrogation sessions, they will immediately be fined 10% of their unemployment benefits. Fines of 60%, 80% or even 100% of the employment benefits are not at all uncommon, often over the length of 3 or 6 months. In effect, this means the unemployed will go hungry and homeless.
Already, there are so-called soup kitchens and food charities in every German city where the poor line up for handouts and leftovers.
It is easy to see how this state-sponsored abuse of the poor has emerged. The system has no interest in helping these people out. On the contrary, it is in the interest of the welfare state to keep them in.
Worse, politicians and industrialists use the overpopulation of unemployed as a lever to keep wages in Germany low. This also explains why the German Government, despite unbelievable levels of poverty, calls for millions of poor migrants to settle in Germany. If migrants don’t work for minimum wages, at least they become unemployed. In which case they benefit German socialism even more.
Those who got trapped in social welfare need time to heal and unconditional basic income to survive. What they got instead was total dependency and degradation. The Supreme Court of Germany has now ruled that punishments of more than 30% of welfare benefits are inhumane and unconstitutional. But the judges were also adamant that some form of punishment was always necessary to keep the poor in line.
Thorsten J. Pattberg is a German writer and cultural critic.
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