Man Without Qualities

Monday, November 04, 2002

The Piper Bills Germany for Just the First Installment

German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has launched his second term with a bleak economic message for his country. Germany now faces unemployment of almost 10 percent, the likelihood of negligible economic growth at least through 2003 and public finances that are stretched close to the limit and worsening by the day. Mr. Schröder warned that significant cuts in German welfare benefits are needed, and significant tax increases have already been proposed. The welfare cuts, especially, are causing a deep and growing anger in Germany - and especially in the Social Democratic Party (SPD).

But Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's recently re-elected government that is supposed to resolve or at least improve the gathering adversity is less popular, and probably less capable of making the needed choices, than ever. The gathering anger within the SPD over the welfare cuts will only make things worse.

One wonders if Germans might one day wake up to understand that it wasn't really a good idea to re-elect their government on the basis of one-shot flood relief performance and an ill-conceived and manipulative opposition to the American challenge to Iraq and terrorism. In fact, it was more than a little stupid to do that. But that government is back, and the piper has almost certainly just begun to tender a long series of very large invoices.

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