Ever since the euro crisis broke in late 2009 this newspaper has criticised the world’s most powerful woman. We disagreed with Angela Merkel’s needlessly austere medicine: the continent’s recession has been unnecessarily long and brutal as a result. We wanted the chancellor to shrug off her cautious incrementalism and the mantle of her country’s history—and to lead Europe more forcefully. She is largely to blame for the failure to create a full banking union for the euro zone, the first of many institutional changes it still needs. She has refused to lead public opinion, never spelling out to her voters how much Germany is to blame for the euro mess (nor how much its banks have been rescued by its bail-outs).Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?
The following is interesting both for what it reports and the propaganda spin it puts on it:
She is far more popular than her main opponent, Peer Steinbrück. He is an engaging politician from the liberal wing of the Social Democratic Party who was an excellent finance minister in Mrs Merkel's 2005-09 grand coalition, and his party has at times suggested braver answers to the euro crisis than Mrs Merkel has. But the Social Democrats have veered sharply left, with a redistributive manifesto of tax rises on the rich, a new wealth tax and a high minimum wage. The party has become anti-reform, to the extent of largely disowning the Agenda 2010 labour-market reforms made by the previous Social Democratic chancellor, Gerhard Schröder.The SPD is likely to come in second to Merkel's CDU tomorrow. And Steinbrück has said he will step down as Party leader if that happens, which would be almost enough to make me want to vote for Merkel's CDU if I were a German voter. So I hardly feel the energy to bitch any more about what a pathetic candidate and SPD leader he's been.
Yeah, Herr Steinbrück, back atcha:
They call that a "stink finger" (Stinkefinger) in German. That Economist editorial description of Steinbrück above is pretty good, as long as you keep in mind that when they say he's from "the liberal wing" of the SPD, "liberal" there means what in American political vocabulary would be "corporate ho". I hope he retires from politics altogether and goes around "consulting" with lobby groups and giving overpriced speeches to finance and industry groups and stops pretending to be anything but what The Economist editors call "liberal" there. This business about how the SPD has "veered sharply left" is just political fluff. A Party that selects a shameless corporate tool like Steinbrück who faithfully supports Frau Fritz' disastrous eurozone policies has not "veered sharply left."
Also, economic "reform" for The Economist and for the Very Serious People generally these days means basically anti-labor, Herbert Hoover/Heinrich Brüning policies to slam down the income of the 99% to cater to the whims of the One Percent. Schröder's SPD/Green coalition did enact the neoliberal Agenda 2010 program, and Frau Fritz has milked it for all its destructive potential. (Something else Paul Hockenos seems to have overlooked in his Foreign Policy puff piece on Frau Fritz, Angie the Revolutionary 09/18/2013, in which he tries to make her sound like the Second Coming of
The Economist editorial ends this way:
This adds up to a formidable domestic agenda. But in the end Mrs Merkel’s real legacy lies in reshaping the EU. Again her instincts are promising: she wants to build a stronger financial union, to push more liberal policies, to complete the single market, to cut welfare and to trim regulation. She wants to keep Britain in the club, though not at any price. Assuming she wins the chancellorship, she will be Europe's dominant politician. Our bet is that she will want to be remembered as a decider not a ditherer.Angela Merkel, a Decider not a Ditherer. How does one get to a conclusion like that? Something like this way, with "the right stuff":
Another Economist article, Angela Merkel: A safe pair of hands 09/14/2013, describes what a corporate ho' Steinbrück is and how foolish the SPD and Greens have been to go along with Frau Fritz' euro policies (though they don't phrase it quite that way!):
A good bit of what passes for campaign fisticuffs between these two politicians [Merkel and Steinbrück] is in fact kabuki. They know and respect each other. In Mrs Merkel's first term, from 2005 to 2009, she led a "grand coalition" between the CDU and the SPD ... with Mr Steinbrück as her finance minister. They worked well together. When the financial crisis struck in 2008, the two gave a joint press conference to assure German savers that their bank deposits were safe. That image endures as the moment when the German public calmed down. ...That piece notes that Steinbrück failed to get much traction on attacking Frau Fritz' muddling-along approach in the euro crisis, doing just enough to solve the crisis of the moment but making the survival of the euro highly doubtful. Besides being a generally clutzy Chancellor candidate, Steinbrück has been so joined at the hip with Frau Fritz on euro policy that he was just not a credible spokesperson for the SPD to criticize her over the euro crisis.
One of the problems for the SPD and the other large opposition party, the Greens, in running against Mrs Merkel is that, in an admirable display of responsibility, they both voted with her at every step in the euro-rescue. Yes, the Greens, in particular, would have liked to go faster and would have been open to Eurobonds (issued separately by each euro-zone government but guaranteed by all), which Mrs Merkel has ruled out. Bolder action at the beginning might have nipped the crisis in the bud, says Jürgen Trittin, a leading Green; instead Mrs Merkel "always delays, then eventually does what we said". But to most Germans, this just sounds like nitpicking.
Wolfgang Münchau earlier argued that just because of his lack of credibility, Steinbrück should use Frau Fritz' dithering over the NSA scandal to attack her just-enough-to-get-by approach. (Aussitzen ist die teuerste Option Spiegel Online 24.07.2013) But Steinbrück and the SPD didn't do much with that either. Münchau's also gave a great description of how the SPD hogtied itself by its general embrace of neoliberal hoodoo economics, its support of Frau Fritz' euro policies and its selection of Steinbrück as Chancellor candidate, thus depriving themselves of what should have been their strongest campaign issues. (Die SPD kämpft die falsche Schlacht Spiegel Online 31.07.2013)
This get-out-the-vote image from the SPD's Facebook page gets at the notion of Frau Fritz' dangerous dithering: "govern whichever way the wind blows". But even it doesn't reference the euro crisis.
Maybe the SPD's vote will surprise everybody tomorrow. Miracles do happen. And a miracle is what it would take to have this be a happy outcome for the SPD.
Tags: angela merkel, austerity economics, eu, euro, european union, german politics