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Konrad Werner: Benefits for the masochistic middle classes

Konrad had this weird idea that social benefits were for poor, lazy people. But no, it turns out that the government always has a helping hand for the middle classes.

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Photo by Andreas Langkath (atelierlng; Flickr CC)

A lot of people, especially visiting Americans, marvel at Germany’s amazingly generous social welfare. Obviously that isn’t hard – I’m no expert on the US circumstances, but from what drifts across the Atlantic into my whisky-soaked brain, Americans see life as a choice between letting children die homeless or letting the Arabs win. Sorry kids, but freedom means making sacrifices.

So yes, here in the Islamic socialist republic of Germany we have a very generous welfare system. But it actually looks a bit different from the inside. For instance, you might think that the point of state benefits is to make sure sick people don’t actually starve in a sleeping bag in a doorway, and that kids have healthy food and school books.

Well, you’d be wrong. The German government, or at least the Bavarian part of the German government, the Christian Social Union, has found all sorts of other uses for social welfare. One of them is the new Betreuungsgeld, which will be brought in next year. This is a monthly allowance of €150 you get for each one of the offspring you decide to keep out of kindergarten. It will cost the taxpayer €1.2 billion a year.

The official CSU purpose of this is to “support those parents who choose to keep their children at home.” But then, it turns out, they forgot to mention one thing: they didn’t mean the poor parents. Those who are already getting unemployment benefit will have €150 knocked off it. 

That means that the beneficiaries of this new idea will be well-off people with enough income to have one parent out of work – you know, that really marginalized, disadvantaged demographic. They’re also known as the middle classes who don’t think much of kindergartens – so, the stupid, masochistic middle classes.

So it seems that, contrary to what I thought, the real purpose of welfare has nothing to do with keeping the poor, sick and lazy alive, but is more about promoting the ideology of whoever is in power – which in Germany is conservative middle-class Christians. I guess those wooden crosses are pricier than we thought.

You all knew this already, didn’t you? I’m just the last one to catch on, as usual.