Nahles wants citizen’s income: cautious departure from hartz iv

The SPD leader is in favor of a new "citizen’s income," but says nothing about the amount of the standard rate. Regulations on sanctions remain unclear.

Is Hartz IV coming to an end? And will the "citizen’s income" come next? Photo: dpa

In the discussion about an abolition of Hartz IV, SPD leader Andrea Nahles has had her say with a debate article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Saturday edition). "Sanctions have become a symbol of the state’s distrust of recipients of basic benefits. They have the effect of implying from the outset that benefit recipients want to cheat." This is "frustrating and demotivating for all honest people." Nahles did not advocate a complete end to sanctions. How exactly the sanctions practice is to be reorganized remains unclear in the article. However, a person’s "subsistence level" should never be "called into question," Nahles said.

Nahles also wants to change the rule that saved assets must be spent or sold, except for a small portion, before a claim to Hartz IV arises: "Those who have worked for a long time must therefore also not be forced to use up their savings," she writes. "Savings must be protected more generously."

"The new basic security must be a citizen’s income – a right to participation for all citizens," the article concludes. In the Berlin government quarter, her article was read as a clear SPD rejection of Hartz IV: "We must not and we will not abolish Hartz IV," countered German Economics Minister Peter Altmaier (CDU). "Such proposals are highly dangerous and harm the future of our country." The Hartz reforms under Gerhard Schroder were correct, Altmaier told Die Welt.

However, some passages of Nahles’ article seem like a justification of the Hartz IV rules. For example, it says: "It is often not the benefits themselves that cause annoyance, but the humiliation and stigmatization experienced." This can be read as a plea for maintaining the current Hartz IV standard rate of 416 euros, while at the same time a new word is to be found for basic security – "citizen’s income."

Nahles had already announced at the Social Democrats’ debate camp the weekend before last: "We will leave Hartz IV behind." The SPD is under pressure to act after Green Party leader Robert Habeck made an even more far-reaching proposal to end Hartz IV. According to this proposal, sanctions are to be completely abolished, and the standard rate is also to rise – to an unknown amount. The Left Party wants a standard rate of 560 euros.

Criticism of Nahles’ text came from the FDP over the weekend. The SPD is running behind the Greens. Both parties promised "millions in social transfers" but did not say "where the money would come from," said FDP chairman Christian Lindner.

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