After the crisis, a saying somewhat adapted for political use says, is before the crisis. Corona has everything and still inexorably under control.
But even during last week’s budget debate, the drive to open up positions for an election campaign targeting a post-pandemic time was undeniable. The slogan on which the dispute was centered is an old acquaintance: How do we keep up with the black zero?
There is nostalgia in it – we would all like to get back to the problems we had before Corona – but also a serious core. To cope with the health and economic crisis, the Federal Republic is now breaking for the second time with all the principles of economic management.
The next federal government will deal with whoever provides it, where it ends and how to proceed afterwards.
The black zero was the fetish of the CDU – as if it had no other trademark
However, whether the financial policy fetish of recent years can be the appropriate measure for this is rather questionable. The fixation can be understood from a human-political perspective. At the Union, many of the black zero have trademarked in such a way that one may think they have nothing else.
SPD chancellor candidate Olaf Scholz played the match for a long time. He now enjoys pesky blacks and pleasing his own Reds by saying there is no rush to get back to the household with no extra debt.
In terms of party politics, these are practical because the front lines are known, also from the point of view of other parties such as the FDP (“Everything is way too much!”) Or the Left (“Everything is still way too little!”).
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But the dispute over how much money the state should go into debt if necessary distracts from the key question. It must be: for what?
Especially for the crisis packages. How little ideological theories help here, is evident from the debate about “zombie companies”. The state is saving companies that would go bankrupt anyway, professors complain. That’s true.
But they do not reveal how market forces should work creatively in a shock that has no economic cause. Or should the Minister of Economic Affairs play Cinderella and find out who he thinks is ill?
In a crisis, only what can be saved helps. There is a bet behind that. If the global collapse of manufacturing and markets can be cured in the not too distant future, like the epidemic, the revival will help restore the national budget. It worked surprisingly quickly after the financial crisis. If there was no recovery this time, it would be for reasons that would be the least worrying for the debt mountain.
Ideas are needed for the many crises – lack of money should not become an excuse
You should rather fear the next dance around the black zero. Rather, the Corona crisis coincides with a number of other crises: climate crisis, car crisis, education crisis, infrastructure crisis, digitization crisis, reorganization of global power centers, poverty and migration crisis.
The state cannot solve any of these crises on its own. But each requires more, sometimes less, government support. Even the largest cash register cannot do everything at once. It’s about priorities.
What is often ignored, in turn, has an impact on state revenues. As relevant as the future of the auto industry is to the industrial-exporting nation, the economic consequences of a protracted climate crisis would be much worse. Whether crumbling streets or crumbling schools should be remediated first is also easy to answer in terms of financial policy.
The state should not be so much in debt that it makes itself a prisoner. But the black zero is just an auxiliary marker. Anyone who focuses their election campaign on this is distracting them from an afterthought. He probably just has no idea of the real post-crisis crises.