Dierk Hirschel suffered badly from his party. The chief economist of the Verdi service union has been a member of the SPD core values committee since 2012. In 2019, he was one of 17 candidates to lead the party. “He rubbed his eyes and couldn’t believe his ears,” Hirschel recalls, as all the candidates moved more and more to the left during the casting, where Hirschel and his partner Hilde Mattheis were. Even Olaf Scholz, who was Secretary General of the SPD from 2002 to 2004 – exactly at the time when SPD Chancellor Gerhard Schröder launched the 2010 Agenda.
These years are stuck in the bones of political scientist and economist Hirschel and other Social Democrats. “At the beginning of the 21st century, paradoxically, the center-left government completed the neoliberal counter-revolution,” reads The Poison of Inequality, with which Hirschel worked on the SPD and DGB crises to cover up the Democracy Crisis. After all, as the 50-year-old says, he is interested in “protecting society from socially and ecologically destructive capitalism.”
Closely associated with Frank Bsirsky
Hirschel spent most of his working life in the unions: from 2003 to 2010 as DGB’s chief economist, since then in the same position at Verdi. Hirschel has political ties to longtime Verdi chairman Frank Bsirski, who would like to take a ticket from the Greens in Lower Saxony to the Bundestag in the autumn and who dreams of becoming a labor minister. “More and more people are now defending themselves against wage dumping, precarious jobs, high rents and the destruction of nature,” Bsirske wrote in the preface. Hirschel tries to explain why this is the case on 250 pages.
“Black zero is more important than green zero”
Actually on 165 pages. The author devotes the first two thirds to the socio-economic changes of recent decades. In the last part, there are recommendations for action, as we know from the left: raising the minimum wage to 12 euros, expanding the public sector through nationalization, more state in general, more welfare state in particular, higher taxes for the rich, with which huge public investments are financed. state. All plans for the next government, because the unloved grand coalition was “black zero more important than green zero.” At least to Corona. The neoliberal austerity policy is blocking the necessary decarbonisation of the economy and society, Hirschel is sure of that.
Dealing with one’s own party: Dierk Hirschel is intensely involved in the SPD. Photo: alliance of images / DPA
The description of political decisions and their implications for the “century of inequality” is worth reading. Hirschel makes extensive use of statistical material: 26 super-rich own as many as the poorer half of the world’s population; In industrialized countries, the richest tenth has half of the total wealth, the lower half only three percent; In Germany, income from capital and property has increased by 30 percent since 2000, while income from work has increased by only 24 percent. “Wealth and work are two sides of the same coin,” writes Hirschel, citing an OECD study that growing inequality cost industrialized countries a total of five percentage points of growth between 1990 and 2010: the socially weak do not invest enough in their education and the weak purchasing power of the poor burdens domestic economy. Nowhere in Europe is the distribution of wealth as pronounced as in Germany, ”writes Hirschel.
With negative consequences for democracy, because the poor vote less than the rich. For this reason, too, federal policy under Kohl, Schröder, and Merkel was “very focused on the interests of the privileged.” That’s why AfD ended up in the Bundestag. It is clear that Hirschel focuses mainly on the party enemy Schröder, who “liberalized the financial markets” with the Minister of Finance of the SPD Hans Eichel. Schröder / Eichel abolished capital gains taxes, which contributed to the dissolution of Deutschland AG and attracted hedge funds and asset managers such as Blackrock to the country. The alienation of workers from the SPD continues to this day.
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“The social democratic promise of benefits and the welfare state has been broken,” Hirschel writes, referring to Schröder’s agenda policy, which was preceded by a reduction in the highest tax rate from 53 to 42 percent. “Red-green tax donations have reduced the actual tax burden on the 450 richest Germans from 43 to 31 percent,” Hirschel calculated. The state costs 1.7 billion euros a year. “If I wasn’t poor, you wouldn’t be rich,” Verdi’s husband quotes Bertolt Brecht.
“State-supported wage dumping”
The red-green labor market reforms known as Hartz would be fatal for workers and unions. Due to the changed proportionality, there is still “state-sponsored wage dumping”, fears of a Hartz crash “politically blackmailing the entire workforce” and weakening trade union bargaining power.
“Schröder’s alleged work miracle is nothing more than a popular neoliberal fairy tale,” says economist Verdi. The increase in employment since 2009 is simply due to a boom and explains the increase in the workforce mainly through more precarious employment (mini-part and part-time); however, the volume of work has hardly changed. The situation is serious and according to Hirschel’s diction. One day, he looks humorously behind his party, which had eleven presidents in Willy Brandt’s 33 years: “Negotiations with executives culminate only in the ESC.”
Dierk Hirschel, Poison of Inequality. Dietz 2020, 256 pages, 22 euros