Monday, August 23, 2010

Raising the retirement age: a really bad idea catches on

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, another "left" Party leader with reason to hate his own voting base

This was a bad idea when Congress did it here in 1983, and it's a bad idea in Germany now: Richtungsstreit in der SPD/SPD: Die Rente mit 67 kommt - später (Conflict Over Direction in the SPD/SPD: Retirement at 67 is coming - later" Süddeutsche Zeitung 23.08.2010. Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the current chairman of the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) is being supporter by the Party's governing body, the Parteigremien, in a proposal to phase in a retirement age of 67 for workers in Germany. A pahse-in over two decades was enacted under the previous Grand Coalition national government of 2007-9, in which the SPD was the junior partner.

This is one more sign of the stranglehold that neoliberal ideology has on the current European and American political elites, including parties like the SPD and the American Democratic Party who represent the "left" in their countries. I should also add that they represent their countries' "left" in distinctive ways. But actually, at the moment they are becoming far too much alike in that they have both embraced neoliberalism, which is making the wealthy far wealthier but killing prosperity and basic security for everyone else.

The SPD is the Party of which Karl.Freaking.Marx was a member! And they are embracing this mindless, magical-thinking focus on deficit spending. (See Paul Krugman, Appeasing the Bond Gods New York Times 08/19/2010 for a discussion in the American context of how divorced from reality that obsession has become.)

And not at all unlike the Democratic Party leadership trying to distance themselves from their own Party base as much as they can, the SPD leadership is trying to prevent the issue from even coming up for a vote at their scheduled September Party convention. As one might guess, the idea is very controversial. Hans-Jürgen Urban, the head of the powerful IG-Metall union, said of the SPD's position, "Wir brauchen keine Scheinlösungen, sondern ohne Wenn und Aber ein Nein zur Rente mit 67." (We don't need a fake solution, but rather a No to retirement at 67 without any ifs or buts.)(Rente in Rot-Rot-Grün Süddeutsche Zeitung 12.08.2010)

The Green Party and the Left Party are both demanding the elimination of this phased-in hike in the retirement age to 67. It's likely to be a good issue for both of them.

Franz Müntefering, the Minister of Labor in the Grand Coalition government who worked to help put this monstrosity through and also former Party chairman, opposes any change to the SPD's position of continued support for the phase-in of the 67 retirement age.

The role of the "left" parties in the neoliberal scheme is to convince their voting base to accept destructive changes like this increase in the retirement age. No wonder the process leads to the Party leaders hating their own base. Of course, it is likely to wreck their parties in the not-so-much-longer run. But the CEOs don't care about that, either in Germany or the US.

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