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Who is System Relevant - Banks or the People?

by Ursula Engelen-Kefer Saturday, Sep. 28, 2013 at 3:49 PM

We are experiencing the most brutal form of the neoliberal credo since the financial crisis: privatization of profits and socialization of losses. EU crisis policy bails out banks and drives the population into misery. We must change direction. We need a change of paradigms in policy.


The German Bundestag election will decide

By Ursula Engelen-Kefer

[This address at a Fair Redistribution demonstration published in September 2013 is translated from the German on the Internet. Ursula Engelen-Kefer was the DGB (German union) chairperson from 1990 to 2006. Today she works as a journalist in Berlin and edits Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft.]

A deregulated financial industry now does for all Europe what neoliberalism did not do in social dismantling after the fall of the wall between West and East.

We are experiencing the most brutal form of the neoliberal credo since the financial crisis: privatization of profits and socialization of losses!

The Fourth Poverty and Wealth report of the German government has officially shown us:

- Private net assets rose in the last five years to 1.4 trillion euro at the expense of state assets.

- The richest 10 percent of households have over half of all private assets.

- The bottom tenth has 1 percent of private net assets.

- The state becomes poorer and poorer despite effervescent tax revenues.

- The holes in public services amount to 35 billion euro a year.

- The gap in public investments has risen to 170 billion euro.

We experience this everyday – through degenerate school buildings, youth centers, sports- and free time facilities, streets and public transportation, inadequate care and an increasing shortage in affordable living space particularly for families, the socially weak, elderly and handicapped persons and higher costs for all essential goods and services – especially energy and water supply.

The division of German society is advancing faster than in comparable neighboring countries.

- 7 million people work in the low wage sector.

- 1.4 million persons must collect Hartz IV in spite of work.

- Despite a good economy, 15 percent of children live in Hartz IV – two million children and youths.

- At 23 percent the gap in wages for women in Germany is greater than in any other European country.

- According to official reports, poverty threatens for millions of pensioners in the next decades.

- Many people today experience scandalous profiteering or usury and rising homelessness.

The supposed lack of alternatives of politics in relation to an unfettered financial industry means:

We German citizens are taken into custody with over a trillion euro for the alleged rescue of the euro and the euro of crisis countries. No one can conceive a trillion euro. How long will we, our children and grandchildren be bled white?

European Union (EU) crisis policy bails out banks and drives the population into misery. Nearly 80 percent of rescue funds flow into the financial industry. The liability of German citizens for the bank bailouts has long surpassed the pain threshold for our state.

- The German liability for Spain’s bank bailout corresponds to spending for transportation, construction and urban development.

- German liability for Ireland’s rescue is equivalent to the costs for rehabilitating all the bridges in Germany.

- The credits to Greek banks correspond to German spending on education, research and the environment.

- The contribution for one of the EU bailout funds for the distressed financial branch comes near the German budget for families and youth.

It is high time:

We must change direction. We need a change of paradigms in the policy in Germany and Europe.

We must break the enrichment of the rich and the alliance of financial power and politics.

We want the causal agent principle for the financial industry. The perpetrators of the financial crisis – the owners and creditors of the banks must assume full financial liability for their irresponsibility and their failure. The EU bailout funds should be used for effective Marshall Plans of economic and social development in the crisis countries.

We want “fair redistribution” with wealth taxed. To that end, the tax loopholes must be first closed through effective capital transaction controls.

What is the justification for Greek ship-owners not paying any tax and 600 billion euro in taxes redirected by rich Greeks into tax havens – while millions of people do not know how they will feed their children and themselves? High incomes, massive assets, inheritances as well as capital returns must be taxed everywhere in Europe. Tax dumping and tax havens must be finally combated and eliminated. Speculation profits and other financial transactions should be taxed like other sales of goods and services.

What does system relevance mean when a collapse is only blocked on account of size? Why aren’t the 500 million people in the EU – including 100 million young persons – system relevant? The 27 million unemployed and 6 million jobless are a far greater system risk and are worth far more than several thousand banks, their owners and creditors. A change of course must be carried out immediately in crisis policy. We owe this to people in Germany and Europe and above all to our children.

Thorsten Hild, editor of Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft:

On September 14, 2013, a week before the German Bundestag elections, demonstrations of the Fair Redistribution Alliance took place in Bochum, Berlin, Regensburg and Saarbrucken. Around 15,000 persons participated, 3000 in Berlin. Attac, unions, social groups and NGOs are involved in this alliance. Combating injustices in the distribution of income and assets through a one-time wealth tax and permanent taxation of assets is vital. The deficits in public facilities, services and investments should be remedied and the social dismantling continuing for years in working conditions, labor- and social rights, social security and other social benefits should also be stopped and reversed.

This is the third demonstration of the Fair Redistribution Alliance in Berlin calling attention to the injustices in the distribution of income and assets through creative actions. Burning questions arise with the intensification of the escalating financial crises: When will citizens in Germany wake up? Why is it “stoically” accepted that these developments affecting our future do not play any role in this Bundestag election? Political lethargy and apathy are promoted by the neoliberal forces.

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