Germans Lose Consensus on Social Policy Thousands Recently Marched on Bonn to Protest a Government Proposal for 'American Style' Cuts in Retirement, Health, and Unemployment Benefits

By Jacoby, Wade | The Christian Science Monitor, June 21, 1996 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Germans Lose Consensus on Social Policy Thousands Recently Marched on Bonn to Protest a Government Proposal for 'American Style' Cuts in Retirement, Health, and Unemployment Benefits


Jacoby, Wade, The Christian Science Monitor


Germany has a way of forcing adjustment on visiting Americans. For the past week I've searched in vain for a Macintosh network connection and have gotten up at 3 a.m. to watch the NBA Finals. And then there's the traffic, which, in Germany, seems to have only two speeds - Mach 1 or zero - depending wholly on whether the Autobahn is clogged with one of its innumerable traffic jams.

Last weekend, cars slowed to a crawl as 350,000 people converged on Bonn to stage the largest protest in the history of the Federal Republic. From all corners of the country, protesters arrived on foot, by ship, in 75 special trains, and in buses that, if parked end to end, would stretch for 108 kilometers.

What brought them to Bonn? Unlike previous large demonstrations against plans to station nuclear weapons, to join the Gulf war against Iraq, or to tighten laws on political asylum, this protest was directed not at the government's foreign policy but rather at its domestic policy. Recently, Chancellor Helmut Kohl's administration proposed cuts in sickness, unemployment, and retirement benefits. The government insists that only by cutting these costs can German companies remain internationally competitive.

But last Saturday, unions, women's groups, church groups, and assorted leftists fought back, accusing Mr. Kohl of embracing an "American-style" hire-and-fire system and a weakening of the social spending that "makes the market economy tolerable."

Unemployment is the core economic problem in Germany, as it is almost everywhere in Europe. Unemployment increases the ranks of beneficiaries while lowering the number of payers. After two post-World War II decades of full employment, Germany's joblessness rate has risen steadily since the mid-1970s. It now stands at a postwar high of 11 percent, or more than 4 million (another 2 million would like to work but are not accounted for in official statistics).

Germany badly needs to create jobs. Few people have pushed the panic button - only one speaker invoked the specter of another Weimar Republic - but hard times do have a way of turning suspicions into grievances.

In short, the demonstration occurred because Germans are now bringing their fundamental disagreements over what is fair and just to the political forefront. The divides are deep; Germany can no longer be considered a society with a broad consensus on social policy. A host of German institutions - from wage bargaining to vocational training - was built on this consensus that the weak have a substantial claim on the resources of the strong.

The Bonn demonstration was, predictably, a sight to see. The unions picked up the tab for buses, trains, and police while ensuring, most importantly, that no price gouging occurred at the sausage stands. Conventional wit, if not wisdom, has held that Germans could never revolt since they'd then have to walk on the grass.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Germans Lose Consensus on Social Policy Thousands Recently Marched on Bonn to Protest a Government Proposal for 'American Style' Cuts in Retirement, Health, and Unemployment Benefits
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.