Attac Proposes Alternatives to German Government Plans
By Kai Biermann
[This article originally published on November 5, 2003 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, http://www.netzeitung.de/deutschland/260654.html.]
Attac resists the reproach of demanding alternatives to the planned reforms from politics without having any alternatives. Deficient political will is the problem, not practical necessities.
The globalization critics of Attac in a common front with the Verdi union decry the reform plans of the German government. "Attac was criticized for having no alternatives and no correct counter-concepts", said Berit Schroder of the nation-wide Attac coordinating circle.
Together with Verdi, Attac invited several experts on Tuesday to offer alternatives to the government's health care, tax and labor market plans.
Since the massive weekend demonstration in Berlin, a conflict has arisen between Attac and the Greens party. The Greens leader reproaches Attac for not being politically viable and offering no alternatives. The Greens urge Attac to abandon present "neoliberal" policy and return to social justice.
"The hardliners sit in the different party central offices and in the chancellor's office", said Michael Schlect, the Verdi leader for economic policy. The current "strangulation policy" will accomplish the exact opposite of what was planned, Schecht said, fewer jobs and a sinking domestic demand, not more jobs and increased growth.
"Through the massive cuts, a new poverty threatens in our country", Schlecht declared. He urged a comprehensive program of public spending financed by credits to strengthen the education- and training areas. Thus jobs can be created alongside an improvement of both the ever deteriorating supply and the domestic demand. Finally, the state finances would be revitalized, he said..
The increasing tax burden for employees and the decreasing burden for corporations will not create jobs but rather will reduce demand. "The state has given 80 billion marks to the rich through these programs, Schlecht emphasized. However this money was not spent for consumption but for speculations that did not benefit the country. "All planned savings would be unnecessary with this money."
More Tax Justice
Attac and Verdi urge reintroducing the property tax, not lowering the top tax rate and increasing taxes on corporations. In addition, the inheritance tax should be raised with a tax allowanced of 500,000 Euros.
To produce tax justice, the payments should be measured by economic output. In the last decades, the share of taxes contributed by owners of property fell from a third to only 14 percent of the total revenue. However according to the experts, employees' contributions would increase from 33 to 36 percent.
Attac sees itself confirmed by the demonstration attracting 100,000 people. "The population senses that something is going wrong in politics", said Axel Troost of the study group for alternative economic policy. "There are alternatives even if the argument of practical necessities is heard again and again." This is a question of creative political will, not of practical necessities", declared Astrid Kraus, economist in the Attac coordinating circle.
The Greens resist the reproach that they are forging neoliberal policy with the other parties and point to citizen insurance, one of their initiatives. They emphasize that they are open for differentiated discussions at any time.
"The sharp shots from the government come from people who know alternatives exist", Kraus insisted. Public discussions with the Greens are vital.