Angela Merkel presents CDU election manifesto
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has promised tax cuts and a dramatic reduction in unemployment as her re-election campaign finally got into gear. The Social Democrats said the plan only helps the affluent.
Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) offered modest tax cuts and extra money for young families in the new election manifesto it finally presented on Monday. The governing party's plan came several weeks after rival parties had sought to jolt the electorate awake with their new ideas. CSU General Secretary, Andreas Scheuer, posted a tweet as the event got underway: "Together for our country. Today we seal the government program of the CDU and CSU," he wrote:
Though Merkel presented the plan officially at a press conference at party headquarters in Berlin on Monday, along with Horst Seehofer, the leader of her Bavarian allies the Christian Social Union (CSU), the salient details had filtered through to the German media late on Sunday. Unlike the other major German parties, the CDU did not open its program to a vote at a party conference.
The CDU's election plan includes:
- Lowering the unemployment to below 3 percent by 2025, which would mean nearly half the current rate of 5.5 percent, or 2.5 million people. Opposition parties have persistently argued that these figures hide the true numbers, since millions of people working so-called mini-jobs are still dependent on state benefits.
- Tax cuts which would include raising the top income tax bracket to 60,000 euros a year, rather than the current 52,000 euros. This is a considerably more modest increase than the proposal by Merkel's main rivals, the Social Democrats (SPD), who would raise the top income tax bracket to 76,000 euros - and raise the top rate itself from 42 percent to 45 percent. The CDU only want to tax the "super-rich" (single people earning over 232,000 euros) the 45-percent rate.
- Phasing out the "solidarity fee" for the former East Germany beginning in 2020. This extra tax, imposed in the wake of reunification specifically to boost the economy in the "new states" in eastern Germany, has long rankled taxpayers' rights groups. Like the SPD, the CDU has now promised to phase it out - though it remains unclear exactly when it will disappear completely. On Monday, the CDU did not repeat a previous promise to phase it out by 2030.
- Increase in child allowance. Child allowance will be raised from the current level of 192 euros to 217 euros. On top of this, the CDU wants to raise the tax abatement for dependent children from 7,356 euros to 8,820 euros.
- Help for first-time property buyers. Families buying property for the first time are to receive an extra state benefit of 1,200 euros per year per child.
- An extra 15,000 police officers to be hired across Germany, including both state and federal police forces.
- Partial dual nationality concessions. Another issue that has dogged the conservative wing of the CDU will be resolved with a compromise: First-generation migrants and their children will be allowed to hold two passports - but following generations will have to choose a nationality.
The tax plans have been criticized by the SPD, currently the junior partner in Merkel's government coalition, whose party chairwoman Katarina Barley told the Rheinische Post newspaper, "The CDU is only following the watering can model in its family policies, which always only help the high-income earners. The gap between rich and poor will widen further and further."
Likewise, the plan to raise the children's allowance was denounced as bribery: "If the CDU had a real interest in a significant raise in a children's allowance, there would have been a chance to do it in this legislative period."
In a similar vein, the current German minister for construction, Barbara Hendricks, also of the SPD, was quick to criticize the CDU's plan to offer first-time buyers extra money, since it "would not reach those who really need help with buying an apartment."