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Ear to the Ground

German High Court Outlines Profound Welfare Rights

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Posted on Mar 22, 2010
Flickr user k.a.i.

Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court has rejected cuts to the welfare state, ruling that all citizens, even the poor, have a right to a “minimum level of participation in social, cultural, and political life.” That’s a much higher standard than providing for food and other basic needs.

Christian Science Monitor:

Last month, the federal constitutional court said that a sweeping reform established five years ago to reduce what was then seen as an overburdened welfare system was unconstitutional. The reason: It failed to ensure its 6.7 million recipients, especially children, “a dignified minimum income” and give less privileged citizens a “minimum level of participation in social, cultural, and political life.”

The court gave Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition until year’s end to create a better model. And it unleashed heated debate over the future of Germany’s social model at a time when, from France to Greece, social unrest in Europe is widespread.

“The court said that it’s not enough to have food, clothes, and a roof – people also have to be able to participate in society, otherwise they become outcasts,” says Christoph Butterwegge, a poverty expert at the University of Cologne. “For the constitutional court to define social participation as a right, that’s unprecedented.”

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By gerard, March 23, 2010 at 11:36 am Link to this comment

I also wonder if having to learn how to live closer together for centuries as neighbors had something to do with the mutual caring and tolerance for differences in Europe.
  The U.S. has been isolated for a long time—not only by oceans but by vast empty territories and communities separated by race prejudice, and by religious and political extremes.  (Reasons, not excuses.)
  The basic ideology of “every man for himself etc.” has been wrong from the start, but it serves capitalism quite well because it breeds selfishness. Better to sell ten refrigerators than one.
  We are going to be forced by current circumsances to backtrack here and learn to live with and for each other as humans. We will be better for it in the end, but it’s going to take work, time, care and intelligence to do it.
  It will all depend upon how many of us are up for that.  It’s not him, her or them.  “It’s me, it’s me, it’s me, O Lord, Standin’ in the need of change.”

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By Richard, March 23, 2010 at 4:16 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It wasn’t the defeat in World War II that brought social welfare to Germany.  The health care system was established under Bismarck in 1885 or so.  Some Western European nations have long had a greater sense of compassion for their citizens as well as a sense of responsibility on the part of their governments. In contrast, in the U.S., we hide behind a corrupted, pernicious sense of individual rights that allows us personal weapons by which we can murder fellow citizens but remain “free” as individuals.

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By rjg1971, March 23, 2010 at 3:06 am Link to this comment

No state or federal court in the U.S. would want to be
caught dead making such a judgement on the issue of
poor welfare recipients.

Defeat in a war can have enormous civilizing effects on
what used to be a war mongering society. That’s what
happened to Germany after WWII. A very generous social
democratic society with a very high level of pacifism.

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By Observer, March 23, 2010 at 1:29 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

> . . . Germany would be so far ahead of the U.S. in enlightened social welfare policies?  I wonder why? <
There is nothing to wonder..let`s be clear about that. Essentially,there are some basic fundamental,but broad differences,the way Germans feel about themselves,their entitlements in social justice and personal well-being taken care of by their elected government . . . compared to the current US Health System.

Whereas Germans don`t have silly BS-artists > such as Boehner,Cantor,McCain and the rest of those moronic GOP-brass-losers at that level,who back stab their own citizen in a heartbeat when it comes to their very self-interest to fill their own pockets at the expense of others. . . . Germans,like many other European Countries,evidently care more about one-another,actually are willing of sharing the benefits for dignity and compassion of all human life by expecting this basic right. . however,do not have such low-life >Blockheads< across the aisle / ranks, like those disgusting GOP-losers, to deal with !

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By idarad, March 22, 2010 at 7:09 pm Link to this comment

Despite all the anti German sentiment, the German people have this profound respect for humanity, I think they learned the hard way… don’t believe the dribble spouting from the politicians, listen to your heart, the birthplace of humanity. I have been to Germany many times, and I am never disappointed in how they take on adversity and move together to make something better.  When the eastern blocks fell and east Germany merged with the west, everyone said Germany would not be able to handle the burden.  Not only have they handled the extra weight, they have remained the one main stable society in the EU.

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By gerard, March 22, 2010 at 6:00 pm Link to this comment

Who would have thought, at the end of WWII, that an utterly devastated Germany would be so far ahead of the U.S. in enlightened social welfare policies?  I wonder why?

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