Berlin: A petition supported by several basic income groups in Germany, and signed by over 176,000 people, was debated by the Petitions Committee in the Bundestag on Monday 26 October. The petition called for a basic income of €1000 a month to be paid to all Germans to mitigate the effects of the corona crisis. This would be paid for at least six months but ‘should last as long as necessary’.
The petition was initiated by Susanne Wiest from Mensch in Germany, and supported by the OMNIBUS für Direkte Demokratie, Mein Grundeinkommen, and Expedition Grundeinkommen after the crisis hit Germany in March. It declared, “We have to ensure that no one falls through bureaucratic cracks and into poverty that threatens their existence.” The petition was initiated at the start of the crisis, and quickly got the signatures needed to bring it to the Bundestag for consideration. Combined with similar petitions put forward on Change.org and openPetition, nearly a million people in Germany put their names to the idea of an Emergency Basic Income to support people through the corona crisis.
Economist Bernhard Neumärker from Freiburg University and Freiburg Institute for Basic Income Studies (FRIBIS), presented a model calculation at the meeting that he said could be implemented immediately. It provided for a net basic income of €550 per person per month by combining existing social programmes. “You don’t have to change the social system, you just have to shift payments.” He proposed suspending all payments on mortgage principal and interest, lease and rent during the so-called ‘net basic income’. After the crisis these payments would be added to the net basic income and transform it into a permanent unconditional basic income of 1200 to 1500 Euros.
Politicians, even some who otherwise support basic income, were sceptical. There were the usual doubts about not targeting money ‘to those who really need it’ from the CDU and SPD. Timmon Grimmels from the SDP said that the party, while sceptical of basic income, doesn’t entirely dissapprove. Katja Kipling, leader of Die Linke (the Left Party) and a long-time supporter of basic income, was sympathetic but felt that the money for the Neumärker proposal took too much from middle class and poor people and not enough from top earners. Neumärker replied that it is the other way round, with his model capital incomes will share in the loss of labour incomes during lockdown and social benefits for needy people are not touched.’
A vote was not taken during this meeting but will happen in the next few weeks. Lisa Ecke, writing for Neues Deutschland, felt that the proposal was likely to be rejected.
Supporters of the petition say however that they will be increasing pressure on the government before the vote. “A basic income not only counteracts existential fear during the crisis, but also helps us progress in areas such as equality and trust in democracy,“ Susanne Wiest said in the hearing.
Michael Bohmeyer, founder of Mein Grundeinkommen, said in a statement after the debate, “[Basic Income is necessary] in order to adapt to the challenges of our time: master the digital economy, overcome the divisions in society and develop potential that is still lying idle today due to our culture of mistrust.”
Sources (in German):