CDU and Kohl lost the election in 1998. Merkel was appointed as the new CDU Secretary General. Kohl remained as the party’s chairman. In one of her sparse interviews, Merkel said she saw herself more as a general than a secretary.
It was well-known in the party’s inner circles that the CDU was partially financed by black money. For example, some had come from the French government through the oil company ELF before the election in 1998. For many years the Stasi had been monitoring Kohl’s telephones. This was common knowledge in government circles. During the new Social Democratic government led by Gerhard Schröder, information about this black-money financing began to leak to the press. Former junior Minister for Defense in the CDU government and then head of the Constitutional Protection Agency (German secret service) Ludwig-Holger Pfahls fled the country after being investigated for bribes from Saudi Arabia in relation to arms sales. The pressure against Kohl increased.
On Dec. 22, 1999, Merkel contacted the editorial board of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and offered an interview and a debate article. She proclaimed that the CDU needed to be renewed, that they had to deal with the “old men” who sometimes stepped over the law and lacked any new ideas. This overture was made without Merkel informing Kohl and his deputy, Wolfgang Scheüble, in advance—a Machiavellian stroke, just before the Christmas weekend, which had maximum impact in the media. Kohl was forced to resign. Scheüble succeeded him as chairman of the CDU.
It took only a few months for the next shoe to drop: It was revealed that Mr. Scheüble also received a suitcase with money, from the arms dealer Karlheinz Schreiber. So Mr. Scheüble had to leave. The road was now open to Merkel to become the new party chairman.
Prior to the 2002 elections, Gerhard Schröder’s Red/Green coalition was well ahead in the polls. Merkel thought it was best to let the ambitious chairman of the Bavarian sister party CSU, Edmund Stoiber, become the chancellor candidate. Schröder easily won the election. So the conservative CSU’s position weakened. Merkel worked deliberately to eliminate competitors within the CDU party, so she became a more obvious chancellor candidate for the next election. After the SPD defeated Kohl in the 1998 elections, the Germany economy had stagnated. In the U.K., Tony Blair had started a new reformed social democracy he branded New Labor. The labor market in Germany needed to be reformed. Gerhard Schröder had an ambitious agenda to implement the necessary liberalization in the labor market combined with tax cuts. This created great resistance in the SPD. Finally, Mr. Schröder asked for a vote of confidence and lost, then called for new elections in 2005.
Merkel seemed to have a very good chance to win this time. She then ran a market-liberal agenda before the election, which had not been seen since Ludwig Erhard’s campaigns in the 1960s. She was compared by The Wall Street Journal to Margaret Thatcher. The elections became a much narrower victory for the CDU than expected. Merkel needed to form a coalition with the Social Democrats in order to form a government. Promised tax cuts were forgotten. Instead, the VAT increased by three percentage points, the largest tax increase ever. So the new “big coalition” actually returned to a typical, traditional social-democratic policy.
Merkel was committed to building an international position for herself, which we would call globalist today. Among the like-minded politicians, she found Tony Blair and the Democratic Party junior senator from Chicago, Barack Obama, who soon would gain a prominent profile in U.S. and world affairs. When Obama proclaimed his presidential candidacy, he was supported by Merkel. On June 24, 2008, Obama addressed 200,000 enthusiastic Germans in the Tiergarten, Berlin. The speech was held at the Siegessaule, a monument to German militarism and revanchism, moved to its present location by Albert Speer. Obama’s speech was broadcast in all the German state media, such as ZDF and ARD. German TV and newspapers cheered over Obama as the “Anti–George Bush.” One paper called him the “New Messiah.” No German politician had used the Siegessaule after the war for a public event. The monument was toxic, intended to celebrate Hitler once he had won the war.
In Barack Obama, Merkel had found a younger partner sharing her basic views about climate and social values, a man of mostly talk and little substance. Merkel increased the resources for a government-funded network, WBGU (Scientific Council to the Government, for Global Environmental Policy). The goal was set of a global transformation of the capitalist system in the ecological direction. The Germans on the board included Joachim Schellnhuber, Nebojsa Nakicenovic, Ottmar Edenhofer, and Claus Leggewie, all well-known for being left-wing.
In 2009, a conference was held in Essen, “The Great Transformation.” In addition to German ministers, Obama’s chief counselor John Podesta and William Antholis from the Brookings Institution were in attendance. Lord Giddens, one of Tony Blair’s closest ideologists, was a speaker. The conference was about values and lifestyles in a globalized interdependent world—how governments, through “nudging,” could reprogram their people’s brains to make them choose a “sustainable lifestyle.” The conference was summarized thus:
(1) Decarbonization of the whole society, through use of renewable energy.
(2) Implementation of the Öko-Soziale Markwirtschaft (a euphemism for a planned economy)
(3) People should avoid using private cars, travel as little as possible.
(4) A vegetarian lifestyle was proposed, proteins from insects are more sustainable than eating meat. Eat bugs.
(5) Organize society more like ant heaps—it’s resilient.
(6) It is doubtful if this vision of the future would be possible to implement in a democratic society. It would be necessary to consider appointing a global expert council who can make important long-term decisions without risking disturbances of short-term populist ideas.
The conference had 500 participants, including four ministers, but had almost no impact at all in the media. Only four journalists attended.
In the 2009 elections, the FPD (Free Democrat Liberal Party) won more than 15%, becoming the natural coalition partner for CDU, instead of the Social Democrats. The FDP had promised significant tax cuts and a reassessment of the former nuclear-decommissioning policy by 2022. They also wanted to limit wind and solar development because of the exorbitant cost of subsidies (EEG). In 2000 it was claimed that the EEG would cost the typical household the equivalent of one scoop of ice cream per month, or 3.5 cents per kWh. Merkel promised not only that the EEG would not rise any further, it would be capped and subsequently lowered. That promise was false. Today, in 2017, the EEG is expected to cost about 6.88 cents per kWh. The total cost of Energiewende in Germany until 2030 is estimated to be at least EUR 1 trillion. It seems to be an economic apocalypse. German households now, next to Denmark, have the world’s highest electricity costs. At the same time, carbon dioxide emissions have not decreased at all over the past three years. Fossil fuel power is always needed as backup.
But renewable energy has created a new class of financial investors, the so-called “Wind Junkers,” who earn amazing amounts from subsidies. This is possibly the largest transfer of money from households to a group of privileged investors in modern times. Merkel was for a long time in favor of using nuclear power to save the climate, as Minister for the Environment and later Chancellor. So the government decided in 2010 to extend the use of nuclear power until the reactors were technically and economically depreciated. The nuclear industry was allowed to continue using the facilities against a significant charge on nuclear fuel, which would counteract supposedly unfair “super profits.”
In spring 2011, however, Japan was hit by the strongest earthquake ever recorded in the country, followed by a tsunami that surged ashore and claimed 25,000 lives. Then came the Fukushima nuclear meltdown, and the world held its breath. As it happened, only two people died as a consequence of the accident, and some radioactivity was released. Merkel realized that the dramatic TV images would influence the German popular opinion about nuclear power. On state television in Germany, Fukushima was presented as if the thousands of casualties were killed by the reactor accident rather than by the tsunami. The government quickly convened an “ethics council,” consisting of church leaders and community scientists but no technicians, charging the panel with assessing if Germany should continue with nuclear power.
The outcome in the prevailing state of opinion was a given. Merkel quickly announced that all reactors would be closed, the last to remain in operation no later than 2022, exactly as the red-green government had announced would happen way back in 2000. The vote was taken unanimously by all six parties in the Bundestag. The nuclear industry would have to continue to pay the new tax on nuclear fuel. The decision was popular among the Greens and Left, but hardly within the CDU Party. The German power industry initiated court proceedings, which the government lost in 2017. The Constitutional Court ruled that the charge was illegal, so the government was ordered to return €6 billion to the power companies.
In connection with the urgent euro crisis of 2010, Merkel took the lead to save the single currency. Her famous statement was “If the euro collapses, then the E.U. collapses.” The politicians conducted a number of rescue operations for Greece, Spain, and Portugal. Merkel swore there was no alternative. She became known for the term Alternativlos. All commitments were guaranteed by the European Central Bank, where Germany’s share is 27%. This means that other central banks in Europe now owe Germany an amount of EUR 850 billion under the so-called TARGET 2 mechanism. This is money that returns zero interest and has no fixed amortization plan. Normally, this kind of nonperforming debt would be considered worthless and be written off, according to Professor H.W. Sinn at the IFO Institute in Munich. He is one of Merkel’s sharpest critics on the euro and the Energiewende.
The rescue of the weak E.U. countries by the ECB is completely contrary to what Helmut Kohl promised the German electorate before the introduction of the euro in 1998. It would never, ever be a debt union, he said, and the euro would be as strong as the D-mark. This was guaranteed by the European Treaties and ECB charter. Several politicians in the Union parties complained to the Constitutional Court. It was also what triggered the political movement that became the new party Alternative for Deutschland (AfD), attracting some CDU members to join the new party.
The ECB also introduced a policy of negative interest rates, which was a hard hit to German savers and pensioners, whose savings are mostly in bank accounts and in bonds. Now the German government can borrow money and is paid interest by the capital market for the bonds. The ECB’s policy is based on an idea that has its roots in the radical political ideas prevailing in Germany after the end of the First World War. The Schwundgeld theory (“disappearing money”) is now applied by the ECB and Swiss National Bank. It was invented by Silvio Gesell, a fruit farmer without a formal education. He was appointed as minister of finance and confiscation in the short-lived Bavarian Soviet republic of 1919. Another German economist, Gottfried Feder, one of the founders of the Nazi Party, had similar ideas about the ban of interest on money.
German savers and retirees have lost around €300 billion in returns on their savings since 2012. During the twelve years of Merkel’s three coalitions, the government take of GPD has increased from 40% to 45%. The taxes and fees from households have been steeper, with only Belgium and Denmark having imposed higher tax burdens on their citizens.
Three decades ago, in 1986, the GDR organized a refugee intake of Tamils from Sri Lanka. About 50,000 flew to East Berlin, where they could pass the Friedrichstrasse border control into West Berlin without any problem. This was a way to exert political pressure on the Kohl government, while at the same time getting hard currency.
In the winter of 2014, the E.U. Commission and the Obama regime decided to halve the contribution to UNHCR (UN Refugee Commission) operations in Iraq and Syria. The number of calories per refugee was reduced from 2,800 to 1,600 per day. A famine catastrophe threatened millions of people. They left refugee camps and began moving toward Europe. It created opportunities for windfall profits for human traffickers in Turkey, Greece, and Italy.
A rational solution would have been to increase the appropriations for refugees in their home countries to the old level while strengthening the border guards in Italy and Greece to keep the Schengen border tight. Instead, Merkel opted for what is now known as “Welcome culture”—a new term that captures what the Green Party had always wanted: open borders and unlimited immigration. Germany has so far received 1.5 million migrants over 2015–16, with at least 100,000 arriving with no papers or dubious ones. According to a judgment in the Strasbourg European Court of Justice, the refugees are entitled to family reunification. Merkel’s spin doctors claimed many refugees were “qualified” immigrants—physicians, engineers, and professionals—who would contribute to the German economy. The reality is otherwise, “unskilled shepherds” in the words of one critic, with many illiterate even in their native tongues.
It will be hard putting these “New Germans” in meaningful work, but that is far from the only problem. The Constitutional Protection Agency (Secret Service) has reported there might be as many as 10,000 potential terrorists hidden among those immigrants. A retired judge of the Constitutional Court, Udo Di Fabio, has stated in a legal analysis prepared for the Bavarian authorities that the federal government violated the law as the new arrivals’ identities had not been verified.
Yet none of this has diminished Angela Merkel’s standing, with the polls saying she is favored by some 50% of the population. How could this be? Merkel’s predecessor Dr. Helmut Kohl was constantly under siege from the media. He was demoted and declared incompetent until the 1990 reunification. After that, Kohl’s popularity began to drop again. To understand this, look no further than the media, very much Merkel’s ally.
In the GDR, journalists were regarded as soldiers of the revolution. The Leipzig Journalist College was known as “The Red Monastery,” and that mindset would appear not to have changed very much after unification. According to Manfred Güllner from the Forsa Institute, about 36% of German journalists sympathize with the Green Party, Social Democrats have 26%, the Free Democratic Party 10%, and the CDU 9%. The balance of their sympathies is distributed among different extremist left-wing parties. In radio and television, state media ADR and ZDF dominate the ether with a clear left-wing agenda. Here we can really talk about journalists as ideological soldiers in the ether. As with journalists throughout the West, they are groupthinkers and exponents of political correctness, meaning Merkel has largely escaped consistent critical journalism. In addition, traditional newspapers are shrinking, their business plans are failing, and they must increasingly depend on government assistance. Obviously, this does not encourage dispassionate analysis and commentary. This makes “old media” increasingly dependent on the state.
Merkel has been the great beneficiary. It is not an edifying thought, but when Germans vote on Sept. 24, it looks very much as if Merkel will win at a canter. The Great Transformation will go on!
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