Germany should look at itself in the mirror

It has been argued for some years that one of the important consequences of Germany’s obsession with fiscal surpluses in recent years, articulated by Chancellor Merkel and Finance Minister Schäuble as the “Schwarze Null” austerity policy, is that Germany has been under-investing in its physical infrastructure. But it has taken the recent industrial unrest to bring that to the fore into the public debate. Even the IMF is now getting on the bandwagon. In its in-house journal (Finance and Development, Vol.52, No.2, June 2015) there was an article – Capital Idea – which says that “By increasing spending on infrastructure, Germany will help not only itself, but the entire euro area”. At present, Germany is trying to take the high moral ground in the Greece negotiations, but its motivations are obvious – it doesn’t want the generosity that the rest of the world has shown to it in the past (debt forgiveness) to be given to Greece now because that would allow the Greek government to stimulate growth and demonstrate that the austerity path is destructive and myopic. It doesn’t suit Germany’s own vision of itself (as articulated by its own crazy government) for an anti-austerity stance to be given any oxygen. But if it looks at itself in the mirror it would see an economy that is barely capable of economic growth itself, most recently has zero employment growth, has decaying physical infrastructure such that bridges are roads are becoming dangerous, has generated no meaningful real wages growth in years, and as a consequence, has a workforce that is now showing signs of open revolt. Some moral high ground.

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