“Abolish the commuter allowance!” With no other demand have I provoked a greater storm of indignation. Socially unjust, economically inefficient and ecologically nonsensical. Those were my arguments at the time. They remain valid today. Because they were and remain well founded.

It can be calculated without a doubt that bosses benefit far more from tax privileges for commuting than their lower-paid employees. Nobody can rate that as fair. In the same way, the truth about costs means that commuting with petrol or diesel cars has to become more expensive. This is the only way to make environmentally and climate-friendly green mobility or working from home more attractive.

Nevertheless, a large part of the population found and still finds the “distance allowance” to be correct. It’s clear why. In the commuter republic of Germany, almost 60 percent of all employees do not work at their place of residence. That equates to almost 20 million people.

The vast majority of them travel by car. Many have no real alternative. They live in sparsely populated areas. Public transport is not competitive in these regions. That’s why so many commuters are currently so particularly annoyed that petrol and diesel have become so much more expensive. They demand state relief measures. And – a critic of the “distance flat rate” has conceded this to them – their demands are understandable, comprehensible and do indeed justify an adjustment to previous practices.

“Increase the commuter allowance!” would not be the smartest of all demands. But if the question arises how to continue, it remains the better alternative than extending tank discounts. Distributing “money instead of gifts” gives responsible people the freedom to decide for themselves whether they want to spend the money on petrol, public transport or something else entirely. An increase in the “distance allowance” will help everyone who commutes, not just those who drive petrol or diesel cars.

Even those who go to work by electromobility or by bike have to pay more for purchase and maintenance than in recent years. Therefore, if one wants to go this route, all commuters should be relieved equally – regardless of the means of transport used and whether they travel to work by car, train, bus or bicycle.

All Sunday drivers and private road users outside of commuting also benefit from tank discounts. However, those who cannot or do not want to afford a car to get to work are left with higher mobility costs. The nine-euro ticket changes little about that. Because not all commuters can use it equally. It also provokes free-rider effects. It cheapens public transport for everyone and any purpose. As a result, the quality of public transport is generally deteriorating – much to the annoyance of those who rely on it to get to and from work.

It remains true that an increase in the commuter allowance will benefit those who earn more. This is a result of the progressive tax system as it is used in Germany. Therefore, a tax reduction (an increase in the distance allowance is nothing else) would have to go hand in hand with an increase in the tax allowance. Low earners benefit particularly from this. This would be a social way of relieving commuters. And everyone who doesn’t pay taxes anyway should be helped directly with “energy money” in the form of a lump sum.

With its paternalistic state aid, the traffic light coalition not only reveals how much it questions the citizenship of the population. What is even more fatal is that it has apparently renounced a speedy transition to an ecological market economy. She does not trust the price mechanism to balance supply and demand on its own. Rather, it wants to correct free pricing with state price reductions. That is and remains a planned and not a market economy.

If prices fall short of a politically or socially desired level, state-imposed maximum prices, price reduction campaigns, fuel discounts or even minimum wages are the wrong countermeasures. This is not only evident in the energy. The housing market or agriculture provide sufficient relevant evidence for this. Anyone who wants to help those who are weaker should do so directly – for example through lump-sum aid payments. That is economically cheaper and socially fairer than replacing the market economy with a state economy.

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