According to a recent survey, every sixth person in Germany has already skipped meals due to high inflation. The immensely rising cost of living is by no means a luxury problem. The question of further relief for citizens, which Marietta Slomka asked Federal Minister of Economics Robert Habeck (Greens) on Thursday, is understandable.
The ZDF presenter wanted to know from Habeck whether the state could pay an energy saving premium as a “reward” to households that use less gas than in the previous year. Actually a fair – if insufficient – suggestion. After all, the state wants its citizens, some of whom already live in precarious social conditions, to behave in a way that it considers desirable. At the same time, the population would be relieved.
Habeck rejected the proposal brusquely. “If someone says, ‘I’ll only help if I get another 50 euros’, I would say: ‘You won’t get that, old man!'”. He doesn’t believe that “everything has to be rewarded”. The high prices are enough incentive to save.
This is an arrogant statement by the Green Minister, whose party colleagues and voters mostly come from the well-off middle class, in which the cost increases hardly play a role. In the same interview, Habeck explained what percentage of energy could be saved if living spaces were heated less. But even now, many people who are just above the need level hardly ever heat, or only heat in individual rooms.
In many poorly insulated or mold-prone buildings, it is almost impossible to save on heating costs. Many poor people cannot meet the savings targets required for a premium. And the fact that many students and pensioners don’t even get the 300 euros energy flat rate makes Habeck’s expectations of the population doubly cynical. It would be better if the state would completely take over the heating costs for a broader number of low-income people – similar to Hartz IV. But Habeck does not have that in mind.
But to then also imply that the supposedly incorrigible average German shouldn’t expect to be compensated for unacceptable restrictions on their own quality of life and health sounds snobby – especially when Habeck addresses his fictional counterpart with “age”. And if he wants, for example, to save hot water with new shower heads, the minister from the Agenda 2010 party Bündnis 90/Die Grünen would have to explain how people who live on the subsistence level with Hartz IV should finance such expenses.