Column power: i am an heiress

The SPD is finally breaking away from the neoliberalism of the Schroder years. But a basic pension for everyone is going too far.

Being a family, having money, planning for the future: West German middle-class people have it good Photo: dpa

My statutory pension will be pitiful. I’ve been working for the taz for 28 years – so I earn well below the pay scale – and most of the time I’ve been employed part-time. But there’s no reason to feel sorry for me. As the only child of well-off parents, I’ve known for a long time that I would inherit enough so that I wouldn’t have to rely exclusively on the state pension for my old-age security later on.

I am not alone in this. In West Germany, we have long lived in an inheritance society. As early as 2012, Die Zeit quoted a study according to which the assets of Germans, including their real estate, were about ten times as high as the sum of all wages and salaries. In the founding years of the Federal Republic of Germany, this figure was more or less the same.

And we are not talking about multimillionaires. The middle class inherits, at least in the West. In the east, things look different – an injustice that will not be overcome for a long time yet.

The subject of inheritance is one of the biggest taboos, often even within families. Many find it distasteful to include the death of parents in life planning. Not everyone, after all, has such a wonderfully matter-of-fact mother as I do, who at one point dryly said, "After all, there are only two possibilities. Either you inherit, or you don’t need it anymore."

This text comes from the taz am wochenende. Always available from Saturday on the newsstand, in the eKiosk or in the practical weekend subscription. And on Facebook and Twitter.

Then there is the obvious justice gap associated with inheritances. A wealth tax could at least mitigate this. But I don’t think it’s fundamentally dishonorable to inherit from your parents. Providing the greatest possible care for one’s descendants even after one’s own death is a matter close to many people’s hearts, and I, too, very much wish to be able to leave something to my daughter.

However, I do not think that the taxpayers should help me with this. For years, I have hoped that the SPD would say goodbye to the neoliberalism of the Red-Green coalition under then-Chancellor Gerhard Schroder. Now it looks like that wish is coming true. Finally.

Unfortunately, Labor Minister Hubertus Heil’s concept of a basic pension for everyone is a step too far. It’s nice to get extra money from the state in the future. Nice, but unfair.

Distrust and dignity

It would be nice if the humiliating word "means-testing" was no longer used in the discussion. No one wants to be "means tested." So, entitlement testing. Such an entitlement test must not degenerate into snooping, nor must it violate the privacy of the people concerned. And certainly not their dignity.

In connection with Hartz IV, these simple principles have been violated again and again. When government agencies check whether there is a second toothbrush in the bathroom in order to be able to conclude that there may be a partner – who is obliged to pay maintenance – behind this is a mistrust of citizens. They are accused of trying to obtain benefits by fraud. This does not correspond to the image of human beings in a democracy.

The challenge now is to develop an eligibility test that is neither demeaning nor results in nurses’ tax dollars being used to supplement the retirement benefits of wealthy heirs. Our society should allow everyone to grow old with dignity. However, we must look at each individual case.

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