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Why the rise of the Left Party has cast the Social Democrats into a gloom

Why is a small party founded by east German former communists causing national ructions? One reason is that the economic upswing has left so many Germans behind. Unemployment is at its lowest level since the early 1990s, thanks partly to the reforms that Mr Beck now wants to roll back. But many of the new jobs offer lower pay and less security than those lost during the downturn, notes Markus Grabka of DIW, a research institute in Berlin. Relative poverty has jumped, with 17% of Germans earning less than 60% of the median in 2005, up from 12% in 1999. Income-tax cuts have helped the rich; the middle class has shrunk.

On these matters the Left Party is saying what most Germans seem to be thinking. According to one recent poll, 82% of Germans want to lower the retirement age from 67 (reversing another reform), two-thirds want a minimum wage and 72% think the grand coalition should do more to promote social justice. Half want German troops out of Afghanistan, but the Left Party is the only one that unqualifiedly agrees. Unlike the Greens and the Free Democrats, it has no reason to flirt with either party in the grand coalition (the SPD refuses to consider it as a potential partner at federal level). It likes to claim it is Germany's only real opposition party.

But reform is good.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Oct 16th, 2007 at 09:26:02 AM EST

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