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The misapprehensions of Jan Fleischhauer, part 3

May 6, 2012

My deconstruction of Jan Fleischhauer’s column “Der Hartz-IV-Irrtum” (The misapprehension of Hartz-IV) is finally drawing to an end. I can’t wait to put this crap behind me!

In case you haven’t read them before, here are part 1 and part 2. All quotes are translated by me, and together they constitute the whole column. The German original can be found here.

The realities of a unified Europe could however take this form of welfare politics to its limits.What is considered life below the poverty level in this country, is a slice of paradise in other parts.

Compare the masses of Polish craftsmen who were supposed to swamp Western Europe after Poland was admitted to the EU. Many people were afraid of them. They never came. Oh, of course some craftsmen from East Europe came over to earn a quick buck, but it was by no means a mass invasion. What people like Fleischhauer fail to understand here is: money is not the only motivator of human behaviour. It is important, highly important even, but not the only thing that matters. There are also such things as wanting to be close to your family and friends, wanting to stay in a country where you understand the language, or plain old inertia. Yes, maybe my life would get slightly better if I moved, but I’m ok where I am, and moving is a lot of work and stress and hassle.

Recently Der Spiegel published an excellent report about the immigration from the poorhouses in Romania and Bulgaria, who only joined the EU a few years back.

I believe this is the article he means. And I agree, it’s excellent. Except… it doesn’t say anything about Bulgaria, and the people described are not coming from a poorhouse, but from a very poor Romani* village outside Bukarest. They do consider Germany a slice of paradise, and social support is part of it, but paradise has other parts too. Less discrimination. Zoos. Public swimming pools. Good schools. The opportunity of a better life for your children. It is also clear from the article that it’s not just to come here and start cashing Hartz-IV. An EU citizen is free to settle in any EU country, but only as long as he or she has a job or a proprietorship.

Since Romania joined the EU in 2007, 60 000 people have moved from there to here. Because of the above-mentioned regulation that immigration is free only for EU citizens with a job, it can be assumed that most of these Romanians didn’t go straight to Hartz-IV.

I really wish Fleischhauer wouldn’t mischaracterize things so much.

Few people stop and think about the movement that has been launched here.

We haven’t seen that it will become a mass movement yet. I say deal with it if it happens. The scare of the Polish plumber has made me rather sceptical that it will ever occur.

Whoever is hoping that the new citizens could be denied support, has forgotten to consider the European Court of Justice. The judges have preventatively closed the possibility of such discrimination: social support in Germany is the same for everybody, whether coming from Neukölln or from a poor village close to Bukarest.

Unless they are “only here to find work”. Here is a page from German Wikipedia detailing exactly when EU citizens can recieve Hartz-IV. Seems you have to have worked in Germany for 12 months to get it indefinitely, and to have worked in Germany at least a little while to get it for 6 months. And then out you go.

Poverty can’t be shared, and neither can Hartz-IV.

Huh? Is that supposed to mean something? It would be more straightforward to translate it as “poverty can’t be divided, and neither can Hartz-IV”, but that makes no sense whatsoever. Of course poverty can’t be divided, all uncountable nouns are indivisible. Hartz-IV, on the other hand, is routinely divided into component parts. 128 Euro/month allotted for food, 30 Euro for clothes and shoes, and so on.

Even stretching “unteilbar” to mean “can’t be shared”, I find it difficult to figure out what he means here. Well, he doesn’t think we should give Hartz-IV to Romanians, or indeed to anyone. That much was clear before. But what the *** is “Poverty can’t be shared” supposed to mean? Poverty is the absence of money, if I’m sharing my money with you, that means in a way that you’re sharing your poverty with me. Or sharing poverty could mean being poor together, as in a poor family sharing equally in the hardships.

I suspect what Fleischhauer means when he says “Poverty can’t be shared” is something along the lines of “I don’t want to share my riches with anybody”. Well, newsflash: “I don’t want to” does not equal “it is impossible”.

Nor is it impossible that Jan Fleischhauer could, at some point, lose his job and his money and his resources and would have to live from Hartz-IV. Though, if that were to pass, he would probably still insist that he’s different from all those undeserving, lazy slobs. He is “a victim of circumstances, struck down by a cruel caprice of fate, who is giving everything he has to find his way back into an ordered life”.

* The ethnicity formerly known as “Gypsies”.

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