(By Ray D.)
The Underreported Scandal: Germany’s Economic Quagmire
Gerhard Schroeder first came to power in 1998 on the promise of more jobs. He told the German people that he should be measured in terms of his ability to put Germans back to work. In 2002, it appeared the Socialist Chancellor was on his way to election defeat. He had failed to boost employment and was trailing in the polls. What happened? Schroeder seized on two major events to squeak out an election victory. First came the floods in East Germany. Schroeder took advantage of his position as a leader and came across as a competent crisis manager. But nothing helped Schroeder more than his flagrant exploitation of German anti-war and anti-American sentiments. Germans fears over war in Iraq gave Schroeder the last minute boost he needed to make it into office. Since his election, the Chancellor’s party has never lead in the polls, and has consistently trailed the opposition CDU/CSU by well over 10 points.
Schroeder’s government has been completely unable to deal with Germany’s chronic unemployment problem in his six years in office. Now German unemployment has reached a new record high of over five million. Yet the situation is not being treated as a major scandal or crisis. Why? Because Schroeder has the vast majority of the mainstream media firmly on his side politically and ideologically. The German media has been so fixated on criticizing President Bush and the Iraq war over the past three years that it has not given adequate coverage to Germany’s ongoing economic debacle. And why would the media want to put pressure on a government that so closely shares its political ideology? As Medien Tenor reported in January 2004:
Especially German TV broadcasters worked less in that situation as news reporters and instead came across as part of “their” government.”
Well folks, here is a radical new idea: Wouldn’t it be refreshing and appropriate if the German media focused a little less on shouting down America’s efforts to bring democracy to Iraq and a little more time on the disaster that has been German mass unemployment ever since Gerhard Schroeder took power? When will Germany’s Socialist-Green government finally be called to account for the mess they have made of the once proud German economy? Unbelievably enough, the current betting scandal in the German soccer league is higher up on the home pages of both SPIEGEL ONLINE and Stern than the story on five million Germans out of work. In fact, SPIEGEL ONLINE's story on the five million unemployed was quickly buried at the bottom of the homepage and has since been relegated to the "Politik" section. "Politik?" Five million people are out of work and Germany is in the midst of an economic disaster and SPON sticks the story behind a piece on prostitutes...is that the German media's idea of critical journalism?
Make no mistake. This is a scandal. Five million Germans are out of work and the problem has not gotten better for years. Yet George Bush and Tony Blair are the ones constantly “under massive pressure” in the German media.
Perhaps some pressure ought to finally be applied where it is truly deserved. Don’t count on it though. Germany’s left wing media elite loves power significantly more than they love everyday working people. Don’t expect them to go after Schroeder and Fischer with anything other than kid gloves.