In her speech, the Chancellor correctly outlined the environment in which the coalition operates: The international order is falling apart as a result of the spread of authoritarian forces in the United States and - unfortunately, since the takeover of power by Boris Johnson - now also in Britain. The rise of China, which shakes the western world. Digitization, which raises the social question. Climate change, which, according to available scientific evidence, can endanger humanity's survival.
Merkel also explained which solution is suitable for this challenge: the toolkit of the social market economy. The Federal Republic was always strong when it succeeded in uniting state and market. This is also the case with the climate, for example. If the government wants to increase the price of CO2, then not to torment the citizens. But because CO2 measured by the economic shortages is currently too cheap. Specifically: The combustion of fossil fuels releases CO2, which contributes to the warming of the earth. The price of gasoline, diesel or heating oil does not sufficiently reflect these environmental costs because the oil companies do not have to pay for the pollution. To change that, gasoline, diesel and heating oil would have to be more expensive, so that less of it gets into the air. So it's not about eliminating the price mechanism, but enforcing it.
The black zero - the peculiar center of budgetary policy
But it is also clear that such an ecological transition of the economy must be socially cushioned - and therefore it is expensive. So perhaps that is the common denominator of the geopolitical and technological upheavals: they are also a financial challenge from the state's point of view. Because more money has to be spent on the military, on expanding fiber-optic networks, on power lines, and on promoting alternative propulsion technologies. Which we would be with the household.
It's not that the government is doing nothing. It gives more money for investment, defense and education. But measured against the challenges happens too little. And that also has to do with black zero, this peculiar center of German fiscal policy.
This center is peculiar, because the black zero is not in the bill. It is also controversial among economists. The advocates say they provide solid public finances. The opponents say it prevents important investments in the future, for example for education. The camp of the proponents is getting smaller with each passing day - and the opponent's bigger. Even business leaders are calling on the government to spend more.
From the point of view of the coalition, black zero is not an economic but a political project. The participants even acknowledge this: Peter Ramsauer from the CSU once described it as an "important identity-forming feature" for the Union. And the social democrat Scholz must be afraid that once again it means that the Sozen could not handle money, if he sets the goal of a balanced budget for disposition. You could say it like this: If the black zero falls, then this coalition might fall.