Traffic light supplementary budget: The change of Christian Lindner

To analyse

Status: 16.12.2021 6:38 p.m.

Christian Lindner was previously not a fan of debt policy. Why the new FDP finance minister justifies exactly this policy, which as an opposition politician he would probably have criticized sharply.

By Corinna Emundts,

Of course, the old opposition politician Christian Lindner would have unwound rhetorical fireworks on the speaker’s desk of the Bundestag: Because again, as in the previous year under the then SPD finance minister Olaf Scholz, there is a budgetary move due to the pandemic – funds not called up from special corona loans are in postponed a climate investment fund. There the money can be used longer. At that time, the FDP had strongly criticized the move and even considered a constitutional complaint.

Corinna Emundts

But the new traffic light politician Christian Lindner is now supple: In his first appearance in the Bundestag as finance minister, he defends this step conceived by Scholz, which leads to the second supplementary budget this year, with great seriousness. It should be clear to him that this is a hit for the new opposition parties CDU / CSU. There is talk of “sleight of hand”, the AfD sounds in the same horn – after the traffic light statements about vaccination for them, renewed evidence for the “faller party FDP”.

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That was not just a hit, but the blackboard was literally prepared by the traffic light, teased the Union MEP Thomas Heilmann on the sidelines of the budget meeting of the parliament. This diversion of the remaining 60 billion credit authorizations violated several budgetary principles. His party does not want to leave the saber rattling in the debate – but rather submit the supplementary budget to the Federal Constitutional Court for a judicial review complaint.

“It’s about a lot more”

But Lindner is not deterred by this. It is about “the way out of the crisis and economic success and much more”: It is about responsibility for future generations and their chances of freedom. The Federal Constitutional Court has also underlined this. Here Lindner is referring to a resolution from Karlsruhe from spring 2021 that, regardless of the pandemic, had declared the previous climate protection policy of the grand coalition to be insufficient for future generations.

For the gifted speaker, Lindner, it is easy to present the situation in front of the audience more dramatically than it was a year ago in order to justify his about-face in the use of the credit authorizations. After all, the economy has been suffering from the adverse effects of the pandemic for the second year now, be it delays in international supply chains or the rise in energy prices that make economic activity more expensive.

For Christian Lindner (on the left in the picture), so far not a fan of debt policy, it may still be unfamiliar to have a prominent green comrade at his side in the form of Economics and Climate Protection Minister Robert Habeck.


Linder has to argue firmly in court

Perhaps it would have been more plausible for the FDP boss to say: Folks, I am now a member of a three-party coalition made up of the SPD, the Greens and the FDP that had to find compromises and intersections – and that was the price we had to pay to get it to join the coalition. In the coalition negotiations, the Greens did not get quite as much investment in climate protection as they wanted, while the FDP negotiated the clear commitment to comply with the debt brake from 2023 – and the rejection of taking on new debts or increasing state income through tax increases.

It stays that way, which is why the FDP is on board. But the Scholz crew had just come up with a compromise that all the loan pots that had already been agreed should be used in full before 2023 for the transformation towards a climate-friendly economy. At Lindner it sounds like this: “In a sense, we are building a bridge from the pandemic to a climate-friendly future. The energy and climate fund, which we are developing into a climate and transformation fund, plays a central role.” But he also has to argue in terms of content instead of coalition constraints in order to be able to survive in court with the first supplementary budget for which he is responsible.

In the end, the Federal Constitutional Court will have to decide whether this argument is justified – the criticism comes not only from the Union parliamentary group, but also from the Federal Court of Auditors. But the CDU / CSU parliamentary group in particular, like Lindner, has undergone a change – it is now criticizing precisely the policy that it has supported so far: the credibility problem that it is now accusing the new FDP finance minister is itself with. Greens and SPD have it easier because they can stick to their budgetary logic.

As far as financial policy is concerned, the FDP will have to change its polarity first – for Lindner, with all the poker face he made today on the cabinet bench, it might still be a bit unusual: to be loudly supported by the SPD and the Greens in Parliament – and listen at the same time to have to, as the AfD makes a poisoned offer to the Union faction to bring down his new policy: AfD budget politician Peter Boehringer frankly offered the CDU / CSU to simply take over their application for norms control complaint from last year. One is of one opinion on the matter.

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