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Comment by Hugo Müller-Vogg: The Ukraine solidarity is an idealistic idea and doesn’t align with the sentiment in the country

It appears that Germany may have to increase its assistance to the struggling Ukraine as the oppositional Republicans and Donald Trump in America are doing everything to prevent further financial and military support for Kiev.

In view of this, the economist Monika Schnitzer has proposed a solidarity surcharge to support the Ukraine. “Special events require special measures. A Ukraine solidarity surcharge as a supplement to the income tax for military aid would be a possible response to this challenge,” said the chairwoman of the ‘Advisory Council on the Assessment of Overall Economic Development’ to the “Rheinische Post.”

Ukraine solidarity surcharge – a proposal from the academic ivory tower

This sounds logical and honest – unlike the plans of the traffic light coalition government. They are adhering to the debt brake in their budget plan for 2024. However, they are leaving the backdoor of a “state of emergency” open in case Kiev needs more money.

This was the trick to help the FDP and Finance Minister Christian Lindner save face: debt brake now, declaration of a state of emergency and additional debts later. Even Lindner has referred to the Ukraine aid as an “investment in our security.”

However, one can sense that the proposal of the economic professor comes from the academic ivory tower. An additional tax, a kind of “emergency aid for Ukraine,” would be politically – like any tax increase – highly unpopular.

Furthermore, the FDP has committed to preventing tax increases or even new taxes. The fact that the abolishment of tax privileges – as planned in the 2024 budget – ultimately amounts to a tax increase is another matter.

The public’s support for Ukraine assistance is dwindling

A Ukraine solidarity surcharge also does not fit into the political landscape for other reasons. The public’s support for the assistance to the invaded country is dwindling. A Ukraine levy would further strengthen this tendency.

After the Russian invasion, many refugees from Ukraine were warmly welcomed by the Germans and they showed great solidarity. However, the refugees are increasingly viewed with skepticism. Thanks to the fairly generous citizen’s income, some show little inclination to provide for their own livelihood.

The financiers of our social system, i.e. the taxpayers, are noticing that Ukrainian refugees are much more readily available to the job market in countries with lower social benefits than in our country.

These refugees are much better educated than migrants from Syria or Africa. However, not even a quarter of the approximately 1.2 million fleeing individuals are employed. In other European countries, 80% of them are now self-sustaining. This causes dissatisfaction in Germany.

Many Germans are already struggling with price hikes

Many Germans also wonder about the presence of approximately 200,000 Ukrainian men of military age in Germany. While understandable from an individual perspective, it does not fit the image of a people desperately struggling for survival.

The presence of cars with Ukrainian license plates on German roads also raises eyebrows. These are often vehicles of the upper middle class, usually relatively new models. This too does not quite fit with the notion of immigrants more or less reliant on citizen’s income.

All of this seems to be irrelevant from the perspective of the economist Schnitzer. She admits that her proposal is “not popular.” However, she argues that this war is also “about our freedom.”

All of this is true. However, much of what is conceived by intelligent people in universities is politically difficult or even impossible to implement. Many Germans are already struggling with price hikes. They would consider a Ukraine tax as an additional burden.

The Ukraine supporters in the government as well as the opposition are aware of all this. Therefore, Schnitzer’s expert but idealistic advice will be acknowledged by politics – but not further considered. This is also good and in the interest of Ukraine.



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