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We Germans are getting poorer – why don’t we care?

Scholz: “disconnected from reality”. Omer Messinger/Getty

“What’s wrong with Olaf Scholz?” asks René Pfister in Der Spiegel. Germany’s economic situation is “disastrous”: energy prices are so high that companies are moving abroad; the country is projected to be the only G7 member with a shrinking economy this year. Yet in a recent interview the Chancellor seemed “disconnected from reality”, chiding a journalist for asking gloomy questions. Germany’s “traffic light coalition” – between the social democrats, greens and liberals – is shaky too. A row has developed over funding to tackle so-called “child poverty”, which is really due to the country hosting hundreds of thousands of under-age refugees. Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck has failed to persuade his Green Party to extend the lifetimes of Germany’s few nuclear power plants, despite our nation suffering “the biggest energy crisis in post-war history”.

The comparison with the US is striking. “Americans forgive their presidents for many things: sex scandals, lies, even advanced age.” But they don’t like getting poorer. Though Joe Biden has a “near-pristine” economic record, his popularity ratings are barely better than Donald Trump’s, because of perceived struggles with inflation and other threats to US prosperity. Long-suffering Germans, by contrast, are like frogs that won’t jump out of boiling water “as long as the temperature is raised slowly enough”. We’re not losing our jobs, but we’re gradually becoming less well off. Pretty soon, a summer at the local outdoor pool rather than a holiday abroad will be “the new normal”.