Word creations in the turning point of time
"We are constantly expanding our vocabulary," a Deutschlandfunk moderator recently stated with a view to the formulations that Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck and Finance Minister Christian Lindner used at their press conference on September 29, 2022 to present the €200 billion "defense shield “ used. In fact, we find that in times of war, politicians keep resorting to new terms in order to convey what is happening to the citizens as clearly as possible. The terms are used either for a simple explanation, for skilful marketing of one's own actions - or for the cloaking of uncomfortable truths. A selection:
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Defense shield: With the "defense shield" presented on September 29, 2022, the federal government announced that it wanted to spend up to 200 billion euros from the Economic Stabilization Fund (WSF) (launched during Corona times) to protect consumers to protect against the extremely high gas prices. Details on the implementation of the umbrella were presented on October 10th by the so-called Gas Price Commission - a body of experts convened by the federal government for this purpose. The Commission's proposals (one-off payment in December 2022, price cap from March 2023) must go through the legislative process, and the aim is to adopt them in the near future. At the EU level, the advance of the traffic light has triggered considerable criticism because it would distort the conditions in the internal market ("lack of solidarity").
Citizens’ income: Just as Raider “Twixx” once became, so “Hartz IV” will become citizens’ income on January 1st, 2023. The term originally comes from the FDP, which has been demanding “liberal citizen money” in its programs since 1994. The concept goes back to the Chicago economist Milton Friedman and provides for a merging of various social transfer payments into a "negative income tax". Bureaucracy is to be reduced, additional income opportunities are to be improved. In the traffic light coalition negotiations, the SPD came up with the idea of using the term "citizen's allowance" for the new construct with its goal of abolishing Hartz IV. The FDP agreed, although it was clear that the SPD was primarily striving to raise the standard rates and reduce sanctions (“no general suspicion”) under this heading. Meanwhile, the Union criticizes that the basic income would create additional incentives for the permanent receipt of transfer payments. This is "disrespectful" to those who work regularly and pay taxes and social security contributions accordingly.
Double bang: Chancellor Olaf Scholz used this expression to describe the above defensive shield. He was referring to the Corona aid package for which he was responsible as Minister of Finance at the time, which he had described as "boom". On the one hand, the double boom is intended to protect consumers from high gas prices. On the other hand, it should be signaled to Putin that Germany is not afraid of using any means to stand up to the aggressor in Moscow.
Energy war: According to Federal Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FDP), Germany is in an “energy war for prosperity and freedom”. The formulation used in the course of the presentation of the defense shield makes it clear that Germany – even if it is not present on the battlefield, like all NATO countries – is participating in the Ukraine war in a broader sense. Weapons shipments and sanctions are among the means used to defend freedom. The most important tool on the domestic front is aid programs for citizens and companies with the aim of ensuring prosperity and maintaining social stability.
Core budget: The term “core budget” has recently been used to mean the federal budget to be decided by Parliament. This will total around 450 billion euros in the 2023 budget year. Federal Finance Minister Lindner is sticking to his goal of complying with the rules of the debt brake within this core budget. This can only succeed, however, because significant amounts of debt are booked via vehicles that are outside of the regular budget. These include the Bundeswehr special fund (EUR 100 billion), the climate and transformation fund (EUR 170 billion) and the protective shield to finance the gas price brake (EUR 200 billion). Regardless of the name, all of these special pots are credit-financed.
Special assets: The special assets of the Bundeswehr in the amount of 100 billion euros were announced by Chancellor Scholz in his “Zeitenwende” speech on February 27, 2022 in the German Bundestag. The aim is to equip the Bundeswehr in line with requirements. In addition to the regular defense budget, annual investments of 20 billion euros are to be made over the next five years. At the beginning of June 2022, the German Bundestag amended the Basic Law (Art. 87a).
Extended operation: Nuclear power plants that are to continue to run beyond the planned date of their shutdown go into extended operation. What is meant by this is that it is merely a temporary extension of the service life using existing fuel rods. Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck, who announced the continued operation of the Isar 2 and Neckarwestheim 2 reactors on September 27, 2022, emphasized that this in no way meant that the nuclear phase-out would be withdrawn. Meanwhile, not only the opposition Union, but also the traffic light coalition partner FDP is demanding an extension of the running times of the still functional reactors for several years in order to increase the amount of electricity. Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) decided on October 17, 2022 that Isar 2, Neckarwestheim 2 and the Emsland nuclear power plant should continue to operate “until April 15, 20223 at the latest”.
Turning point - the word of the year, coined by Chancellor Olaf Scholz in his speech to the Bundestag on February 27, 2022. The term expresses the fact that since Russia invaded Ukraine, nothing will be the same as it was before. The term seems politically new, but was previously used in the literature in many cases. Mention should be made of the non-fiction book “Zeitenwende 1979 – When the world began” (Frank Bösch) or Carmen Korn’s Hamburg-based novel “Zeitenwende” from the so-called “Century Trilogy”. Union leader Friedrich Merz recently remarked on a podium in Berlin that what we were experiencing was not a turning point in time, but a "break in time".
Political communication serves the goal of “taking citizens with you”. In times of war, it is more important than ever to ensure social cohesion. The means of language play a central role in this context. The traffic light coalition cleverly uses terms that "frame" its own actions in a way that suits the target group - Olaf Scholz, for example, manages to justify the delivery of weapons to a warring party, Robert Habeck to maintain the narrative of the nuclear phase-out and Christian Lindner, the debt brake to comply with However, too frequent use of euphemisms (“special assets”) can lead to a loss of credibility. The effect of an extreme simplification or even militarization of the language (“double boom”) should also be carefully considered.