Of birch trees, pedal scooters and eternal baptism

It‘s the relatively small things which illustrate much more clearly than the larger ones how politicians throw our money away.

Yes, it‘s our money and that of our children, not the money of the politicians. But they throw it down the drain without any consideration. And that is particularly rampant in Vienna.

Everyone in Vienna is probably irritated by the 8,310 Euros which were spent for 23 birch trees. They weren't planted for landscaping or ecological reasons, but to commemorate SPÖ politican Johanna Dohnal. 

As it was with composers or poets before, now it is with the politicians. People who consider their kind so important that they spend tax money on themselves even after death.

It is, after all, the forcibly collected money of citizens and not that of voluntary contributors which is spent on the Dohnal birches.

There is nothing to be said against contributions. Maybe there are in fact some people somewhere who consider Dohnal memorable despite her mismanagement of the pension system running into a billion euro debacle. It is, however, tax money. In this particular case it is spent under the pretext of women’s projects and interdisciplinary art initiatives (And no, this isn‘t my language but that of the politicians when they describe how they are picking our pockets). Moreover, the birch money comes out of the budget of the minister of education, who supposedly doesn’t have enough to equip schools properly.

Even more is requested of the city budget itself. In that particular pot to name another concrete and illustrative example there is even money for parking spaces specifically for pedal-scooters. Maria Vassilakou forks out 43 Euro for it. Per pedal scooter. You can‘t make these things up. Such things are only possible in Vienna.

You can be certain of one thing with the Green party: Once again, as with the rarely used bicycle stands, the idea comes at a cost to the community at large, not only financially but in terms of space, space wanted by the paying-parking space users.

The Amerling House is another pet project of the Green party which has been expensive for decades. This is where the madness of politicians becomes more expensive by a few zeros.

The landlords considered the assigned 113,000 Euro budget as not enough, which is why the city, the responsible left winger Oxonitsch, threw in another 132,000 Euros of tax money, simply ignoring the quite simply incomprehensible use of funding to date.

In fact when green-red associations want money and threaten the discontinuation of some activities when there is too little of it, it seems it can always be found.

Even if nobody could ever calculate it to within a cent, money wasted through the persistent name changes of authorities and ministries has long ago run into the millions. The motive of the renaming? In most cases it‘s probably the advisers, who have no clue about substance, and are all the more prepared to spend money to be seen to be doing something, after all, it is not their money.

There are irritating cases by the dozen. Just this week, for a lot of money, the Federal Office for Social and Disability Care became, for a short while, the Federal Social Welfare Office, the Ministry for Social Welfare. So the office has a new name and disabled people are no more (or did I misunderstand something?). 

Or: Why (already under Usula Plassnik) did the BMaA become the BMEIA, at a global cost? Beforehand the Foreign Ministry had been in charge of international and European matters, and for decades at that. In reality even other authorities have, in recent years, increasingly taken responsibility for EU regulations. One has to be downright grateful to Sebastian Kurz that the Foreign Ministry hasn’t been renamed again when he turned from “Federal Minister for European and International Issues” into “Federal Minister for Europe, Integration and the External.”

The BMEIA attracts international mirth, particularly when pronounced. The names of the life and the future ministries are more reason for laughter. They disclose not even a hint of their jurisdiction.

One could investigate such utterly pointless wastes of tax money for pages on end.

I already know: The budget woes of both the city and the state can't be mended with small sums. That can only happen with absolute certainty through a genuine pension reform, namely raising the legal retirement age, even if it’s something which all three major parties shirk.

Nonetheless Bruno Kreisky knew something that has been completely forgotten today: People understand small sums much better than big ones. That‘s why he and several of his ministers tried and succeeded. They more easily made headlines in the media with small things instead of big ones. Wet shaving instead of dry, cabs instead of company cars, using two-sided papers, returning dull pencils before issuing new ones, and focusing on the number of suits his arch enemy Hannes Androsch possessed.

A lot of this sounds silly today but people could still spell the phrase “frugality” then. The current guard of politicians no longer can. It has no money for the construction of a subway. It can only finance tax reforms through new taxes und debts. It avoids genuine pension reform by kilometres, and plants birches instead.

I regularly write commentary for the independent, 24-hour current information page “Vienna.at”

This English version of comment from the Tagebuch was translated by the British journalist Michael Leidig and his team at the Central European News agency. He can be contacted for corrections and improvements to the English here: editor@cen.at

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