Scholz Pitches Taxing the Rich to Revive Bid to Succeed Merkel

German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz pledged to increase taxes on the wealthy, spend on cleaner technology and expand social programs if he were to win the chancellery for the Social Democrats in the fall.

Scholz sought to bolster his bid to succeed Angela Merkel as chancellor in an acceptance speech at a party meeting on Sunday. With four years as Merkel’s vice chancellor and an earlier stint as labor minister, Scholz has the most government experience of any candidate in the race, but he’s still a long shot to win.

Scholz Pitches Taxing the Rich to Revive Bid to Succeed Merkel

“We want to see fair taxation -- taxation that’s better for low and medium incomes, while demanding more of millionaires and billionaires for the financing of public projects,” Scholz said.

The Social Democrats trail the Greens and Merkel’s Christian Democrat-led bloc by more than 10 percentage points in the latest polls. The labor-friendly party, traditionally one of Germany’s strongest political forces, has failed make headway, even with the conservatives slumping after a messy power struggle.

Scholz Pitches Taxing the Rich to Revive Bid to Succeed Merkel

The Social Democrats, who have served as Merkel’s junior coalition partner since 2013, formally appointed Scholz, 62, on Sunday to lead their campaign for Germany’s election on Sept. 26. He was nominated as the SPD’s candidate for chancellor months ago.

“We can’t afford this backlog on progress,” said Scholz, 62, calling for a “broad alliance” for change under his leadership. “We want to set the direction.”

With Scholz’s SPD a distant third in the polls, the battle for the chancellery is currently between Greens’ Annalena Baerbock and Armin Laschet, the CDU/CSU’s chancellor candidate.

In a bid to stay in the mix for chancellery or grab a role in a Green-led government, the party approved a 48-page program on Sunday that focuses on combating global warming and addressing income inequality.

Here are the highlights:

  • Meet Germany’s climate goals by making electricity climate-neutral by 2040, putting at least 15 million electric cars on the road by 2030 and expanding solar power
  • Establish a system of universal basic income to replace a social welfare system that divided the party under former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder
  • Make the rich pay more in taxes, including reinstating a wealth tax, and offer relief for people with low and middle incomes
  • Introduce a legal entitlement to work remotely for at least 24 days a year, if the job permits it
  • Implement a fiscal and budgetary policy that’s able to finance “major investments in the future,” signaling a continuation of looser spending after the pandemic

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