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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Nazis planned a similar system to the British National Health Service

This is entirely off topic but important given the debate that is taking place in America at the moment.

An extract from a chapter by Fritz Gruendger in Beveridge and Social Security "Echo, effects and evaluation of the Beveridge Report in Germany". (see William Beveridge for background on the origins of the British National Health Service and Robert Ley for the biography of the leader of the German Labour Front- below with Hitler)
"At last, the persistent activities of Dr Ley induced Hitler, on 15 February 1940, to Charge his devoted companion officially with working out propositions for the development of comprehensive provision for the aged. Leaning on his Führer's order (Führerbefehl) Ley started among the Party and the public, an unprecedented Propaganda campaign for his project, and early in November submitted a Bill on the Versorgungswerk des Deutschen Volkes (Social Provision System of the German People), Thereupon Hitler himself, in several speeches, linked up the call for increased efforts to win the war with the announcement that the German welfare State would be turned into the most excellent in the world (Recker 1985: 83).

The equating of social insurance and Bismarck was deeply-rooted, not only with the traditionalists of the RAM (German Labour Ministry) and the social administration, but also among the people, The academic staff of the DAF (German Labour Front), therefore, tried to give an additional historical legitimation for their master’s reform project. They wanted to show that his conception came much closer to Bismarck's original intention than did social insurance (Teppe 1977; 244), And indeed, Bismarck had something different in mind when starting to pacify the German workers. It was only parliamentary resistance in the Reichstag to which we owe; the insurance principle; the decentralized self-government of the institutions; and the legal Claim to benefits founded on contributions of the claimant If it had depended totally on the conservative Prince, the German social security system would be characterized by: the principle of State welfare and provision; a centralized state-ruled office; and financing by taxes and employers contributions. Such a “neat Bismarck” model would actually come somewhat closer to the Beveridge Plan; Dr Ley was about to create it.

The Ley model was to replace the diversity of existing social insurance and Provision institutions, and was only subdivided into the three fields of old ages disability, and family. Benefits did not depend on contributions, but on previously earned income (for the disabled, an imputed one). The old age pension could be granted after at least 25 years' professional activity, at the age of 65. It should amount to 60 per cent of earned income, the minimum being 50 Reichsmark, the maximum 250, A special bonus was to be paid for those working beyond retirement age, and families should get additional household and children’s allowances, For financing, a 'social tax' integrated in the income tax System was planned.

Compared with the original conception the new plan had retained an essential institutional amplification of the security system but had given up the principle of flat-rate pensions. All in all, this was the most advanced version of Ley's endeavour’s to put the policy of social security into the service of the National-Socialist state,

The right to a pension was not a legal entitlement but offered as reward for loyal performance of one’s duties to the national community. Beyond professional achievement, it depended on social good behaviour, and could be withdrawn for ‘hostility to the nation’ Thereby the total economic dependence of all citizens on State and Party was guaranteed, an essential condition of totalitarian rule. In the end, it was the political objective and not structural deviations which made the crucial difference from the ideas of Beveridge.

But this bill also met with the categorical opposition of the ministries, headed by the RAM, When during 1941 Dr Ley tried to get through his own health programme, he worried not only the Party and government agencies, but the medical profession and public health officials too. TMs was an untimely problem in a critical war situation. On 11 January 1942 the Chancellery of the Reich informed him that Hitler was not prepared to comment further on old age provision before the end of the War, and did not want any further legal preparation. Obviously, Ley refused to accept this, and continued his persuasive efforts; so in two letters (2 June and 21 November) these points had to be confirmed to him by Hitler's secretary, Martin Bormann (Teppe 1977:248). Ley's last attempt to realize some ideas of his plan, at least for the miners, was also defeated (Recker 1985: 214).

The news of the publication of the Beveridge Plan, then, hit Ley at the very moment when he himself had his hands definitely tied, instead of realizing a comparable programme which he regarded as his life's work and dream. To personal frustration was now added envy of a man on the enemy side, who, not only in his own country but all over the world, knew appreciation and criticism, and was receiving attention and publicity. In any case, until his suicide in late October 1945, Ley regarded the social programme of the DAF as his failed life's work, and remained fixated both on the Plan and the person of his pretended antagonist. As his biographer quotes from the records of his interrogators, 'his emotions ... manifested themselves in tears ,.. when he referred to social security plans of his drafting which may never come to fruition and by the side of which ‘Beveridge’ is very small beer' (Smelser 1988: 293),

In the last year of the War considerations of structural changes in social insurance flickered up once more in Germany (ibid.: 275 ff). In order to conform with the heavy pressure of the government for manpower cuts, on 25 August 1944 the RAM submitted a draft of a decree on the adaptation of social insurance for warfare purposes, which comprised some measures of unification and simplification, but aiso carried certain improvements in benefits. For psychological reasons, it was said, the minimum provision aimed at should 'if possible exceed comparable benefits abroad, particularly in the western democracies’ (ibid. 283). The draft was not only rejected by the Reich Chancellery, and the Ministries of economics and of finance, but Dr Goebbels, now the 'Generalbevollmaechtigter fuer den totalen Kriegseinsatz' (Plenipotentiary for the Total Mobilization of Labour) stated in his letter of 7 October 1944, 'the reference to the English publication (italics by the author) failed to see that these were postwar plans, whose realization was rather doubtful (ibid. 283). That statement may be taken as the late echo of the fact that immediately after its publication a German word-for-word translation of the Beveridge Report had been made 'for official use only' with the RAM, and had obviously been taken very seriously (Teppe 1977: 249; Beveridge 1954: 195). Now it was evident that the Beveridge Report had had lasting effects with other authorities, too, and that it was still regarded as the most prominent example of progressive social schemes abroad."

See also House Bill runs over Grandma The American President chooses to make a joke out of matters of life and death.

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