Germans mocking chancellor on tax

By Geir Moulson
Associated Press
Nov. 28, 2002

BERLIN - While a chart-topping tune lampoons German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder as a money grabber, Germans fed up with his tax hikes are literally sending him "the shirt off their back."

By Tuesday, disgruntled taxpayers had sent 15 shirts to Schroeder's Berlin offices as part of a protest organized by a campaign by a German Web designer. The same discontent boosted The Tax Song to No. 1 on the pop charts this week.

Schroeder was narrowly re-elected in September. His popularity has plunged since announcing plans for higher taxes to plug a budget hole that was not revealed until after the election.

Elmar Brandt, a comedian and Schroeder sound-alike, captured the mood in a rap song that rose to the top-selling single in Germany. Its chorus - "I'm raising your taxes, elected means elected, you can't fire me now, that's the great thing about democracy" - resonates with Germans.

"They are protesting by calling radio stations and asking for the song, because they know how much each airplay angers Schroeder," Brandt said in a radio interview.

Germany's largest circulation Bild, recently ran the anti-tax lyrics instead of an editorial. Schroeder has maintained a pained silence about Brandt's ditty, which also includes the line, "All you nerds have money buried somewhere, and I'll get it, I'll find it, wherever it is."

In the song's video, a grinning Schroeder puppet ends up being squashed by a safe, a scene that helped inspire a rare public outburst by the chancellor's wife.

"My concern is that this verbal campaign could end in physical violence," Doris Schroeder-Koepf said in an interview with N24 television.

Since winning a second term, Schroeder's government of Social Democrats and Greens has announced plans for a tax on individuals' profits on shares and real estate, cuts in a subsidy for home builders and higher levies on heating oil. It has raised a payroll tax that funds retirement benefits.

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