The first policy statement
The first policy statement of the social democratic chancellor Willy Brandt on October 28, 1969, is more than a summary of the government program negotiated between the SPD and the FDP . It is a "manifesto for a new beginning" in which the chancellor expands his vision for the political renewal of his country. "We are not standing at the end of our democracy, we are just getting started right", is the formula for the major reform plans of the social-liberal coalition. But constraints from the time of the Great Coalition, financial bottlenecks, ever-conflicting departmental interests and not least the unavoidable consideration for the partner's positions in a coalition government reduce the scope of the reform plans.
"Dare more democracy" - this pivotal phrase from the 1969 policy statement aims primarily at increasing all citizens' participation in political events. The lowering of the active voting age from 21 to 18 and the passive voting age from 25 to 21 years takes that into account. In business enterprises, employees' rights to codetermination are strengthened. The Industrial Relations Law (1972) and the Personnel Representation Act (1974) broaden not only the rights of employees in matters which immediately affect their work places but also improve the possibilities for codetermination on operations committees and the access of labor unions to companies. The proportional codetermination in large companies, which the SPD has envisioned, founders on the opposition of the FDP; it is not achieved until 1976 after tough negotiations between the coalition partners.
"Dare more democracy" - this leitmotif of inner reform aims purposefully at all aspects of social life. Democracy - for Brandt that is not merely a state's form of organization, but rather "a principle which must influence and permeate man's entire social existence."
Efforts for new initiatives in educational policy are also conveyed by this concept. Important new directions were already set here by the Great Coalition. But consensus between the large parties in educational policy is lost with the change in governments. In June of 1970 the federal administration submits an education report which favors the controversial comprehensive school and comprehensive university as standard models for "a democratic and efficient educational system." That position is more than certain to bring conflicts with the federal states (Länder), under whose cultural sovereignty educational policy falls. The comprehensive educational plan passed in 1973 is unable to arrange binding guidelines for the states' educational policies. Even the University Framework Law project introduced into the Federal Diet in 1971 suffers from increasing polarization over educational policy. Not until the end of 1975 do federation and states agree on a compromise, which by then fails to give impetus to any new initiatives.
However, some progress is made in improving educational opportunities for children from low-income families. Their increased participation in continuing educational institutions is due chiefly to the Federal Educational Assistance Law (BaföG) of 1971, according to which pupils, students and trainees from low-income homes can receive financial aid.
The area of social security is less controversial. The social report submitted in 1970 by the federal administration even meets with approval from the opposition. First and foremost it proposes broadening the system of social services and increasing their financial underpinning. As early as 1970 continued payment of wages for workers disabled by illness is established by law, welfare payments for children and dwellings are raised and increases in war victim pensions are tied to the inflation rate. The Pension Reform Act (1972) assures all retirees a minimum pension regardless of their contributions. In addition it also provides for a "flexible age limit" which permits early retirement under certain conditions.
Total economic growth is not able in the long run to keep pace with increases in social security. The economic crisis which ensues - with its increasing unemployment rates and resulting declines in contributions to unemployment and retirement insurance funds - puts considerable burdens on social insurance carriers and the public budget.
As a result of worsening economic conditions, reform policy is forced more quickly than expected to choose between solidarity and economic soundness. But in the SPD it remains highly controversial to what extent the depth and tempo of desired reforms can be accomplished with the financial means at hand. Federal Finance Minister Alex Möller (SPD), who called for economic soundness, resigns in May of 1971. Even his successor Karl Schiller (SPD), who heads the economic as well as the finance ministries, is not able to convince his fellow party members to leave "the cups in the cupboard." He resigns in 1972. Helmut Schmidt (SPD), who succeeds him, tries to slow down what he calls the unchained euphoria of reform. He complains about Federal Chancellor Brandt's lack of support for his efforts to ward off the fiscal demands of his colleagues in the cabinet. The cordial relationship which existed between these two leading social democratic politicians cools noticeably.