The recent spate of bad economic news is akin to a freezing autumn rain ruining the end of a sunny late summer’s day. Bold optimism characterised the first half of 2014. The German economy seemed to be brimming with vitality, untouched by problems elsewhere in Europe, and the “grand coalition” was able to pursue two goals that are seldom compatible. First, the government generously introduced numerous relief and benefit measures, including improved pensions for parents, the ability to retire at 63 without penalties, and tax relief for municipalities. Second, flourishing tax revenues placed a balanced federal budget in 2015 in near reach. That the budget is nearly balanced in spite of new benefits is partially attributable to the fact that the costs of recent pension reforms are hidden in the social insurance system's implicit debts, and do not have immediate impact on the budget. Clearly, experts who warned that expenditures should be decreased in good economic times in order to allow increased spending when times are hard went unheeded. Now the economy has begun to falter. Poleaxed by this turn of events, policy-makers have begun squabbling over the best course of action. Some are demanding immediate cutbacks to keep the hope of a balanced budget alive, despite the economic downturn's inevitable reduction in tax revenues. Others propose abandoning the goal of balancing the books, and instead recommend increased expenditures, with more money directed to public works and infrastructure.