Secret solidarity is flower soil for populists
The uproar about the Utrecht status holders quickly died down. Then there was a moment of excitement the FD wrote about a group of status holders who had gotten a house and then quit their jobs. There are only six, said Minister Karien van Gennip in the House of Representatives. The councilman later adjusted it to three. The refugee work hastened to report that life for the beneficiaries was "complex and intense". Then calm returned.
That was a bit too fast. "Work always pays," said the minister. I don't know if she had processed what was in it the day before de Volkskrant said: Utrecht grants an energy subsidy to people with an income of up to 150 percent social assistance, the highest percentage in the country. And then there was the Utrecht initiative to offer social housing only to status holders. This was great solidarity from the bottom with the bottom, brought to life by a progressive councilman who probably lives in the more expensive neighborhood behind the Biltstraat. Reason enough to cover up an uproar quickly.
I actually haven't heard from the VVD prime minister in a while about the hardworking Dutchman. What about the group that simply isn't eligible for allowances and community energy contributions? I talked about this with Jos Teunissen, a law professor who is as opinionated as he is original. Each year he casts a critical light on the tax plan. He has written for years that the official tax rate for the middle class is about 37 percent, but the actual cost is much higher, in some cases reaching almost half of gross wages. I'll leave the technology aside, but the devil is in the coalition agreement between VVD and PvdA at the end of 2012.
You remember the VVD revolt when Mark Rutte gave away in a careless moment that the health insurance premium would increase with income. 'Marx Rutte,' headlined The Telegraph. Diederik Samsom came to the rescue of the VVD leader, but of course the result had to remain the same. And so the tax knob was turned and instead of the health insurance premium, the so-called tax reduction was made dependent on income. There was no protest because no one understood it. Wouter Bos, whistleblower and then columnist of this newspaper, understood it. He later wrote a cryptic column suggesting that backhanded solidarity is sometimes preferable to visible solidarity. Sometimes people are better off not knowing it.
Tax decisions not discussed can be challenged. Jos Teunissen recalled the medieval (!) Principle of "no taxation without representation" for which democracy was approximately justified. The idea of underhanded solidarity also sheds surprising light on the difficulties I myself had in learning anything about the relative position of the middle class. The Nibud specialists from the budget book could not help me. You have there the income pictures of 120 family compositions, but nothing about the relationship between income groups. Under former director Kim Putters, the SCP was a tireless advocate for "groups of vulnerable citizens who have been left behind and not taken seriously for years". But nothing about their relative position in terms of benefits and burdens.
Until I spoke with Stella Hoff of the same SCP, which leads the investigation Profit from the government from 2017. It recorded for each income group exactly how much "benefits from government" people had. Five years later everything is different, but not that the Netherlands is a gigantic redistribution machine. Think of something and it is paid for, distributed and enjoyed according to means. From healthcare to education and from sports to culture. The transfers are enormous. In general, the rich pay the most by far, but the trouble is in the middle. There the care burden is high, they lose livelihood because there is no housing allowance and often no mortgage interest deduction, and also no municipal special funds as in Utrecht.
On a graph, you can see how steeply the government's gain drops as soon as the hard-working Dutchman presents himself. This forgotten group, the "dropouts" of Rene Cuperus and Josse de Voogd, was abandoned mainly by the VVD. But in half a year we will hear again the loud complaint about the populist vote in the state elections. The SCP had intended to repeat the survey on government services after five years. It did not happen.