In two weeks there will be general elections in the Netherlands. We are then supposed to vote for who will (nominally) represent us in the Second Chamber of parliament. This will have no effect on the way we are governed, of course, since our betters have shackled us to the enormity we call The Turnip on this blog.
The way we vote will only in a very abstract, far-removed way influence a tiny fraction within our real government: The EUnion. How we vote will determine a coalition, which will determine who will be minister, which will determine who will look out for our interests as one of 27 ‘colleagues’ in the European Council. And then only if the Lisbon Treaty allows it, since per the Turnip member state ministers have a first duty to the EUnion, and specifically NOT the country they represent.
Given the turmoil of the moment it isn’t really a surprise that the overriding issue in the campaign is the economy. However, so much power and sovereignty has been handed over to Brussels, that the right-honourable gentlemen and ladies can only frame the issues in the narrowest terms. Hence, the contest does not involve our billions worth of contributions to Greek pensions. No, the issues debated are those that are linked to budget cuts over which our local government (still) has any influence: Whether the tax deductibility of mortgage rent is or is not subject to more stringent conditions, or whether the subsidies on child day care should or should not be raised. It is virtuosity on a millimetre squared.
There is, however, something to chose. As the contest rages on, a clear dividing line is appearing between those that still think the welfare state sustainable and those that are beginning to turn away from that idee-fixe. Of the former are the parties of the left. Although all parties realize that cuts are needed, none of of the left are willing to entertain the idea that the overriding problem is not government income, but government spending. Hence the proposals coming from the PvdA, GroenLinks, Christian Union, the Socialist Party and to a certain extent D66, involve higher taxes, especially on the more productive side of the economy.
So ingrained is their thinking in terms of government income, that they immediately equate budget cuts to tax burden increase. Which is the point where projection makes itself felt: Unable to fathom any other line of thinking they accuse the opposing side of increasing the burden of tax even more then the left would, if voted into government.
On the other side we have the CDA, VVD and notably the PVV. And while both CDA and VVD still partly defer costs of government overspending to taxpayers, the PVV has made it a point of making cuts by reducing government spending: Reducing subsidies on ‘social’ projects (like equipping rowdy ‘youth’ with football courts and activity homes), charity (Oxfam-Novib alone is good for half a billion of government subsidies, with Christian charity ICCO, for instance, not far behind) and cultural subsidies.
Be that as it may, as an (arguably) objective observer, it is a source of endless frustration that the wider issues (such as the PIIGS mismanaging their economies and the rest of the 27 footing the bill, or a EUnion set of bosses that turned a blind eye to this abuse, or the looming economic catastrophe that awaits us all as a result of these) are not even mentioned. One would be forgiven to think, after watching the election debated, that Holland considered itself an island-nation, with no ties to speak of to the outside world. As the campaign lingers on, the impression is that the overriding conviction among Dutch politicians is one where there is a planet called The Netherlands, which is in proximity of, but completely divorced from, the planet we call Earth. Or in proximity of, but completely divorced from reality, for that matter.
And that is the slim choice we are given…