Opinion: Enough is enough

POSTED: 06/10/14 12:04 AM

Philip Polderman is a retired director of a Dutch college that employs 180 personnel and services 1,800 students. Polderman strongly disagrees with the prevailing culture wherein top managers determine each other’s salaries. Someone who earns 52 times as much as the lowest paid employee, that is immoral, he writes in an op-ed in the Volkskrant.

That made us think of our Members of Parliament: they also decide about their own remuneration. During the most recent budget meeting in January, a proposal by MP Roy Marlin to take a salary cut met with dead silence from his fellow-MPs. Our parliamentarians love their comfy paycheck. But whose fault is it really that they are able to keep squeezing the treasury for their bloated income?

Polderman writes that, before he retired, he did not even clear 2.5 times what the concierges at his school took home. To earn 52 times the salary of the lowest-earner in an organization is absurd, immoral, abject and perverted, but you hear nobody talk about this, Polderman notes. The high top salaries are not related to responsibilities or the perceived enormous qualities of a top manager – let alone that the $125,000 before taxes an MP in St. Maarten collects has anything to do with the qualities most of our parliamentarians bring to the party.

In Polderman’s school the salary-structure does not lead to jealousy, job hunting or nepotism. In St. Maarten the ridiculously high payment for a seat in parliament has resulted in voter-hunting and bribery – anything to become one of the fat cats – while there are not even basic job requirements.

Polderman explains in simple terms how bonuses for top managers in the private sector came about – greed in combination with the possibility to unleash that characteristic freely because the people who benefit from this system are the same people who decide about these bonuses. That, too, explains why the fat paychecks for our MPs will haunt us forever, unless a new breed of politicians – those who really want to serve the community instead of themselves – takes over. That could take time and it could also never happen.

Polderman suggests a system whereby the fat cats no longer have a say in their own income. If that fails, he suggests using fiscal instruments to take away excessive cream. It’s just fine if that makes “our best people” move abroad Polderman writes, because this will offer the many talented people that do not belong to the old boys network the opportunity to take their place.

He concludes his opinion with a quote from Joop den Uyl, the political leader of the Labor Party PvdA in the seventies of last century. Den Uyl once told Polderman: “Never reproach people for earning too much money. Blame the society that allows it.”

From this we learn that, if we ever want to bring the paychecks for our politicians down to reasonable proportions, the community will have the stand up and say, enough is enough.

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