Opinion: Hot topic {How government spends our money}

POSTED: 11/8/12 1:34 PM

How government spends our money is often a hot topic. In the Netherlands all hell broke loose after the VVD agreed with its coalition partner to make healthcare premiums income-dependent. In other words: the more money you make, the higher the premium.

The well-off middle class VVD-voters are not amused and if we have to believe the polls, they have massively dropped Rutte and his party.

But what is this all about? Columnist Malou van Hintum attacked the whiners in the Volkskrant yesterday when she wrote that the resistance against the measures the new cabinet has in mind are so darn egocentric.

This is not something that is going to strangle low income earners or citizens on unemployment or welfare benefits. It is going to hit the middle class and the middle class is a very unhappy camper at the moment. It is not that these people are going to eat one slice of bread less because of these measures.

If we read Van Hintum correctly it is about giving up some of the luxury the middle class has gotten so comfortably accustomed to. But it’s not like they have to go and live on food stamps.

Other measures did not even cause a ripple. The massive cut in development aid? Nobody seems to give a damn. Less money for the arts and science? Nobody cares – apart of course from artists, scientists and the poor people depending on foreign aid.

Van Hintum writes, with good reason, that this is a big scandal: “Economizing on the arts and science is cutting the soul out of a community.”

Artists give our life taste and color, Van Hintum points out and we could not help thinking about the causeway across the Simpson Bay Lagoon, the Justice Park in Cay Hill, the tunnel from Cole Bay to St. Peters, the ring road in the Great Salt Pond and the umpteenth pier in the harbor.

And still, St. Maarten has a lively creative community – in music, dance, and the visual arts. But somehow it feels that all these mega-million projects overshadow it all.

With van Hintum we could say: what is more important: a tunnel through some hill, or a flourishing theater? A ring road (for driving around in circles) or great exhibitions of local, regional and international creative minds?

We all know the right answer. Without the arts, every country would start looking like one big meeting of the Chinese communist party. No color, no taste, no freedom and no originality.

But as we are seeing now in the Netherlands, all this becomes of lesser importance as soon as the government touches people’s income. That is what gets people going, that is what makes them mad.

In St. Maarten that moment is coming closer as well. Our government has ambitious plans – and they all seem to be for the betterment of our society. That there is no money does not seem to matter: we’ll go to the Central Bank for a loan, or we take it from poor suckers who are unable to stay here without a residence permit.

What our politicians are not telling us that all these loans have to be repaid, and that money has to come from somewhere. Since it does not grow on trees, as our more prudent forebears liked to say, it has to come from working class people. They become the proverbial lemon the government will squeeze and squeeze until there is nothing to squeeze anymore.

All that money that will go into these grandiose projects cannot be spent anymore on the things that color our life and that we described above.

In the Netherlands the middle class is screaming blue murder because the government is threatening to take away a piece of their luxury lifestyle. In St. Maarten many people do not even have a luxury lifestyle. But we do have half a ring road; we may get a drag racing strip and a cricket stadium, plus that tunnel and the causeway, of course.

Now we are waiting until the long-heralded but never materialized national health insurance system becomes a reality. What that is going to cost average citizens is up to now a mystery. Maybe our government should consider making the premium income-dependent.

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