SP launches Manifesto: United against disparity

23 September 2023

SP launches Manifesto: United against disparity

Foto: SP

Everyone should be able to make ends meet. To buy food, to have affordable housing, good health care and education. Unfortunately, too many people today do not have access to these basic certainties. Radical change is needed to correct this injustice. Where individual self-interest and financial gain take a back seat to social interest and solidarity. Where wealth is distributed more fairly. Where vital provisions such as affordable housing, health care, public transport and energy are in public hands. Without a profit motive and competition.

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Our livelihoods, our security is at stake.

The Netherlands has drastically changed over the past few decades. Inequality is sharply rising and for large segments of the population, progress has halted. The disposable income of households has barely risen in over forty years! Although housing, health care, education and energy are fundamental rights, in practice, these have almost become privileges. This is threatening the livelihoods of many people in our society.

The figures don’t lie: roughly 825,000 people in our country live below the poverty line - 200,000 of these are children. The Bureau of Economic Policy and Analysis (CPB) has warned us that this number will exceed 1 million next year. A majority of these people living in poverty are what is called “the working poor”. 220,000 people with one or more jobs live below the poverty line. What’s more, an estimated 600,000 households have problematic debts and 800,000 households are in high-risk debt; roughly 135,000 tenants are behind in their rent payments and 1 out 5 people regularly avoid medical care out of fear for high bills or having to pay their deductible excess. In the meantime, the foodbanks can no longer handle the demand.

And we haven’t even touched on the rising number of homeless and those with only temporary housing (100,000) and the growing number of people (mostly young people) who have grave concerns about their financial future. We are facing an enormous challenge.

The disparity is growing

Not only is the number of people living in poverty growing, the number of millionaires has also grown over the past decades. Our country is currently accumulating more and more “super-rich”.

Company profits are increasing tremendously, with Dutch firms making record profits over the past year. Working people are creating these profits, but are seeing none of the spoils. The profits are exclusively being paid out to shareholders while the disposable income of the majority of our inhabitants has hardly increased since 1977.

This disparity of wealth can be felt in all aspects of our society. People with a lower income do not live as long and enjoy fewer years of good health. The children of people with a vocational background have fewer opportunities to climb up the educational ladder. Segregation on the basis of income has become the norm. This can also be said about the level of participation in the the political process.

A conscious political process

The increased uncertainty and disparity of wealth are not forces of nature, of course, these are the result of a conscious political process. In the Netherlands, this political project largely took place under the leadership of the “Purple” Cabinets of Balkenende and the 13 unfortunate years under Rutten. With breakneck speed, taxes on the highest incomes, large assets and high profits were reduced. The public sector was privatised and stripped down. The free market was the answer for everything. Under the false promise that it would be cheaper and more efficient, important public tasks were taken away from the government and taken over by the market.

Deterioration of provisions

All basic provisions, ranging from public transport, energy, health care to our social housing associations were sold and left to compete on the market or were stimulated to “prickle” the market and seek gains. A number of masking words were used to conceal this: to take distance from, privatise, outsource, allow market forces free play. But his involved the conscious breakdown of the public sector which belonged to all of us. Our energy has been privatised and squandered. Public housing has been torn down and deserted. Public transport has demerged and derailed.

The profits we earned as a society through our raw materials, our expertise and our labour have ended up with companies and by extension, with shareholders and chief executive officers. With those who already enjoyed a life of plenty. But all of the risks were passed down to society - this is a phenomenon we saw with every new crisis.

Consequences for society

The consequences of these politics are massive. It has resulted in an eroded government. A government that is able to do less and less. With the breakdown of the public sector, the organisational power, the knowledge and the execution possibilities of the government also broke down. The faith in the government and other collective institutions has completely dissipated. When

When a retreating government spends decades telling people that their success is their own doing and their misfortune is their own fault, that they are individually responsible for having their affairs in order, it is only logical that they become more and more individualistic. Solidarity is then thoroughly eroded. When one of the people’s most important tool for power - participation in the democratic process - is diminished and devalued because politicians and the government are less and less involved in essential day-to-day matters, people will start to turn their back on politics and each other.

The active welfare state has been replaced by a distrustful and chastising government. This is clearly evidenced by the government’s response to the earthquake damage in Groningen and the Tax Authority’s subsidy scandal.

From breakdown to buildup

It will take more than stopgaps to bolster the security of our livelihood and combat inequality. A slight minimum wage increase or decline in prices will not suffice. Another kind of politics is urgently needed. After years of erosion, we need to buildup the collective provisions again: with proper health care, affordable public transport, reliable energy supply and good retirement provision. This to ensure that we not only have more say, but that we also share in the winnings. Collective security is created by sharing those winnings fairly.

United against disparity

We can only implement real change if we mobilise and energise people. If we convert the prevailing hopelessness into courage. If we convert that courage into action. A small change that takes place among the people can give renewed hope for a better future.

We invite everyone to join us in this new buildup, in a new social change. To join us in battle. We are convinced that a new and better future awaits this country. A country in which we are united against disparity, in which we are united in the fight for securing our livelihoods.

With this Manifesto, we advocate that:

  • Every person should be able to make a living. That is why we want to immediately increase the minimum wage to EUR 16 per hour. This automatically means the related benefits such as AOW, Wajong, WIA and the social welfare minimum also increase. This is how we can ensure that everyone will able to make ends meet. We will implement a millionaire’s tax and we will increase the corporate income tax for large companies.
  • Every person is entitled to affordable housing. We will lower the rent, prohibit the sale of social (rental) housing and to make renters less dependent on the market, we propose a maximum rental price for all types of housing. This will give people more affordable housing options instead of allowing real estate owners and speculators to get rich.
  • Every person is entitled to proper health care. Health care is not a market. That is why we are founding a National Health Care Fund with no excess deductible amount. Dental care, physical therapy and psychiatric care will again be covered in the basic insurance policy. This will make the proliferation of policies, insurers and bureaucracy superfluous. We will firmly tackle the profits that pharmaceutical companies and “health care entrepreneurs” are taking in.
  • Every person is entitled to clean energy. We will reduce the costs for ordinary people by reducing the energy tax on households and increasing the tax on major users. We will achieve this by implementing a new price ceiling, without subsidising energy companies. To regain control over the price, sustainability and supply of energy, we will nationalise our energy sector.
  • Every person is entitled to sufficient food. We will lower the VAT on foodstuffs so that the price of everyday groceries will be lower for everyone. We will achieve this by making agreements with the supermarket giants to lower the price of essential groceries, as is the case in many other countries. If the supermarket giants don’t keep up their end of the bargain, we will implement an excess profit tax.

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