Rutte Survives Tax Debacle, Middle America Not Doing So Badly

The Dutch prime minister is censured, but not sent home. Small-town Americans are taking matters into their own hands.

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte makes a speech in parliament in The Hague, November 13, 2012
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte makes a speech in parliament in The Hague, November 13, 2012 (Rijksoverheid)

The Netherlands’ Mark Rutte has been reprimanded by opposition parties for failing to disclose memos to parliament about internal government deliberations over the repeal of a business tax.

Rutte claimed he had not been aware of the papers, which were drafted by the Finance Ministry during the formation of his current government. The four parties in his coalition, which have a one-seat majority, accepted this explanation. All opposition parties but one voted to censure him.

Rutte surprised other parties by eliminating the dividend tax when he returned to power in October. Repeal had not been part of his election program. The suspicion in The Hague is that Rutte’s former employer, Unilever, and Royal Dutch Shell — two of the Netherlands’ largest companies — lobbied him to eliminate the tax.

Macron takes jabs at Trump

Without mentioning Donald Trump by name, French president Emmanuel Macron took several jabs at his American counterpart in a speech to Congress on Wednesday. He urged the United States to remain in the Iran nuclear deal, which Trump is determined to tear up, and said he was confident the country would “one day” return to the Paris climate accords, which Trump has withdrawn from.

More generally, he endorsed multilateralism and free trade and rejected nationalism. It won his applause from Democrats, but Trump’s Republicans sat on their hands.

Middle America is not doing so badly

James Fallows resists the narrative that big-city America is the place where things happen and the rest of the country has things happen to it. He writes in The Atlantic that many small cities and towns are taking matters into their own hands:

  • Civic governance: Americans have more faith in local government, where parties tend to be more pragmatic.
  • Immigration: Areas that actually receive many immigrants tend to assimilate them well. It’s the low-immigration parts of the country that fear immigration the most.
  • Talent dispersal: Americans with skills are trading the big cities on the coasts for medium-sized cities in the interior, where the costs of living are lower and the quality of life is higher.
  • Schools: Are working with local employers to train students for decently paying jobs.
  • Libraries: Surprisingly, are flourishing.
  • Manufacturing: Donald Trump’s nostalgia notwithstanding, coal and steel are not making a comeback. But small, high-tech manufacturing companies are doing well.
  • Downtowns: Are repairing the damage done by the previous generation’s separation of living and commerce.

Not everything is sunny in California

Ross Douthat pours cold water on Peter Leyden’s and Ruy Teixeira’s California-is-the-future thesis (which I wrote about in December). He points to an overlooked trend: the out-migration of middle-class whites, who now vote conservative.

The same trends that have made California so uniformly liberal, Douthat argues, have encouraged Trumpism elsewhere:

Is an ex-Californian who’s doing OK economically but lives in a hotter, flatter, less glamorous and ocean-breeze-kissed part of the country than his parents, and who gripes that what was once his middle-class hometown is now all immigrants speaking Spanish and the liberal superrich, worried about ethnic or socioeconomic displacement? The answer really can be both.