White collar hit men
Posted by ampontan on Monday, January 9, 2012
ONE reason people overseas fail to see the reasons for the dysfunction of Japan’s political system at the national level is the difficulty in comprehending the strength and influence of the bureaucracy, which considers itself to be permanent ruling class. Here are two views on one aspect of that problem. The first is by journalist Suda Shin’ichiro, which appeared in the 18 January edition of the biweekly Sapio.
It’s well known that the Finance Ministry officials responsible for dealing with the mass media are sent to deliver individual briefings (“lectures”) to opinion leaders with a certain amount of influence in forming public opinion, such as television commentators. The objective of these briefings is to convince them of the necessity for raising the consumption tax.
This has become more evident of late. As a producer with an important Tokyo-based network says:
They haven’t tired of developing a pro-tax increase group, and they’ve begun to pressure television producers to prevent them from using commentators who are critical of tax increases.
To be specific, the name at the head of the list they’re told not to use is Koga Shigeaki, former Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry official. The producer continues:
Mr. Koga is their sworn enemy. Politicians with the support of the Finance Ministry are making it a condition for their television appearances that Mr. Koga not be invited.
The Finance Ministry seems to be in something of a rush. To pacify the Democratic Party Diet members, they’ve fastened on the idea of vote differentials. Explains one mid-level DPJ MP:
Prime Minister Noda said he will take the issue of the tax increase to the public after the legislation passes, but before it goes into effect. Some party members who favor tax increases have begun to argue it’s not possible to dissolve the Diet and hold a general election unless the unconstitutional condition (differences in voter weight in election districts across the country), frequently cited by the Supreme Court, is resolved.
They’re calculating that public opinion will simmer down and they won’t be at such a disadvantage if they can use this situation to put off the election as long as possible. The Finance Ministry is likely encouraging them in this belief.
It doesn’t seem possible that buying time will get the electorate to swallow the tax increase and settle down. But even if the DPJ, which has fallen for the con, loses the next election, it would present no problem at all for the ministry. The Liberal Democratic Party is also calling for a 10% tax increase.
Furthering the discussion on his blog is Your Party Secretary-General, Eda Kenji:
I’ve raised in the Diet the question of what Katayama Yoshihiro, former Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications, calls the Finance Ministry’s “mind control”. Their assault in waves is something out of the ordinary. I got a real sense for the terror of it when I was involved with Finance Ministry reform during the Hashimoto administration.
Even then there was talk about Finance Ministry efforts to prevent television appearances by people such as Koga Shigeaki. But operations on that level are not so surprising. That’s child’s play for the Finance Ministry bureaucrats.
It’s often remarked that the trio of Finance Minister Azumi, Vice-Minister Katsu, and Deputy Vice-Minister Kagawa are on a “tax increase pilgrimage”. They’re making their explanatory pilgrimages to opinion leaders in many circles, including key people in the financial industry, academia, and mass media, in addition to politicians in the ruling and opposition parties. They pay particular attention to people asked to give commentary on television or in newspapers.
In a sense, it’s natural for the Finance Ministry to promote tax increases. One would have to question the insight of the so-called analysts who would fall for that sort of persuasion. They haven’t approached me, a dyed-in-the-wool member of the anti-tax increase faction, at all.
The problem is that their efforts go beyond that level. In my case, the Finance Ministry sent people out on pilgrimages to attack and slander me. Those bureaucrats even had a manual. Their stories of course filtered into the mass media, which thrives on such rumors.
If a person is going to assertively promote reform against the wishes of the Finance Ministry, they must be prepared for those attacks and stay clean.
After all that, it’s time for a palate cleanser and a burst of sunshine on a winter’s day from the original Nenez.