Japan from the inside out

Open letter to Yosano Kaoru

Posted by ampontan on Thursday, July 9, 2009

To: Yosano Kaoru, Minister of Finance, Liberal Democratic Party headquarters
From: Ampontan, c/o This Website
In re: Your criticism of the opposition Democratic Party of Japan’s new platform

Mr. Yosano:

The Asahi Shimbun account of your recent speech in Unnan, Shimane, in which you slammed the DPJ platform, contained some most interesting quotes.

For example:

“It’s mostly a world of pipe dreams and trompe l’oeil.”


“It makes me think even the Communist Party is more serious.”

I agree completely. It is a world of pipe dreams and optical illusions, and considering how they hold fast to their core beliefs, the Communist Party of Japan is more serious (despite offering even stronger opiates and more distorted optical illusions). Then again, at least they have party-wide core beliefs to hold fast to.

In fact, I suspect that most of the Japanese electorate would agree with you too. The DPJ’s policies are a weird blend of the childish and the cynical, are they not? No one in Japan believes their numbers—least of all themselves—and the internal contradictions of the platform show a disrespect for both the electorate and the political process. In some ways, it does border on the criminal, as a Kyodo report quoted you as saying.

And bringing up the Communists is apropos, because the DPJ platform is a bit Bolshie in places, isn’t it?

For example, the Asahi report said you specifically mentioned the DPJ policy of giving income supplements to individual farm families, after which you commented:

“You cannot trust a party that appeals to the people with assertions that are mistaken in their most basic aspect.”

There’s an even better example you could have chosen: Their plank calling for the elimination of the income tax deduction for children and replacing it with a direct monthly government stipend through junior high school. Of course they’ll want to extend that through high school, eventually, once they put the hook in.

But you couldn’t very well mention that one, could you? After all, that idea originated with your New Komeito coalition partners in the Tokyo Metro District.

Still, all these complaints are beside the point, and we both know why. Absent a change in the status quo, they’re going to beat you like a drum in the lower house election.

And just about everyone in the country understands the reasons for it but you.

Here’s the most important one: You didn’t learn the Koizumian lesson. Mr. Maverick came into office with public support rates above 80% and left five and a half years later with those same rates at 70%, after delivering the second-largest lower house electoral victory in postwar history. That might well be unprecedented for a modern democracy, particularly one of the larger ones like Japan.

Did he achieve all the reforms that he promised? No, but politics is the art of the possible, and he had to lay his political life on the line to get as much as he did.

But let’s be honest–It’s not as if you understood any of that to begin with. It took the political equivalent of a Hail Mary pass after the porcine ineptitude of Mori Yoshiro and a revolt from the local rank and file to force you to select him at all.

Yet within months after he stepped down, you readmitted the people he threw out of the party for opposing postal privatization, which immediately sliced 20 percentage points off those public support numbers. You must have suspected that would happen, but you did it anyway, didn’t you?

According to Nakagawa Hidenao, 70% of the lower house members are (were) reform supporters, but you allowed the party machinery and the bureaucracy to slowly grind them down.

The drubbing the electorate administered to your party in the upper house election of 2007 should have been enough to grab the attention of the most slack-jawed of dullards, but you didn’t learn even after that brick wall fell on you.

You might have been relieved by the rebound of the Cabinet support rate to almost 60% after you installed Fukuda Yasuo as prime minister, but that was a pipe dream of your own. It fell back into the 20s as soon as everyone understood that Mr. Fukuda’s forte was that he had no forte, as a DPJ wag put it. But that’s one you should have understood to begin with.

It could not have been clearer what the Japanese people have thought for nearly 20 years about the wicked way your party has gone about its business, and how they will reward anyone who makes the effort to do something—anything–else.

So you’re finally worried about losing to the party that behaves like a primary school student with a loaded pistol, as Mr. Ibuki so accurately described them?

You’ve got no one to blame but yourselves for that, I’m afraid.

And now you’re stuck between several rocks and the proverbial hard place. You can have Mr. Aso lead the party into the election on a platform of raising taxes and defending the bureaucracy, and stand on the deck of the Mudboat-maru as it crumbles and dissolves.

Or, you could replace him with some semi-plausible reform alternative and prepare for the election. But no one will blame the DPJ for screaming bloody murder over that one. And your coalition partners say they’ll withhold support from any LDP Diet member who calls for Mr. Aso to step down.

Goodness only knows what backroom deal you cut with them behind the scenes—a promise to delay the election until October so they can play their shell game with Japan’s 90-day residency requirement for voters after the local Tokyo balloting? Whatever it was, you’re stuck with it.

On the other hand, replacing Mr. Aso with a serious reformer holds the risk that the bureaucrats will find a way to bring him (or her) down too. We’ve seen how the Social Insurance Agency nailed shut Mr. Abe’s coffin when you were ready to privatize them. That’s one lesson you did seem to learn. More than a few people think sources in Kasumigaseki provided the prosecutors with information on the fund-raising practices of Ozawa Ichiro. Isn’t it funny how no one could find any dirt despite sniffing around Mr. Ozawa’s finances for years—until it looked like his party might win?

And now the same thing’s happening to Mr. Hatoyama. What a coincidence!

Mr. Koizumi might have caught them off guard, but you can be sure that won’t happen again. They’ll be ready for your next reformer.

So it’s a bit late in the game for you and the rest of the LDP sleepwalkers to start worrying about a party that offers only pipe dreams, isn’t it?

You might be familiar with an old English expression–You made your bed, now you’ll have to lie in it.

Don’t forget to turn out the light.



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