Japan from the inside out

Perverting the popular will

Posted by ampontan on Thursday, October 22, 2009

THE CONTINUING TURMOIL within the Cabinet of Japan’s ruling Democratic Party over the funding sources for their campaign pledge to provide annual subsidies to families with children threatens to confirm the electorate’s worst pre-election fears about the party. Those fears included:

1. A lack of competence in governance
2. The absence of party unity
3. An inability to keep their word
4. Giving priority to political crises over policy
5. Their true intentions

The DPJ translated their platform into English and placed it on their website, which is linked on the right sidebar. Here’s what it says about the child allowance:

“We will pay a child allowance of JPY 312,000 per annum (about $US 3,450) for all children until they finish junior high school.”

According to their platform, this will require an outlay of JPY 5.5 trillion annually. Critics both outside and in the party have insisted for more than a year they wouldn’t be able to fund the plank in the manner they propose. (Some said they could only come up with half of it that way, and only for the first year.) Now the new Government is admitting what everyone else had known all along.

<em>L-R</em>: Hatoyama, Kumagai, Hirano

L-R: Hatoyama, Kumagai, Hirano

Bedlam erupted when some in the Cabinet suggested that local governments and private-sector businesses be made to foot part of the bill. Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Haraguchi Kazuhiro objected that this contradicted their platform promises and would require holding a new election to gain public support.

Those who would make local governments and businesses pay tried to justify their proposal by claiming that the party platform did not specifically state that the national government would be liable for all expenses.

One of them, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirano Hirofumi, said this at a press conference on the 19th:

“The choice of cooperation from local government is possible.”

Note the use of the word cooperation as a euphemism for coercion. Note also that the stratagem itself is the essence of duplicity.

Responded Prime Minister Hatoyama Yukio during a speech on the 20th in Yokohama:

“’Local government liability’ is not what I have in mind…Of course the national government will bear the full liability. The nation’s finances are very tight, so the Finance Ministry had the idea of having local government be partially liable. That’s too cold-hearted. I will definitely build a consensus in this direction (i.e., national government) as the prime minister.”

Note that Mr. Hatoyama tries to shift the blame on the Finance Ministry, the most powerful of the bureaucracies and the primary offender among those in Kasumigaseki that would usurp political authority.

But if the Finance Ministry hasn’t changed its ways, why has the new government outsourced the compilation of the new budget to them, as this otherwise fawning editorial from the Mainichi suggests? The DPJ also promised in their platform to make sure politicians handled these matters in the future.

At a press conference that same evening, Mr. Hirano retorted:

“The (prime minister’s) statement carries weight, but we must decide on a specific proposal that includes the prime minister’s opinion.”

Just who’s in charge around here? Are we to believe the prime minister does not set the policy for his own Government? That he has to spend the time to create a consensus for an issue that no one thought existed two weeks ago? Why is the Chief Cabinet Secretary contradicting the prime minister–his boss–within a matter of hours?

For another example of the inscrutability of Japanese politics, Mr. Hirano was selected because he was considered a Hatoyama ally and confidante.

This brought an immediate response from Mr. Haraguchi:

“Once the national government makes a decision, the automatic assumption that local governments should also bear financial liability calls into question our qualifications to promote devolution and reform.”

Mr. Haraguchi is taking an admirable stand on principle, and he’s right to tie the financing issue to the platform promises of greater regional autonomy.

Unless they’re going to try to weasel out of that promise, too.

As inevitable as death, taxes, and duplicitous politicos was the explosive response from Osaka Prefecture Gov. Hashimoto Toru. The wildly popular Mr. Hashimoto was the most prominent of the nation’s governors who spent the spring and summer preaching the gospel of the decentralization of the national government, the devolution of authority, and the end to unfunded mandates. He’s already declared that his prefecture would no longer pay the personnel expenditures for those national civil servants working in Osaka.

The DPJ had to have known he would be livid. Several members of the party’s leadership visited Osaka during the summer specifically to win his endorsement. The party even humiliated itself by retracting and amending its platform after a highly publicized presentation because the governor thought it wasn’t tough enough on the issue of devolution.

Here’s what Mr. Hashimoto said:

“It’s dictatorial politics for the DPJ to arbitrarily decide something and then tell the regions to put up the money. It’s a Communist state. (The use of the expression) ‘Local authority’ (in their platform) was a disguise.”

After the party’s landslide victory at the end of August, some members now apparently assume they can dispense with Mr. Hashimoto and other local reformers and do as they please. Then again, it’s not as if the DPJ was fond of the governor to begin with. The photo above shows Mr. Hatoyama and Mr. Hirano with Kumagai Sadatoshi, the candidate they endorsed in the Osaka election that Mr. Hashimoto won.

A sign of what’s to come?

Will the party continue to come up with excuses to do as it likes regardless of the popular will? There already have been some troubling signs.

Here’s Health, Labor, and Welfare Minister Nagatsuma Akira speaking to ministry employees on 17 September:

“The party platform (contains) our orders from the people.”

And Education Minister Kawabata Tatsuo speaking to his employees the same day:

“The party platform is not a promise. It is something that has weight, instructions that the people said we must carry out. The people have mandated that I implement it as quickly as possible.”

This is, of course, arrant nonsense. The DPJ is in power because they are not the LDP, and for no other reason. Most voters didn’t bother to read their platform, and few could even say what’s in it other than the two or three planks most commonly discussed on television.

Then again, the party didn’t make all of it easy to read either, as a look at the printed version makes clear. They put all the grass for the goats in large print and color up front. Then, starting on page 16, in print small enough for an insurance policy, they advance a different agenda. For example:

“Establish an institution for the relief of the infringement of human rights, and ratify the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights”

That protocol gives individuals the right to complain to a UN body after they’ve exhausted legal procedures in their home country;. i.e., they can’t win their case. It is designed to address individual violations of human rights in the more benighted parts of the world of which Japan is not a part. To cite one example, South Africa in the apartheid era made all its civil servants speak to citizens in Afrikaans only. An appeal based on the use of that protocol ended that policy.

It should go without saying that Japan has no problems of the sort. Unless, of course, one thinks that private sector public baths banning foreigners in some Hokkaido towns after drunken Russian sailors urinated in the shared tubs constitutes an infringement of human rights requiring UN attention. The objective of the leftist elements in the DPJ is to enable the creation of a cottage industry of rights hustlers similar to the shakedown operations run by Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and others in the U.S.

Other countries that have not signed the Optional Protocol include the United States, Great Britain, India, and China.

Also lurking in the fine print is a proposal to provide public support to non-profit organizations. Gee, do we have to ask who the beneficiaries of that one will be?

Does anyone really think it is the people’s mandate for these parts of the platform to be implemented as quickly as possible? A better question would be whether as many as 1% of the electorate has even heard of those planks.

Bait and switch, deceit, and a manifesto that contains stealth provisions and disposable policies–those weren’t part of the people’s mandate either.

3 Responses to “Perverting the popular will”

  1. Ken Y-N said

    The photo above shows Mr. Hatoyama and Mr. Hirano with Kumagai Sadatoshi, the candidate they endorsed in the Osaka election that Mr. Hatoyama won.

    That should be Mr. Hashimoto there.

    Other than that, very interesting, thanks. Here’s a question sort-of related to your mention of the “Establish an institution for the relief of the infringement of human rights”. When I saw it in the manifesto I wondered what it was doing there, but what I still wonder even more about is why our favourite rights hustler has said absolutely nothing publically about this, votes for PRs, or even made a direct request for ratifying the Hague Convention?
    Thanks for catching that. I fixed it.

    – A.

  2. RMilner said

    My wife voted for the DPJ for two reasons:

    1. They aren’t the LDP.
    2. Increased child support allowance.

  3. Bender said

    But the DPJ is abolishing spousal deduction instead. Maybe people won’t get to the point where they can have kids!

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