Japan from the inside out

The DPJ promise keepers

Posted by ampontan on Thursday, November 3, 2011

IT doesn’t require a Diogenes carrying a lantern at high noon to look for the positive accomplishments of the Democratic Party of Japan since forming their first government in September 2009. Their singular achievement is to have irrefutably proven to their fellow countrymen that anything any politician says should be viewed as balderdash of the lowest order. If they’ve demonstrated any excellence, it is in the margin by which they’ve cleared the bar of the global malarkey standard for the political class.

For example, a dip into the party’s own Japanese language news archive reveals that a group of DPJ legislators submitted a package of four bills in the Diet on 9 May 2007 — when they were in the opposition — to root out amakudari. In general, that’s the practice of giving senior civil servants post-retirement positions in quangos in the sectors they were once responsible for regulating. Many of those organizations were created and maintained with the intent of providing that employment.

The DPJ bills would have amended the national civil servants’ law to limit their employment and to adopt other controls on retirement. They would have prohibited the recommendation by anyone in government for hiring an ex-bureaucrat at the quasi-governmental agencies. They would also have extended the period from two years to five for rehiring a civil servant for government work, and extended the restrictions on employment at for-profit firms to non-profits.

One of the MPs submitting the legislation was Mabuchi Sumio, later to become the Minister of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport in the Kan Cabinet.

Matsumoto Takeaki, then the chairman of the party’s Policy Research Council, said at the time:

When the DPJ takes over government, of course a very big broom will be sweeping clean.

Mr. Matsumoto was Kan Naoto’s second foreign minister, and is the great-great-grandson of Ito Hirobumi, Japan’s first prime minister. His very big broom has now turned out to be a foxtail duster.

The primary receptacle for amakudari employment is incorporated administrative agencies. Last month, the Government Revitalization Unit, chaired by Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko, submitted a report after examining 103 of those agencies for possible merger or elimination. The unit said that elimination, privatization, or combination for 88 of them — more than 80% — was “either impossible or difficult”. The Cabinet had already decided to eliminate 13 of the remaining 15. As for the other two, the unit “will consider them for privatization”.

Who wants to wager that a private sector auditor or accountant wouldn’t take one pass through those 103 agencies and reverse the ratio of the quick and the dead?

In Japanese, hora is the word for the trumpet triton shell, and the expression “to blow a hora” is a synonym for loud boasting or a gasconade. Another dip into the DPJ archives shows that the party’s bugle boys have been playing seashell reveille for quite some time.

An article dated 8 September 2005 describes a campaign speech by Edano Yukio, then the party’s acting secretary-general. He later became Mr. Kan’s second chief cabinet secretary, and is now the Minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry. During the speech, Mr. Edano claimed that the then-ruling LDP’s proposed tax reform was actually a stealth tax increase, and said:

Japan has become bound by its debt. What will happen if tax revenues are insufficient? The bill for a tax increase has already been presented to you…It is the LDP who would fill the hole created by debt with reform of the tax code and tax increases….We of the DPJ promise to cut waste and rectify the problem of JPY 10 trillion of wasted tax in three years.

Three years! Just think — one more year and they will have accomplished exactly what Mr. Edano accused the LDP of wanting to do. And that’s after two record-high budgets with record-high deficits and record-high deficit bond floats.

Mr. Edano added that the aging of the population meant that preventing tax increases should be only one part of fiscal policy. The use of tax funds and how to reduce waste is “the most important issue for politics”. He declared that the party would eliminate special pensions for national legislators and reduce the number of seats in the Diet.

He also said that “merely changing the signboard will not eliminate waste.” Rather than “politics that too easily increases revenue, and performance politics that bamboozle the people”, the voters should choose the DPJ, with “politics that will cut out all waste, including that from the body of politics itself, and will present policies earnestly and honestly.”

One of those earnest and honest policies was a promised sweeping reform of the national pension system that would “put people first”.

Last month the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare announced they were considering plans to raise the age of eligibility for welfare pensions to somewhere in the range of 68 to 70. The government is currently in the process of raising the eligibility age to 65 in stages, and they now want to accelerate that process by four years. Their objective is to “stabilize the revenue sources” for the pension program. Another idea they’re mulling, however, is to modify the reduction of pension payments for those people aged 60-64 who both receive a pension and work, if their combined income is greater than JPY 280,000. To encourage the incentive to work, they’re thinking of raising the income limit to either JPY 330,000 or 460,000. That will of course also raise the amount of money the government pays out in pensions. Another part of the plan is an increase in pension premiums.

More news on the putting people first front emerged this week. During the Fukuda administration, a new medical system for the late-stage elderly (people 75 or older) came into force. One aspect of the system was the requirement that the late-stage elderly who could afford to do so would be required to spend more for health care. The DPJ promised to abolish that system in both their 2009 and 2010 election manifestos, and campaigned against it under the slogan, “Don’t torment the elderly”. They said they would create a new system to be put in place in 2013, which means they have to come up with something by next year’s regular Diet session to keep that promise.

Don't torment the elderly, says DPJ pol Watanabe Kozo (79) during an election campaign

The Asahi Shimbun reports that the health ministry has been looking at five plans, two of which include the abolition of the current system. The ministry says they are impossible to implement because they would require an additional JPY 1.1 trillion in funding. The other three plans call for maintaining the system “for the time being”. Two of those plans, however, only change the name of the system and the government body responsible for implementing it. The third would keep it going as a stage to prepare for elimination, and seek additional funding from municipalities to help pay for it. A ministry official admitted to the Asahi: “That means elimination is impossible in all of the plans.”

In a parliamentary democracy, a ruling party that decides to pursue policies that are at such variance with their election manifesto is expected to dissolve the legislature and hold a general election to seek the approval of the people. Indeed, that was another DPJ promise when it was in the opposition, as one more scoop from their archives reveals. During Question Time in the Diet with then-Prime Minister Fukuda Yasuo on 21 January 2008, MP Furukawa Motohisa said:

If the party thought raising the consumption tax was necessary in light of a radical reform of social security system, the amount of money to be raised and the use of that money would be written into a manifesto and placed before the public in a general election.

That no election is forthcoming, or will be anytime soon, should not be a surprise, considering the source. In 2005, the World Economic Forum selected Mr. Furukawa as a Young Global Leader. You’ve heard of the Junior Chamber of Commerce? He’s a Junior Davos Man. He’s now a Made Man in the world’s elite.

Not quite nine months after that, on 1 October 2008, then-DPJ President Ozawa Ichiro offered this rebuttal to Prime Minister Aso Taro following the latter’s first speech to the Diet:

Two consecutive LDP presidents have given up their governments in a year’s time, and now here’s the third without a general election. The sight of the prime minister taking office in these circumstances strains credulity.

Not any more it doesn’t. Nothing the DPJ does will ever again be too difficult to believe.

Chuck got there, but the DPJ won’t.

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One Response to “The DPJ promise keepers”

  1. toadold said

    I ran into a new word H/T Instapundit.
    I also just watched a horror movie called, “DayBreakers”, I thought it was just going to be another vampire movie, but the scenario was most of the world’s population has become vampires and the vampires are in trouble because the number of humans is not enough to supply the blood that they need…..Just substitute politicians for vampires and it becomes a documentary.

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