Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Politicians Grill Bureaucrats on Live Webcasts

The circus surrounding budget cuts and politicians grilling bureaucrats over their spending has captivated much of Japan. Here's a piece from Reuters on the hoopla over the Webcasts. Of course, as Mr. Morita points out, a lot of this is just smoke and mirrors. Reuters quotes him as saying:

"If they really wanted to cut the budget, they should be looking at big items like defense spending and the overseas aid budget. But they're sticking to the smaller items."

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Fascism behind the DPJ's Manifesto

The faults of the Hatoyama administration are starting to come into view as the upper and lower houses hold their summary discussions at the extraordinary Diet session.

First, the administration's move to halt some spending and tweak other parts of the 2009 supplementary spending bill raises the possibility of serious constitutional violations. At the very least, it raises questions about our parliamentary democracy.

The supplementary budget, which is being used now, was approved by the highest authority in the land, the Diet. Any halting of spending or rearranging of funds must be approved by the Diet. For the administration to change on its own something approved by the Diet is an act of arrogation. It is also a denial of the principles underpinning a parliamentary democracy.

This illegal stoppage of supplementary spending has depleted the efforts of local governments to overcome the recession. The damage is extensive. The Hatoyama administration is piling deflation on top of deflation. The administration bears a lot of responsibility for these actions.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Three Bits of Advice for Prime Minister Hatoyama

Political leaders shouldn't slink around in the background. At a House of Representatives Budget Committee meeting on Nov. 2, Prime Minister Hatoyama apologized for his answer in a previous meeting on Oct. 28. At the earlier meeting, he had responded to Liberal Democratic Party President Tanigaki's main question by saying, "I don't want to hear that from you guys."

Lately the premier has been apologizing a lot. This was a problem with him even before he became premier, but he's had to apologize for thoughtless remarks since becoming prime minister too. He needs to develop the strong consciousness required of a prime minister. At this rate, his politics will turn into so much fluff. The members of the Democratic Party of Japan and the mass media who applaud Hatoyama's thoughtless and untimely remarks should think about their actions.

The DPJ made a contract via its manifesto that ties it to taking political initiative, countering the bureaucrats and dismantling Kasumigaseki, the center of bureaucratic power. It's focused on loosening the bureaucrats' hold on power and abolishing a system where retired bureaucrats head to lucrative positions in private companies. However doubts were raised when Hatoyama appointed former Finance Vice Minister Jiro Saito to run Japan Post. Some questioned the premier's sincerity. At the heart of the public's distrust is Hatoyama's quibbling sophistry. He needs to be honest and sincere with the public.

I travel around the country and talk to people from many regions. These days I'm hearing more dissatisfaction and fear because Hatoyama is ignoring the provinces. Ever since former Transport Minister Maehara halted repairs on Yamba Dam, it's been clear that the government is ignoring the provinces, refusing to answer their questions and using state power to get their way. Midsize and small-scale construction firms are going bankrupt, businesses are closing at a rapid rate because of the extreme cuts to public works spending in the name of cutting the waste in the fiscal 2009 supplementary budget. This lack of understanding by the government is leading us directly to a deep recession in the provinces. People in these provinces are starting to feel that Hatoyama is abandoning them. More people are saying they've been stabbed in the back by the Hatoyama administration and the DPJ. Hatoyama ought to take a modest stance and listen to the people in the provinces.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Extreme Austerity Measures Invite a Hatoyama Depression

We have entered a political age where policies run over the people in the name of financial reconstruction and only the Finance Ministry prospers. To put it more accurately, it's the age where we're governed by Democratic Party of Japan chief Ichiro Ozawa and the Finance Ministry. The ministry has decided to run full-speed ahead with its fiscal reconstruction uber alles principle.

History is repeating itself. In 1993, when the Hosokawa-led anti-LDP coalition came to power, the ones holding the reins were Ichiro Ozawa, then head of the New Frontier Party, and Jiro Saito, vice minister of the Finance Ministry. At the time, the ministry and Ozawa were pushing for a national welfare tax of 7%. In the end, this resulted in the Hosokawa cabinet's demise.

This time, Ozawa and the ministry are drawn together in their "search for waste" as they rush to slash budgets. As the government trumpets its search for waste and budget cuts, the recession and unemployment are likely to worsen, and it becomes more likely that we're headed toward a Hatoyama Depression.

The most important thing right now is to stem the downward spiral of job losses and the recession and return to economic growth. To do this, we need to increase public spending and expand the money supply.

However Hatoyama (and Ozawa and the Finance Ministry) are setting off to do the exact opposite thing. Their policy will deepen the recession. At an Oct. 22 administrative reform conference, Inamori, a main member of the group and the honorary chairman of Kyocera, said, "Even if the recession gets worse now, growth in the future is what's important." In other words, as long as we're thinking about the future, it's OK that the current recession gets worse. Really? That's madness. I wish people would give these issues some real thought.

At this rate, the good ship Japan is headed for the bottom of the ocean. I listened to Prime Minister Hatoyama's policy speech on Oct. 26 and felt that he lacked a sense of urgency concerning the current economic situation. The prime minister doesn't seem to have noticed that his country is sinking. This is not the time for carefree talk about cleaning up government. There's no reason for a government to exist if it's out to destroy the people's economy.