Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Hatoyama Cabinet Strays Off Course

"The secret of success is constancy to purpose." — 19th Century British politician Benjamin Disraeli

I want Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama to hear Disraeli's words. Lately, Hatoyama has been veering flagrantly off course. I've been hearing more people devoted to political change in Japan say they feel "betrayed" by the premier. It is impossible to get a grasp on what Hatoyama stands for by listening to him or watching him in the political sphere. Why did he run for the position, and now that he's got it, what does he want to do with his political power? We can't tell. He looks right, looks left and just sits there without deciding a thing. We can't tell what his objectives are, and he seems incapable of making a firm decision. If he continues like this, the people will begin to remember the historic election of August 30 as the Revolution That Wasn't. If he just sits in the seat of power, he hasn't really changed much from the previous administration. If he doesn't have clear and firm goals, he should retire as soon as possible for the sake of the country.

Lately I've been hearing this sort of comment from a lot of people: "The economic policies of the Hatoyama Cabinet are a lot like Koizumi's structural reforms." Koizumi's reforms were based on the neoliberal views propagated by the US Republican Party: fiscal reform, financial reform, deregulation, small government and a reduction of public works. The fiscal reforms stopped economic growth and squeezed our finances. Deregulation protected the strong and discarded the weak. The Democratic Party of Japan won the election on a platform of opposing the Liberal Democratic Party's approach, and yet once the Hatoyama administration was established, it began the very sorts of Koizumi-like reforms it should have been denouncing. Hatoyama's economic policies are the very essence of neoliberalism. The Cabinet's penchant for fiscal reconstruction, its economy-shrinking policies, its disregard for the provinces and its attack on public works add up to the re-emergence of Koizumi era neoliberal reforms. It's quite reasonable, then, that many people are starting to grumble about what this whole struggle was for.

Prime Minister Hatoyama needs to solve the fiscal scandal surrounding his political organization in a way that meets the approval of the voters. He can't keep running and hiding from the problem. He needs to find the strength to focus his party. Conflict in the ruling coalition can also be tied to Hatoyama's lack of leadership. It makes me want to scream, "Get it together!"

The Code of Political Ethics adopted by the Diet on June 25, 1985, includes this passage: "When there is any doubt about a potential violation of political ethics, we should sincerely work to clarify the situation and make our responsibility clear." Prime Minister Hatoyama needs to live up to these words.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Hatoyama "Head Clerk" of Ozawa's Government

Who's in charge here? Jun Hongo argues in The Japan Times that it's Ichiro Ozawa who holds the power, and that can be most plainly seen in Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's flip-flop on a campaign pledge to cut a gas tax.

Morita seconds that opinion, telling Hongo: "Hatoyama is clearly just the head clerk of the administration."

It seems the change we voters believed in on both sides of the Pacific is little more than a change in rhetoric.

Hatoyama Hangover

The New York Times reports that Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's popularity is waning because of a financial scandal implicating his office:

“Every day, he seems to say and do something different,” said Minoru Morita, a political commentator who runs an independent research organization in Tokyo. “This is starting to shake the people’s confidence in him.”

The article states that a recent opinion poll shows the premier's approval ratings dropping from the 70% range to 56%.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Obama's Nobel Speech Must Be Protested

US president's logic — "... we can build a just and lasting peace" and "[T]he instruments of war do have a role to play in preserving the peace" — works against peace and rationalizes war

"There never was a good war or a bad peace." Those are the words of famous American diplomat Ben Franklin (1706-1790). And he is right.

Or take the words of Cicero, the Roman politician (BC106-BC43): "No such thing as a just war." He is also right. A "war in the name of justice" is just a warmonger's way of quibbling.

This idea of a "just peace" is a dangerous, unsophisticated theory. All sorts of warmongers and hawks have used "justice" to rationalize war. President Obama uses this logic to rationalize the Afghanistan war, but he shouldn't be allowed to get away with it.

There were those who disagreed from the start with the choice of giving President Obama the Nobel Peace Prize. In the wake of his speech rationalizing the war in Afghanistan, those who disagree with the choice will rise in number. That's only natural.

I believe that peace-loving people of the world should criticize Obama's speech and call for the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Premier Hatoyama Can't Escape Political Code of Ethics

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama ought to take a stand, respect the political code of ethics and clearly explain the problem of false reports made by his political fund-raising organization.
This is not something you slough off with an "I don't recall." That's a clear violation of the political funding regulation law. The prime minister should not shuck and dodge these questions.

I'd like to read from the beginning of the political code of ethics. Here's what is written:

"The establishment of a political code of ethics serves as the basis for parliamentary politics. We should be conscious of the fact that we have been entrusted with the authority to govern the nation by the people, who are the sovereigns. As politicians, we must retain a conscientiousness, humility and sense of duty as we work. We must make efforts to retain the trust of the people."

Prime Minister Hatoyama is the leader of Japan's political world. He should display bravery and sincerity. If the leader of the political realm slips around the laws, he will lose the trust of the people. This problem is connected to the moral sense of the Japanese people.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Domestic politics matter for US-Japan relations

The Social Democratic Party is a small party, but when it threatened to drop out of the ruling coalition if the government approved a plan for US bases in Okinawa, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama had to pay attention. If the SDP dropped out, the coalition would lose its majority in the upper house. So the US, used to getting its way with Japan on foreign policy matters, has to learn to be patient:

Daniel Sneider, a Japan expert at Stanford University, said the United States has yet to really take into account the significance of the political changes wrought by the August election. "Domestic politics matter in Japan now in a way that they didn't when you had a virtual one-party state for 50 years," he said. "Do elections and domestic politics influence foreign policy in the United States? Of course. Now they do in Japan, too."

Here's the full article from the Washington Post.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Focus on Deflation is Govt's Biggest Problem

The Hatoyama Cabinet, Finance Ministry, Democratic Party of Japan, Bank of Japan and Financial Services Agency have all been essentially focused on deflationary policies. They tighten finances, cut fiscal spending and tighten finances again. Deflationary trends are worsened; unemployment soars. When the price of goods is falling, it's a crime to pursue deflationary policies.

Japan's economy is in the midst of a deflationary spiral. And yet, the Hatoyama administration, Finance Ministry, Bank of Japan and DPJ are all promoting deflationary policies. The mass media is praising and abetting the very moves that are at the heart of these policies: reducing fiscal spending. The weeding out of projects is the ultimate deflationary policy. In its ignorance, the media is committing a grave blunder.

The government, Finance Ministry and national media would do well to look to the provinces. Most of the high school students nearing graduation have yet to figure out where they will work.

The government should be focused on a plan to overcome these deflationary trends. It needs to stop immediately its current plans.