Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The DPJ Splits into the Public Opinion Slaves (Kan) and the Anti-Public Opinion Camp (Ozawa)

How long can the Ozawa camp endure as it battles public opinion?

The Aug. 29 edition of the Tokyo Shimbun contained the results of a Kyodo News poll conducted on Aug. 27-28. The poll revealed that when people were asked which candidate they wanted to lead the party, 69.9% answered Naoto Kan while 15.6% said Ichiro Ozawa. Among Democratic Party of Japan supporters, 82% opted for Kan. Prime Minister Kan's cabinet won 48.1% support, up 9.4% from the last survey. Kan's stance on ridding the party of Ozawa's influence is winning support. On Aug. 30, other papers also published the results. No matter how you cut it, Prime Minister Kan has a big lead.

However, Ozawa enjoys strong support from DPJ lawmakers in the Diet. Even if Kan has support among party members and local legislators, if Ozawa exerts pressure on Diet members, it will be hard for Kan to prevail.It's clear that Ozawa is leading in the early stages of the campaign. But public opinion is not behind him. In Tokyo, Diet legislators are voicing their support for Ozawa, but in the provincial districts they are being noncommittal. Most DPJ members try to strike a balance between a middle road and the desires of voters in the provinces. But how long can they maintain this balance of contradictory views? If Ozawa wins, his administration would begin by opposing public opinion. It looks like the party is at a dangerous crossroads. If Ozawa wins, the party will go from being a slave to public opinion to becoming a foe of it. The former is not a good approach, but the latter is much worse.

I want to reach out to the DPJ one more time: Don't you have a candidate who can carve out a third way that is not the Ozawa or Kan way? If the DPJ comes up with a third candidate, it could escape both the Kan and Ozawa paths at the same time. Why won't the DPJ go down this third path?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Word about the Government's Economic Policies

If there is something that needs doing to revive the economy, then get it done

The actions of Prime Minister Kan and the Bank of Japan governor have been slow — too slow. The world knows that Japan's business sector has stalled. The unfavorable exchange rate, low stock prices, meager consumption, spiraling deflation and rising joblessness all run the risk of getting worse. And yet the government and the Bank of Japan are still slow to act. The alarming truth is that those in government who should be taking responsibility are enjoying leisurely summer vacations.

The information coming from government sources is all about small policy matters. They talk of extending the eco-point system, supporting the job searches of new graduates, offering financial support to small and midsize businesses. Well, if there's something they can do, they ought to act soon. But the worsening condition of Japan's economy is not going to improve with small policy steps.

Of all the major newspapers, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun seems to have a sense of urgency. From August 17, it started running a front page column above the fold entitled, "The Economic Slowdown: What Must be Done?" The first article featured University of Tokyo Professor Motoshige Ito proposing that the corporate tax be dropped 5%. In a part of the feature where the reporter expresses his or her opinion, called "Through the Reporter's Eyes," this journalist explained that there is ¥5.4 trillion allotted for child welfare, but a drop in corporate tax by 5% would erase ¥1 trillion or so in tax revenue. If the child welfare budget were cut, the reporter continued, the budget could be maintained.

I believe a corporate tax cut is necessary. Professor Ito said of the Democratic Party of Japan, "They are not getting out a message about what they are thinking." I agree.

The second article featured Masayuki Oku of Mitsui-Sumitomo Bank saying that to end the high yen rates, the government needs to take a firm stance. I believe that's true. The government and the central bank need to take a strong stance. Oku said of the DPJ, "I wish it would show some urgency and tension." I agree with this too.

We have no need for a government or central bank that's unwilling to act. If you're not going to do your job, then step down.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Media's Bias in Economic Reporting is Flagrant

It is unusual and irresponsible to entrust analysis to economists from big financial institutions and stock brokerages; the media shouldn't become a lackey of the financial world

The media's economic reporting is very biased.

First, most of the commentators are private-sector economists from big financial institutions and stock brokerages. The coverage is extremely one-sided. There are academics who can offer economic analysis. There are neutral research organizations too. Yet those appearing on TV are economists from the big banks and brokerages. These economists work for the financial world and the stock market. They are mostly Milton Friedman disciples, influenced by his views on monetarism. Most of them are swayed by the Finance Ministry's principles for financial reconstruction.

What's up with the media? They are way too biased. The media should be training analysts to be independent and original.

Second, the media always finds a financial crisis to make a fuss about. Some newscasters keep repeating how Japan is already bankrupt. The media has become the frontman for the Finance Ministry. For the last 20 years, the Finance Ministry has pushed financial reconstruction, but it's been a failure. Economic analysts who don't admit this are frauds.

The media rarely reports on the realities of unemployment, the regional economies and small to midsize businesses. The reporting is biased. The media is out of whack.

They should report the news fairly.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Kan Cabinet's Economic Policies Would Sink Japan

Premier's plan should make full employment a top priority

The economic thinking of the Kan Cabinet is flawed. Actually, it's more than just flawed; it's a terrible, ruinous policy. The mass media, which has cozied up to the Kan administration, actively advertises the abnormal thought process of Professor Ono, known as "Kan's brain," who espouses the idea that "tax hikes can result in growth." It's a ridiculous economic hypothesis. To raise taxes significantly in the midst of a deep deflationary spiral is a death wish of sorts. Follow through on this plan and the economy will be crushed. I can think of nothing more dangerous than putting our trust in the soft-minded politicians who believe Professor Ono's bizarre theory.

While not as extreme as Professor Ono, a fair number of Democratic Party of Japan legislators believe that social welfare can spark economic recovery. Prime Minister Naoto Kan said before the August 4 upper house election that "welfare will bring about a recovery."

The government's hottest topic these days is what to do to escape this deepening deflationary spiral. It must reduce unemployment. That needs to be the urgent priority in any economic policy. The objective of government is to reduce joblessness and realize full employment. A society is stable when all the able-bodied and mentally capable people have work and can provide for their families. Social welfare programs tend to those people who cannot work. Taking a large view, the biggest boost in social welfare would be to realize full employment. This needs to be the priority.

The best policy to bring this about would be to start a public-works program to renew the nation's infrastructure. But to pull this off, the mass media would need to stop its prejudicial and malicious coverage of public works.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Trio of Political Leaders Put Yoke on Japanese Politics

The DPJ must shake loose of the Ozawa-Hatoyama-Kan era if it is to have a future; party members must liberate themselves, removing the three-layered scab and bringing about a generational revolution.

There's a problem with the mass media's take on the Democratic Party of Japan: It focuses solely on the activities of Kan, Ozawa and Hatoyama, and ignores the rest of the party. But at the same time, if the more than 400 members of the DPJ can't stand up to these three and muster some independent spirit, then the party's future is bleak. At this rate, the number of DPJ members serving in the lower house will be cut in half in the next election.

Now is the time for DPJ members to liberate themselves.

Once this extraordinary Diet session comes to an end, a politician with the will to lift up the Japanese people should run for the party's top post in the September vote. DPJ members, free yourselves from the shackles of this terrible trio. Pick away the three-layered scab and start a revolution.