Friday, November 23, 2012

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Holidays in this blessed land and the United States are arguments against posting.

However, a while back -- a very long while back -- I wrote a post on House of Representatives member Kobayashi Koki's departure from the Democratic Party of Japan. I was unkind toward the little-known (well, outside of this blessed land, at least) legislator. I wrote in conclusion:
So long you Tokyo University Faculty of Law graduate, former Ministry of International Trade and Industry bureaucrat, former Liberal Democratic Party district seat holder, expelled from the LDP by Koizumi Jun'ichiro for opposing postal reform and stripped of your seat by Koike Yuriko, only to be returned to the House of Representatives as a proportional list seat winner for the DPJ -- you will most certainly not be missed.
A commenter asked for a rationale for my vehemence:

opposing postal system "reform" and the consumption tax hike on the middle class doesn't seem to be worthy of such animus.

what am I missing?
I admit, calling Kobayashi "one of the total wastes of human skin Ozawa Ichiro brought into the Democratic Party of Japan for possibly no reason other than to make himself look better" seems an inordinate investment of invective for someone who is a minor character -- and not a particularly nasty one, either.

However, Kobayashi, the uncrowned king of the retreads, is the gift that keeps on giving, back in the tiny print for his boundless opportunism.

Kobayashi, a proportional seat holder -- i.e., someone who has a seat because of his party, not himself -- defected from the DPJ in August, ostensibly in opposition to the bill raising the consumption tax -- a vote that took place in the House of Representatives in June. Kobayashi quickly started a political cohabitation with Kawamura Takashi's Tax Reduction Japan (Genzei Nippon) proto-party -- helping the Nagoya mayor and irrepressible buffoon in gathering under one umbrella the five Diet members he needed for TRJ to register as a party eligible to run candidates in the proportional seat races (Link).

Earlier this week the anti-tax Kawamura went a-courting Hashimoto Toru's Japan Restoration Association, a party which advocates a raising of the consumption tax to 11% -- a wooing that earned Kawamura a scornful tongue-lashing from Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko all the way from Phnom Penh.

Kawamura went away not only empty-handed, but minus Kobayashi, who dropped off his letter of resignation from TRJ. Kobayashi had taken a gander at the JRA and decided he wanted a piece of Hashimoto's action.

Kawamura, bereft of a fifth former Diet member for TRJ, went running yesterday into the arms of Anti-TPP, the anti-nuclear power/anti-Trans Pacific Partnership proto-party of Diet pinup boys Kamei "Pavarotti" Shizuka and Yamada "Mr. No To Everything" Masahiko. The trio agreed to a merger, giving their new party the catchy moniker of the "Tax Reduction Japan - Anti-TPP - Withdraw From Nuclear Power Party" (Genzei Nippon - Han TPP - Datsugenpatsuto).

Anti-TPP, which Kamei and Yamada founded on November 19, sets the new gold standard for party lifetimes. It bests the record set by Ishihara Shintaro's Party of the Sun, which, by lasting 4 1/2 days before merging with Hashimoto's JRA, had set a seemingly unbreakable record for brevity of a party's earthly existence. (Link)

Getting back to Kobayashi, it turns out that he did not, prior to handing in his letter of resignation from TRJ, actually talk to anyone at JRA about his joining that party. Lo and behold, when asked about Kobayashi's desire to switch parties, JRA party secretary-general Matsui Ichiro replied, "We have not discussed it. And we are not going to."


Cue Kobayashi returning, hat in hand, to TRJ. Asked about Kobayashi's letter of resignation, Kawamura replies, "I am going to hang on to it." (Link - J)

As I admitted, Kobayashi is not an enemy of the people. However, he is, despite his education and training, a raging mediocrity, a lurid illustration of how badly led and cheated -- a member of the House of Representatives costing the taxpayers, in total, about 100 million yen per year -- the good citizens have been.

Later - Reviewed some of my previous posts on Kobayashi. I had forgotten all about the Paul McCartney montage.

Ah, the Koizumi years...


Troy said...

The sad thing is I am reading Japanese-related blogs now because I am very seriously considering moving back to Japan this decade (I spent the bulk of the 1990s in Tokyo and generally had a great time).

But it does seem Japan is inching up to its day of reckoning on its policy of low tax to GDP.

Kuni is still only taxing half what it spends apparently, -- the US in its panic mode only has fallen to 70% or so:

I really don't see how Japan gets back to a balanced budget without doubling the tax rates, and I don't see how the government can pay off on everyone's JGB holdings (aka "savings") without this doubling . . .

So, like the US, Japan's underlying fiscal unrealities is driving unreality in politics I think.

TBH, I think Japan is in a better macro position than the US. I look on their demographics as a net positive more or less -- smaller consumption footprint this century and even with the $6B trade deficit last month the overall BOP was $6B in the black still.

My general thesis on Japan is that it flew too close to the sun in the late 1980s -- too much success designing, making, and selling what the world wanted to buy brought too much wealth and not enough tough-minded discipline to not let this success blow up that which should not be allowed to inflate (land values!!!).

But, overall, even with the crazy fiscal deficit, Japan seems to be suffering less systemic imbalance than the US.

We've got our $850B military expense -- more than a magnitude greater than Japan's -- as a massive workfare flow that we dare not cut.

Japan has a very efficient (ie low-profit) health sector, while the US's is more than twice as costly on a per-capita basis.

Japan's aged population is beginning to top out now towards its ~35M peak, while the US's baby boom went on for 15 years and is only beginning to retire now.

So I'm hoping things will be less sucky in Japan than the US this decade & next.

But the Japanese need to stop picking stupid fights with China. This is not the 19th century any more.

And claw back wealth from the top end of the Japan's rising Gini curve and not punish poor people with sky-high VATs.

As an American, TPP is interesting box of change ("gaitsu"?). Don't know what to think about that.

MTC said...

Troy -

I share most of your views.

My sense, though it has yet to be verified through statistics, is that the country will muddle through, taking advantage of the improving health of senior citizens (lower food costs and a decline in tobacco use being the main factors) and increasing inception of women into the workforce to offset the decline in the male 21-60 population. Nominal retirement age may stay the same but actual retirement will come much, much later, if ever. Rural communities and some of the suburban danchi have had little choice but to employ the aged in positions normally reserved for those under 60.

As for the increased regression of taxation, there is certainly some cause for concern. I see the Noda's support for the TPP as tied to the decision to raise the consumption tax, as if the rise in GDP from the opportunities inherent in the TPP will offset the declines in consumption from the increased tax.