Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The Only Game in Town

You must play with the hand that has been dealt you.

On April 29, a national holiday (the miserably named Shōwa Day--as if the reign of the Shōwa Emperor in and of itself was a cause for celebration) the sixty day time limit passes for the House of Councillors to take action on the bill renewing the gasoline tax. Okumura Jun has argued convincingly that the Prime Minister and the rest of the LDP grand pooh-bahs have enough carrots and sticks at their disposal to strong arm enough Representatives into reimposing the 24 yen per liter levy.

But to what end?

If the legislation reimposing the tax were facilitating the realization of the plan the Prime Minister outlined on March 27, then all the LDP members in the House of Representatives, even ones from the five prefectures whose governors refused to put themselves on the record as demanding a reinstatement of the gasoline tax, would fall into line.

Unfortunately, the Prime Minister's plan is not the plan that is on the table.

What is on the table, set up for passage using the override provision in May, is the obscene 10 year, 59 trillion yen plan, with all the tax revenues getting sucked into road construction.

Would a Representative from let us say Kanagawa Prefecture, represented in the Diet by both Koizumi Jun'ichirō and Kōno Tarō and with a governor who does not support the gas tax renewal, vote for the reimposition of a tax without knowing whether he or she is voting for fiscal support of the Prime Minister's "one year and out" plan or for the road tribe's multi-year road construction-hogfest?

Would you, in light of the possibility of a snap election sooner rather than later, choose to trust Prime Minister Fukuda Yasuo's assurances that "no, no, the Road Tribe's plan is not the operative plan, even though it is currently the only game in town. It is my plan that you are voting to support" -- given how well he has pushed forward reform in general since he became Prime Minister and how well he has kept his other vows so far?

Well would you?

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