Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Revolutionary Council Overreaches

It was strange watching the video of Osaka City Mayor Hashimoto Toru presiding over the meeting of an Ishin no kai steering committee as the delegates ratified list of ultimate goals for the quasi-party, if and when it participates in national elections.

The list of the Ishin no kai goals includes:

- abolition of the House of Councillors

- direct elections of the Prime Minister

- abolition of the prefectures in favor of larger regional units resembling the German lander (the various plans known collectively as the doshusei).

- abolition of the grants from the national government tax revenues to local areas (chihokofuzei) in favor of direct taxation carried out by the local areas themselves

[By the way, where are the sources of the chihokofuzei grant monies?

32% of income taxes
32% of taxes on alcohol
34% of corporate income taxes
29.5% of the consumption tax
25% of tobacco taxes (Source)

Not a bad cut of national revenues...]

- elimination of national pension payments to the wealthiest taxpayers after their retirement (nenkin hokenryo no kakesute - J)

What was so strange about the video clip was how disengaged Hashimoto looked (especially since that last idea is his). Whether it was out of boredom, madness or a desperate attempt to anesthetize himself to the berzerk radicalism of his minions, Hashimoto was simply not there, emotionally or intellectually.

The list of campaign promises, which the Ishin no kai, in complete agreement with its ersatz Meiji Restoration revivalist ethos has called its "Eight Policies from the Ship" (senchu hassaku) in imitation of Sakamoto Ryoma's famous missive, has already drawn guffaws from the established political parties. The leaders and spokesmen of the parties had a field day yesterday, pointing out that item after item would require not just a revision of numerous laws but even amendment of the Constitution, a document which has not seen the alteration of even a single punctuation mark since its promulgation on November 3, 1946. (J). That any and every amendment would require not only its passage through the Diet with a two-thirds vote in both Houses but approval from the voters in a national referendum (the governing rules of which came into effect less that a year ago - J) casts the Ishin no kai wish list into the realm of fantasy.

Applause did come from some quarters yesterday. Predictably, the terrible twins of the Chubu Region Aichi Governor Omura Hideaki and Nagoya Mayor Kawamura Takashi had nice things to say about the quasi-party platform (J). Omura echoes every decentralization plan coming out of Osaka and Kawamura, well, he is just nuts (but in a damnably warm and clever way. His tour de force has been providing the depleted Tohoku with wave after wave of Nagoya civil servants to replace persons lost in the triple disaster or for the training of their replacements -J).

The surprise was the positive reaction of the Your Party to the Ishin no kai proposals. Your Party leader Watanabe Yoshimi praised the list, saying that in terms of bringing the national bureaucracy under control, decentralizing of authority and making Japan a nation of prosperity, the goals of the Ishin no kai and the Your Party are completely in sync (J).

Maybe he just scanned the text.

Major media outlets have panned the proposals. The Asahi Shimbun suggests that the ideas expressed needed a little more intra-party discussion before being released (J). The Sankei Shimbun wonders what happens to the Emperor as head of state, if the prime minister is popularly elected (J).

Up until now the Ishin no kai has been on a roll. It had, possibly because the reality of what it represented had not been spelled out, been gaining popularity in the public imagination.

It remains to be seen whether the release of this wild wish list slams the brakes on the what had been until a hurtling "Go Go Hashimoto" freight train.


sigma1 said...

You could expect the established power brokers would question the feasibility of implementing policies that would undermine their power or the power of their patrons. The strategy from Hashimoto's point of view would be start high and then negotiate your opponents to the middle. However policies such as the HoC abolition and direct election of the PM don't seem to address anything in particular and actually just raise constitutional issues unnecessarily at a time when there are plenty of other important issues surrounding the political system to be addressed. In which case it becomes much easier for his opponents to criticize his plans without it seeming like they are acting in their own self-interest.

Ryan Cecil said...

Gotta say, there are some great proposals in there, right? Direct elections would help cure (of course not 100%) the total political apathy in many Japanese, especially young people. As a conservative American (who admits he doesn't know everything about Japan), the abolition of the national grants to local areas sounds like a good way to reduce natl. taxes and give more freedom and flexibility to people to govern their local area. Rich people don't need pensions, duh.

As for the abolition of prefectures and the House of Councillors, that's a bit much... too bad such impossible things are mixed in with (what seem to me to be) good ideas.

Am I missing the point? Am I wrong to think these include good ideas? Is it just a matter of being irrelevant since it won't pass?

MTC said...

Ryan Cecil -

If one is proposing a revolutionary program, one has to explain how the various parts of the program work together. Otherwise it just sounds like a grab bag of the brain storms of the disgruntled.

Jan Moren said...

It also included introduction of a tax on wealth. From some preliminary reactions I suspect that in combination with the idea of removing pension payments for the wealthiest will be quite a turn-off for some of the electorate.

The pension system does not really cover all your needs as a pensioner; there is a long, deep tradition of saving up money for your own retirement as well and a lot of people have a lot of savings as a result.

With "the wealthiest" being a very fuzzy concept (a "wealthy" amount of money is not all that much if you plan to live off it for thirty years or more), quite a few people will start to worry that they will see both their pension system money gone as well as face a tax on the extra money they've been stashing away for that retirement.

Ryan Cecil said...

Well it does sound like that.

By the way, I read your blog for perspective into Japanese politics, but I don't know any others. Would you recommend any other blogs or news sources in English? Thank you.

Martin J Frid said...

What happened to the debate about postal savings? Most of us keep some stash away there. They even offer an option for a small contribution to "environmental or social causes" from your interest.