Thursday, October 03, 2013

Abe Shinzo's Friends Indeed

"It is called the Unbegun Symphony. It used to be called the Pathetic Symphony. Now these names as you may know, like the Jupiter Symphony and the Eroica these names as you may know, they are usually not given by the composer. They are given by friends or the musicians and stuff. This name, the Pathetic Symphony, was given to the piece by some of my old friends.


Well, I have a new set of friends now...and we're calling it the Unbegun Symphony."

- Peter Schickele, "The Unbegun Symphony" (1966) *

Well, he has a new set of friends now...

When I hear Abe Shinzo arguing for a stimulus package (taking cash out of the national treasury and distributing it to politically important constituencies) in order to offset the likely downturn in individual and corporate spending after the consumption tax rise (raised in order to pay for the higher health and pension costs associated with a larger population of retirees) so as to not derail the economic growth associated with Abenomics monetary policy (which, by targeting inflation, will eat away at the spending power of those on fixed incomes and/or living off their savings, i.e., retirees) and fiscal policy (which by accelerating the rate of increase of the national debt, threatens jumps in interest rates demanded by borrowers, which will increase the percentage of the national budget consecrated to debt service, decreasing the amount of money available for everything else, most importantly pensions and healthcare for the elderly) all against the advice of economists Honda Etsuro and Hamada Ko'ichi, the two identified "fathers of Abenomics," whilst simultaneously trying to drum up support globally for an as yet unknown set of structural reforms to be decided on...soon...because the set of reforms his brain trust of supposedly market savvy and creative CEOs produced for the big June announcement were either trivial (Link) or so nakedly self-serving (Rakuten CEO Mikitani Hiroshi going so far as to threaten to quit Abe's industrial competitiveness council if the sales of drugs and medical equipment over the Internet were not in included in the June announcement) as to embarrass the PM -- I blackly remember Professor Schickele's sardonic, "Well, I have a new set of friends now..."

In his return to power a year ago, Abe Shinzo seems to have secretly made a deal with himself and his eminence grise Suga Yoshihide. Abe would nod in the direction of old coterie of supporters and allies, the so-called "Friends of Abe" like Taka'ichi Sanae, Furuya Keiji and Inada Tomomi -- and yes, even the duplicitous and too glib Aso Taro -- relying upon them as the backbone for his challenge to the status quo within the Liberal Democratic Party. The muscle and momentum for the takeover of the party and the government, however, would come from the zaikai, with new style but still establishment business moguls like Mikitani, Takeda Phamaceuticals CEO and Keizai Doyukai head Hasegawa Yasuchika, JR Central Chairman Kasai Yasuyuki, Fuji Film CEO Komori Shigetaka as a set of "New Friends of Shinzo" -- persons whom when you talked to them seemed full of ideas on how to transform Japan into an economic powerhouse, a state capable of paying for the kind of raw politico-military power Abe had seemingly previously thought could only come through the imposition from above of a hair-trigger patriotic, paranoid obedience to authority -- you know, like the mindset the Chinese seem to be fostering.

The New Friends seemed full of the promise of a revived fukukoku kyohei, but a fukoku kyohei for the Facebook Age -- with the New Friends of Shinzo providing the ideas and capital for the fukoku and the Old Friends providing the applause for the Abe/Suga duarchy's tentative tiptoeing toward the kyohei.

As I watch Abe's epic, manic, economic speedballing -- meeting everyone, asking everyone's advice, with resulting announcements of new economic policies off-setting the effects of previous economic policies offsetting the effects of yet earlier policies engaged to counter the consequences of even older policies, with frenetic searches for new statistics demonstrating earlier that the latest policies are indeed working (Link) or that the current policies need yet newer policies to offset them -- I find myself worrying, "Won't the pressures of finding a path through the bewilderingly numerous, numbingly complex and often mutually contradictory plans of the New Friends of Abe cause the man to break down -- just like the unseemly power-grabbing and intransigence of the Old Friends did?"

A disconcerting thought for a sunny day.

Later - It is not a sign of the Apocalypse, but when the Yomiuri Shimbun, which is as a rule sycophantic in its coverage of the policies of the LDP prime ministers, is like me in shaking its head at the PM's mutually negating proposals (Link) then the sum of the parts of the current administration's ideas is clearly less than a whole.

* The album An Hysteric Return: P.D.Q. Bach at Carnegie Hall is available here.

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