Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Asō makes a pun

Speaking before the Upper House Budget Committee on Monday, Prime Minister Asō Tarō reached a new low for an LDP leader attacking the opposition DPJ.

Asō was addressing the debate regarding the DPJ's plans to finance new spending by cutting wasteful spending and tapping the so-called "buried treasure" of Kasumigaseki, surpluses in the government's numerous special account budgets. Calling upon the DPJ to be more specific about the sources for the 20.5 trillion yen in spending proposals in its manifesto, Asō then said the following:
"The DPJ is flying the flag of regime change, but if there is regime change, there will probably be a recession."

民主党は政権交代を旗印にしているが、政権交代は必ず景気後退になるだろう。
It seems that Asō, known for stumbling over words (like this recent gaffe), was trying to make a pun, connecting 政権交代 (seiken kōtai) to 景気後退 (keiki kōtai). Nicely played, Mr. Asō.

Except that I can think of at least two things wrong with this critique. First, it seems that Asō has forgotten that Japan is already in a recession. Perhaps someone could show him the latest labor survey released by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, which found that the unemployment rate rose to 5.2% in May. Naturally Asō would wave off this complaint by repeating the refrain about the "once in a century economic crisis originating in America," but whatever the source, Asō is hardly in a position to be talking about recessions to come, not with Japan mired in a rather severe one under his own government.

Second, the causal logic in this statement is dubious. How exactly will the DPJ cause a recession by not offering a clear account for how it intends to pay for its programs? Is Asō is suggesting that LDP profligacy caused past recessions? How exactly will the DPJ's failure to outline in precise detail how it will pay for its programs trigger a recession? Or is Asō speaking in a general sense, that the DPJ is so clearly maladroit at governing that it will drag Japan done? If so, one need only ask about Asō's own party, or his own government, for that matter, which just loosened restraints on public spending. How is carefree spending under the LDP the mark of a "responsible party" but carefree spending under the DPJ the harbinger of recession?

In short, there is very little that the LDP can ask about the DPJ without having the DPJ turn around and ask the same question about the LDP.

2 comments:

Kintama said...

Japan may be in recession, but if you remember the scandal around Aso's eating habits, you can see Aso isn't. Maybe Aso was saying that seiken kotai would lead to a recession for him.

By the way, when will you be leaving back for the States?

Tobias Harris said...

Except that regime change would give him all the time in the world to visit his favorite Tokyo establishments, free of media scrutiny.

The Reagan line about Jimmy Carter comes to mind: "A recession is when your neighbor loses his job. A depression is when you lose yours. And recovery is when Jimmy Carter loses his."

I'm here until late August.