The House of Councilors election, the first national election in the 21st century, is nearing. It will be an election for us to take a major first step forward in ending LDP politics which is in a serious no-way-out position in all fields (political, economic, and diplomatic) and in setting out in this century a new government which is completely different from LDP governments.
Koizumi Jun'ichiro, whose main call was to "change and bust the LDP," is now in power. Does the Koizumi Cabinet have the power, ways and means to change the framework of LDP politics? Does it indeed have the inclination to do so?
What most people want now is not the failed LDP politics maintained with partial remedies. They want a bold reform of the conventional political framework, so that a path is opened to a new kind of politics worthy of the new century.
The JCP expects in the Upper House election an increase in seats for the JCP due to its solid proposal for remaking Japan in the 21st century. Let us mark a major first step toward new politics.
The Koiziumi Cabinet, which started under the slogan "Change the LDP and Japan," enjoys high approval ratings. This shows how intense the people's anger at LDP politics has been, and how strong their desire for LDP politics to be changed is. The high support ratings don't mean a carte blanche to the Koizumi government.
Can the Koizumi government really change the framework of LDP politics in response to the people's expectations?
The present major economic recession started in 1997 when the Hashimoto Cabinet imposed an extra burden of 9 trillion yen (75 billion dollars) on the people by increasing the consumption tax rate and medical charges. Health and Welfare Minister Koizumi at that time propelled the policy.
Later, the LDP and the Komei Party in the coalition government tapped an enormous sum of tax money for public works projects in the interests of general contractor construction companies and for financially propping up major banks, on the pretext of the priority need to "boost the economy." It had the disastrous consequence of an increase of 122 trillion yen (1 trillion dollars) in new debt for both the national and local governments. The economic situation is still precarious and Japan is facing a new crisis.
The so-called "trickle down or dam theory" has completely failed. It was a theory that increased profits for large corporations would some day flow down to the household level, like water overflowing a dam going downstream. Large corporations have actually increased their profits by worker dismissals in the name of corporate restructuring, but the restructuring has entailed business failures and unemployment, resulting in the loss of the people's income and their personal consumption. The Japanese economy has shrunk, and the increased profits are short-lived. The LDP economic policy of giving top priority to major banks, large construction companies and other corporations, and giving secondary or tertiary concern to the people's livelihood, is unacceptable.
The Koizumi Cabinet, however, has come up with a plan to support major banks by allowing the write-offs of their bad loans from the books, on the pretext that only after structural reforms will the economy recover. The write-offs of bad loans will mean the discontinuation of loans to businesses for the collection of outstanding loans. Consequently, business bankruptcies and unemployment will sharply increase. Nissei Basic Research Institute estimates that 1.3 million people will become newly unemployed. This means a failure on top of failure.
The cabinet is also studying the possibility of using public money to make up for the losses of banks short of capital and to use tax money to establish a stock buying body for banks. General contractor construction companies will be allowed to get their loans written off.
As the Health and Welfare minister, Koizumi adversely revised social services in the name of "structural reform." A drastic cut in the public funding for incurable diseases has turned 19,000 patients away from medical care. Curtailed child-support allowance to single-mothers has abandoned 74,000 households. The increase in health insurance contributions to 20 percent from 10 percent deterred insured people from seeing their doctors.
Koizumi as Health and Welfare minister also introduced a "blueprint" for the revision of the medical care insurance system, which included the following adverse changes: Payments by the elderly for medical expenses should be between 10 and 20 percent of total costs; payments by the insured should raise to 30 percent of total cost; and a medical insurance system should be established and contributions collected from all elderly people, like in the present nursing-care insurance system. Payment of ten percent medical expenses by the elderly has already started from January 2001. Koizumi is planning to use the "blueprint" as a pillar of "medical care reform." For that purpose, he keeps using phrases such as: "self-help," "bigger benefits and less burdens will no longer tenable," and "reform takes pain."
In propping up major banks and general construction contractors and forcing the people to pay the costs , Koizumi's policy has no difference from past LDP policies.
No sooner had Prime Minister Koizumi taken office than his hawkish stance stood out in conjunction with his failure to reflect on Japan's war of colonial aggression. For example, he publicly stated his intention to visit Yasukuni Shrine as the prime minister in defiance of the constitutional principle of separation of politics and religion. He called for the Constitution's Article 9 to be changed so as to allow Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense and make the Self-Defense Forces constitutional. He also advocates a system to elect the prime minister by popular vote.
What is the right to collective self-defense? It has nothing to do with Japan's "self-defense" against outside attacks or invasion. Historically, there are only a few cases in which military forces were used in the name of the right to collective self-defense under the U.N. Charter's Article 51. They were the U.S. war of aggression against Vietnam and the former Soviet Union's invasion of Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan. This shows that the right to collective self-defense has been used as the pretext for big powers' outrageous interference and military intervention in other countries. What Prime Minister Koizumi and the LDP intend to do is enable Japan's participation in "collective" military actions abroad. To be more specific, they want Japan's Self-Defense forces to join together with the U.S. Forces in foreign wars.
The domestic legislation that provides for the legal basis for implementing the New Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation (War Laws) is the first step forward towards sending the Self-Defense Forces abroad for military operations. Constitutionally, the SDF are not even allowed to take part in "rear-area support" in U.S. wars. But both "rear-area support" and operations in the front line are acts of war, and therefore the SDF's "rear-area support" is clearly against the Constitution.
The present call for Japan's right to collective self-defense is in response to the U.S. demand that the War Laws be made more adaptable to enable Japan to take part in U.S. interventionist wars without restrictions. It is tantamount to abandoning the Constitution's Article 9, which renounces war.
The attempt to introduce a system to elect the prime minister by popular vote is also a matter of grave concern. Such a system, if established, will allow the prime minister and the executive branch to exercise greater power without regard for parliament. The constitutional provision that the Diet is the highest organ of state power will be undermined.
What is more, Prime Minister Koizumi states that a constitutional amendment to introduce a direct vote system for electing the prime minister will convince the people that the Constitution can be changed. This can be taken to mean that the prime minister intends to use it as a breakthrough for an adverse revision of Article 9.
In short, Prime Minister Koizumi's "reform" only means strengthening the war system to cooperate with the U.S. in interventionist wars and adversely revising the Constitution.
The LDP has disgraced Japan's politics with the KSD and "secret state funds" scandals. To root out the LDP's plutocracy and corruption is a task that must not be avoided. The KSD scandal has shown how political donations from companies and organizations are damaging politics. But the Koizumi Cabinet is doing nothing to prohibit these donations.
With regard to the "secret state funds," Prime Minister Koizumi is saying that the size of the funds would be reduced but is reluctant to investigate into the matter and clear all the problems. In the form of "secret state funds," taxpayer money has been used for politicians' wining, dining, and send-off gifts for Dietmembers going abroad on missions, getting opposition parties' cooperation in the Diet, and for other purposes which would serve the ruling parties' interests which have not to do with official government business. This plutocratic and corruptive character of LDP politics will be maintained under the Koizumi Cabinet.
Calling for changing corrupt LDP politics which is at a deep stalemate, and working toward a new century of democracy, the Japanese Communist Party has published the "Remaking Japan" plan. It is aimed at giving the people's interest priority and establishing a society in which the people are the key players. The JCP proposes the following five-point policy to achieve this plan.
First, for the improvement of the people's living conditions and the economy, turn the focus from "serving major banks and corporations," to "boosting the people's living conditions."
Second, on Japan's foreign relations and security issues, to remake Japan from "a country with U.S. bases in complete dependence on the U.S. under military alliance," to one of "pursuing self-reliant and peaceful diplomatic efforts."
Third, to prevent the Constitution from being adversely revised, and to build a Japan in which the Constitution will be completely defended and its principles of lasting peace and fundamental human rights be fully achieved.
Fourth, to rehabilitate Japan's social conditions concerning the problems of children and education, and decreasing birth rates, so that their healthy existence will be ensured in the 21st century.
Fifth, to sweep away plutocracy in government that has deformed and polluted Japan's politics. (end)