Thursday, September 27, 2007

Asahi Polls Give the Fukuda Administration Good Numbers Too

The Asahi poll gives 53% to the Fukuda administration. That's only a 4.5% spread under Yomiuri's 57.5%. Mainichi has 57%, so they're in the right order. Still, the spread is nearer the short end of variations. I credit this to what looks in hindsight like a uniformly favorable – albeit uniformly cautious and caveat-filled - press coverage. Let's see how Mr. Fukuda's media-friendly, soft-sell personality and tactics work in advancing statecraft, most immediately when he fills out his policy laundry list when the Diet recommences in full. Then, with the fight over the extension of the JMSDF refueling operations and the expected flurry of DPJ sponsored-bills, it's open season on the Fukuda Cabinet.

4 comments:

Matt Dioguardi said...

I agree the press coverage so far has been really soft (at least what I've seen). Like you say, let's see what happens once things begin to happen.

By the way, yes, you can call me Matt.

Jun Okumura said...

Matt:

The Japanese media always give passes to new appointees, be they politicians, businessmen, or otherwise. Do you remember the time that the chairman at ailing Sanyo kicked himself upstairs but not out and installed an outside director, a journalist with no business experience, as his successor /CEO, and promoted his inexperienced son to president/COO? The JMSM did not utter a peep. We all know how that one turned out.

This one comes nowhere close to the Sanyo mess, and there has been a lot of scrutiny. Still, there is an undeniable honeymoon effect at work. Mr. Fukuda has been there, so he should not be lulled into complacency.

Anonymous said...

Jun

A question for you that takes us back to basics. If you were the head of the DPJ and you felt that you really faced the prospect of grabbing power in the Lower House in the next election, some time in the next 15 months, what would you be trying to do now?

Would you make sure that you'd project yourself as capable of getting the pension plan reform back on track, on getting greater economic growth, higher wages and employment (including in the regions), on pushing through reform including in agriculture, on providing more doctors in the community, etc. Putting yourself in Mr Ozawa's shoes, what buttons would you be pressing in the electorate that make you different and more attractive than Mr Fukuda? t

Jun Okumura said...

t:

I often have problems answering questions straight up, and this is one of them. First of all, I don't see the DPJ winning a majority or even a plurality (or the LDP, let alone the LDP-New Komeito coalition, losing a majority) unless the LDP falters badly on non-policy issues (unlikely) or the economy tanks (possible). You can't hope that lighting strikes twice, so you'll have to plan for the latter and hope for the best. In other words, look for holes in the social safety net, then come up with creative ideas to push. More generally with an eye to 2009 and beyond – there's always an election after the next one - you have to tap into our longing for security, present and future while looking responsible. That is, do your best to go with the stuff that you can to the party with in July; don't get into a bidding war just because the LDP is now matching up with NK-inspired and other giveaways.

My favorite item on the DPJ smorgasbord is the universal base-load public pension proposal. It has the appealing message of a fair shake for all. I believe that there have been some sympathetic voices in the LDP as well; exploit that. There is the funding issue (The DPJ says the consumption tax (5%) can be used to finance this in its entirety; the LDP says that this is unrealistic.) Challenge the LDP to share expenditures-cutting responsibilities with the opposition by giving it full access to the budget planning process. You've already covered some of it by proposing to take the co-payments businesses are currently making and give the money to cover the local government shortfall that would result from putting all the consumption tax proceeds into the public pension system. You now have about three-and-a-half percentage points to go. The ruling coalition will never agree to this – it's like giving up 50% equity for free - which keeps you off the hook until you actually take over the Prime Minister's post.

One thought: more broadly, what does a society where more people can have more children look like? What can be done to move in that direction? Say, how can a single-mother (or –father for that matter) be assured that their children will be taken care of properly even as they themselves may have to work full-time or, at the other end, unable to? Aren't current laws that put children born out of wedlock outdated? Et cetera, et cetera.

What does a good education system look like? Specifically, how do you bring maximum parity to public schools against private schools without breaking the bank? Too bad the DPJ won't be able to do justice to education though. Shinzo Abe, contrary to the impression that some foreign journalists may have created, was not a one-issue (patriotism) guy here, and I believe that Yasuo Fukuda will pay careful attention too.

I do not think that what I call giving money to 90-year old small plot farmers makes sense economically, or even politically. The main issue is less the country mouse against the city mouse than major urban centers versus the rest of Japan. There are some appealing ideas out there. Take them up, take them seriously. Bring the more innovative ex-governors on board to push them. Actually, agriculture is a remarkably small part of the population and economy, even in the single-seat districts where the LDP is supposed to have lost the Upper House election. (They lost everywhere.) I wouldn't drop it; that would be a political disaster. Still, there should be a way to make it less prominent.

That's about the extent of my piecemeal fantasizing for now. I would give - no - take $50K to put together a team of people who have their feet on the ground, yet can think out of the box, to come up with a more attractive, broad-based game plan that nevertheless stays within the current DPJ parameters. Put another zero at the end, and I might be able to have a couple of people see it through to the end, say two years? Another zero would look to be good enough to actually run it as a team, and yet another zero for a full turnkey operation.

…sweet dreams…

Enough, now back to the real world.