Thursday, January 08, 2009

What to Do with the Two Trillion; Also, Poll-Gazing as Political Strategy

Janne in Osaka has an interesting proposal in a comment to this post aimed at rich people who are uncomfortable at the thought of accepting their share of the 2 trillion yen giveaway—namely, “set up a fund, and invite anyone who doesn't need the giveaway to completely voluntarily donate it to the fund. The fund, in turn, would give out the money to the most homeless and recently unemployed dispatch workers.” That certainly would take care of one problem. In fact, why don’t I set up such a fund myself, solicit funds from the rich, and if can get people who don’t want to give their money to give me their passwords so that I could… I could kill two birds with one stone, is what I could, if you know what I’m sayin’.

Now Ichiro Ozawa, always looking for ways to make the LDP look even worse, thinks that he has an even better idea. Yesterday (January 7), according to a Yomiuri hardcopy report, he instructed Masayuki Naoshima, the head of the DPJ Policy Research Council (and member of the Upper House, where the DPJ holds a big plurality), to come up with better ways to spend the 2 trillion. Fine, but this begs the question: Why spend the money in the first place? After all, Ozawa would not have issued the order if the LDP hadn’t decided to put the government even deeper into debt with the giveaway, right? And what about the rest of the package? What exactly are the DPJ’s plans, and how do they add up?

In fact, the DPJ has been mostly reactive since the 2007 victory in the Upper House election. Its initiatives both domestic and international have for the most part taken the form of opposition to unpopular policy initiatives from the coalition, or been compelled by the need to keep the opposition micro-parties onside. Sometimes, as with boots on the ground Afghanistan, the DPJ has looked downright silly if not dangerous. That some of those coalition proposals have been seriously flawed in the eyes of the media and the public and that all too many of them have been seriously mishandled by the coalition and/or the incumbent administration has certainly helped the DPJ. Still, there’s only so much confidence that the media and the public will place in a game plan that relies on the enemy’s weak, fumbling offense.

The financial meltdown/economic crisis is a good case in point. Last October, a DPJ policy team came up with a pretty neat rescue package, but the party leadership never made a serious move to push it forward. As for the broader economic crisis, it put forward a November plan that for the most part fast-forwarded the first year phase of its 2007 manifesto as subsequently enhanced. Then yesterday, Ozawa had a brainstorm and decided to focus on the 2 trillion. Now that may turn out to be an effective way to turn up the spotlight on the fumbling, bumbling ways of the coalition and the Aso administration, but it also accentuates the DPJ’s reliance on guerilla warfare tactics when a demoralized, disillusioned public longs leadership and vision. But then, why bother fighting a real war if you can manage to win by not losing? Besides, that may be the best way to keep the fractious DPJ troops from going their own ways.

No comments: