Ichiro Ozawa makes what would be a good debating point with regard to the DPJ emergency package in his latest press conference here and here. He is essentially claiming that the DPJ’s package is for the ages while the coalition is merely touting one-off expenditures that the bureaucracy has slapped together. He’s mostly sound bites, but then, Koizumi was even more so. One problem is, the media don’t seem ready to match the DPJ proposal up against the coalition package.
One reason for the media neglect is that—I know I’m repeating myself here—the DPJ package is basically a 21-trillion retread of the primary phase of its 2007 Manifesto plus—most of it is not really news. The proposal does suspend for the first year the cost-cutting measures that are supposed to accompany additional expenditures, so there would be genuine “freshwater”, or net fiscal outlay, at least for FY2009. Unfortunately, the media are simply consumed by the Ozawa/Nishimatsu Construction affair—it’s apparently hard to pay attention to two things at the same time. The media also do not think that the DPJ can win under Ozawa. So, for the economic and financial reporters who would normally be expected to report on the issue, the ruling coalition’s package is the only real game in town and the heavy lifting necessary to analyze the DPJ proposal and match them up isn’t worth the trouble.
As if that weren’t enough, the head of the Policy Research Council that put the package together is Yoshihito Sengoku, the eminence grise of Yukio Edano and other next-generation figures who can barely contain their contempt for the old-school ways of Ozawa and his people. So policy wonks who could serve as Ozawa’s surrogates on the substance—and help with the media—are not being lined up to do service. (I think I’ve touched on this before too—you don’t want to grow old.) Add to this Ozawa’s admission that the DPJ is unlikely to submit its own alternative bills to the Diet, and it’s hard to see the media finding reason to get worked up about the DPJ proposal.
All this is a shame, because—to repeat (again!)—the DPJ could say, We’ll stick with the program; the short-term fix will come from a one-year cost-cutting suspension; what have you guys got to say for yourself? That’s a debate that deserves to be heard.
On security issues, I find Ozawa’s press conference a little alarming with regard to U.S. troops in Japan, frivolous with regard to Somali pirates, and resigned with regard to Taepodong 2.