Monday, April 07, 2008

Gasoline Tax Surcharge Reinstatement Revisited: Messing with Your Minds

MTC and Tobias disagree with me, and Heaven knows I’ve been wrong as often as the next guy. The results will be in by the end of the month with a couple of days to spare, but here are a few things to consider in the meantime:

1. The LDP relies more on the local political establishment than the DPJ does, so its members should be more vulnerable to the pressure local politicians are putting on them to reinstate the gasoline tax surcharge. Remember, the Post Office privatization rebels crossed party lines on behalf of a key player in their electoral political machines.

2. The hold that LDP factions continue to have on their members is somewhat mystifying, but there you are. What is, is. Needless to say, it is much harder to tear someone away from a collaborative group that meets regularly to reinforce their mutual commitment. Independents lack that layer of protection and should be correspondingly more vulnerable to poaching. Love, war, politics - it’s always the same.

3. Failure to extend the surcharge by a supermajority revote will likely shatter the LDP*. The stakes are much bigger for it than it is for the DPJ. They’re more likely to stayhang together, lest they hang togetherso they won't hang separately. The DPJ on the other hand sees reinstatement working to its electoral benefit. This means that the DPJ has less political incentive to keep its own (as well as other opposition) Representatives onside.

4. At least none of the LDP Representatives have come out openly against reinstatement. Contrast that with the DPJ, where Yasuhiro Ōe openly defied the party leadership and claimed to have a significant number of fellow DPJ Diet members’ signatures on a petition. And look at what the DPJ is meting out as punishment. If you vote against the party line, you get a one-month suspension; if you can’t stand even that, all you have to do to avoid it is to abstain, or absent yourself. (See also point 3, last sentence.)

Is MTC claiming that LDP politicians are dumber than DPJ politicians? Or that I’m doing so? Maybe he’s right, but I’m sure they know what their support base is. As I said, the results will be in. Stay tuned.

* ADD: Of course they could always back off a revote to avoid a showdown. But that would leach the life out of the LDP. I don’t see how the party leadership can let that happen.


Anonymous said...

I tend to agree with you Jun. The LDP will push it through, while saying they will amend some aspects of the revenue allocation thereafter.

However, either way, this is tearing at schisms in the LDP. Extending the tax only delays LDP decline, it won't stop it. But failing to pass the extension could make things interesting very quickly. I need to stock up on popcorn.

Jun Okumura said...

Good to hear from you, Ross. In terms of seriousness for the LDP, I would put this on the same level for the LDP as the introduction of the consumption tax and Post Office privatization. Ideally, both side would come back after the summer holidays with credible plans for fiscal reform that covers both revenue and expenditures and fight it out in the annual extraordinary Diet session, Prime Minister Fukuda calls a snap election, and the two sides fight it out for the public mandate. That's the idea with Sentaku.

My great fear is that under Mr. Fukuda and Ichirō Ozawa, the series of piecemeal skirmishes will continue and... in which case, I have a couple of campaign slogans for them. Match them with the right parties, and I'll buy you popcorn.

We'll Borrow Your Money and Spend It for You.

We'll Borrow Your Money and Give It Back to You.

All things considered, the second one is vaguely less unattractive, but neither addresses the long-term issues. Perhaps an LDP split, for all its uncertainties, would be a good thing after all. The DPJ won't continue in its current form either, and we end up with a political Big Bang.