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Why tax commission chairman Honma has to go December 19, 2006

Posted by fukumimi in Japan, Politics.

PM Abe’s popularity ratings are trending downwards, as people begin to see that clear signs that he isn’t a Koizumi Mk2. (Not that a Koizumi Mk2 would be better, Mk1 was all talk and bluster, not much real action at all, despite the fighting words. But he did have the charisma to woo the electorate, and the electorate seemed happy with just being told that there would be changes, regardless of changes really occuring where it mattered, or not)

Abe’s LDP has reenlisted most of the party members who left as a result of opposing postal reform, and hasn’t offered a decent reason as to why they should be welcomed back into the fold, beyond getting signatures from the members who proclaim that they will not oppose the party line. With an election next year, both sides were keen to make up, but that is a really lame excuse as far as the electorate are concerned.

Anyway, another scandal is unfolding with Masaaki Honma, chairman of the tax commission and pro-business academic, who was found to be shacked up with his mistress in his luxury apartment, which was being paid for (or at least subsidised for) by taxpayers money.

It is bad enough that tens of thousands of (national and local) government employees (read pen-pushing bureaucrats) get huge housing subsidies on top of their well above average compensation packages. (I would say abolish them all) Honma’s residence was a top luxury floor flat in central Tokyo, and he was paying about $600/month. Commercial going rate? More like $4000.

I’m a realist (contrary to what some may believe) and I am well aware that marriages are not always permanent, and that infidelity does occur. However, someone brought into head up the tax commission really should have better judgement than to use goverment housing as a love nest. It also seems unbelieveably naive on the part of the government to get a person with issues to head up a highly visible body and put him up (at the taxpayers’ expense) in a luxury flat. Do we want people like Honma who clearly does not care about wasting taxpayers’ money on his own personal love nest in a position wielding power over tax policy? His lack of judgement cannot be excused away as a private issue. More to the point, do we want people with such poor judgement as to appoint people like Honma in power? (Not that I think the DPJ or any other existing political party in Japan is any better, I don’t. Peas in a pod, all of them)

Honma’s recommendations for tax reform are too short sighted and uniformly too pro-business.  He deliberately fails to mention the inevitable consumption tax rise which must occur in the near future. What we will see is a further disparity between economic indicators measuring corporate Japan’s health and indicators measuring the financial welfare of the Japanese population at large.

Of course, there is an election next spring, and we don’t want to discuss tax rises before an election, do we. Are the electorate so ignorant that they think not talking about tax rises is equivalent to a manifesto pledge not to carry out the rises? I have a sneaking suspicion that they are that dumb.



1. Gen Kanai - December 19, 2006

As Americans are often told by everyone else, “you get the government you deserve.”

2. fukumimi - December 19, 2006

Indeed. We have only ourselves to blame….

Not that everyone has given up on this matter. It won’t happen overnight, but I hope the grass roots movements which are springing up around Japan are an indication of a dawn of a new age in Japanese politics. Let’s just hope that these new pretenders to the political throne aren’t the political equivalent of Horiemon….

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