JIN-499 -- Fiat money plan seems like more of the same.

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J@pan Inc Newsletter
The 'JIN' J@pan Inc Newsletter
A weekly opinion piece on social, economic and political trends
in Japan.
Issue No. 499 Wednesday February 4, 2009, Tokyo

September may seem far away for most of us at this time in the year
but for some, it must feel like they are hurtling toward a brick wall,
or a cliff's edge. In the latest in a series of populist moves by
members of the ruling party, some members of the LDP are now talking
about giving a wad of government-issued fiat money to every resident.
The government would literally print more money in order to give each
voter as much as 600,000 yen. For those unfamiliar with the term -
fiat money is legal tender which is not backed by the reserves. The
printing of more money increases money supply and drives inflation. On
the flipside, it puts spending money in the hands of the average
person.

Some within the LDP greeted the proposal with interest, some with
scorn. In the Asahi Shimbun newspaper, Yoshihide Suga, deputy chairman
of the LDP's Election Strategy Council and one of the senior party
members pushing the proposal, was quoted as telling a Sunday
television program: "The financial crisis we are facing is said to be
the worst in a century. We have to think of all possible measures. I'm
very interested in the idea."

LDP Secretary-General Hiroyuki Hosoda had a somewhat different take.
At a Monday news conference he ridiculed the proposal, calling it a
"meaningless hollow theory."
In the same Asahi Sumbun article this sarcastic remark appeared
attitributed to Hosoda:
"If it is possible (to fix the economy like that) why not just print
up 30 trillion yen every year. Then, after 30 years, we will have paid
off all government debt."

The move would mean a depreciation of the yen, but with the currency
remaining strong, much to the dismay of exporters, maybe it wouldn't
be such a bad move. The question would be really, how would Joe
Average view the whole affair? If the last couple of stimulus packages
were anything to go by, they wouldn't really care. But this is
somewhat different. If people are struggling and the government doled
out 500,000 or 600,000 yen directly to them, some would view it in
whole different light.

Prime Minister Taro Aso has already said that it wasn't time to
consider such a move but things are getting desperate for the LDP.
Approval ratings are woeful and the after the extremely negative
reaction to the government's 2-trillion-yen cash handout, the
government is looking for something else to improve the fortunes of
the party before the next election.

The more I read about these programs the more I get these visions of
some Warner Brothers cartoon or an old Western, maybe. There is a
locomotive hurtling towards a red signal light and an old LDP
politician has hauled himself up onto the lever that changes the
tracks. There are a team of other LDP politicians desperately oiling
the lever but it just won't budge. Meanwhile, Taro Aso, wearing a
stripy train driver's hat, is keeping one eye ahead, while the other
eye, positioned just over a lopsided grin (possibly a sneer), looks at
the gobsmacked public lined up to watch the show.

September does seem a long way away. But who knows? There could be an
election before then - if the LDP manages to do something to boost the
party's popularity. Maybe throwing more money at people in different
forms is the answer. I'm sure most families would welcome that kind of
money put directly into the pocket. To the average observer, it seems
that everyone is sick of all these populist moves though. We keep
flicking the channel and keep seeing the same show.

Michael Condon
Editor-in-chief

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東京マラソンランナーの皆さん!
がんと闘っている子供たちとその家族をサポートする非営利団体タイラー基金の
"シャインオン チャレンジ"の募金を募ってます。
オリンピックランナー山口マーラさんは、"シャインオン チャレンジ"の
メインサポーターです。

詳しくは: www.tylershineon.org/

Tokyo Marathon Runners! We need help!
Raise funds for children with cancer and their families.
Join the Tyler Foundation's "Shine On! Challenge".
supported by Olympic Runner Mara Yamauchi.

More info: www.tylershineon.org/

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