Many politicians have visited the office of retired Upper House lawmaker Mikio Aoki, which is located in the Sabo Kaikan hall near the Diet building. They include former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori; Yoshimasa Hayashi, acting chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party’s Policy Research Council; and Finance Minister Jun Azumi.
Aoki, who served as the chief Cabinet secretary and chairman of the LDP’s Upper House caucus, retired as a lawmaker immediately before the 2010 Upper House election due to poor health. Soon after that, however, he regained his health. Now, his office is serving as a focal point of information in the political world.
Aoki became a lawmaker after serving as a secretary for former Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita. He remembers when Takeshita introduced the consumption tax as prime minister a quarter-century ago.
“He (Takeshita) did not have an excessive awareness like ‘I have to do it.’ He thought, ‘Given the government’s financial situations and social securities, someone has to introduce the consumption tax, and I gained such a historical destiny when I happened to be the prime minister.’ But once he decided to introduce the consumption tax, he did his best (for the introduction) by mobilizing all of the powers of his colleagues,” Aoki said.
On May 11, the deliberations finally started in the Diet on the consumption tax rate hike bills, which Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has staked his political life on. The passage of the bills through the Diet will depend on whether Noda will be able to have “a feeling of historical mission” like one Takeshita had.
At present, Europe is struggling in a sovereign debt crisis. Will Japan be engulfed by the wave of the crisis or will it be able to withstand the wave as a sea wall? In such a difficult time, I have a little anxiety over political news reporters (including me) who write stories about the consumption tax rate hike issues.
They are enthusiastic about reporting conflicts among politicians on the issue. But it appears that they have little interest in the most important thing--policy discussions between the ruling and opposition parties.
Previously, I likened them to baseball reporters who were paying attention only to the fighting in the dugouts and were not reporting appropriately on the game on the field. I am worried that such reporting is being repeated in relation to the consumption tax issue.
As for the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, there are such news stories as, “It is certain that an intraparty group led by former president Ichiro Ozawa will vote against the consumption tax bills in the Diet” or “Anti-Ozawa groups are criticizing the move.”
I feel that there are too many news stories of this kind.
As for the largest opposition LDP, there are also too many news stories about whether its president, Sadakazu Tanigaki, can maintain his post in the next party presidential election.
To be sure, policy discussions on consumption taxes or social securities are low-profile compared to power struggles among politicians.
“They cannot get high ratings,” a producer of a commercial TV station says.
However, they are the themes that will heavily influence Japan’s future. News reporters have to report difficult issues in an easy-to-understand context and offer stories to let the people judge for themselves.
Some politicians insist that priorities should be placed on administrative reforms and economic growth rather than on consumption tax increases. Those politicians should show the details of administrative reforms and the economic growth in a concrete manner, and clarify the road map for the reduction of the government’s debts.
Media should scrutinize various proposals and comment on them in an appropriate manner.
If I borrow Takeshita’s words, it is a time for the media to keep the “historical destiny” in mind.
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