NYT: Reaganism to Blame for "Growing Gap Between Rich and Poor" -- In Japan?
Sunday's off-lead story is by Japanese-based reporter Norimitsu Onishi ("Revival in Japan Brings Widening Of Economic Gap -- Reckoning for Premier -- Egalitarianism Is at Stake as Rich-Poor Division Threatens Mobility").
Of course, Japan's striated class system and government-controlled economy was for decades the main threat to mobility. But Onishi has another culprit in mind: Reaganism.
"Japan's economy, after more than a decade of fitful starts, is once again growing smartly. Instead of rejoicing, however, Japan is engaged in a nationwide bout of hand-wringing over increasing signs that the new economy is destroying one of the nation's most cherished accomplishments: egalitarianism."
"Today, in a country whose view of itself was once captured in the slogan, '100 million, all-middle class society,' catchphrases harshly sort people into 'winners' and 'losers,' and describe Japan as a 'society of widening disparities.' Major daily newspapers are running series on the growing gap between rich and poor, with such titles as 'Divided Japan' and 'Light and Darkness.'
The Times blames Reaganism.
"The moment of reckoning has come as the man given credit for the economic revival, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, prepares to retire in September after more than five years in office. Mr. Koizumi's Reaganesque policies of deregulation, privatization, spending cuts and tax breaks for the rich helped lift the national economy, but at a social cost that Japan's more 127 million residents are just beginning to grasp."
Onishi portrays the free-market position of Prime Minister Koizumi as hard-line:
"The focus on the widening economic gap has put Mr. Koizumi on the defensive. 'I don't think it's bad that there are social disparities,' he said in Parliament, explaining that he favored a 'society that rewards talented people who make efforts.' Mr. Koizumi later appeared to soften his position. 'Winners and losers shouldn't be trapped in those categories. If someone loses once, he should be given a second chance.'"
The Japanese-based Onishi demonstrates how the ultimate liberal Democratic insult applied to Reagan's tax-cutting ("trickle-down") knows no language or geographical barriers:
"Until a generation ago, in keeping with the belief that wealth must be redistributed, the highest personal income tax rate was 75 percent. It was gradually lowered, to its current rate of 37 percent in 1999, before Mr. Koizumi took power. Under his government, the capital gains tax on sales of stocks was lowered from 20 percent to 10 percent in 2003, and inheritance laws were changed to make it easier to transfer large assets. Meanwhile, the government decreased health and pension benefits. 'It's trickle-down theory,' said Toshiaki Tachibanaki, an economist at Kyoto University, who argues that Mr. Koizumi's policies have widened social disparities."
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