July 12 2010
Liberal leadership, national debt, runaway spending, a suffering economy... Sound familiar? Some of the biggest problems that plague the U.S. are also present in Japan. Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan only took office a month ago, but already his party, the liberal Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) took a severe blow in Sunday's Upper House elections. Part of the problem might have been the party's suggestion to double sales taxes to reign in the Japanese debt-to-GDP ratio, which is the world's largest. Voters sent a clear message this weekend that they don't want to double taxes to pay for huge government spending.
Half of the 242 seats in the Upper House were up for election, and the DPJ lost 10 seats. That will make the right-wing Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) the largest party in the chamber.
I like Shihoko Goto's analysis for the World Politics Review:
The results also mark the end of the "Yes We Kan" euphoria that greeted the announcement of Kan's taking office after Yukio Hatoyama's abrupt resignation. Young voters in particular had seen in Kan a resemblance to U.S. President Barack Obama. Of the five prime ministers that have governed Japan over the past three years, Kan is the only one who has no family ties to the business of politics. But while he may be a self-made politician, the odds of Kan being able to navigate the murky waters of alliance-brokering seem to be increasingly bleak.
It's easy to make the connection between Kan and Obama - they are both liberal leaders ushered in with a great deal of energy and hope for change. But now they must face reality; increases in government spending have a price, and taxpayers don't want to pay it. Japanese voters booted the conservative LDP in 2009 elections, but now it seems they are regretting it, and throwing out liberals from the DJP. American liberals can only get nervous when they see these results from Japan. Americans, like the Japanese, don't want to hike taxes to deal with huge spending or a huge deficit.