Don't tell us to 'restructure our household budget' -- Akahata editorial, February 3

Japan Business Federation (JBF or Nippon Keidanren) Chairman Okuda Hiroshi (Toyota Motors Corp. president) is telling the people to review and improve the household budget structure just as many large corporations have done through their restructuring schemes.

The business leader is so enthusiastic about this call that he repeatedly argues for it in his statements and JBF reports. His keynote speech at the recent "Labor Management Forum" was on the "restructuring the household budget".

Okuda used this speech to call on child-rearing generations to adjust their spending on life insurance premiums in accordance with their income levels. That's none of your business, Mr. Okuda!

People are forced to pay more from shrinking income

The words "restructuring the household budget" came to be frequently used in 1997 when Prime Minister Hashimoto Ryutaro's cabinet decided to shift an extra burden of 9 trillion yen onto the people. People became more concerned about how to safeguard their household economies in times of unprecedented difficulties arising from heavier financial burdens, anxieties about employment and finance, and the near-zero interest rate policy leading to further declines in interest payments.

Many people have since cut down on their food and clothing expenses, delayed replacing home electronic appliances , and even refrained from visiting their doctors.

Consumers have already cut down on expenses for life insurance with many canceling their insurance policies. This was so serious that a life insurance company executive in a financial report lamented about the adverse effects the household budget restructuring had on business.

The result is no improvement in household economies. Wages and benefits employees received for their work increased every year by about 5 trillion yen until 1997, but the figure began to show a decrease of 2 to 3 trillion yen on average a year since then.

The monthly survey of labor released on February 2 by the Health, Labor, and Welfare Ministry found that the per capita annual salary for 2003 was 360,000 yen less than that in 1997. Economizing efforts can't make ends meet.

The adverse revision of social services and the planned tax increase under the Koizumi Cabinet are awaiting us. In addition to an extra 4 trillion yen in burdens, another increase of 3 trillion yen in burdens is to be shouldered by the people a year through FY 2006, the final year of Koizumi's tenure as the Liberal Democratic Party president.

Considering the decline in household income, the damage caused to the household economy by the Koizumi Cabinet's policy of continuously increasing the public burden is much worse than in 1997.

The household economy is now the hardest hit.

JBF Chair Okuda knows that he is asking people to endure hardships and advising them to save money precisely at a time when households' economizing efforts are in vain due to declines in incomes and increases in burdens for social services. What a nerve he has! Can Japan's top business leader no longer comprehend any of the general public's worries and hardships?

JBF Chairman Okuda in the same speech meeting again called for an increase in the consumption tax rate. At the same time, he stated, "It'll be difficult to increase incomes amid deflation and increasing international competition." And he stressed the need to work out ways to improve the household economy under the present income conditions.

His message was that households should make efforts to cut expenditures without complaining about an increase in the consumption tax rate, corporate restructuring, or wage cuts.

Let's fight back!

Major corporations, including Toyota Motor Corporation, are making record high profits. Japanese companies' burdens for taxes and social services are between 50 and 80 percent of that of European companies.

Nevertheless, the JBF is pressing the Liberal Democratic Party and the Democratic Party of Japan to force through an increase in the consumption tax rate. To this end it is using the power of corporate donations to political parties. It is also the JBF that is leading the way to a collapse of the present employment and wage systems in the name of corporate restructuring.

In order to increase corporate profits, business leaders show no shame in inflicting more pain on the household economy. Okuda is not qualified to ask the people to endure hardships and save money. Together with people and workers, let's fight back at the extremely self-centered views of business circles! (end)

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