Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

AP, Reuters, NYT
Scandal drives out Koizumi aide

Fukuda, 67, the son of a prime minister, had been widely regarded as a conservative pillar in a government dominated by Koizumi's freewheeling style. His resignation highlighted the damaging disclosure over the past two weeks that a third of the cabinet members have failed to pay their pension premiums - just as the government is trying to pass a bill that would increase most citizens' premiums and reduce retirees' benefits.

I rarely say "fuck" on my blog, but "Fuck you Japanese politicians!" (Lucky the FCC doesn't control my blog... yet.) I've paid about 1/2 of all of my life earnings in tax to the Japanese government and have paid my premiums to the national pension system even though studies that I worked on at the Association of Corporate Executives showed that I would most likely not benefit from these pensions. Now it turns out many Japanese politicians don't pay their national pension premiums. Actually, a third of the cabinet members haven't paid their pension premiums. The "Vice President" of Japan, Yasuo Fukuda just resigned for not paying his premiums. This is all amid a move by the government to increase premiums and lower pay-outs. The study we did showed that unless you were about retirement age today, would would most likely not benefit from the pension system.

What's worse is that they use strong arm tactics like using the agricultural union (which hires retired bureaucrats and takes a commission) and other semi-public organizations to collect premiums from average citizens.

This is totally disgusting and I really wonder why I live and pay taxes in such a corrupt country.


This isnt even mildly infuriating, it's very ..

the thing is, it's very hard ,if not near impossible, to hold politicians accountable.

In Sweden we have the "problem" of cutbacks in the public sector, politicians getting kickbacks while they look for new gigs.

it's just disgusting.

and then they hunt *us* for every last penny!

It is good that you are Japanese and not Pakistani or you would now have to rape their wives and daughters in revenge.

Yep, Joi, and I'm paying those premiums too. And as a foreigner living in Japan, I'm pretty damn sure I'll never see one penny back. And get this, Japanese people moving out of Japan will also not get anything back, even if they move back into Japan. The whole pension thing is a sick yakuza way to get money from people without ever having to pay it back.

Another "funny" note. The actress that did the pension infomercials never paid premiums...

That's what you get for trying to relax!
If you wanna relax, you better go outside, sit on the grass and put on your iPod (to avoid any possibility of actually getting disrupted by any kind of news or information)...

heh, the world can be so depressing at times.

Adriaan, that was Esumi Makiko, I believe. I wouldn't throw her out of bed for eating crackers or not paying into the pension scheme. "Know whatahmean, know whatahmean, nudge nudge, know whatahmean, say no more?


It's amazing that this story can not be found anywhere in the US media. What's the best source you've found for global news aggregation?

Really? Well, there is some stuff on Google News. I read it in the IHT in paper form at the gym yesterday. It was front page news in the Japan Times and the IHT I think...

> Yasuo Fukuda just resigned for not paying his premiums.

He failed as spokesperson to disclose in a timely fashion (a new pension scheme was just being voted on in Parliament) the truth about the Cabinet. This is probably closer to the real reason for his resignation...on the surface, at least (there really wasn't that much pressure to step down).

As an aside, I think Adriaan and other non-Japanese who have or will work in Japan may find Stephanie Houghton's Foreign Nationals on Term-Limited Contracts and the Japanese Old Age Pension of some reference.

This mirrors America's Social Security system. To think that the huge amount of income that I've put into a system that will likely give me nothing once I'm retirement age.

Thanks for the interesting story.

There are worldwide demographic issues at work. To improve your lot, move to a country with a young population like Iran. This strategy is not without risk.

Similar system at work in Germany. Everybody agrees that the system is fucked up and will likely fail in the not too distant future. I assume I will get some sort of basic retirement allowance, you know, some money to buy retiree's votes and to make sure they don't actually starve. My tax bracket is now 40%, including all social insurance. This doesn't include indirect taxation such as VAT...

I could drone on but it's early in the morning, and there's no point in getting too worked up. Gotta go head to the office and earn the German state some more money....

I am 23 now. When I start work in a few months time, I will be paying a gross tax rate of about 30%. The marginal tax rate (what I earn on any more income after what I get now) will be 42-47%.

Then there's GST (like sales tax/VAT) of 10%.

A large amount of this will pay for the baby boom generation's retirement - the people who got free education (I paid $20k this year, myself), tax breaks on housing, and now increased pensions as they get older. (Of course, my own generation are being told to save for retirement *now*, because we're not going to get anything when we retire from the state!)

Fred's comment about worldwide demographic issues is valid, but I am expecting a strong trend towards young transnational/multilingual professional people looking to work and save in low-tax, low-benefit free market type systems. And investing money into private sector retirement funds, not into state-run schemes that rob one generation to pay another.

How to solve the problem? No ideas.

Dave Roylance wrote:

How to solve the problem? No ideas.

Increasing political participation in the twenty and thirty-something age class will help a bit. In most industrialized countries, the state pension system will rip off their age class, yet the young generation's voter turnout is typically very low compared e.g. to the pensionees'.
Demographic trends, combined with low participation levels in the political process, severely impact the importance of young people's voices when societal choices are debated...

Good point MV. I have in my own way been trying to get people to vote but it's quite an uphill battle. I think corruption plays a large part in making people feel powerless...

Corruption can play a big part - but the country I am in (New Zealand) ranks in the top five for the least corruption in the world. That means that young people get screwed in a democratic, transparent way instead of with backroom deals, I guess.

The other barrier to political participation is the feeling that it's not worth fighting the system. (Isn't there that Japanese proverb about the nail that sticks out being hammered in?)

Don't forget that most young people aren't entitled to vote at all, on top of which (as MV said), those who can vote often don't bother.

It's also tough when one realises that the political leadership in nearly all countries is composed of people 40, 50 years old or older. Where I am student loan schemes for tertiary education have replaced free access to universities (with living allowances paid out to all students.) There is only one person out of 120 in parliament who experienced this scheme - everyone else (and their advisors in the public service as well) went to university for free.

It's really sad that many of my university classmates, who are multilingual (usually English plus 2-3 east Asian languages) lawyers, accountants, engineers, programmers and businesspeople, are seeing a move out of New Zealand as one that just makes financial sense, no matter how much they actually like living here. They just don't see it as worthwhile fighting the system.