Friday, June 30, 2006

Tanigaki: "Elvis Lives!! - ZIRP Forever?"

Bloomberg reported today that Japanese core prices rose 0.6% YoY in May, their 8th consecutive monthly rise, while the unemployment rate fell to 4%, the lowest in eight years, and certainly the lowest amongst their largest OECD peers. Housing starts, too, increased robustly. That is EIGHT years and FOUR percent. But this should come as no surprise. For the government continue runnning a fiscal gap equivalent to nearly 7% of GDP, while the BOJ still has their discount interest rate at about ZERO. But "Why" do they persist with what is arguably a most reckless fiscal and monetary policy ?

Because they are cynically selfish and not "team players" in the international sense. Because they are intent on winning and holding market share in classic mercantilist tradition, through policies that overtly manipulate the exchange rate. They rightly (though selfishly) believe it is better to subsidise employment than unemployment, though any economist (most certainly Keynes & Triffin when they sculpted the Bretton Woods system from the ashes of WWII) would tell you that this is a classic example of a fallacy of composition whereby what is "good for a part" is not necessarily "good for the whole" [system]. They are are beggaring jobs, employment, and thus wealth over and above what they have rightfully earned from others.

So what will Tanigaki and Koizumi heir-to-be, Abe, do to spin this one? Well it seems PM Junichiro Koizumi is taking it very seriously indeed. So seriously that he's making a special trip to the USA. To see the Treasury Secretary & the President? No stupid! To commune with the spirit of Elvis at Graceland! This of course makes eminent sense for both Tanigaki and Elvis are shrouded in mystical denials and each harbour a "big lie". For Elvis, rumours abound that the "King Lives". But we all know that's horse-shit. Tanigaki's big lie is "Deflation still haunts Japan and so Japan can tolerate neither a stronger Yen, higher interest rates, nor lower government expenditure. This too is complete total utter rubbish. He knows. I know it. And most economists with an ounce of objective reality know it too. But in the eyes of the international community, especially voodoo soulmates in Washington, this can be defended, if implausibly, and so allow Japan to continue keeps rates absurdley low and fiscal gaps absurdly high, in comprison the reality on the ground, and thus ugli-fy the Yen, to maintain competitive parity with the Asian big-three of China, Korea & Taiwan.

So what happens now? The BoJ is worried. Or rather concerned. In a distinctly Japanese sort of way. Gov. Fukui remarks daily upon the future repurcussions of current policy blunders, but these are limited to Japan (fears of over-investment etc.), and not "the global commons". And the pressure to NOT go against the grain, and disturb the harmony of the nation by neutralizing Japan's self-serving parasitic policies is strong. But the pressure will continue to mount on Tanigaki, for HIS denial is looking more ridiculuous. So, he will marginally relent and "allow" the BoJ to raise rates, albeit too little, and too slowly to make any difference except quell criticism (whichh they detest). Such half-hearted moves will be yet another indication of their measured parochial cynicism at the expense of the rest of the world - something that has come to be expected from our Japanese allies. Indeed, with friends like this, who requires enemies?

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