Will Japanese *Banks* and Government Survive Y2K? ------------

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URL: http://cnn.com/ASIANOW/time/asiabuzz/9911/12/

Letter from Japan:

A Lot of Ohs. As in zeros in 1 trillion,

and in 'Oh no, here we go again'


November 12, 1999

While the rest of the world is celebrating the 10th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Japan has a special milestone to ponder this week. In a few days, the government will unveil yet another giant fiscal stimulus package that will cap the most prolific government spending since ancient civilizations built the pyramids and the Great Wall. Over the past decade Tokyo has spent -- hold your breath -- $1 TRILLION dollars of taxpayer money to keep Japanese society afloat.

I don't know about you, but the number 1 trillion is a biggie. Contemplate the number of zeros in 1,000,000,000,000. Wanna have more fun? Convert 1 trillion into yen and then ask someone to say that number in Japanese. The number is so big that most Japanese don't even know what word to use!

So what did Japan get for $1 trillion? There is no pyramid or Great Wall in site, but good luck finding a river or beach without the stain of concrete. In Hokkaido, the foxes and vermin love those spanking new four-lane highways. They'd better because they are the only ones using them.

Let's look at other fun things the government has done with the hard-earned money of Japan's taxpayers. How about that wacky idea to spend billions on a civilian plutonium program? I'll bet the folks on Tokaimura are happy about that.

And how about them banks? After spending most of the 1980s lending money to anyone with golf clubs, they naturally found themselves bankrupt by the mid-1990s. But, hey, they're banks--and you know how the old saying goes: if you owe a bank $100 it's your problem, but if you owe a bank $1 billion, it's the bank's problem. Except in Japan, it's not the bank's problem, it's the "people's" problem. So, ka-ching! Tens of billions more to save the banks.

O.K., you say, it's the "people's" government, and the government is still in power, so obviously the "people" support what the government is doing. And you know what? You're right. Besides a few cranks like me, most people in Japan love the fact that the government is spending itself into bankruptcy to protect the cozy cocoon that most Japanese live in today.

If the Japanese government unleashed those nasty Darwinian economic forces it has fought so hard to insulate the country from, you would not have a choice of almost 1 million restaurants in the Tokyo area alone. You would not have a gasoline stand on every block with 10 attendants each wiping everything down but your ashtray. For $1 trillion the government has bought its citizens the right to live in tiny rabbit-like apartments; to stand, crushed, in cramped trains for up to four hours a day; to eat rice that costs five times more than in any other place in the world.

Sure, Japan is ultrasafe and superclean. But think of its government's gargantuan fiscal spending plans as a thick coat of lacquer concealing the rotting wood underneath.

-- snooze button (alarmclock_2000@yahoo.com), November 18, 1999


Fascinating editorial post, snooze button. Their bank crisis is a hundred times worse than our savings and loan crisis was and yet the Japanese government keeps the whole thing afloat somehow. They keep it on the books for perpetuity I guess.

-- Guy Daley (guydaley@bwn.net), November 18, 1999.

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