The big news in Japan is about the economy... Like Bill Clinton once said, "It's the economy, stupid!" He was right about that.
Forget about finding old people mummified in their homes in Japan. Undoubtably, when it comes to Japan news, everything revolves around money... Or does it? Or, are they so intertwined that we have to look beneath the surface to find the real story? I think we do. In fact, when it comes to missing elders and their children taking the pension checks, I think we definitely must.
This missing centenarians business is most definitely a scandal related to the economy.
I think it is a direct result of decades of bad government policies; and so many pundits today seem to be missing the point on what exactly the problem is here in Japan.
The news reports that a huge group of people over 100-years-old are reported to be missing in Japan. This news came out after the fact when, upon searching for one particular elder citizen, Japanese government officials found his mummified remains in his house. It seems he had been dead for decades. His family hadn't reported his death and kept his remains in the house for years so that they could keep on collecting his elderly benefits package from the government.
The family is now in big trouble for cheating the government and fraud. Now, from this one incident, the government sloths have decided to get off their cushy sofas go out and see if there were more cases just like this. Well, SURPRISE! There are!
As Kyodo News reports:
KOBE, Aug. 10 (AP) - (Kyodo)—The Kobe municipal government said Tuesday that 105 centenarians registered as living in the city are unaccounted for, including a woman registered as Japan's oldest female aged 125.
The municipal government of the western Japan city said it has also been found that 22 other people aged at least 100 have not used nursing care insurance or the medical insurance system for the elderly aged 75 and over.
Local governments across the country are confirming the circumstances of centenarians registered in their jurisdiction following the discovery in late July of a mummified body, apparently of a man who was registered as being 111 years old.
This news has caused much consternation amongst Japanese government officials and residents of Japan too. It has also opened up, even more widely, the gap between those who criticize old people in Japan for relying on young people too much for their livelihood and vice versa; old people who criticize young people for not doing their share by contributing to the public pension system.
It has also brought out many pro-Japan and Japan-bashing proponents as proof of how good/bad Japan really is.
I found one chat area where people were completely missing the point of this entire affair and using this episode as proof of how Japan is better off than the USA. One person pointed out that, while there were a few hundred (or maybe a few thousand) missing Japanese centenarians, the numbers of missing in the USA annually is over 815,000 according to FBI figures with over 55,000 of those being children.
The poster wrote:
"...Of those 815,000, 85% are juveniles. Of the 55,000 missing children who weren't found last year, 6,000 will never be found....."
The people who are commenting on this case as a proof of how messed up Japan is or isn't (compared with the west) are way off course.
The problem here folks is not a problem of "Japan good" or "Japan bad" or "Japanese versus western mentality." The problem here is a question of financial survival and what would any person do regardless of nationality? (There is another, smaller, question here of government incompetency, but I think you'd have a very hard time proving, say, that the Japanese government is more, or less, incompetent than, say, the US government.)
The problem is most definitely a problem of financial survival and a problem of human nature. Let me prove it to you.
Think about this: How old are you? How many years older than you are your parents? My father is 28 years older than me. That means that when he is 100 years old, then I will be 72. This is an important point to remember: Today, people are already stretched and taxed to the limit. That check coming in every month could be the difference between dinner and starving. Every penny must be accounted for. There is no waste amongst most senior citizens... (You've seen them in the grocery store line counting out pennies...)
Who among us would have the courage to stop receiving those checks, especially if they were living day-to-day?
From where ever you live in the world, look around you, folks. How many people over 70 do you see living the high-life? Very few, I reckon. How about those over 80? 90?
I think, if I were in their shoes, I might see that first check after dad died and think, "Well, just this once..." Then, as you can guess (and have probably experienced) "just once" turns into twice... Then three times... Then there's no turning back. Perhaps you could relate if I put it in this perspective: It's probably just like having that one cigarette or one drink after a long abstinence; you think, "just this once" but it is never that way.
To view the core of this problem, not only do we need to investigate human nature, we need to look at Japan's history over these last 30 years;.
The bursting of the bubble economy and easy money and credit policies of the Japanese government has greatly helped to cause this problem. Elder citizens whose retirement packages were soundly tied to the Nikkei in the 1980's saw their retirements and portfolios destroyed when the bubble burst. The Nikkei was at ¥38,915 on December 29, 1989. Today, August 12, 2010 it sits at ¥9,292 - a 78% drop!
This 78% drop destroyed the retirement savings of millions of Japanese... And it continues to this very day with Japanese government policies of easy credit and cash expansion. And it is not going to get any better in the near future. Why, just the other day, figures came out that showed 15.7% of the Japanese public lived below the poverty line.
No, this problem of disappearing centenarians and their families keeping their mouths shut and taking the money is not a problem of just the Japanese. It is a humanistic problem. This sort of problem transcends cultural boundaries. People anywhere in the world, of any creed or color would do the same for the sake of their families' survival.
Get that last point? For the sake of their own or their families' survival.
Government policies created an entitlement and welfare state that cannot be economically supported, then government policies working to prop up an unsupportable system, instead worked to destroy a sound economy. The welfare state was responsible for destroying the family system so that, when grandpa does die, grandson is not around to take care of family matters... Who thinks the average 85-year-old can take care of themselves let alone funeral arrangements, calling friends (if those friends are even still alive!), daily chores, etc... (But this is an article for another day...)
The people have no jobs, they are taxed to death; they are at the ends of their ropes.
Is there anyone amongst us who, if in dire financial straits, would have the courage to tell the truth to the government that "dad died and we do not need any more money"?
Why? After the hell of the 1940's & 1950's.... After the promise of Japan's "Economic Miracle"... after our retirement's were guaranteed?... After Japanese government policies destroyed the stock market and our retirement packages and gave us these last 30 years of economic slump?
If I were over 70 and depending on that pension check for dad for my survival, I might deeply consider not telling anyone that dad died in order to keep receiving that check...
I mean, if they catch me, what are they going to do to me? Put me in jail?
Jail? Great! A place to sleep, no taxes and three square meals a day!
Keywords: centenarian, economy, pension, pension check, survival, poverty