Pass the Bailout, Or Else We'll Become Japan

Its decade of decline shows the risks of inaction: Kristof
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 2, 2008 8:27 AM CDT
Cashiers work at a Tokyo supermarket, Wednesday, April 30, 2008. A slump in U.S. demand and soaring oil and food prices cast a pall over Japan's economy with March indicators showing Wednesday sluggish...   (AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye)
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(Newser) – Watching the House vote down the bailout package this week, Nicholas Kristof recalled a bad memory: Japanese politicians doing the same thing during the financial crisis of the 1990s. The New York Times columnist, who was then based in Tokyo, watched as a desire to punish "corrupt, profligate, and unsympathetic" bankers ushered in a decade-long decline, from which Japan has still not fully recovered.

Japan's "lost decade" hurt bankers—the Nikkei index is still less than a third of its level at the height of the bubble economy—but it was average Japanese who suffered the most. "It is profoundly unfair," Kristof admits, that average folks have to face consequences for their actions while fat cats get rescued. But Japan teaches us that the House has no choice: "Hold your nose and support a bailout."