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Saturday, June 30, 2012
The toad tax and other ways to raise money
By AMY CHAVEZ
Read my lips: no new taxes! Just old ones raised.
Civil service workers are taking a pay cut to help pay off Tohoku earthquake and tsunami debt, the government is discussing raising pension payments while cutting benefits, Tokyo Electric Power Co. is raising electricity rates, and now Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda hopes to raise the consumption tax. While the current retirees, beneficiaries of Japan's postwar rapid growth era, receive pension payments, young people who make much less and find it hard to get jobs, are funding their elders.
I suggest that, instead of raising the consumption tax, that we think outside the box and raise tax money in other ways. If you look hard enough, you'll find there is plenty of money sitting around just waiting to be hoed into.
Look at all the donations that poured in to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government to buy the Senkaku Islands. The tax system needs to come up with such a program that gives people a challenge, inspires them to donate, but remains voluntary. One reason the setsuden energy saving measures last year worked so well is that people saw it as a challenge, they wanted to do something good for their country, and they could participate as much or as little as they liked.
Here are some more ideas to raise tax money:
Tap into superstitions
Japan has enough superstitions to make anyone rich! Couldn't we tap into some of these? The least the government could do is build a giant maneki-neko cat and place it on the roof of the Finance Ministry building. Hey, why not? It seems to bring in money to other businesses in Japan. Can we afford not to try this relatively cheap strategy?
Institute a washoku tax
Remember the Peter Rabbit Tax, where Japanese tourists were asked to pay a small fee for each photo they took in front of Beatrix Potter's cottage in England? These fees were to help preserve the grounds around the cottage.
We could have a similar Japanese food photo tax. Every time this World Heritage-nominated cuisine is snapped, tweeted or Facebooked, the social media-addicted uploader would contribute ¥50. I doubt any Japanese person would give up this unalienable right to snap photos of food. Judging from the millions of photos of Japanese food I see on a daily basis across social media sites, the Washoku Tax would be enough to pay back all the Tohoku debts and bail Greece out of debt. This is a country obsessed with food. It's no wonder students in this country always ask foreigners: What did you eat for breakfast this morning? Is there any other country where someone has asked you that question?
Implement a toad tax
I'm not one to support using animals for experiments, but bowing to the pressure of politicians, I feel I would have to support a Toad Tax. Like a "table charge" in bars where people pay ¥300 or more to sit down and drink, the Toad Tax would charge the amphibians for using toad stools. In addition, since toads are so popular in Japan, all those little toad figurines in flower pots, sitting on book shelves, and basking on office desks would be charged a squatting tax. Hey, there's got to be some compensation for strange animal fetishes, especially toads!
Institute a pet tax
To be fair to the toads, isn't it about time pets started paying tax? And what about a pension? So what if the pets won't be around to collect their pensions — that's beside the point. The point is that we have people, many of them pet owners, who could use those funds in the meantime. Pets are lazy things that just eat, sleep and shed. And they may even come back to bite you. Since pets possess material wealth even though they contribute no taxes, their tax rate should be based on a percentage of their worth — pedigreed pets pay more than the stray off the street.
Create more superstitions
We need to think of more lucrative superstitions than relying mainly on that of the maneki neko cat. For example, why not tap into money-making insects, such as the centipede? I know what you're thinking, orthographically speaking, a centipede could only be worth a cent. But phonetically speaking, it should be spelled sentipede, and sen means 1,000. Sen yen (¥1,000) is the true worth of each of these creatures. Far-fetched? Only as far-fetched as eliminating the fourth floor in a building because the Japanese word for four, "shi," is a homonym for the word "death." And people swear by that superstition. Just think — you may have the lottery-winning centipede in your house! If the centipede is merely sitting and meditating on your sofa, however, then you've got something different — a zentipede.
Like the government's plan to raise the consumption tax, these tactics are all just an attempt to dream our way out of debt. The truth is that we're going to have to find a different way to get richer: from within.