When I began learning Japanese this folktale was one of the first stories we were taught. Briefly, it is a tale about the lord of a certain region declaring that old people who were no longer able to work should be taken up a mountain and left there. One son forced to do that was so moved to tears that in the end he could not bring himself to do it and took his old mother back home and hid her there. Shortly thereafter a neighboring country threatened the lord’s land and he was at a loss as to what to do. The son conveyed the wisdom of his old mother to the lord who implemented it. This shocked the threatening country to go away and as a result the lord reversed his edict realizing that old people possessed valuable knowledge from their life experiences.
I was reminded by that story today when I saw on the news that the government is considering raising the amount old people have to pay for their medical care. Currently it is 10% and 20% but the government is proposing that these be raised to 20% and 30%. This in effect will make the lives of older people which are already difficult even more so. With old age comes infirmities and chronic illnesses that require more medical attention than when young. Those who have retired with large savings are less affected, however, those at the other end of the social spectrum will be even more oppressed. The national pension is so small that it is a joke and no one could live just on what it provides. This sort of government policy reminds me of that lord in the old folktale who thought it best to be rid of those too old to work. While that folktale had a happy ending, none seems to be in sight regarding the current government attempts to raise the portion old people must pay for medical care.
It is particularly annoying to me because there are other, fairer ways of increasing government revenues than by shouldering the cost onto old people. Specifically, that could be done by levying an appropriate tax on pachinko. In 2018 pachinko revenues were estimated to be 20.7 trillion yen, yet the corporate taxes paid by pachinko operators in 2019 was only estimated to be 90.4 billion yen. If my calculations are correct, that is less than 0.5%. Even if that number is off by a decimal, it is still an insignificant amount. It also seems odd in view of Japan’s opposition to casino gambling because of gambling addiction concerns that the pachinko industry should receive such preferential treatment when it comes to takes.
Instead of taxing the small pensions of retired people, the government could obtain considerably more revenue by applying the same corporate tax rates on the pachinko industry that are used for other industries. I wish the Japanese public would push their elected Diet members to change the law to make it more equitable and fiscally efficient.