The DP’s time bombs

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The DP’s time bombs

The opposition Democratic Party’s latest proposal for free lunches at schools, free medical care for all and free child day-care raises the serious question on why a political party exists. If it is a responsible political party — particularly if it had held power before — it must consider at least three questions about its proposal: Is it a populist agenda to gain more votes in the next election, or a far-sighted agenda for the future? Has the party deeply thought about ways to finance its proposals? And isn’t it trying to pass the present generation’s burden on to future generations?

These questions are pivotal to both our stability and prosperity. Developed countries are now paying a high price for their hefty — and irresponsible — welfare services to the people. Defying its famous former slogan of “From cradle to grave,” the British government last year tightened its budget the most since World War Two, sharply cutting child-care allowances and raising college tuition fees three times.

France had to extend the age for getting a retirement pension to 67 from 65. Regardless of a general strike and violent protests, the government had no other choice but to cut costs. Faced with national bankruptcies, Spain, Greece and Portugal are all begging for hard currencies by issuing government bonds.

The DP should learn a lesson from its Japanese counterpart. Before taking power in 2009, Japan’s Democratic Party announced a series of populist campaign pledges, including free high school education and free highway tolls. After seizing power, however, the DP eventually had to cut or kill many of its promises due to budgetary problems.

Our DP has a bitter experience in which the party benefited from populist proposals but the country as a whole suffered. In the presidential election campaign of 2002, then-candidate Roh Moo-hyun abruptly pledged to develop an administrative capital outside of Seoul, but later on was judged unconstitutional.

Inside the DP camp, representative Kim Hyo-suk said at a closed-door meeting of lawmakers that the new slogans “amount to a trick to seek more votes without concrete plans to finance them.” Jun Byung-hun, the DP’s chief strategist, rebutted him by saying, “A political party can get a driving force when it presents a new frame of thought, though it may not be perfect.” If welfare grows too much and too early, growth and jobs will be sacrificed. The DP’s proposals are time bombs destined to explode in the future.
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