Last week, the ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito finally agreed not to increase the consumption tax rate for food. The tax is supposed to rise to 10 percent in April 2017, and the coalition is worried about how the change will affect their chances in next year's Upper House elections. Komeito has insisted that food be exempt from the hike, and the LDP, realizing it needs the large block of voters Komeito can deliver, has finally come around, even though it means government revenues will be ¥1 trillion less than what they would have been without the exemption.

The consumption tax is regressive, meaning, in effect, that it imposes a heavier burden on people at the bottom of the income pyramid than it does on people nearer the top. That's because poorer citizens spend a larger portion of their income on necessities while richer citizens spend less. Many developed countries exempt food from value-added and sales taxes, or tax them at a lower rate, but the decision to do so tends to be political in nature. Economists, for the most part, think that exempting food from fixed sales taxes benefit richer people, because while they do spend less of their income on food, they spend more on food in absolute terms, and the revenue that governments lose due to this discount has to be made up in other ways. In Japan's situation, the ¥1 trillion that will no longer be flowing into state coffers due to the food exemption will be made up by getting rid of current programs that directly support low-income households.

But if you based your knowledge of the issue exclusively on what's written in Japan's vernacular newspapers, you wouldn't know much about this economically grounded opposition to the exemption. The pattern for reporting has been consistent, regardless of the overall editorial bias of a particular publication. All the papers supported the implementation of the consumption tax, as well as the series of subsequent rate hikes. They have also wholeheartedly backed Komeito in its bid to exempt food from the next rate hike.