Japan's Finance Minister Tells Old People to Hurry Up and Die

How long does an old person really need to live? According to the Japanese finance minister Taro Aso, not that long.

As part of a government that is just a month old, Aso recently remarked that the elderly should be allowed to "hurry up and die" so the state can be relieved of the pressure of sponsoring their health care.

During a meeting with national council on social security reforms, the finance minister stated, “Heaven forbid if you are forced to live on when you want to die. I would wake up feeling increasingly bad knowing that [treatment] was all being paid for by the government.” He added “The problem won't be solved unless you let them hurry up and die.”

And, to add insult to life-threatening injury, he referred to people on life-support as “tube people” and added that his ministry was “well aware that it costs several tens of millions of yen” to keep a person alive for even a month.

Aso’s comments highlight what the new government feels will be one of their major expenditures. Nearly 25% of Japan’s 128 million-strong population is over the age of 60, with the percentage expected to rise to 40% over the next 50 years.  

Currently, about 40% of Japanese households (678,000) receive welfare, and that does not include the elderly that are living alone (4.6 million in 2010). Even the number of eldery dying alone has risen, from 1,364 to 2,194 (between 2003-2010).

These welfare costs were behind a 200% increase in sales tax over the next three years, a move that Aso’s party was in favor of.

This comment will likely prove to be a headache for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was elected to the position in 2012 after initially resigning in 2007 due to troubles caused by, among other things, his aides saying really stupid things.

Aso, 72 years of age himself, has also said that he will deny end of life support and has even told his family to never use life-prolonging medical treatment. And although he later admitted that his comments were inappropriate and stated, “It is important that you be able spend the final days of your life peacefully,” it can't be denied that Aso has a penchant for impropriety.

Aso, who is one of Japan’s wealthiest politicians and former prime minister, has previously made jokes about Alzheimer’s patients, told doctors that they lack common sense and parents they are the ones that need discipline, referred to his opposing party as Nazis, told American diplomats they would never be trusted in the Middle East because they had “blonde hair and blue eyes,” commended Japan’s colonial rule in Taiwan, refused to acknowledge that his family coal mining company used Allied prisoners of war during WWII, and said he wanted Japan to become a country where, “the richest Jews would want to live.”

Long breath.

He also had some words for pensioners, stating, “I see people aged 67 or 68 at class reunions who dodder around and are constantly going to the doctor,” adding “Why should I have to pay for people who just eat and drink and make no effort?”

Plus, at an event for university students, he said, “penniless young men” were unworthy of marriage. “It would seem difficult to me that someone without a salary can be seen as worthy of the respect.”

By that logic, he is probably most worthy of respect, seeing as how his grandfather was a powerful postwar prime minister and his wife is the daughter of another former head of state. I’m guessing that the welfare of normal people, medical or otherwise, was never his concern to begin with.

And our voters thought "47%" was bad.