Japanese Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa`s remarks Monday that American workers lack drive and a strong work ethic not only elevated the war of words between the world`s two biggest economic rivals, they highlighted a growing gap in perception that afflicts U.S.-Japanese diplomatic relations.
Speaking during a parliamentary discussion of the declining American economy, Miyazawa said:
“I have long felt that (Americans) lack a work ethic . . . to live by the sweat of their brow.
“Because so many American university graduates were recruited into Wall Street, the number of engineers in charge of developing goods has declined.“ The Bush administration and several American politicians known for their tough stance against Japan responded quickly and forcefully.
“These kinds of comments are probably helpful in the sense of stirring the rages in all of us,“ said White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater.
“Beyond that, I would say that the American work force is second to none, that the American work ethic is legendary and has promoted the greatest prosperity in the world and throughout the world, including countries like Japan.“
House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) was more emphatic in his denunciation of the Japanese leader`s remarks, calling them an “ignorant expression of Japanese racism. . . . Americans work hard every day, and our productivity is higher than Japan`s.“
When the angry reaction began rolling in from Washington, Japan`s Foreign Ministry quickly issued a statement saying that Miyazawa “has no intention whatsoever of criticizing American workers“ and that the term “work ethic“ was used only to explain the “philosophy of work.“
Fitzwater said Washington regarded that as an “apology.“ President Bush said Miyazawa had “gone out of his way to make clear he is not denouncing all American workers.“
That was 1992, which in America is like ancient history. Interesting that what used to be called an insult is now the received view among our Galtian overlords.
Looks like Miyazawa wasn’t wrong about his Wall Street v. engineers remarks, either, was he?