It's kitchen-sink time in Tokyo. Until now, Japan has thrown just about everything else at its deflation problem. All that throwing created a massive pile of public debt, now 226 percent of gross domestic product.
The Bank of Japan should go ahead and, well, toss in the sink, too. The International Monetary Fund wants the BOJ to boost purchases of longer-dated government debt, corporate bonds, exchange-traded funds and securitized loans to smaller companies. Yet we're thinking too conventionally. It's not like such actions created even a smidgen of inflation since the late 1990s.
As long as we're throwing good money after bad, why not get creative? Here are five quirky items the BOJ might consider adding to its monetary shopping cart.
One, the Fukushima nuclear plant and all the land around it. Talk about distressed assets. Radiation emanating from the place is only adding to the headwinds circling the national economy. If anyone needs a liquidity boost, it's the Fukushima economy.
Two, Hawaii. The Japanese often view the U.S. state as their nation's 48th prefecture. How much money do Japanese tourists spend there? So much that Moody’s Investors Service in May cut its ratings on Hawaii’s general-obligation bonds amid a post-earthquake plunge in Japanese leisure travel. And if Japan owned Hawaii, it would pocket all that vacation cash.
Three, airports and stadiums. Last year, Ibaraki Airport became tiny Japan's 98th airfield and handles only a handful of flights each week. Why not buy a runway or two? Between the 2002 World Cup and Tokyo's numerous efforts to host the Olympics, Japan is littered with white-elephant sports arenas. Soccer stadium, anyone?
Four, buy out the rice farmers. Every time Japan tries to ink a free-trade agreement that might create jobs, the powerful farm lobby goes ballistic. If the BOJ wants to boost growth, eliminating this barrier to commerce would be a great start.
Five, golf courses. Every few months, economists work themselves into a lather about the plunging values of golf memberships and green fees. Such headlines offer a down-to-earth reminder that deflation is accelerating. Buy up these losing assets, change the narrative. Talk about a monetary whole in one.