Bill Black: Debt Derangement Syndrome – Saving Our Grandkids from Wall Street

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By Bill Black, the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One and an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Jointly published with New Economic Perspectives

Pete Peterson is back, and his message and rhetoric are always the same. The federal budget deficit is a disaster and – any day now – will produce massive inflation. Peterson has written his 20,000th version of this fantasy in the NYT with Paul Volcker. The first rhetorical game that Paulson plays is to assert that it is bad for a sovereign nation to run budgetary deficits because they are not “sound and sustainable.” Except that the U.S. has run deficits for most of its existence without ever suffering hyper-inflation. For a nation like the U.S. with a sovereign currency, a federal budgetary deficit is not unsound and it is not unsustainable. Federal budget deficits can, depending on the circumstances, be the very definition of “sound” fiscal policy – a policy that is often essential for “sustainable” recovery and growth of the economy.

Peterson asserts that his latest warning of fiscal disaster might, for the first time in his career be correct. Peterson claims that this time his warnings are real because the “widely respected” Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says its model predicts a growing deficit. The CBO is not “widely respected” by economists. It uses macroeconomic models that produce nonsense results. Economists know that the CBO models cannot predict reality because they were constructed out of ideological nostrums that have repeatedly been proven false by reality. The CBO has gotten credit in the past from Democrats because it declined to use even more flawed “dynamic scoring” models favored by many Republicans that falsely predict that tax cuts lead to magical, spectacular growth.

The ultra-right-wing Republicans that control Congress chose an ultra-right-wing fanatic to run the CBO who has a track record of being spectacularly wrong. He is the opposite of “widely respected.” Even before his appointment, the CBO functioned as a barrier to the vigorous stimulus policies that we have known for over a half-century to be essential to respond to a Great Recession. The result was a much slower and weaker recovery.

The financial markets price the risk of Peterson’s repeatedly promised, imminent hyper-inflation. They price that purported risk as essentially zero. Japan is praying for exceptionally low inflation (it suffers from deflation) despite budget deficits roughly three times larger than Peterson is warning about.

The Grandchild Guilt Gambit (G3)

Peterson knows he cannot win the economic argument because he is zero for 20,000 in his predictions of hyper-inflation in the United States. Instead, his second rhetorical game is to infuse parents with guilt about the fate of our grandchildren. Here is one problem with the G3 – and it comes from Peterson’s own attempt to induce grandkid guilt. Peterson warns that:

[T]he national debt [will be] about 75 percent of the gross domestic product, a ratio not seen since 1950, after the budget ballooned during World War II.

Why Peterson Does Not Discuss the Great Depression or World War II Deficits

The reasons why Peterson did not analyze either the Great Depression or World War II deficits is that studying either would destroy his G3 myth. The grandkids of the economists and bankers who advised running budget surpluses during the Great Depression had their lives brutally diminished by that economic malpractice. Further, they did not escape budget deficits because attempts to run a budget surplus made the Great Depression far worse and added to the deficit.

Peterson did not discuss the World War II deficits because they falsify his arguments to an even greater extent. The U.S. ran very high, in historical terms, budget deficits in World War II. Further, inflation was likely to be more of a problem than in peacetime because critical real resources (labor and material) were in fact desperately short to support the unbelievable production levels of material for the war effort. Women played a vital role in this success, reducing greatly what would have been devastating bottlenecks. FDR’s generation of officials chose to run massive deficits in order to fight and win World War II. It was the grandkids of FDR’s generation who fought World War II. A journalist famously labeled them our Greatest Generation.

Should we have surrendered to Germany and Japan instead, rather than face the terrible fate of nations that run budget deficits? Would surrender have been preferable for our grandkids? Did those budget deficits in the 1940s and 1950s crush our economic growth in those years? The result of the war time expenditures was such a sharp increase in demand due to vastly increased government spending that the economy quickly recovered and operated at levels far above what conventional economists would have considered “full employment” without generating harmful levels of inflation.

But even more importantly, the deficits were essential to win the war against the Axis. That was superb for the grandkids.

To help win the war, the U.S. adopted price controls – and put John Kenneth Galbraith in charge – the ultimate nightmare of neoclassical economic ideologues. What they will never forgive Galbraith for was his contribution to the success of the war effort through a program that was anathema to their dogmas. More generally, planning proved essential and effective in developing the arsenal of democracy and in operations such as D-Day, causing von Mises and von Hayek to gnash their teeth. The Soviet Union was able, with substantial aid from the U.S., but overwhelmingly from its own troops and resources, to develop what many consider the world’s best main battle tank (the T34) and to inflict the decisive losses on the Nazis.

During the few years where FDR actually adopted significant stimulus the economy recovered rapidly from the Great Depression. Government programs brought hope and jobs to millions of Americans, reduced malnutrition, and developed tens of thousands of public gems we continue to enjoy 80 years later.

After the war, President Truman created the Marshall Program that was critical to the economic and democratic revival of much of Europe. A Republican President, Eisenhower, led the U.S. to fund a stupendous infrastructure program, the interstate highway system, that transformed the Nation. The GI bill began the process of making university educations for their children the normal aspiration of middle class parents for the first time in our history. Scientists at U.S. universities, many of them immigrants, dominated the Nobel Prizes in science and medicine.

Instead of harming their grandkids, the huge budget deficits devised by their grandads and great-great-grandads during World War II were critical to their grandkids’ lives and accomplishments.

  • The grandkids were harmed when Hoover and FDR tried to run budget surpluses and instead made the Great Recession far more severe and led to unintentional deficits.
  • The grandkids’ lives were helped immeasurably when FDR deliberately ran budget deficits and provided social programs during the Great Depression.
  • The grandkids’ lives were helped immeasurably when the deficit spending during World War II rocketed the economy to full recovery from the Great Depression.
  • The grandkids’ lives (and the lives of hundreds of millions of people globally) were helped immeasurably because we spent vast amounts of money to defeat the Axis powers. Had the Axis forces won the results would have been horrific. Yes, it was the sacrifice of blood by the grandkids that made this possible, but they could not have gone to Europe and Asia to shed their blood without the U.S. government providing the financing.
  • Hundreds of thousands of the grandkids’ lives and limbs were saved during the war because the U.S. funded such vast amounts of men, material (much of it given to Allies), and intelligence. Without that vast funding of resources our service members would have gone into battle in situations where they would have lost or prevailed only through catastrophic levels of injury and death.

Peterson ignores the brilliant successes made possible by the large federal budget deficits during World War II because they would falsify his G3 myth by proving the opposite.

A Brief Historical Note on Federal Deficits in the 1930s-1950s

As Brad DeLong explained in his 1998 article on fiscal policy in the shadow of the Great Depression, the Hoover and Roosevelt administrations sought to run “balanced budgets” in response to the Great Depression, but a severe depression dramatically reduces tax revenues and produces involuntary budget deficits. FDR went through three stages on his approach to fiscal policy as I explain briefly below.

DeLong was writing during a period when he was hostile to government deficits, so his article is congenial to Peterson at a number of points. DeLong explains that President Hoover heaped scorn on his own economic team as a group of do-nothings who thought the Great Depression was a healing storm that would “liquidate” economic poisons such as unions. Hoover’s economic advisors told him not to act. Hoover believed that it was vital for him to act to combat the Great Depression – by trying to run a budget surplus! Hoover asked Congress to approve a raft of new taxes. Hoover’s economic malpractice was a double failure – it deepened the Great Depression and failed to even come close to balancing the budget. Hoover was enraged that the Federal Reserve refused to deliberately produce serious deflation. Had the Fed done so, it would have materially worsened the Great Depression.

FDR was, by instinct, a great believer in austerity. He campaigned against Hoover’s “failure” to balance the budget. FDR’s early efforts to balance the budget were doomed for the same reason that Hoover’s efforts were doomed. Eventually, as DeLong put it, the Roosevelt administration decided to make a virtue out of necessity and stress the benefits of government spending to the recovery.

Once FDR embraced fiscal stimulus the recovery from the Great Depression became robust. Unfortunately, Treasury Secretary Morgenthau, who detested budget deficits, convinced FDR to reverse course and inflict austerity in 1937. Austerity did not balance the budget because it crushed the recovery and hurled the economy back into an acute phase of the Great Depression.

The economists’ malpractice in the 1930s did not simply fail to protect the grandkids – it brought economic terror to the parents, kids, and grandkids. G3 has always been cynical propaganda that produces disastrous austerity policies whose principal victims are our kids and grandkids.

Indeed, it was the malpractice of austerity that helped produce World War II by bankrupting Germany and discrediting its democratic leaders. John Maynard Keynes famously warned that such economic malpractice would lead to economic ruin and enrage the German people. The grandkids of those European leaders who inflicted ruin on Germany were the ones who died by the tens of millions in World War II. It is common for those who share Peterson’s dogmas that purport to be protecting our grandchildren to be the ones savaging our grandchildren. Peterson is another in a long line of pretended protectors of our grandkids who actually advance economically illiterate policies that prey on our grandkids.

When Should We Run a Budget Surplus?

There are times when we should run a budget surplus, but they are unusual times for an economy like the U.S. with a sovereign currency that is very likely to continue to run substantial balance of trade deficits. We could achieve an economy running so “hot” that many millions of Americans who dropped out of the labor force reentered and employers were looking so aggressively for scarce workers or scarce resources such as rare minerals that prices for such workers and rare minerals rose sharply. Alternatively, demand could so outpace supply that the general price level rose sharply and produced harmful levels of inflation. Running a budget surplus could be an excellent idea shortly before either condition arose. None of those conditions is true in the U.S. today as we can see every day by observing the data for inflation, federal interest rates, and labor force participation rates.

The circumstances in which a Nation like the U.S. that has a sovereign currency, borrows solely in that currency, and allows the value of its currency to freely “float” needs to “balance” a budget or run a budget surplus are historically rare. As we have seen from the horrific errors of the 1930s under Presidents Hoover and Roosevelt, the grotesque pattern of economic malpractice in the eurozone of inflicting austerity in response to a Great Recession, and the slowing U.S. recovery once Obama and the Republicans began to inflict austerity, it is critical for everyone’s welfare, particularly our kids and grandkids, not to inflict austerity except when it is really needed.

Even extremely conservative central bankers now admit that modest inflation is desirable. The U.S. and the eurozone have failed to provide sufficient demand to achieve even the Fed and ECB’s modest inflation targets. Moderate inflation, in nations with functional governments, does not lead to hyper-inflation. Moderate inflation does not cause significant harm to an economy. We should have been so lucky to have experienced moderate inflation in the last ten years, it would have meant a superior economic environment. But the same is not true of disinflation (negative inflation rates). Even modest deflation poses a material, albeit far from inevitable, risk of pushing an economy into a long-term recession or locking it into a long period of weak growth.

Economists now broadly recognize that the problems of disinflation versus inflation are not symmetrical and it is essential to adopt macroeconomic approaches that put far greater weight on avoiding modest disinflation than modest inflation. This means we can and should err on the side of not inflicting austerity for the purpose of preventing inflation that has not even become modest.

This also means that the third major rhetorical gambit that Peterson launched is false. Peterson claims it is an “immutable” fact that delaying inflicting austerity always makes life “more painful and difficult.”

Delaying action now will make the needed changes only more painful and difficult later on, while also increasing the risk of financial crisis before the reforms are even made.

Austerity, when inflation is already too low, when many millions have dropped out of the labor markets, when there are no real resource constraints to stimulus, and interest rates are often negative is a dogmatic act of economic malpractice. The deficit was brought down too far and too fast by President Obama and the Republicans’ embrace of austerity, slowing the recovery. Peterson’s proposal to inflict still more damaging austerity on our kids and grandkids poses a serious risk of forcing our economy into recession.

Delaying running a balanced federal budget or a fiscal surplus has long proven to be desirable in U.S. history. Trying to run budget surpluses is highly associated throughout U.S. history with producing economic crises, not preventing them. Trying to run a surplus, as Presidents Hoover and Roosevelt discovered, often failed because it exacerbates the economic downturn and increases the deficit over the course of the business cycle.

Peterson is a direct ideological inheritor of the economists of the 1930 and 1940s. That generation of economists convinced presidents Hoover and Roosevelt to commit what was economic malpractice even in the 1930s, but Peterson’s failure to learn from reality puts him into a special category of malpractice.

Peterson is a Wall Street billionaire. He has admitted that his dream is to privatize Social Security. Privatization would mean Wall Street obtaining hundreds of billions of dollars in fees administering private savings schemes that would put our retirements at serious risk. His op ed calls on us to support Wall Street’s goal of unravelling the safety net by making what he euphemistically refers to as unspecified “adjustments” to reduce Social Security benefits.

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  1. Disturbed Voter

    Grifters are always sucking the blood of their victims, willing and unwilling. Rentier income is the least annoying way to gather in the sheaves. But the underlying means of impoverishing future generations, is interest. As long as interest on public obligations (that necessarily span generations) exists, it is hard to pay off. I hear that GB is still paying interest on gilts from the Napoleonic wars. This is part of the reason why there is no more British Empire. US state governments that don’t allow deficits are the smart ones. Let the budget be cut because of mismanagement or cyclical forces … and let the politicians pay for it at the ballot box. But then I Hoover myself ;-)

  2. russell1200

    What country didn’t supercharge its economy during WW2? For most of them it didn’t come out nearly so well. But when your the last large industrial economy left standing, things just might be a little different.

    Avoiding deflation is not a bad idea. But it seems that the deflationary spiral is the natural counterpoint to unsustainable debt servicing. When debt goes bad, money disappears.

  3. Saltcreep

    The problem now is that real growth is gone, and the ever expanding debt only defers and increases the coming pain. If we were smart we would have started a process of managed decline a long time ago, but our propensity to favour immediate gratification over long term sustainability and stability will cause us to replicate the cycles of other organisms that outgrow their environment.

    The astounding boost of energy provided by easy oil in the 20th century can’t be expanded upon by any other available energy sources. Easy conventional oil with huge energy returns on energy invested peaked a generation ago, and we’ve just temporarily hidden the vanishing real net profitability by increasing debt in order to simulate growth.

    Most of the stuff referred to as ‘growth’ should never have been called ‘growth’ in the first place, since it’s essentially based on strip mining and consuming the planet’s easily obtainable non renewable energy and other resources. On top of that our activities and ever expanding numbers and presence are placing an unsupportable burden on both the climate and the wealth and diversity of natural life and habitats. We’re leaving a rapidly diminishing world to our descendants.

    Our populations and consumption are by now so far beyond sustainable that, barring some miracle of energy generation, the inevitable bust will cause death and suffering on a barely imaginable scale. And yet the sociopaths that constitute the elites of our societies, and their mouthpieces, all of whom should know better, insist we need more of the same poison…

  4. templar555510

    If ever there was a case for introducing a aw requiring compulsory retirement after the age of…’s Pete Peterson. Brain dead for the last thirty years.

  5. Teejay

    Yes Peterson seeks to scare the public wrt deficit spending in order to (ultimately) have Wall Street get their grubby hands on retirees money. Isn’t their an upper bound to how much money can be added to the economy? QE pump ~ $4.5 T into the economy. I’m confused by the message here and that of Chris Martenson’s ominous predictions in The Crash Course.

    1. Don W

      If you think of all financial assets, QE didn’t pump anything into the economy. It just converted $4.5 trillion of one kind of asset (bonds) to a different kind of asset (cash, reserves, currency). And, then people took their new asset that had crap yields and went out seeking to buy stuff with higher yields blowing up bubbles in other assets. Note: they didn’t actually go out and buy stuff in the economy, i.e. stop staving.

      If those bubbles are associated with real stuff like food or housing they might drive some asset inflation, but there would not be any demand inflation. On the other hand if the money goes out into junk bonds (fracking drilling), stock market (bubble), or other bonds (falling interest rates), not much happens with inflation.

    2. reslez

      Martenson doesn’t understand sectoral balances. That makes his analysis pretty much worthless. Doomsayers are great for persuading people to save — private citizens do need a cushion — but it’s a mistake to listen to them on macroeconomics or politics, because they are usually wrong. If you understand the economics you’ll know what parts to discard, but honestly I consider it a waste of time. Read people like Mosler and Bill Mitchell instead.

  6. Deloss Brown

    Hooray! Articles like this cause (caused) me to make another tiny donation to NC.

    More power to Yves and her evil gang of level-headed, historically aware intellectuals!

  7. Mary Carson

    Please post numbers after “moderate inflation” in future. HS grad trying to follow argument wonders if you mean 2%-4% or 5%-7% or ?. Thanks for clear writing.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        I should have made a comment earlier. More and more economists are saying that 2% may be too stringent, that the 2%-4% range should be seen as desirable. There’s some research that suggests that 4% might be a better target, but that idea is sufficiently controversial that it’s being sold pretty cautiously.

  8. Vatch

    Even extremely conservative central bankers now admit that modest inflation is desirable. The U.S. and the eurozone have failed to provide sufficient demand to achieve even the Fed and ECB’s modest inflation targets.

    I’m pretty sure we’ve had modest inflation for the past decade or so. The official figures don’t acknowledge this, but the prices of many goods and services do. Just about the only thing that is (temporarily) down is the price of fuel, and we can be quite confident that will change.

    1. reslez

      You’re ignoring deflation in wages. That makes everything else “feel” expensive even though we’re actually in deflation. It’s a mistake a lot of people make — what they think is inflation is actually poverty.

  9. Chauncey Gardiner

    Excellent article. Thank you, Bill Black, for again saying what needs to be said. The NYT OpEd surprisingly to me included Paul Volcker’s name as the lead on the byline, along with very little in the way of substantive argument in what amounts to a “(Grand)Father Knows Best” piece. Both Volcker and Pete Peterson might want to read this observation by Volcker’s former employer:

    “As the sole manufacturer of dollars, whose debt is denominated in dollars, the U.S. government can never become insolvent; i.e., unable to pay its bills. In this sense, the government is not dependent on credit markets to remain operational. Moreover, there will always be a market for U.S. government debt at home because the U.S. government has the only means of creating risk-free dollar-denominated assets.” —St Louis Federal Reserve

    In reality there is a tiny intellectual gene pool of self-appointed monetary and economics experts and their sponsors behind these “Austerity for thee, but not for me” federal budget policies. The reality is exemplified by the Fed’s so called ‘Quantitative Easing’ programs, which is really Modern Monetary Theory for large redundant banking institutions, but not for ordinary Americans.

    All federal elected officials should be required to read and understand what money is and how it is created, as well as how secular balances work within the GDP framework. Further, with respect to allocations of money under s federal budget that includes deficits, I have never have heard any military general complain about a lack of bombs; but I have heard, watched and read plenty of discussion and complaints about distressed infrastructure, lack of funding for public education, and other spending that would improve the lives of ordinary Americans. As Lambert Strether has asked here on NC from time to time, “Why can’t we have nice things?” That includes an expanded Social Security program without Wall Street skimming, and a Medicare for All program.

    1. animalogic

      Great article, & great comment, CG.
      What you observe as MMT for Elites & austerity for the rest reminds of that old saying by Gore Vidal & others that what we have is Capitalism for us, & Socialism for the Elites.
      I wonder to what extent accurate macroeconomic theory has to play at the moment. For elites theory functions as a fig-leaf behind which they can operate their eternal will to power. That much of the West can be condemned to discredited theories of austerity for years to response to a chronic recession suggests that economics (at the level of national economies) is no more than a tool of Elite politics.

  10. susan the other

    BB as usual. I love him. always good. I think I’ve gone off the deep end because I’m now way beyond BB and the virtues of deficit spending because surpluses are insane (which they are). I think money is totally meaningless unless we all agree it will be our money and we will all use it in good faith for good purposes. But never because money itself accrues value. That’s where I part company with economics. I have no evidence to prove that money has any value at all – except by the good faith of its users – us. So we should use it as necessary to make things good. period. double period. and screw pete peterson.

  11. anonn

    For a bit of schadenfreude, go ahead and read the comments at the Times. Normally these would be filled to the brim with pearl-clutching Blue Dog Dem types, all worked up in a tizzy about the debt. Not anymore – even NYT readers aren’t buying it anymore. If you want austerity, let’s have austerity for the Pentagon first, then austerity for Wall St.

    To think I used to worry that neoliberalism’s death was happening too slowly. Ha! Whatever’s coming next, Pete Peterson’s fantasies about starving the elderly to death aren’t driving the agenda anymore.

    1. Ping

      It boggles my mind how Peterson et al can peddle the “entitlements are unsustainalbe” and public austerity crap to cure debt when trillions are spent on military adventurism.

      By eliminating disasterous wars, massive looting boondoggles of the political and financial elite we would probably be debt free while providing quality education, heath care and a modernized infrastructure for the entire society.

  12. RickM

    Freudian slip in the third sentence? Peterson morphs into “Paulson.” My only question is, “Which Paulson?”

  13. Yamahog

    “Had the Axis forces won the results would have been horrific”

    Really? At least the trains run on schedule in Japan and Germany. And all the burliest motorcycles come from those two countries. So that’s a positive. Meanwhile, the U.S government stopped the forces of creative destruction from taking Harley Davidson into the long good night.

    Meanwhile, go ask Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Eric Garner, or any of the kids who died in Sandy Hook whether they’d like to roll the dice on national socialism or having a God-Emperor.

    Maybe that’s part of the legitimacy crisis facing the parliamentary democracies of the world, maybe not. But so long as there are individuals who might have done better under the third reich or Rising Sun, you gotta wonder whether America is all its cracked up to be.

      1. yamahog

        But the Reich’s treatment of people differed throughout their territories and throughout time. For instance, the Reich originally planned just to relocate Jews into Africa. And most writings on the Reich’s end game suggest that the Reich simply wanted to unify the ‘ayran nations’ and protect itself against the ‘non-ayran nations’. The nationalist vein was too strong for them to ever consider including nations that weren’t predominantly ayran in their sphere of influence. The only reason the Reich turned its focus to North Africa was to bail out Italy.

        And the police in the Reich tended to promote order, I’m sure there weren’t as likely as the American police to kill someone and then swarm the scene with emergency vehicles and leave the body exposed as some sort of morbid powerplay. If they wanted to execute an enemy of the state, they’d just abduct the enemy with secret police.

        But regardless of how it would work out for black people, you can’t point to something to show me that the kids in sandy hook would have fared worse under a Reich that took arms control seriously.

    1. animalogic

      Although I kind of sympathise with the thought, I have to agree with Flora that(whatever the near infinite vices of the US are) the third Reich & Togo’s Japan probably would have been worse.
      It’s not that these two nations, like the US, didn’t give a damn for people it’s that they would happily go out of their way to liquidate average people in their hundreds of thousands.
      I always found it highly suggestive that the Nazi’s usually prioritised the death camp trains to the direct detriment of the war effort.
      Anyway, it may be that the US differs from the Nazi’s only in degree, not in kind.
      However, at the moment that difference is sufficient for me to make such a value judgement.

      1. yamahog

        The Japanese never really occupied civilian populations, they occupied cities with enemy combatants who were born as citizens of countries the Japanese were at war with. I’m unaware of a single atrocity against a civilian of a nation that was at peace with Japan (and don’t point to pearl harbor, Japan declared war briefly before the first bomb dropped) or had surrendered to Japan. Between Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the proxy wars in Africa / East Europe / South America, I’m confident more “civilians” have been affected by the U.S than by Imperial Japan.

        In your value judgement, where do you draw the line – how many deaths are enough for you to think a country is an evil empire? We see that the American authorities are happy to execute people (look at the bodycam footage of the chiago police officers doing a fist bump after gunning down a black youth).

        1. animalogic

          First off, yamahog, saying one is a slightly bigger bastard than another does not necessarily express approval of EITHER. Just as saying one massacre was slightly smaller than another express approval for the smaller.
          As for Imperial Japan, in the knowledge that you & many others seem to have “revised” away their crimes…..
          “Historians outside Japan estimate that at least five million captive foreign civilians and prisoners of war were brutally murdered by the Japanese military between 1937 and 1945. To that figure, can be added hundreds of thousands of victims who were slowly murdered by starvation, disease, and beatings in Japanese prisoner of war and internment camps, and hundreds of thousands of women who were brutally raped by Japanese”

          1. yamahog

            I’m just saying if some asshole were to beat you down, you can wonder whether you would have caught the hands of another asshole. And in the case of the United States, at least the Reich’s police were upfront about serving the national interests. American cops pay lip service to civil service and feign bravery but execute people more brazenly than most of the Reich’s police would dare. And after the war, the members of the Reich were held responsible. If one applied the Nuremberg rules to American police officers, there’d be more than 13 officers convicted for on-duty shooting between 2005-2015.

            The Pacific war website is extremely biased against the Imperial Japanese forces and doesn’t even mention that many of the so-called “civilians” might have resisted the benevolent Japanese peace keepers – hardly the behavior of “civilians” more like combatants.

            I’m sure you’ll tell me next that bombing weddings in Pakistan and funerals in Yemen is something that targets “civilians”. The Sovereign who has war planes gets to decide who’s a civilian and who’s not.

            And don’t even start with unit 731. If Unit 731 were that bad, why’d the officers get immunity and money from the United States in exchange for their research notes?

            1. flora

              Meanwhile, back at the ranch (aka this post’s topic), deficit spending for infrastructure and education investment – leading to higher future growth and better job prospects, is *still* a better prescription for the current economic condition than Peterson’s ‘Austerity for Everyone Except the Billionaires’ program.
              That guy hates deficits, but mostly he hates the idea he might have to pay higher taxes.

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