America’s Deep State
Bill Moyers of Moyers & Company, on Feb. 21, 2014, interviewed Mike Lofgren, a former GOP congressional staff member, who, during the interview, confirmed what many Americans already suspect: America has become a corporate state, or to use Lofgren’s words, a “Deep State,” which he defines as a hybrid of corporate America and the national security state.
By all appearances, the Deep State that Lofgren references is somewhat similar to the Machtergreifung, aka: seizure of power, in March 1933 in Germany, which meant the government could legislate contrary to the constitution, thereby, condemning the constitution to irrelevancy.
“It is, I would say, the red thread that runs the history of the last three decades. It’s how we had deregulation, financialization of the economy, the Wall Street bust, the erosion of our civil liberties, and perpetual war,” Mike Lofgren Interview.
Mike Lofgren, a former Congressional staff member with the House and Senate Budget Committees, served for 28 years in a position that required top-secret clearances. Over time, his exposure to the most sensitive of U.S. financial matters (and shenanigans) changed his opinion of the American nation-state.
Mr. Lofgren has come to the conclusion that, regardless of party affiliation, elected and unelected members of the government collude with powerful vested interests to serve and protect their own interests at the expense of the American public. In short, the American middle class is a patsy that gets ripped off by the politically rich.
Mr. Lofgren’s disclosures, by and large, do not come as a surprise because the legal vehicles by which the U.S. government has transformed itself, like the Patriot Act, are out in the open for all to see, review, and comprehend.
But, members of Congress did not read the Patriot Act prior to voting its approval. Remarkably, that momentous document was ready-to-go shortly after 9/11. All 363 pages were written in less than 40 calendar days, which must be an all-time record.
According to Michael Moore’s film, Fahrenheit 9/11, in an interview with Congressman Jim McDermott, no senator read the bill prior to passage, and Congressman John Conyers, Jr. candidly admitted: “We don’t read most of the bills.”
Lofgren’s disgust with the transformation of American democracy into a corporate/state enterprise system led him to leave Capital Hill, abandon the Republican Party, and write a book and an essay: The Party is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless and the Middle Class Got Shafted, Viking Penguin 2012, and, a follow up article: “Essay: Anatomy of the Deep State,” Perspectives, Moyer & Company, Feb. 21, 2014.
As a point of reference regarding the term Deep State, John le Carré, the novelists and former British spy, initially coined “deep state” as descriptive of an invisible labyrinth of power.
Mr. Lofgren cynically claims that Wall Street and corporate America are only concerned with “sucking as much money out of the country as they can. And they’re about control….” By all appearances, they’ve done a good job, earning very high marks, especially for “sucking money out of the system,” when one considers the fact that, according to the Tax Justice Network and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIU), up to $32,000,000,000,000 (thirty-two trillion USD) is secretly hidden offshore in trust funds and shell corporations in tax-free jurisdictions.
Although Mr. Lofgren did not mention the issue of offshore funds in his interview, it is certainly part of “sucking funds out of the country.” Thirty-two trillion is twice the size of U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and stuffed away in tax-free hideaways. Indeed, it is absolutely fascinating that everybody knows all about it!
Seemingly, the perpetrators who avoid paying US taxes do not need to worry about repercussions since the whole world shamelessly knows all about it and nothing of consequence ever happens. For one, Mitt Romney knows all about it; he was the target of a jolting broadside from challenger Newt Gingrich during the Republican presidential debates, who said: “I don’t know of any American president who has had a Swiss bank account.”
All of which only goes to prove that secretly hiding funds offshore away from the tax collector has gone mainstream and assuredly, it is part of the Deep State apparatus.
As Mr. Lofgren says, in reference to the Deep State: “This is something that hides in plain sight… This has evolved over time… It is a hybrid of corporate America and the national security state.” According to him, the main players of the Deep State are the Pentagon, Homeland Security, the State Department, and the U.S. Treasury.
Mr. Lofgren points to the Pentagon as an example of how the Deep State “sucks money” out of the American economy. As for one example among many, it cost $400 by the time the Pentagon finishes paying its private contractors to haul one gallon of gasoline into Afghanistan.
Or, as for another example, since 9/11, the US has built the equivalent of three Pentagons in the immediate DC metro area for over 400,000 private contractors, defense contractors, and intelligence operators all of whom have top-secret security clearances, which prompts the immediate observation that, in all likelihood, somebody would have to be a real schmuck not to get top-secret clearance.
As recently as 15 years ago, no one would’ve guessed the country would expand Pentagon operations by three times within a decade. And, as with the Pentagon, all governmental functions are increasingly “privatized,” meaning the power shifts from accountable officials of the government to unaccountable private contractors. For example, 70% of the intelligence budget goes to private contractors. Conspicuously, and remarkably, America is outsourcing its own intelligence-gathering.
And, it’s outsourcing war as well, for example, in Iraq, most of the participants came from private contractors, to wit: “By 2008, the US Department of Defense employed 155,826 private contractors in Iraq – and 152,275 troops. This degree of privatization is unprecedented in modern warfare,” Molly Dunigan, A Lesson from Iraq War: How to Outsource War to Private Contractors, The Christian Science Monitor, March 19, 2013.
In essence, accountability within the American political system is increasingly a lost cause, even in the field of battle. As of today, it’s little wonder the Pentagon cannot account for several trillions of dollars. For starters, as far back as 2001, then-Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld publicly admitted to unaccountable Pentagon funds amounting to $2.3 trillion, which, at the time, was nearly 20% of annual GDP… gone missing?
The Roots of the Problem
This ongoing drama of the corporate state overtaking and owning American democracy continues because of adherence to the tenets and principles of neoliberalism, as trumpeted by Milton Friedman way back when, i.e., free trade, deregulation, privatization, and reduction of government; thereby continuing its steamroller effect these past three decades, embracing (privatizing) all aspects of the US government, even sensitive intelligence-gathering operations.
This neoliberal privatization movement effectively eliminates governmental accountability, which is one of the safeguards of an effective and operative democratic government. This alone is a national tragedy while paradoxically also serving as a building block of the Deep State apparatus.
Resisting the Neoliberal Revolution
In a similar vein to Mr. Lofgren’s analysis, Henry Giroux, a scholar and cultural critic and a theorist of critical pedagogy, addresses the neoliberal conundrum as a new mode of politics that is wedded to “power unaccompanied by accountability of any kind,” Henry Giroux on Resisting the Neoliberal Revolution, Moyers & Company, February 21, 2014.
According to Henry Giroux (McMaster University, chair in English and cultural studies): “The biggest problem facing the US may not be its repressive institutions, modes of governance and the militarization of everyday life, but the interiority of neoliberal nihilism, the hatred of democratic relations and the embrace of a culture of cruelty.”
Indeed, Professor Giroux broadens Mr. Lofgren’s analysis of the Deep State by focusing on society’s war on youth, women, gays, public values, public education and dissent of any kind. He speaks of a “hatred of democratic relations” and of a “culture of cruelty.” These are strong accusations that bespeak of a weakened democratic nation-state that belies the image of strength and power as promulgated in American political rhetoric.
Fundamentally, America’s citizens are helplessly stuck on a neoliberal conveyor belt that bypasses all of their dreams, leaving a shattered hopelessness in its wake, and according to Professor Giroux’s intimations, the proponents of neoliberalism cherish, and profit by, every moment of the agony and belittlement of “the people,” as neoliberal policies undercut their sources of a fair livelihood and undermine the sense of national integrity.
In the words of Henry Giroux: “Neoliberalism is a new form of hybrid global financial authoritarianism. It is connected to the Deep State and marked by its savage willingness in the name of accumulation, privatization, deregulation, dispossession and power to make disposable a wide range of groups extending from low income youth and poor minorities to elements of the middle class that have lost jobs, social protections and hope… This is a revolution in which the welfare state is being liquidated, along with the collective provisions that supported it. It is a revolution in which economics drives politics.”
The proof of economics driving politics has never been more starkly displayed than in Europe, ever since 2008, where austerity reigns supreme, entailing cuts to pensions and/or wages and/or benefits for workers as the wealthy prosper and banks are saved. Also, this trend is well along on its way in America.
Henry Giroux describes two essentials for challenging what he describes as “the new authoritarianism.” First, there must be a change in the collective consciousness of what democracy is or should be. Secondly, a massive social movement with distinct strategies is required for success against the overwhelming forces of the corporate state.
In reality, Henry Giroux’s fix is much easier said than done, especially in consideration of the powerful foothold already established via three decades of neoliberal-enhanced policies. By now, the corporate nation-state may be so entrenched that it is as impregnable as the 15-foot thick walls of Burghausen Castle (Upper Bavaria), withstanding any and all opposition since the 8th century.
And, already, neoliberalism has elicited socio-economic conditions that depreciate and revert back in time to an era of lords, villeins, and serfs, similar to the earliest days of feudalism when Burghausen Castle was conceived. As such, neoliberalism has resurrected life as it was before democratic spirits overpowered the lords.
We’re going backwards!
Robert Hunziker lives in Los Angeles and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.