By Tim Hartnett
September 19, 2023
Ten years ago, if you Googled "deep state" the first page of hits would have been scholarly articles covering regimes like the one in Turkey. Today, it's incendiary business putting those two words together with the politically pious in earshot. You never know what's going to reduce faithful true believers to sputtering four-letter words and foam at the mouth next. It's not necessarily what is said, but who is saying it, that ignites the keepers of political propriety.
Mike Lofgren's essay, Anatomy of the Deep State, published in February of 2014 at BillMoyers.com, sparked the term's political smolder. It took time and unexpected developments for the expression to become a detonator of emotional ordnance. What he said wasn't really a revelation at the time. Eisenhower's most famous words, after all, were "military-industrial complex." Lofgren just updated the label and added some context.
Yes, there is another government concealed behind the one that is visible at either end of Pennsylvania Avenue, a hybrid entity of public and private institutions ruling the country according to consistent patterns in season and out, connected to, but only intermittently controlled by, the visible state whose leaders we choose.
From anyone less entrenched in and representative of, the Capitol Hill culture than the author, these kinds of lines would be treated like copy from Infowars. There are a lot of words these days that qualify as "erudite" off certain lips, but are absolutely verboten from the mouths of laymen – even when delivered verbatim from texts of the ordained. Alex Jones, for example, would be placing more evidence into his hate crime file for quoting Lofgren down to the comma in a podcast. "Deep State" was always a derogatory term. That's why people who benefit from the beltway bandito system maintain the exclusive rights. Anyone else who knows what the deal is and uses the expression risks being tossed into "domestic extremist" exile.
The depths of the thing may delve further down than even Lofgren thinks:
The Deep State does not consist of the entire government. It is a hybrid of national security and law enforcement agencies: the Department of Defense, the Department of State, the Department of Homeland Security, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Justice Department. I also include the Department of the Treasury because of its jurisdiction over financial flows, its enforcement of international sanctions and its organic symbiosis with Wall Street.
Toxic government isn't a unified influence with a single effect, nor is it anything new. It's the inevitable outcome from the continual generation of government entities, the profusion of so-called "think-tanks," the looming influence of Wall Street, mercenary relationships with media organs, the various interests of bureaucrats, lobbyists and elected officials, public employee sway, hyper-active foreign policy, private contractors plying the beltway feed line and the unintended consequences of legislating ad infinitum.
Many people paying attention to antics at the Potomac's fall line have had some conception of what has been going on since college, or before. Onlookers far removed from Lofgren's insider perch noticed, or at least spoke up, faster than he did. It's calling it a name evoking the idea of an omniscient, beneath-the-radar junta, like the one so long present in Turkey, that altered understanding of how government business is conducted. This is not to say we've got anything close to places where juntas' actually do rule, yet. It's a matter of how far the influence of special interest is allowed to swing.
Major media figures have a long habit of treating abuses that go on routinely like bizarre revelations when they surface. That's why two words like "deep state" – when recognized as describing a chronic, systemic arrangement — can etch profound impressions on the public at-large. It's not simply the possibility and potential of a "deep state," but the state of oblivion supposed watchdogs maintain accommodating its existence and evolution.
The term gathered rhetorical leverage with more general usage. NPR published "The Man Who Popularized The ‘Deep State' Doesn't Like The Way It's Used," November 6, 2019. Since then lots of others have liked it even less. Even before the 2017 inauguration Trump and fans were hot on the trail of an insidious bureaucratic plot. They soon fell upon Lofgren's words — a perfect fit for PR packaging. The NPR article says:
Breitbart began extensive coverage to " deep state" stories around the time Trump entered office, and others have followed. In a search of TV transcripts, the term "deep state" appeared only 64 times in 2016, the year Lofgren published his book. [This came two years after the Moyers article]
In 2017, it shot up to nearly 2,300 mentions, and surged to nearly
5,000 hits last year, many of them on Fox News."
It doesn't go so far as to say Lofgren wanted the genii back in the lamp – but it is clear that Trump, elected, brought on a political landscape Lofgren hadn't foreseen. Whether or not it was dire enough an event to justify placing the "deep state" on a back burner is where we are now.
Conventional media reactions to "cabal" type narratives did not read from a single script. Rory Cooper placed "'Deep State' Fantasy is Just as Dangerous as the ‘Fake News' Myth" in The Daily Beast February 5, 2018. In it we hear:
The Trump era has been especially irresponsible and unfair to the law enforcement and intelligence communities and frankly, unfair to the audience for which it is intended.
It's similar to how the earned skepticism of the mainstream media has become warped by the constant drumbeat of "fake news" cries.
He goes on to bemoan "a complete and illogical lack of faith in our systems and institutions." He's got some legit complaints about misuse of the expression and hyperbole. But what, in his view anyway, brought on this "earned skepticism" of media? Were they ever covering law enforcement, intelligence communities or unusual governing developments fairly, comprehensively and responsibly? Was the situation Lofgren describes given adequate attention before Trump? How incomplete can public knowledge become if votes are to remain relevant? Was it public awareness of their unawareness that tipped things Trumpward in 2016?
Bernard Henri-Levy embraced the deep state and ran with it on the pages of Tablet the same year as Cooper:
If, in a word, rational argument has not yet yielded entirely to invective, diplomacy to expletives, planning to drunken caprice, if the great symphony of nations has not yet become a din of pots and pans, if the contemplative chess matches that made up the Great Game of planetary strategy have not yet turned into duels with lines of coke or crack—in short, if the nutcases who govern two-thirds of the planet have not all kicked over the table and if the global political clowns have for the moment settled for saying "Stop me before I do something I'll regret," it is thanks to this deep state.
Should we call that gonzo brilliance or abstract raving? If he thinks it was all working so nicely, with people like Kissinger moving pawns, we need a little objective correlative listing actual results. In any case, he doesn't quibble – there is a "deep state" and it amounts to your betters saving you from yourselves.
General Mike Hayden was having none of that. He said this in 2018:
I have worked in intelligence for over three decades. I know what antidemocratic forces look like. I have seen them in multiple foreign countries. There is no ‘deep state' in the American republic.
In the Newsweek article where the above quote appears, Jeff Stein says that "the partisan divide over Russiagate's well-established facts has widened into a dangerous chasm." What was never "well-established," at the time or since, is what specific memes, Facebook posts and general farrago of BS took so many American saps in? Many maintain to this day that the rabble was hoodwinked by Russky "trolls." Why then, haven't whole books been written describing the actual deceptive legerdemain poor Joe-Six-pack fell for? The lack of any believable example from the NYT, the WP, CNN, HuffPost or kindred informers takes no wind from believers' sails. Calmly asking for the examples can buy you the same kind of raging vituperation the words "deep state" do. Some of the faithful will say that that very question proves you are "ruled by your emotions."
There is little doubt that Trump, Hannity, Carlson, the late Limbaugh and their numerous fellow travelers exaggerated and feigned outrage. Do we get dispassionate sincerity from their opponents? Was it ever a simple process sorting the fact from fiction in claims of an anti-Trump plot? A lack of polemic standards common to most gin mills reigned across media. It was just as true of Fox and talk radio as it was of CNN, networks and much print copy. The somewhat separate matter of Lofgren's "deep state" became a rhetorical hostage.
If we are to accept that the rules of discourse in media, from the holy NYT down to Alex Jones, are more stringent than the WWF's, somebody needs to publish a copy of them. And, where the line between the voice of agents of the state and that of supposedly unbiased reporters is drawn gets refereed no better. Glenn Greenwald has been on that one for nearly two decades. Whether a so-called "deep state" exists or not depends on the definition and perception of who you ask. Whether or not the corporate and public media allow the people it puts before you to get mobbed up with government officials, however, is not debatable. They do.
Sidney Gottlieb's CIA mind control experiments remain among the most "conspiracy theory" inducing government programs ever publicly documented. They ended up giving massive dosages of LSD to people like Whitey Bulger. This was followed by placing large quantities of the stuff into the far flung hands of Ken Kesey, Allan Ginsberg and the Grateful Dead. Whether or not that's where Charles Manson got his remains speculative. No can foretell where a government without legal or ideological limitations will go. Gottlieb plotting in his laboratory was certainly beyond the imagination of Walter Lippmann or any of his colleagues in 1960.
The exposure of this crackpot scheme in the 1970's failed to leave the press and legislators reeling, demanding heads on platters, or getting accountability and better oversight in any consequential ways. The story has become, like many other crimes oozing from government memory holes, a delicious little anecdote enjoyed by the likes of horror film aficionados. The grisly tale remains unscreened in a major motion picture. How much pull does the Company continue to have in Hollywood?
What was learned from the Church Committee's findings in 1975 should have placed all US intelligence entities on a short leash since then. Nothing close was ever accomplished. The "security" state has only metastasized. It's the leash on their employers, theoretically US citizens, that has shortened down to nearly a hand on collar grip. But across the spectrum of mainstream media we get views like Cooper's: "a complete and illogical lack of faith in our systems and institutions." How "illogical"?
FBI scandals and bungling have piled up at encyclopedia length – from stuff like Hoover falsifying the FBI's role preempting Nazi Operation Pastorius 80 years ago, to Cointelpro in the 60's, Viola Liuzzo, Ruby Ridge, Waco, Emad Salem, Richard Jewell, FBI lab scandal, Robert Hanssen, Abdullah Higazy, Stephen Hatfill, Brandon Mayfield, The Curtis Culwell Center attack, John Connolly, Ulises Valladares and, most recently, the bizarre case of Charles McGonigal. This is just a partial list compiled from memory and then hyperlinked, each one is book worthy at a minimum. Thirteen of the items listed were post-Church committee – a closer look would easily triple that number. The idea that Congress, or the media, was on it holds no water.
In the meantime it has become supposedly un-American to "lack faith" in them? Was Fed handling of 9-11 supposed to bolster confidence in management? What about the supercop training they've been giving to local constabularies at the National Academy since the Depression? Any connection to woke grievances of late? Law enforcement and intelligence communities' aversion to scrutiny is never false modesty. Like Clement Atlee, America's armed crusaders have a great deal to be modest about. If there are any doubts, you can start the examination with murder solution rates.
The recent classified document scandal plaguing both this administration and the last one is revealing. The sloppy refuse of an extravagant system hiding in plain sight leaves its practitioners wallowing in it. It is so overgrown and paranoid that its buried secrets are regurgitating from the Earth like Springfield's trash after Homer Simpson became sanitation commissioner. It has been just as redolent as any other kind of overflow for generations.
Far from reporting on this rank discharge, media is a substantial component. We are expected grieve in churchy awe at the thought of desecrating "classified documents." Their sacred classification didn't, nor should have, bothered the NYT and WP publishing The Pentagon Papers. Secret documents seem to have evolved into holy Korans at the media caliphate since. Has government confidentiality gone through some kind of magical transformation? A system with as much to hide as our present one should have no confederates in the legitimate press.
Ted Gup is the author of The Book of Honor: Covert Lives and Classified Deaths at the CIA. For someone whose bailiwick is Langley, Va., he can come off awfully credulous. In a 2013 NYT article, for example, he writes "The C.I.A. invokes secrecy to serve its interests but abandons it to burnish its image and discredit critics," as though it's news. Later noting,
Somewhere along the way, the agency that clung to "neither confirm nor deny" had morphed into one that selectively enforces its edicts on secrecy, using different standards depending on rank, message, internal politics and whim.
Gup is a Harvard fellow who published his bestseller on the CIA in 2000. Is it really possible he is unfamiliar with the term "mighty Wurlitzer"? It's how the Company's brass referred to its relationship with media in the 1950's. Now, Gup believes they've suddenly become manipulative? Where was it "along the way" that he recalls our double-noughts checking Hoyle before the shuffle or Queensberry before the bell? Characterizing the CIA's past as "checkered" is unduly generous by any reasonable evaluation.
Major media reports on developments in the "law enforcements and intelligence community" from time to time. The coverage is sporadic, priorities are inconsistent and the ink is either splashed from barrels or doled out with an eye-dropper. It's why George Floyd's name is known worldwide and Daniel Shaver's is barely remembered — with two very different sets of consequences befalling their killers. The elusive principles applied in editorial decision making did more to put Donald Trump in 1600 Penn than any other factor.
Media management prefers not to make much stir about ex-Hill staffer Lofgren now. His writing packs together too many indisputable details to be put down as either exaggerated or invalid. But it's the story about the incredible beltway blob that wasn't there then and isn't there now, that tells plenty. The creature continues thriving quietly with its head down. As long as the feeding herd treads softly the Connecticut Avenue trough will remain slopped.
People having something to gain from the systemic practices Lofgren describes prefer to avoid confrontation. Without push back mass consciousness of this malign parasite fades. Seven of America's richest 20 counties lie less than an hour from the DC line. Montgomery County Maryland abuts it. Fairfax and Arlington counties are within sight across the Potomac. Washington itself has shrunk since WWII but surrounding metro areas have more than doubled in population growth relative to the rate of the rest of the country since the war. If the US had grown at the rate of Fairfax County alone since 1950, the US would have a population over 300 million larger than that of India today. Both major political parties are responsible for this toxic overgrowth. Idly watching it bloat and squeeze the working man seems to be the media's idea of not faking news.
Alphabet soup entities can get coverage when caught amiss. But it seems to depend entirely on what bounds are overstepped. The idea there are any bounds is a frequent source of astonishment for government employees. Watch them testify if you have doubts. Has Capitol Hill kept a count on the number of times Christopher Wray, and others testifying in House and Senate hearings, couldn't answer because of an "ongoing investigation"? Here's one exchange with Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky a few weeks ago:
"Do you know how the second bomb was found at the DNC?" he asked. "And when do you plan on answering our letter?"
"Well, as to the letter, I will work with the department to make sure we can figure out what information we can provide. As you know, this is a very active ongoing investigation. And there are some restrictions on that," Wray said.
"Can you can you tell us how the second pipe bomb was found at the DNC?" Massie asked again.
"I'm not going to get into that here," Wray responded.
"Nine hundred days ago this happened and you said you had total confidence we'd apprehend the subject," …
The events of January 6 occurred the next day. We have yet to get a single word on the FBI's participation on that occasion for the same reason. How much media attention has been devoted to this rate of return on our investment in the FBI? Can Wray speak yet on the Abel homicide? The contempt for, and stonewalling of, the American people by bureaucracy is the number one national scandal. Major media figures seem to feel bringing it up is worse. Bureaucracies maintain their own agendas, neither input nor inquiry are welcome from legislators or the public. The unelected FBI can refuse to come clean with elected officials, and the public, on any matter with the two words "ongoing investigation." That must be good enough for journalistas at the top of the food chain. Where have we seen an op-ed or broadcast commentary on that CYA ploy yet?
Somebody floating around in presstopia should inform Wray that he is not a proprietor. The American people own the buildings, the snoopware, polygraph equipment, weaponry and email accounts G-Men strong-arm Facebook with. The people at 935 Penn owe us, we don't owe them.
The leeway all American governments, federal, state and local, have arrogated concealing what they do reached despotic proportions before most people were born. The Freedom of Information Act, effective July 5, 1967, was supposed to bring more transparency. Laws often prove weak instruments loosening public employees clutch on anything they'd rather keep generally unknown. Book length documents can be delivered honoring FOIA requests. Redactions can reduce the information contained down to several pages. Often, even this is after years of haggling. Federal agencies are "required" to respond in 20 or 30 days. If anyone has been fired yet for failing to, the media hasn't reported it. The FDA said it needed 55, or was it 75, years to release its Pfizer covid-19 vaccine report. A federal judge overruled them, limiting their time covering the trail to eight months. Would it be conspiratorial to ask what could take 240 days to sanitize in the document?
You don't have to buy the notion of a carefully plodding cabal to see what's problematic and high-handed. You don't even have to focus the gaze on Washington, D.C. Police and local governments everywhere are known to maintain monkey grips on troves of information and documentation the public paid to compile. Every official, from the city planner in Podunk to the Attorney-General of the United States, is capable of catatonic outrage at the idea their records are any of the supposed clients' business. Media compliance with this kind of defiant contempt never abates. A stupefied ‘why would you ask' has prevailed in press rooms for ages. They are closer to them – and who "them" is, is clear here – than they are to us.
A recent case of municipal malfeasance occurred in Marion County, Kansas. A small group of law enforcement and local government insiders used the devices at their disposal to illegally disrupt the operations of local daily "The Marion County Record." Without downplaying this incident's numerous disturbing details, you may wonder about a caste system in reporting priorities. PBS, and many other sources, have reported well over 100 SWAT raids per day for years. When was the last one problematic enough to get this much national coverage?
Only days before Monica Hesse of the WP reported on the 13 years it took to solve Unique Harris' murder. Convicted felon Isaac Moye, the murderer, was on cell phone records with the victim, while wearing a government issued ankle monitor at the time Harris disappeared. The DNA evidence wasn't miniscule either. This country has kids in high school that would have been on the trail of Moye going by cell phone records alone in hours. The Washington Post placed this article in the "Style" section. Otherwise, the public might get the idea there was something unceasingly remiss in our trustworthy authority figures.
In the meantime, will we ever get the details on Stephen Paddock? What gives Nashville police exclusive rights to Aubrey Hale's writings? There is no end to the indefensible high-handedness and low standards of people in authority at any level. Still, writers like Rory Cooper cited above and thousands like him find any kind of scrutiny of this abuse and incompetence "unfair."
Each of the cases listed above take a lower billing than what happened, or failed to for 74 minutes, at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas. NPR reported that about 400 LEO's, municipal, state and federal, had amassed on the site before any action was taken. Shooter Salvador Ramos was able to hit 38 people in the interim – 21 of them fatally. Law enforcement actions in situations against unarmed suspects, like Daniel Shaver, are both tactically and defensively inexplicable.
"Government" in sum today consumes about 38% of GDP. Ruling minions have come around to the idea that they make you possible. We have passed the point where questioning that assertion became surveillance worthy. The suggestion that other people's honest toil makes them possible jolts bureaucrats and their media allies into stunned, upright positions. The state, at any depth, is ubiquitous and insatiable.
People who pay close attention, but would never vote for Trump, Biden or Hillary, don't sit idly wondering how we got here. The media in America is mentally numb. They've indulged outrageous government conduct for time immemorial. Writers like Dana Milbank of the Washington Post, spew invective on anyone wary of beltway blobbism. A Booz, Allen, Hamilton or BlackRock suit at the next table during lunch couldn't arouse Dana's curiosity if a briefcase full of cash spilled open in front of him. The bespoke couture and lavishness surrounding him in the Capitol Village hasn't evoked a single line of copy yet. Any hint of resentment in flyover country is what ignites that loaded pen.
Booz was just nailed to the tune of $377 million in fines and restitution for over-charging its main client, the US of A. An interesting detail is that the $209 million in fake billing was used to cover losses in commercial contracting. In the comfy grip of familiar hands, the federal cash cow remained pliant and milkable. Competitive businesses in the real world expected some value for their money. The WP story by David Nakamura cites an unnamed "senior manager" describing government auditors as "too stupid" to notice. He must have been right; the scam lasted at least ten years. It'd still go on if firm employee Sarah Feinberg hadn't ratted them out.
Ex-prosecutor Denise Barnes quote from the WP story provides a good example of what that "senior manager" was talking about: "It's almost $400 million – if that doesn't dissuade you [from fraud], what would." Actually Denise, it was about $168 million, the rest was a refund of ill gotten gains. $168 million is about what the grand dames of BA drop yearly on Grey Goose Cosmopolitan's in DC's trendiest locales.
Feinberg, a retired US Marine officer, was recruited from a pool BA found reliable. "Semper Fidelis" doesn't necessarily designate who the faithful remain faithful to. After paying off lawyers the lady pocketed about a $40 million reward for her candor. An NBC article on the case says:
But for Feinberg it's not entirely a happy ending, because she believes prosecutors should have gotten a larger payment from the company. She said she believes the firm overcharged taxpayers by at least $500 million, as she argued in her lawsuit, and she noted that after Booz Allen paid the settlement, "their stock price went up by 20%."
Going by reactions on the NYSE bilking the government was exactly why investors expected Booz to continue amassing value. Everyone gets caught now and then. With 131 million shares outstanding the fine is less than a dollar and quarter each.
Booz Allen, of course, was at the forefront of Lofgren's mind deploying the words "deep state." Anyone who believes $209 million is all they have taken us for has got to be paying telemarketers for that "extended warranty."
What's the best evidence of a "deep state" abetted by superficial 4th estate? Whenever anything goes wrong on Wall Street or in Washington the "solution" is the same; more money for bureaucracy and insiders and a better lens scrutinizing you. The media itself has become so cozy with this arrangement they expect a cut of the shakedown. They think they've earned their bones and qualify as made men. The idea they have any intention of turning the microscope around is psychotic delusion.
Professor Ryan Gingeras teaches at the Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey, California. He is primarily known for his work on Turkey and the late Ottoman Empire. Presumably, nobody in the present establishment ranks of media and academia disputes the notion of a lurking junta in ruling factions there prior to the Susurluk incident of 1996. It was a car accident that, more or less, proved the "Ergenekon" conspiracy theory was not a theory. That arrangements between the parties involved have been severed definitively is less than certain, so far. The government in Ankara's treatment of the matter is somewhat evidentiary. According to Gingeras:
"Official government agencies in Turkey have provided no help in attempting to settle questions regarding the country's deep state past. No formal declassification system exists in Turkey with respect to state records. Save for the archives run by the office of the prime minister, none of the country's principal ministries allow for easy public access to their records."
There have been three distinct coup d'états in Turkey since 1960. The one in 1960 resulted in the hanging of popularly elected Prime Minister Adnan Menderes in 1961. Delving into the scheming and homicidal skullduggery in Anatolia over the past hundred years rarely gets adequate attention from either academia or the media. Numerous other political developments since Ataturk's death in 1938 may not have reached the level of outright "coup" but had similar effects. Doing the research to figure out what happened and why requires delving through wormholes and sequences that seem to have no end. Impenetrable intrigue has continued in Anatolia from the time of Sultans into the present day. A vast bureaucratic state made it possible.
What was left of the Ottoman Empire became strategically pivotal during the Cold War. Turkey is a land where east and west both coexist and confront in numerous different ways. Kemal Ataturk was like many other dictators taking power with elite and military backing. He then gathered more popular support using coercive means to control political opposition, education and media. After his death, followers holding martial instruments laid low in the background, ready to strike if other movements gained more momentum than the junta would tolerate. Where was the hierarchy of US and Western "experts"? Was kicking Turkey out of NATO ever considered?
US administration turned a blind eye for the same kinds of reasons that became clear in Egypt after the "Arab Spring" when Mohamed Morsi was elected. The US Secretary of State at the time, John Kerry, claimed that the military, shooting down Morsi's supporters in Cairo streets, weren't staging a coup d'etat against the popularly elected man's regime. Rather, unequivocally where US law is concerned, they were " restoring democracy." Our faithful media didn't question the State Department's democratic accounting in the case. As merciless as the army was, not nearly enough Morsi-ites were shot to put them in a minority. Still, risk averse fans of the prez might have been dissuaded by the corpse count. Just what it does take to make Egypt "safe for democracy" isn't quite decided yet at the Pratt Mansion where the Council on Foreign Relations convenes. The suggestion of less US participation in that "safety" campaign isn't on the lecture list.
It would be an outright lie to say the US media failed to report any of this. But it would be equally untrue to say that they gave adequate attention to how it reckoned with the standards we claim to maintain, emphasize the irony in Kerry's treatment, or subject his words to the kind of lambasting they inspired. Whatever the state of the "deep state" in the US, its compliance, and participation, with deep states elsewhere is a matter of public record. And, whatever Obama might think of Churchill, his thoughts on popular volition in Egypt could stand further examination.
These kinds of developments do not track or parallel things that go on in the US to substantive degrees. Only the most deranged among us feel the need to look over their shoulders before going on in coffee stores or bars. That kind of carelessness could be life-threatening in places where hard edged secret states hold ultimate sway.
What is similar is the vast amount of knowledge the government withholds. We endure a ruling class, much of it in the private sector,that warehouses troves of information about their activities around the clock. Anyone without some doubt and curiosity brings up serious doubt about the functioning of their own gray matter. The magnitude of national debt won't fit into the imagination of most brains. If Oppie had known in WWII where it would be today, he probably would have sabotaged the American bomb the way Heisenberg claimed he did the Nazi one. Whatever it is they are hiding on any occasion, you are paying plenty for products you know nothing of.
It is no stretch to say that Donald Trump was demagogic bringing up the "deep state." That fact can in no way legitimize, justify or absolve business as usual inside the Wall to "K" Street corridor. Media's attention to such developments was insufficient long before Trump and Comey went round.
The job security enjoyed by the post WWII working class is unknown anywhere but in government today. The outrageous retirement's public employees amass renders huge swaths of the US population serfs. Who do you think will be serving the needs of ex-bureaucrats at leisure? It will be the ones who never relied on the statutory coercion of taxes or enjoyed paid vacation, generous medical, ridiculous sick leave or obscene retirement. Millions of people working steadily toward their goals have been caught up in the financial maelstroms and economic riptides of recent decades. They may easily end up doing the petty bidding of apparatchiks, professional goldbrickers and common bureau hacks to the grave.
Who else will be the aged plumbers cursed for being stuck in traffic, the overwhelmed waiters complained about, the uber drivers, Amazon slugs, clerks and various minions of anyone enjoying generous retirement? Whether it's "deep" or not, the state's parasitic obesity is indisputable. Anyone outside the ambit of generous government benefits will be working for them. Any out loud complaints the servants of public servants make will be logged, evaluated and, possibly, used against the complainers. So, who is employing who?
The revolving door between government agencies and the firms they contract with makes chumps out of taxpayers. We are barely informed of what they are doing to us. The prevalent view from the news industry is that we should be grateful for what they do for us. Our gratitude in fact, we have recently learned, should be extended to media as well. Enlightened journalists now say we should be compelled to foot their salaries and benefits. Government paychecks, news consumers are expected to believe, won't bias coverage of government. What kind of paranoiac thinks such things? This is the actual word from a supposedly "professional" class.
Whatever we know or don't know about a so-called "deep state," our 4th estate has mostly been an appendage of it. Operatives behind the scenes struggle day and night to maintain say-so over what can reach broad audiences. Substantial blocs of media "pros," who claim to keep us in the know, go right along with such priorities. When was there ever a feature, much less a front page one, in the NYT or the WP, about the huge disparity between what regular people get doled out and what government employees are guaranteed? The difference in human lifestyles can be described exactly the way LBJ described the difference between the House and the Senate. "Chicken shit and chicken salad."
If you find this an exaggeration, consider " Public Employee Unions Rule California" from Reason Magazine.
This session, Assemblyman Heath Flora (R–Modesto) authored Assembly Bill 1254, which would grant automatic pay raises forever to state firefighters to bring their current average compensation ($200,000 to $253,000 a year) up to the rates of better-compensated municipal firefighters, which pay 15% to 40% more. This Editorial Board referred to the bill as "hands down the most irresponsible union-giveaway proposal this year."
If you wonder why there's never enough money and why lawmakers always look for new ways to raise taxes, then take a look at the Transparent California website, which details state and local compensation packages. For instance, I count more than 200 California Highway Patrol employees who in 2022 earned above $400,000 in total compensation, with the top earner receiving $777,000.
Whatever its "depth" we are up against a corpulent state. There are slightly over one million firefighters in the US. 1955, according to the NIOSH Science blog, have died in the line of duty since 1998. That's over 90 a year, a little over 9 per 100,000 in actuarial terms. While higher than most fields it still fails to come close to the 25 most dangerous occupations according USA Today as of March 2023. Not one of those fields nears them in compensation. This is before we consider the idle time they get to shoot pool, become history experts, play chess and do crosswords waiting for emergencies to arise.
A question that has been before us for some time now is how to define "class." Do people without connections to government and the corporations in bed with them enjoy the same rights, privileges and economic security as those who do? Where is any tipping point in the classification system? Feds withhold information about their activities indefinitely under the guise of "ongoing investigation." Media observers who don't question that obstruction conform to the dictum "Ignorance is Strength"
Whether or not a vaguely defined "deep state" connects to any of the 91 felony charges against Donald Trump is barely relevant. Many of his once faithful defenders will now admit 45 had little policy-making traction in office. His worst damage might well be driving agents of media further into the embrace of authority figures. People on social media today putting any kind of rhetorical heat on establishment forces are called "traitors," "conspiracy theorists" and Russian bots around the clock. The ability of such fanatics to make literal and factual distinctions may have been overestimated by mainstream writers. So far, we have seen no efforts from editorial hierarchies to correct this kind of hyperbolic cultism.
Top tier bureaucrats, Wall Street suits, government rank and file, DHS contractors, cloak and dagger types and anyone playing inside the beltway angles never realized what a boon Donald Trump might be to their images. The kind of conformity demanded by his most rabid enemies today has never been accomplished in a state with anything close to a "free press" before.