Steve A. Stone
Dear Friends and Patriots,
I often refer to the “Deep State” and the “Swamp” in my more recent writings. I’ve described who peoples those two entities, based on my own experience as a career senior government employee. A “Deep Stater” is a senior government employee who has the power to make or influence policies, or even to ignore it. A Swamp Creature is any of the other government employees and a lot of government contractors who desire to one day become a Deep Stater. Swamp Creatures aid the Deep Staters in their efforts to promote agendas that aren’t always consistent with law or with the interests of the general public. Deep Staters have the ability to say “No” once in a while and just not do as ordered by elected or appointed officials whom you might think wield the actual power. Some do it because their knowledge and expertise is considered so essential that they’ve managed to insulate themselves against any discipline or reprisals from above. They are the ones referred to as “Teflon.” There are a select few others, like Dr. Anthony Fauci, who have actual tenure rights granted under law. They are almost impossible to discipline or dismiss.
I read a recent article by Jeffrey Tucker, founder and CEO of the Brownstone Institute for Social and Economic Research, written for Epoch Times, that was almost spot on when discussing who has the actual power in the US government. To summarize Mr. Tucker’s conclusion – IT ISN’T THE PEOPLE WE ELECT! I recommend that article for your perusal. For a man who has no government service in his resume’ – he seems to get it.
It’s true. The people we elect don’t have nearly the power we attribute to them. The reasons are partly systemic and partly structural. I’ll try to explain.
The systemic problem was created by legal evolution. In the beginning, when our nation was young, the thought was Congress would meet a couple of times each year, debate and pass whatever laws that might address problems noted in the previous year, appropriate whatever monies that appeared to meet budgetary requirements, confirm new officials, etc., all in accordance with their official duties as laid out in the Constitution. The President’s Cabinet would run their parts of government, which were originally the necessary duties that couldn’t be adequately performed by any single state under our federal system. The size of government was dictated by needs, again as established by the Constitution, and by events in and needs of the nation as a whole.
The federal government was never intended to be the “do all and be all” megalithic monstrosity it’s evolved into. That was done incrementally over time. Part-time Congressmen wanted to become full-time politicians. Full-time politicians needed full-time staffs. Full-time politicians and their staffs wanted to be paid on a regular basis. More and more need for revenues necessitated offices to account for all the ebb and flow of monies. The Cabinet officers all seemed to want to enlarge the scope of their areas of cognizance – they wanted more individual power and authority. Each time Congress acceded and enlarged the scope of one of the agencies by assigning it a new responsibility there was the concomitant need for more agency staff. More and bigger government required more and more oversight, reporting, analysts to review reports, audits, equipment, buildings … you see where it all goes? Every aspect of governmental growth was a matter of some law passed by Congress. Everything was always paid for by appropriations passed by Congress. While it’s true the Presidents have proposed growth of governmental scope and authority on some occasions, none of it can occur without an act, a law passed by Congress. That’s the legal evolution being referred to.
I will summarize the previous paragraph with this – If you want to know who to blame for the mess our government is – blame Congress. It couldn’t be the way it is unless they allowed it. And, they did. (I will partially retract that statement later on – you’ll see.)
The structural problems of government are related to two factors – individual power needs and the sheer size of the beast we know as our government.
Power is an opiate to most people. Give them a little and they will become addicted. Addiction drives the power-hungry to demand more and more power. There seems to be no limit to it. The need for power in government is expressed in several ways. People who aren’t particularly money-focused will crave more scope of authority and the budgets and staffs of people that come with it. In most cases the phenomenon observed is constant reorganization. In our government today there are continuous reorganizations taking place. We tend to think of our government as a static, monolithic thing, but the truth is it’s always in motion and is almost alive in most respects.
There is a question that should always be asked about this phenomenon – is it really necessary? Most reorganizations are probably not necessary, but are the outcome of power projections within a bureaucracy. There are those reorganizations that do have justifications, though. Every time Congress passes legislation that creates a new governmental responsibility and function an office is created somewhere in the Executive Department. That necessarily requires staffing, offices, budgets, oversight needs, supplies, furniture, reports, audits, security, and a plethora of additional requirements. The new office requires a leader. The leader becomes a power player in a new role. These descriptions are over-simplifications. The reality is infinitely more complex.
The other structural factor relates directly to the size of our government. If you don’t get that, you really have no idea what this subject is about. Our government is huge, inefficient, largely ineffective, and completely outside the ability of the people to influence. It’s a ravenous beast that has two motivations – to grow and to feed. Remember, I said it’s alive in most respects. It has almost all the characteristics of living creatures. It doesn’t breath in the same way a living creature does, but it does have its equivalent to oxygen – it has to have money. It’s a creature that always wants to grow. In truth, there has only been one time in my life where the government actually down-sized, which, oddly enough, was during President Clinton’s time. In every other administration we’ve seen growth in the government workforce. Those power needs referred to above are partly responsible, but so are the seemingly endless creations of new requirements and responsibilities found in legislation passed by Congress. It all has evolved into something akin to madness. The truth of our government is – no one really knows what’s going on. It’s true there are people within each individual part of our government who know what their segment is doing, and they may know what others do in an allied part of government; a part they normally interface with. But, there is no grand overseer who knows all. In fact, there’s precious little oversight over most of it at all. Who’s job is that? According to our Constitution – Congress. How do they do that? With a continuing series of oversight hearings that are always going on. How effective is the oversight? I can only point in the general direction of Washington and ask, “Do you really think that would exist if there was any real and effective oversight?” The problem? That’s very simple – it’s way too big!
According to a report by the Congressional Research Service released on 28 June 2022, entitled Federal Workforce Statistics Sources: OPM and OMB, there are just under 2.2 million people actually on the federal payroll. Don’t take that number to the bank, though, because that’s just full-time people. When you throw in people who work less than full-time and measure using a payroll budget-based method known as Full-Time Equivalents (FTEs) the number rockets up to just under 4.3 million. And, neither of those methods calculates government support contractors. When those people, who earn their living doing chores directly for government agencies and employees, are tossed in the total number of people paid for by tax dollars grows to over 9 million. Does that sound like a lot of people to you? How hard do you think it would be to know what all those 9 million people are doing every day, or on any day at all?
I have a theory about the size of our government that’s somewhat based on the economic theories of Professor Arthur Laffer – our government would be 20-25% more efficient and effective if the total workforce were cut in half. The pure truth is – most of those people aren’t doing anything of any value to the nation.
Here’s another bit of pure truth, one you’ve all most likely heard before – getting Congress to approve anything new is very hard. Getting them to stop doing anything once they’ve committed to it is infinitely harder. We have entire offices with hundreds of people on staffs in our government who do almost nothing of use to anyone. We know it, too. But, each one of those useless offices has an advocacy. Each one has contractors of some kind. Contractors have lobbyists. Lobbyists drum up support in Congress by convincing members that there’s either a need that doesn’t actually exist, or that those offices employ people in their home districts. There are parts of our government highly skilled at building walls of Teflon around themselves. They buy support from various members of Congress by spending some part of their budgets in the districts the members represent – then ensure they know about it. There’s a bit of an implied threat or coercion in what goes on, but it goes on each and every day, and it affects almost every single member of Congress in one way or another.
If what I’ve described sounds weird and confusing, that’s because it is. It’s amazingly corrupt and amazingly resistant to change.
I want to take a brief pause in the narrative to point out one thing you all need to know – no … repeat, NO – candidate for any office in Washington can ever truthfully promise you they’ll do anything. Any candidate who says “Elect me and I’ll makes sure that border wall gets built,” or “Elect me and I’ll put a stop to the out of control spending in Congress,” or “Elect me and I’ll make sure your Second Amendment rights are fully protected” is just feeding you a line. It’s up to you to bite the hook or not, but you need to know the person making such promises is one of two things, neither of which is good. They’re either a notorious and willful liar, or they’re just plain dumb and have no idea how little they can actually do. No individual person in Congress gets anything done by their lonesome. No one can promise anything other than they will work hard to represent the interests of their district, state, and the nation as a whole. That’s their job. Our job is to hold them to account. The same thing goes for a Presidential candidate. Promises may or may not be kept, but most promises made by candidates can only be fulfilled if many others agree. When enough don’t agree – it’s not going to happen.
Now, back to the main theme.
If you’ve followed along you understand our government is a creation that’s not only not in control, it’s uncontrollable. It’s just plain too big. It tries to do way too much. It’s like a 20 foot tall giant trying to tiptoe through a garden bed of pansies. More pansies get crushed by the giant than are avoided. That’s the government I know. That’s the government I’ve experienced for decades.
You should be able to see the opportunities in our governmental system for a significant number of Deep State operatives. The plethora of offices in our government make for an almost equal plethora of opportunities for power hungry people to exercise their own will, with almost no concern or fear of full accountability or oversight. If that sounds a bit scary, that’s because it is.
Think about that 9 million number for a moment. If only 1 percent of them are Deep Staters and 20 percent are Swamp Creatures, how many are we talking about? That’s 90,000 empowered and power-hungry people who are backed up by 1.8 million who hope to someday replace them. Those are my estimates, based on my own observations over time. They aren’t validated by anything else. I’ve never seen any study that attempted to validate the size and breadth of the Deep State or The Swamp, so I’m asking for a bit of intellectual leniency in this exercise. My numbers are probably as good as anyone’s. Take them or leave them, but I appeal to you to think of something else. Think of the only President who ever mentioned the Deep State or the Swamp. Think about Donald Trump. If my estimated numbers are anywhere close to reality, what chance do you think he ever had of making a substantive change in the way Washington works? The correct answer should be very easy.
What you should all glean from this discussion is the essential truth of our government – it’s not run by those we elect, nor by a combination of them and those they appoint to help them. It’s actually run by the Deep State and the Swamp Creature minions who do their bidding. The 9 million are almost totally controlled by less than 100 thousand of their members. And, not just them. Because of how they operate and what they do their actual span of control is over the entire country. Their power is not just over 9 million people, it’s over 300 million, plus. They’re the ones who really run things. They’re the ones who we all truly work for. And, if you think that’s bad (which, of course, it is) take that down one level and realize pretty much the same scenario plays out at the state and even to the county and city levels. Every level of government is likely to create positions that will be occupied by a Deep Stater. Every single Deep Stater will have Swamp Creatures working for them. It’s just the way things are.
One thing that we hear about today is needed. We do need a Great Reset. Not the Great Reset that’s being proposed, but a reset that would reconstruct the US government and get it re-baselined. We desperately need to get the monster that’s evolved under control, and the only way to do that is to systematically tear it all down. How could that be done? I have a few thoughts on that.
Members of Congress should be graded on how well they perform their oversight functions. Grading them is our job. We don’t actually do that. We have to start.
We need our representatives to understand that any function performed by the government that’s not a legitimate necessity is a waste of taxpayer money. Their oversight role should start with one question when they do a hearing, “If your agency didn’t exist what harm would come to anyone?” A good next question would be, “Of all the functions of your agency, which are the ten that contribute the least to accomplishing your agency’s core mission, and why haven’t you already stopped doing them?” The questions asked by Congress should all be simple, straightforward, and aimed at figuring out if an agency is worth maintaining.
We all know the bureaucracy loves to create regulations. In fact, the creation of regulations is something of a core responsibility of the bureaucracy. But, do you understand Congress is required to review all regulations to ensure they fully meet the intent of laws enacted? All regulations are required to trace directly back to enacted law. All regulations are required to demonstrate need. All regulations are required to be fair and equitable. It’s the job of Congress to ensure the bureaucracy doesn’t impose regulations that have no legal mandate or exceed their mandates. This is an area where Congress has been failing for decades. The truth is – hardly anyone in Congress reads the laws they vote on and even fewer ever takes time to review the bureaucratic response to those laws – the regulations that impose those laws on the people. This is something Donald Trump understood. He mandated the roll-back of regulations and his Cabinet was pretty successful at it. But, they were doing the job of Congress. If Congress was interested in doing that job they would already have imposed rules stating for every new regulation proposed an agency is required to propose at least two existing regulations as candidates for rescission. The regulatory power of the bureaucracy should be force to reverse direction. That’s what Congress is supposed to oversee. That’s what they haven’t done in many decades.
The people have a problem inherent in all this. We have to wait for the next election cycle to grade a member of Congress. We can’t recall. We don’t have the power to impeach. Congress can vote to expel a member who breaks its rules or the rule of law. They’ve done that a few times, but, we can’t. And, we can’t expect a body we can justifiably accuse to be totally corrupt to police itself. It rarely happens. It’s left to us to police Congress. It’s left to us to try and ensure we put better people in the House and Senate. The truth of that is … we, ourselves, have failed. The monstrosity I’ve been describing … the US government … it exists as it does because of our own failures. It exists due to our own lack of will and comprehension, as well as that of our parents and our grandparents. Our government is fixable, but only if enough people wise up and show up. No democratic form of government can succeed when the people are uninformed and disinterested. When the will of the people can no longer be manifested and reflected in the work of government tyranny will always follow.
Tyranny, my friends. Tyranny. That’s what we’re dealing with. But I’m not talking about the tyranny of the Biden administration or of Congress, but the tyranny of the unelected and largely invisible, unknown Deep State. As much as anyone, it’s they who run things in America. And, in the end, that’s not Congress’ fault, but our own..
Steve© Steve A. Stone
The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.