28 January 2016

Deep State: Inside Washington's Shadowy Power Elite

“Our plutocracy, whether the hedge fund managers in Greenwich, Connecticut, or the Internet moguls in Palo Alto, now lives like the British did in colonial India: ruling the place but not of it. If one can afford private security, public safety is of no concern; to the person fortunate enough to own a Gulfstream jet, crumbling bridges cause less apprehension, and viable public transportation doesn’t even compute. With private doctors on call and a chartered plane to get to the Mayo Clinic, why worry about Medicare?”

― Mike Lofgren, The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government

"Our analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts. Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association, and a widespread (if still contested) franchise.

But we believe that if policymaking is dominated by powerful business organizations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened."

Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page, Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens, Princeton 2014

"As a congressional staff member for 28 years specializing in national security and possessing a top secret security clearance, I was at least on the fringes of the world I am describing, if neither totally in it by virtue of full membership nor of it by psychological disposition.

But, like virtually every employed person, I became, to some extent, assimilated into the culture of the institution I worked for, and only by slow degrees, starting before the invasion of Iraq, did I begin fundamentally to question the reasons of state that motivate the people who are, to quote George W. Bush,  'the deciders.'

Cultural assimilation is partly a matter of what psychologist Irving L. Janis called groupthink,  the chameleon-like ability of people to adopt the views of their superiors and peers. This syndrome is endemic to Washington: The town is characterized by sudden fads, be it negotiating biennial budgeting, making grand bargains or invading countries. Then, after a while, all the town's cool kids drop those ideas as if they were radioactive.

As in the military, everybody has to get on board with the mission, and questioning it is not a career-enhancing move. The universe of people who will critically examine the goings-on at the institutions they work for is always going to be a small one. As Upton Sinclair said,  'It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.'"

Mike Lofgren