What it would take to rein in the Deep State

DeepState51cdQwM-Z8LMike Lofgren’s new book, The Deep State, describes the interlocking  U.S. military-industrial complex, financial oligarchy and police state which is not subject to either the rule of law or democratic control.   The particulars of his description are available in the previous two posts and in the linked articles.

Here’s what I think needs to be done in order to rein in the Deep State.

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authoritarianism9fd18cCongress should exercise the power of the purse to prevent the President from committing acts of war on his or her own initiative.  President Obama has stated that he considers himself free to attack foreign countries by means of bombing from the air, killer drones and Special Operations because these things are not war.  It is only war when large numbers of American ground troops are involved.

Refusing to levy taxes is the historic method used by parliaments and national assemblies to force absolute monarchs to cease aggressive wars and submit to the rule of law.  The U.S. precedent is the Case-Church Amendment of 1973 forced a cutoff of funds for military operations in Vietnam after August 15 of that year, and brought the Vietnam Conflict to an end.

Congress should pass a resolution ending funding for military operations and military aid and subsidies in the Middle East after a specific deadline, except for what is specifically authorized by Congress.

And if the executive refused to comply with that resolution?  The Constitutional remedy for this is impeachment.

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Congress should pass a law allowing prosecuted whistle-blowers to be acquitted if they can show that the information they revealed was kept secret in order to cover up lawbreaking, incompetence or failure, to limit business competition, or to suppress information that is not related to national security.

061813ClassifiedAll these restrictions on secrecy are contained in Presidential executive orders from Truman to Obama, but they have never been recognized in practice.  What’s necessary is to recognize these limits in law rather than as an internal policy that can be rescinded.  Another exception to secrecy should be for information that already is publicly available.

The federal courts and the Senate and House intelligence committees should have access to any information they need to perform their functions.  Refusal to provide such information should be punishable as contempt of court or contempt of Congress.   The federal judiciary and Congress should make their own rules as to what information can be publicly disclosed, and what not.

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Corporate crime, especially financial fraud, should be punished by criminal indictments of individuals, not by civil suits against organizations.  Punishing corporations harms many individual employees, suppliers and shareholders who’ve done nothing wrong, while enabling the guilty to escape accountability for what they’ve done wrong.

The exception is enforcement of the anti-trust laws, especially against “too big to fail” banks.  To the greatest degree possible, corporations should be regulated according to unambiguous laws, rather than administrative decisions by individuals.  The latter involves danger of arbitrariness on the one hand, and collusion on the other.

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Vacancies on the Supreme Court should be filled by Justices who believe that the Bill of Rights protects individuals from arbitrary power rather than corporations and government agencies from reasonable regulation.  Ideally a Constitutional amendment should be passed abolishing corporate person-hood.

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More broadly, the budgets of the Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security need to be reduced to what is necessary to defend the nation.  Specifically, Congress should insist on lists of all the private subcontractors with the power to classify information as secret, and of all the military facilities operated by the U.S. government around the world.

Reducing the budget and laying off personnel in the departments of Defense and Homeland Security will increase unemployment among honest, patriotic individuals.  This should be offset by equivalent increases in budget and staff for necessary public services and public works.   Unfortunately this would not necessarily provide new jobs for the downsized individuals, but it would help avert an overall jobs recession.

LINKS

Anatomy of the Deep State by Michael S. Lofgren for Huffington Post (2014)

An oligarchy has broken our democracy. It must be dislodged by Mike Lofgren for The Guardian.

Controlled by shadow government: Mike Lofgren reveals how top U.S. officials are at the mercy of the “deep state”, an interview by Elias Isquith for Salon.

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Here are Lofgren’s own proposals for reining in the Deep State.

1. Eliminate private money from public elections.

2. Sensibly redeploy and downsize the military and intelligence complex.

3. Stay out of the Middle East.

4. Redirect the peace dividend to domestic infrastructure improvement.

5. Start enforcing our antitrust laws.

6. Reform tax policy.  By reform, he meant eliminating tax loopholes.

7. Reform immigration policy.  By reform, he meant greater restrictions on immigration and better enforcement of immigration laws, while providing a path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants already here.

8. Adopt a single-payer health care system.

9. Abolish corporations’ person-hood status, or else treat them exactly like persons.

 I agree with all nine.  But I don’t know of any American Presidential candidate or national public figure that supports all the items on my list or Mike Lofgren’s.

It might well take years to turn public opinion around, and then more years of struggle to enact the public’s desires into law.  I don’t know if it even is possible.  The only way to find out is to try.

The situation is that United States, like any other country, needs troops, police, spies and intelligence agents, and, like any other capitalist country, needs financial markets, bankers, stockbrokers and high-tech entrepreneurs.  All of them perform vital duties, for which they deserve respect and just rewards.

But just by existing, they are a latent Deep State.  We the people need to be eternally vigilant that they don’t rule over us.  Power corrupts, and there is no category of people that is does not corrupt.

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