Mike Lofgren’s cogent and frightening jeremiad against the forces which are chiseling away at the country and at democracy strikes a warning bell for us all to open our eyes and see what is really going on. The strapline is The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government, and he proceeds to show us just how this is happening, and how it started back during the Reagan years.
He says that the political theater that is endlessly tweeted and blogged about has nothing to do with actual decision making. The real work gets done behind the scenes by invisible bureaucrats working for the vast web of agencies that actually dictate our foreign policy, defense posture, and security decisions.
Actual power lies in the Deep State, Washington’s shadowy power elite, in the pockets of corporate interests and dependent on the moguls of Silicon Valley, whose data-collecting systems enable the U.S. government to spy on our every move, swipe, and click.
He laments the rise of corporate profiteering in the “War on Terror,” calling back to warnings from decades’ past about the U.S. military industrial complex, which warnings go back as far as Eisenhower. Corporate and political actors profit from hundreds of billions a year spent on a bloated “national security” state, at the expense of social spending on education, health care, and infrastructural needs. In an era of record inequality, the fixation of U.S. political and economic elites on militarism exacts a huge cost, draining much needed financial resources that could be allocated toward rebuilding the country and providing for the basic needs of the citizenry.
He focuses on the dangers of the growing national security state, coordinated largely through the NSA and other agencies, and to condemn their assault on citizens’ privacy rights.
He voices his concern about the rise of Wall Street power, stating that financial deregulation is one of the greatest threats to our economy, and the failure of both political parties to limit the power of financial elites is one of the great tragedies of modern times. The American banking system has historically been a parasitic force in the American economy. Wall Street’s speculation on vital goods such as oil, housing, internet stocks, and other goods has fed stock market bubbles, the collapse of which wreak havoc on the economy and American workers, draining their retirement savings, and fueling the rise of unemployment and underemployment. Financialization undermines the economy – which is now largely driven by speculators and characterized by anemic to non-existent economic growth. What profit gains exist are now largely captured by financial and other corporate elites. Meanwhile, the masses of Americans find themselves working longer hours, with increased productivity, for stagnating to declining wages, amidst huge increases in cost-of-living via out-of-control health care and education costs.
What he says is scary and he has the references to back it all up. I found it a very hard book to read, because of the bleak picture it presents not only of our present time, but of the future as well.
Lofgren is well qualified to address these issues. He is an insider, he knows the principal players. He was military legislative assistant to Republican former House representative John Kasich in 1983. In 1994 he was a professional staff member of the House Armed Services Committee’s Readiness Subcommittee. From 1995 to 2004, he was budget analyst for national security on the majority staff of the House Budget Committee. From 2005 until his 2011 retirement, Lofgren was the chief analyst for military spending on the Senate Budget Committee.
In September 2011, Lofgren published an essay entitled Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult on the website Truthout. In it he explains why he retired when he did, writing that he was “appalled at the headlong rush of Republicans to embrace policies that are deeply damaging to this country’s future; and contemptuous of the feckless, craven incompetence of Democrats in their half-hearted attempts to stop them.” He charged that both major American political parties are “rotten captives to corporate loot,” but that while Democrats are merely weak and out of touch, the Republican Party is “becoming more like an apocalyptic cult.” He particularly described Republicans as caring exclusively about their rich donors; being psychologically predisposed toward war; and pandering to the anti-intellectual, science-hostile, religious fundamentalist fringe.