Each new election year brings promises of change, policies that will restore America’s greatness, blah, blah, blah. Again in 2016 we will choose a new president and new representatives in Congress; new faces will make their appearances in Washington DC, while old ones disappear. But what about the people who stay in power, one election after another, invisible to the public eye?
The concept of ‘a Shadow Government’ has been around for decades, but is rarely used to describe the United States. The term, in general, refers to an informal grouping of economic elites—oligarchs (a small group of people who clandestinely control government policy)—senior military and intelligence operatives and organized crime, who run the state along anti-democratic lines regardless of who is formally in power.
I define the American Elite Shadow Government as a hybrid association of elements of the government and the top-level elite of finance and industry that is able, through extortionate campaign financing of elected officials, to influence, no, dictate, broadcast media to do their bidding.
These same elites continue to co-opt elected officials via massive bribes and the promise of lucrative post-government careers. They govern the United States in direct and opposite directions than the promises made to get the desired results of what turn out to be meaningless elections. They govern without the consent nor the best interest of the governed…and they have been virtually ignored by every administration, including the Obama admiistration as evidenced by nary a single indictment for those responsible for the near catastrophic fraud of the 2007 economic crash which cost millions of Americans their life’s savings….not to mention the indefensible passivity of allowing a group of clearly seditious white militants to flaunt their impunity by taking over federal buildings and refusing to obey century-old federal land laws.
Entire states, have become the hostages of blatant disregard for citizens’ well being and are subsequently broke, from Lousiana to Kansas to New Jersey to Michigan to Mississippi….virtually all deep red states…who have slashed spending to the extent that education, environment, health and welfare of American citizens is virtually non-existent…by design. And a GOP-run Congress is attempting daily to do the same on the federal level.
These uber-wealthy use their proximity to power and ability to offer off-book riches and high-paying jobs to government officials who have served their money masters instead of their constituencies to achieve outcomes which render access to these basic services inaccessible and with wanton disregard for ordinary, and in many cases former middle-class citizens. As professor Martin Gilens of Princeton, who studied the correlation between American popular opinion polls and public policy outcomes, concluded: “[T]he preferences of economic elites have far more independent impact upon policy change than the preferences of average citizens do … ordinary citizens have virtually no influence over what their government does in the United States.”
America’s growing income disparity is not the inevitable result of impersonal forces like globalization or automation as is so often offered as the cause of the average American’s demise. It is the outcome of hundreds of trade, tax and regulatory measures that achieved the preferred outcome – enrichment – of economic elites who contribute to politicians. And the once-untouchable Supreme Court, through “Justices” Scalia and Thomas are barefaced examples that even our highest court in the land has been compromised by the lure of the almighty dollar and disregard for the rights of average Americans.
Since the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision, big money dominance of politics has gone into overdrive. Over half the money (roughly $176 million just so far for the 2016 election) given to presidential candidates in the 2016 campaign comes from just 158 families, with $138 million going to Republicans and only $20 million going to Democrats. That buys a lot of influence, and not a single vote has been cast yet.
The result is that middle class incomes have continued to stagnate even as America saw the realization of its first hundred-billionaire family. Income inequality has reached crisis proportions. Today, hedge fund managers, who control amounts of money unfathomable by 99% of Americans, often pay a lower federal tax rate than public school teachers or firemen.
To complete the oligarchic takeover, through phraseology, false targets, demonization of political differences, a cable network (Fox) who operates for the sole purpose of furthering the Republican oligarchy’s agenda, and a toothless broadcast media owned by the very same oligarchs that control print and online media, offer no oasis of truth and honest journalistic pursuit for brainwashed and exhausted, angry Americans, a majority of whom have bought into the oligarchic propaganda so completely that they frequently vote against their own interest.
Power to control is the ultimate goal of American elites…they have become bored with simply having enough money to have anything they could possibly desire. Their behavior was described by political scientist Harold Lasswell, who said a society’s leadership class consists of those whose “private motives are displaced onto public objects and rationalized in terms of public interest”.
Consider that in 1992, Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney privatized much of our military’s logistics. A decade later, Halliburton, a company he headed from 1995 to 2000, received $39.5bn in logistics contracts to support operations in Iraq, while Cheney, having been elected to the vice presidency, was receiving deferred compensation from his old firm.
A tell-tale sign of the Shadow Government’s involvement in policy is the use of fear to make Congress compliant. In 2008, Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke helped panic Congress into approving a virtual no-strings bailout of Wall Street by claiming that if it didn’t approve the measure immediately, there would be no economy left. Since he left the Fed, Bernanke has made a profitable career giving speeches, mainly to financial services firms, at around $200,000 a talk.
And President Obama’s administration virtually refused to prosecute a single person or company responsible for an economic meltdown surpassed only by the Great Depression.
Likewise, when there are economic incentives for war, fear becomes the Shadow Government’s weapon of choice. In 2002, the Bush administration (and well-paid operatives in the military-industrial complex) mainly through Bush acolyte Condoleezza Rice, used the specter of nuclear mushroom clouds to stampede Congress and the UN into authorizing an invasion of Iraq in search of nonexistent weapons of mass destruction. During the past 15 years, elites have tried to keep us on the edge of hysteria about terrorism while white males perpetrate mass shootings daily.
But lately it looks as if they did their job a little too well.
Make no mistake, the calculus of the Shadow Government has been turned on its head by Donald Trump, a narcissistic pseudo-populist billionaire, who, ironically, is a symptom of all the pathologies within the Shadow Government and the pent up anger throughout the electorate. His followers may be misguided, and Trump is all too ready to offer them any number of scapegoats, but they instinctively sense that there is something deeply wrong with the status quo.
At the other end of the political spectrum, Bernie Sanders has overthrown the current model of elite financing of candidates. Tens of thousands of his energetic followers – Sanders’s average contribution is under $30 – actively seek a return to the New Deal and the Great Society.
The Shadow Government may yet reassert itself through money and fear, but the 2016 election looks increasingly like the U.S. is headed into new territory. And as any student of history knows, new territory is often harsh, unforgiving and fraught with unforeseeable danger until the damage has been done.
Harvey A. Gold