The Original Deep State

 Robert Spencer,
August 26th, 2020

Donald Trump is not the first president to face down a deep-state cabal, that is, an unelected oligarchy of shadowy figures who wielded enormous power while being unaccountable to the American public. The first was President Andrew Jackson, who faced down the Bank of the United States in the 1820s and 1830s; then as now, the deep state has apparently included a significant financial element. Trump’s top economic aide Lawrence Kudlow said it last October: “I don’t want to get into a lot of Fed bashing,” but “their models are highly flawed. The deep state board staff, of course, has not been very helpful — oops, did I say that?”

Yes, he did. And whatever the actual role of the Federal Reserve in the coup attempt against Trump, there is no doubt that some have been sounding warnings about it since at least 1931 – people in a position to know.

As Rating America’s Presidents: An America-First Look at Who Is Best, Who Is Overrated, and Who Was An Absolute Disaster explains, the Federal Reserve was established in December 1913, during the “progressive” Woodrow Wilson administration. But the Fed was just a new version of the same Bank of the United States that Jackson fought: a private corporation that kept the public treasury. Its foes argued that it was dangerous to turn power over the public funds to an oligarchy of private financiers, since the possibility for corruption, and for a de facto second government developed by buying favors until large enough to challenge the government of the United States, was immense.

Yet as far as Wilson was concerned, that was by design. Late in the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt, the Knickerbocker Trust Company was failing, leading to a significant economic downturn, the Panic of 1907. Banking baron J. P. Morgan stepped in to aid banks that were failing and thus minimize the crisis. Wilson, at that time the president of Princeton University, showed a taste for authoritarian government, writing: “All this trouble could be averted if we appointed a committee of six or seven public-spirited men like J. P. Morgan to handle the affairs of our country.”

In establishing the Federal Reserve System, the nation went a long way toward doing just that. Wilson’s support for it contradicted his assurances during his 1912 campaign that he was opposed to a central bank. He declared:

A great industrial nation is controlled by its system of credit. Our system of credit is privately concentrated. The growth of the nation, therefore, and all our activities are in the hands of a few men who, even if their action be honest and intended for the public interest, are necessarily concentrated upon the great undertakings in which their own money is involved and who necessarily, by very reason of their own limitations, chill and check and destroy genuine economic freedom.

Yet Wilson’s opposition to a central bank proved to be as hollow a claim as Wilson’s reelection slogan, “He Kept Us out of War,” would prove to be when the U.S. entered World War I on the flimsiest of pretexts. The Federal Reserve Act placed various regional Federal Reserve banks in private hands, controlled by a central board that was appointed by the president. The central board was supposed to prevent the growth of a moneyed oligarchy that would exercise undue control over the American political process, which was exactly what Jackson and Tyler had decried about the nineteenth-century bank.

But the board itself came to be dominated by those oligarchs, and once again, the public funds were in the control of a small number of people who had not been elected by the American people. If anyone was responsible for an enormous concentration of power “in the hands of a few men,” it was Wilson.

Rating America’s Presidents recounts that no less a luminary than William Gibbs McAdoo, who was Wilson’s treasury secretary when the Federal Reserve came into existence, sounded the alarm about the Federal Reserve in his memoirs, which were published in 1931. Wrote McAdoo: “The fact is that there is a serious danger of this country becoming a plutodemocracy; that is, a sham republic with the real government in the hands of a small clique of enormously wealthy men, who speak through their money, and whose influence, even today, radiates to every corner of the United States.” For this, he could thank Wilson and the Federal Reserve Act.

That’s the same danger the U.S. faces today: becoming a sham republic with the real government in the hands of a small clique. It is because Donald Trump stands in between that clique and unchallenged hegemony that he is so fervently hated today.

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