What Is the Deep State?

Updated on January 21, 2020
James A Watkins profile image

James A. Watkins is an entrepreneur, musician, and a writer with three non-fiction books and hundreds of magazine articles read by millions.

What Is the Deep State?

The Deep State, also known as the Swamp, is another name for the federal bureaucracy in America. Some also call it the Administrative State.

These agencies create laws they call regulations, even though under the Constitution, it is only Congress that has the power to legislate. [1] Not only that, but these bureaus also enforce the laws, judge who has violated them, and punish transgressors, which means they possess all three powers that are supposed to be separated: Legislative, Executive, and Judicial.

Those who make the laws in our republic are supposed to be elected to office by We the People and held accountable for their performance regularly by voters. Bureaucrats are not elected by or accountable to voters.

Bureaucrats are supposed to obey the president. He is their boss. [2] As we shall see, sometimes they do, and sometimes they don't, depending on whether they agree with the president's policies. Read on to learn about the history of the Deep State and the ways in which some believe it subverts the Constitution and infringes on Americans' freedoms.

Origins of the Deep State

The Deep State is a creation of the Democratic Party. Woodrow Wilson, our president from 1913 to 1921, conceived it. It was Wilson, aided by the 17th Amendment [3], who got the ball rolling by creating the income tax [4], the Federal Reserve [5], and the Federal Trade Commission. [6]

The Federal Bureaucracy has since grown astronomically, most remarkably under the presidencies of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1933-1945) with his New Deal [7]; Lyndon Baines Johnson (1963-1969) with his Great Society [8]; and Barack Hussein Obama (2009-2017) with his many new federal regulations. [9]

The Administrative State now consists of 445 agencies. [10] Note that it is the only 'branch' of government that grows. No matter how big it gets, we still only have 1 president, 9 Supreme Court justices, and 535 members of Congress.

The Purpose of the Administrative State

President Wilson justified the creation and growth of the Administrative State. He argued that because we now had a "scientific understanding of human behavior,” America required a new “living Constitution,” interpreted “according to Darwinian principles." In his view, he and other 'experts,’ empowered by an expanding federal government, should guide the millions of us he called "selfish, ignorant, timid, stubborn, or foolish." [11]

Here we see the foundation of ‘progressive thought,’ the concentration of power in a Leviathan—the very kind of government that our Constitution was designed to prevent. As Thomas Jefferson wrote, “Generalizing and concentrating all cares and powers into one body is the great enemy of liberty and the rights of man.” [12]

The Federal Bureaucracy today has its own political, social, and economic agendas. It possesses vast powers to implement them—and to resist any ideas and commands it does not like, especially any threat to its size, reach, and authority.

Naturally, any organization designed to control others is going to hunger for more and more control and resist any diminution of its power. The Deep State favors Socialism, for instance, because Socialism requires an enormous, ever-expanding bureaucracy.

A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within.

— Cicero

The Swamp Subverts the Constitution

James Madison warned us about the Administrative State: “The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.” [13]

The Federal Bureaucracy is a tremendous boon to presidents who are Democrats, but an army of resistance against Republican presidents. As President Trump took office, bureaucrats were publicly exchanging ideas on how to resist the implementation of his campaign promises—how to sabotage the will of We the People. [14]

That is not how it ought to be. Our federal intelligence and law enforcement agencies, in particular, should serve the president, not the Democratic Party. All federal bureaucrats ought to be neutral ideologically, not working for the Left and undermining the chief executive.

Of the numerous federal crimes on the books, our legislators in Congress never voted on 98% of them. [15] Thus we can be declared criminals and imprisoned for offenses never legislated by our legal representatives. With hundreds of thousands of laws, the old Soviet saying is applicable here: "Show me the man, and I'll show you the crime." [16]

Why the Swamp Is Full of Leftists

The Swamp is the realization of the dream of progressives of their Cultural Marxist Long March through our institutions. The idea is to replace politics, legislation, and rule by elected representatives with the rule of ‘experts’ in the Deep State.

Those experts gave 95% of their political donations to Hillary Clinton in 2016. [17] Therefore, taxpayers who voted for President Trump are paying the salaries of Swamp Creatures who are refusing to do their duty because they are resisting his policies.

The Administrative State is simply another branch of the Democratic Party. It is natural for bureaucrats to favor big-government progressives rather than small-government conservatives.

Civil service law and public employee labor unions protect bureaucrats from the consequences of defying the orders of the president. As one State Department official said about resisting President Trump: “I have nothing to lose, it’s impossible to fire federal employees.” [18]

The Inherent Problem With Bureaucracies

Unless stopped by force of will, bureaucracy will continue to grow like cancer. It will add more employees and enact more laws until it has infested every nook and cranny of our lives.

The central problem of all bureaucracies is this: If they one day solve the problem the bureau was created to solve, they are out of work! Unlike the real world, where one receives rewards for solving problems and is fired for failing to fix them, a bureaucrat of a government agency gets a budget increase for failing to fix the troubles their agency exists to solve. Get it? If the problem never goes away, they have a job forever.

Waste, Fraud, and Costs

Since the Administrative State is immune from accountability to voters, the level of waste and fraud is incredible. A recent study in Illinois found that half of that state's Medicaid recipients were not legally eligible to receive it! [19] Since Democrats control Illinois, the 359,000 cheaters uncovered are a significant voting block for them and therefore, will not be prosecuted—or even removed from the dole.

Bureaucrats are supposed to screen applicants, but they could not care less. The more recipients, the more secure their jobs are. People tend not to care much about doling out money that isn’t theirs.

Since the 1960s, the laws created by the Administrative State have grown from 20,000 pages worth to 185,000 pages. [20] The federal regulatory apparatus imposed a $14,600 “hidden tax” on American households in 2018, according to a report by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). In total, compliance with federal regulations costs the U.S. economy $1.9 trillion every year. President Trump did cut regulatory costs by $50 billion in 2019. [21]

Lousy administration costs American taxpayers billions of dollars. The GAO reports that five federal agencies alone spent $3 billion on workers placed on administrative leave for misconduct in two years. [22] Not only can miscreants not be fired, but they also get paid for staying at home!

The Heritage Foundation reported that Washington spends $25 billion annually, maintaining unused or vacant federal properties. [23] And get this: government auditors spent the past five years examining all federal programs and found that 22 percent of them—costing taxpayers a total of $123 billion annually—fail to show any positive impact on the populations they serve. [24]

Senator Lankford of Oklahoma recently reported that there was over $473 billion in wasteful spending in one recent year. [25] According to another new audit, the Social Security Administration paid $1 billion in benefits last year to individuals who did not have a Social Security number. [26]

Public Employee Labor Unions

90 percent of public employee labor union members are registered Democrats. [26] The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees gave $100 million towards the 2016 Election—making it the 4th most significant campaign contributor in the country—with 99% of it going to Democrat candidates. [27] That money, of course, comes from taxpayers of all persuasions. So conservative taxpayers are funding their opposition—the resistance.

Federal employees receive much better pay than those in the private sector doing comparable work. [28] And their benefits packages are 47% higher, according to the Congressional Budget Office. They also get up to 49 paid days off a year. [29]

Firing them, no matter how egregious their misconduct, is well nigh impossible. Less than 1% of federal bureaucrats are fired each year, versus 5% of private-sector workers. [30] It takes years to fire one of them, even if they have committed a work-related felony. Their appeals can drag out for many moons, and they draw checks from the taxpayers the entire time. The merely incompetent or insubordinate are never discharged.

Obama expanded the Deep State during his time in office.
Obama expanded the Deep State during his time in office. | Source

The Obama Years

President Obama used his gigantic $787 billion stimulus package (ARRA) to create 63 new bureaucratic ‘czars,’ thereby greatly expanding the Deep State. [31] Some believe that he stocked the Swamp, especially the intelligence community, with the most radical leftists available, people who I see as anti-American Marxist globalists.

To continue its rule over We the People, and to make sure the public never found out what it had been up to during the Obama years, the Deep State desperately needed Hillary Clinton to beat Donald Trump. They knew Trump was a threat to their power, as he had publicly pledged to “drain the swamp.”

Perhaps that is why Bill Clinton met Obama’s Attorney General Loretta Lynch in a secret meeting on an airport tarmac. It was decided that Hillary Clinton's many crimes would not be prosecuted or even investigated, in exchange for which Lynch would continue in her plum job after Hillary became president. Trump had to be stopped. He would expose the intimidation, corruption, abuse of power, spying on American citizens, and outright theft by the Deep State in the Obama administration.

Secretary of State Hillary had used an illegal server for government business to conceal her emails from Freedom of Information requests. When this came to light, she destroyed the data on her computers and phones with the approval of the FBI. Hillary had been taking bribes through her Clinton Foundation in exchange for doling out government favors to foreign operatives and countries.

Obama weaponized the Deep State to go after his party’s political opponent—breaking the law, committing many felonies—to crush Trump beneath the power of the NSA, CIA, and FBI. Candidate Trump had to be discredited to keep him from winning. When that shockingly failed, President Trump had to delegitimized, impeded, resisted, and overthrown.

The Media Works for the Deep State

The mainstream media censored any reporting of any of this. Any news of it that got out through other media was immediately and savagely attacked as part of a kooky conspiracy theory—because the mainstream media and the Deep State share the same goals and worldview.

Leaks are the lifeblood of the mainstream media, and where do they get their leaks? The Deep State. When Democrats are in power, the mainstream media praises them; when Republicans are in power, the mainstream media undermines and denigrates them. The Deep State, in turn, leaks confidential and top secret information—only if it is damaging to President Trump or conservatives in general.

In just the first 4 months of President Trump’s term in office, 125 harmful stories were leaked by Democrat Deep State operatives to damage his presidency, from anonymous 'U.S. officials,' 'former U.S. officials,' 'senior U.S. officials,' 'intelligence officials,' 'national security officials,' 'Justice Department officials,' 'defense officials,' and 'law-enforcement officials.' [32]

Trump is eliminating many Deep State jobs.
Trump is eliminating many Deep State jobs. | Source

Why the Swamp Hates President Trump

The Swamp has been busy spying; first on the Trump Campaign and then on his administration, working to overthrow our government, and for the first time in American history resist the peaceful transfer of power, for which we have rightly been famous. They believe they know better than We the People how our country should be run. As Stephen Miller says,

“The Constitution of the United States, Article II, states very clearly that, 'The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.' What that means is that the whole executive power is vested in one democratically elected person: the president. The president, who is accountable to the voters — the president, who is accountable to the American people, holds and wields the executive power. Every other person in the federal government in the executive branch is an extension of his authority, is acting as an extension of his authority delegated to them. They have no independent authority. So when a deep state bureaucrat says, 'I don't want Donald Trump to be president. I don't want to effectuate his policies. I don't want to carry out his agenda, so I will do the opposite,' they're violating the Constitution, and they're taking away the power of the American people to elect who heads the executive branch and what policies they implement."

Miller continued, “the most dangerous expression of this has been in the intelligence community, which is amassed with awesome power, awesome capabilities, and they’re directing that and wielding that in some cases against a duly-elected President of the United States of America, which is a form of sabotage.” [33]

One reason the Swamp is so against President Trump is that he froze their pay, to save the taxpayers money, eliminating a 2% raise Obama had promised them. [34]

Trump also issued an executive order that prohibited any federal bureaucrat from spending more than 25% of their working hours on union business. He did this after it came to light that taxpayers were providing salaries to union officials who worked for the union 100% of the time. Trump saved taxpayers $100 million per year with this one rule change. [35] Also, President Trump eliminated 10,000 Deep State jobs during his first six months in office. [36]

The Deep State's Existence Is Both Denied and Acknowledged

Since President Trump took office, until lately anyway, most Democrats in and out of the media have scoffed at the existence of a Deep State as the stuff of paranoid conspiracy theories. However, former CIA director John McLaughlin recently not only admitted that it exists and that it is working around the clock against President Trump, he exclaimed, “Thank God for the Deep State! These people are doing their duty and responding to a higher call.” [37]

John Brennan, also a former CIA director, seconded his emotion, adding that he is outraged that anyone would even attempt to oversee the intelligence community. Brennan told CNN, “First of all, I think it’s the obligation of some executive branch officials to refuse to carry out some of these orders that are again inconsistent with what this country is all about.” [38]

The New York Times chimed in to praise the Deep State for resisting the Trump agenda. [39] Back in 2018, the Times had published an anonymous column from a "White House official" working directly under President Trump, who boasted that he and many of his colleagues were doing all they could to subvert Trump and nullify his policies. [40]

Appearing on NBC, just this past week, New York Times columnist James B. Stewart promoted his new book, Deep State. He lauded bureaucrats who undermine the Trump administration as “noble public servants protecting the Constitution and the American people from the President.” Stewart further pronounced, “Any criticism of the deep state is very dangerous. There is a deep state. There is a bureaucracy in our country that has pledged to respect the Constitution, respect the rule of law. They do not work for the president, they work for the American people.” [41]

If the Democrats Win in 2020

If the Democrats win the presidency in 2020, they will expand the power of the Deep State to a level where it can never be challenged again. Elizabeth Warren has already promised to create 20 new bureaucracies, employing an army of leftists dedicated to running everything in your life from energy consumption to your medical care. [42]

Our Founding Fathers bequeathed us a small government with strictly limited powers, based on popular sovereignty, federalism, separation of powers, checks and balances, and judicial review. We the People are supposed to control the government, not have the government control us.

What Can Be Done?

Many do not know this, but it was illegal for most of the history of America for public servants to have a labor union. Their ability to collectively bargain only dates back to 1962, when it was granted as a political favor by JFK via Executive Order 10988. [43]

Anything established by executive order can be disestablished by executive order. At least, that was the case before President Trump was elected. His move to abolish several previous executive orders has resulted in left-wing groups carefully selecting an extreme far-leftist judge, usually appointed by Obama, and bringing a lawsuit in his or her courtroom, where the judge will simply void President Trump's executive orders because they despise him. [44] The Supreme Court will have to straighten out these rogue judges.

We need to decentralize our government, cut the federal bureaucracy in half at least, and make Congress vote on every existing regulation and on every new one that someone proposes. We ought to return to what our Founders envisioned: subsidiarity, solving problems as close to home as possible.

Communities, counties, and states should be free to experiment with ways to meet the needs of their particular communities. That would be far superior to ramming down the throats of every American what some career bureaucrat in D.C. wants to force everyone to do, dictating to every hamlet across the land how to live, what you can say, and what you are allowed to think.


  1. https://www.whitehouse.gov/about-the-white-house/the-legislative-branch/
  2. https://www.whitehouse.gov/about-the-white-house/the-executive-branch/
  3. https://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/common/generic/SeventeenthAmendment.htm
  4. https://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=false&doc=57
  5. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/f/1913-federal-reserve-act.asp
  6. https://www.britannica.com/event/Federal-Trade-Commission-Act
  7. https://www.heritage.org/political-process/report/the-birth-the-administrative-state-where-it-came-and-what-it-means-limited
  8. https://www.baltimoresun.com/opinion/bs-xpm-2013-04-07-bs-ed-ehrlich-welfare-state-20130407-story.html
  9. https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/may/31/obamas-regulations-in-2016-to-drain-economy-by-2-t/
  10. Unmasking the Administrative State: The Crisis of American Politics in the Twenty-First Century by John Marini
  11. Woodrow Wilson: The Essential Political Writings: The Essential Political Writings by Ronald J. Pestritto
  12. https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/03-09-02-0286
  13. Federalist No. 47
  14. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2017-12-18/washington-bureaucrats-are-chipping-away-at-trump-s-agenda
  15. Unmasking the Administrative State: The Crisis of American Politics in the Twenty-First Century by John Marini
  16. https://www.oxfordeagle.com/2018/05/09/show-me-the-man-and-ill-show-you-the-crime/
  17. https://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/302817-government-workers-shun-trump-give-big-money-to-clinton-campaign
  18. https://thefederalist.com/2018/10/01/federal-employees-who-resist-elected-officials-orders-should-be-fired/
  19. https://www.illinoispolicy.org/news/audit-reveals-half-of-people-enrolled-in-illinois-medicaid-program-not-eligible/
  20. https://www.city-journal.org/html/four-horsemen-regulatory-state-16031.html
  21. https://news.bloomberglaw.com/daily-labor-report/trump-touts-regulatory-savings-of-nearly-50-billion-for-economy
  22. https://www.gao.gov/assets/670/666566.pdf
  23. https://www.dailysignal.com/2009/10/08/50-examples-of-government-waste/
  24. https://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2018/07/wasteful_spending_will_sink_our_country.html
  25. https://www.lankford.senate.gov/news/press-releases/senator-lankford-releases-federal-fumbles-vol-3
  26. https://www.opensecrets.org/industries/indus.php?ind=Phttps://freebeacon.com/issues/feds-paid-1-billion-social-security-benefits-individuals-without-ssn/
  27. https://www.dailysignal.com/2017/10/19/confirmed-99-of-union-donations-go-to-liberal-leaning-causes/
  28. https://mises.org/wire/federal-employees-have-higher-pay-more-job-security-private-sector
  29. https://www.fedsmith.com/2018/09/06/recommend-government-employer/
  30. https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/getting-fired-is-mission-impossible-for-bureaucrats-in-the-obama-era
  31. https://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2016/11/how_trump_can_defeat_the_establishment_bureaucracy.html
  32. https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2017/07/07/deep-state-trump-facing-seven-times-more-national-security-leaks-than-obama-or-bush/
  33. https://www.patreon.com/posts/stephen-miller-30562957
  34. https://www.cnn.com/2018/12/29/politics/trump-executive-order-federal-workers-pay-freeze/index.html
  35. https://www.fedsmith.com/2019/10/08/executive-orders-impact-federal-workers/
  36. https://www.govexec.com/pay-benefits/2017/08/trump-administration-reversing-trend-sheds-11000-feds-six-months/140025/
  37. https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2019/11/01/former_acting_cia_director_john_mclaughlin_on_impeachment_thank_god_for_the_deep_state.html
  38. https://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/343271-former-cia-chief-officials-should-refuse-to-fire-mueller-if
  39. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/20/opinion/trump-impeachment-testimony.html
  40. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/05/opinion/trump-white-house-anonymous-resistance.html
  41. https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2019/11/13/donald-trump-deep-state-ukraine-cia-nsa-state-department-column/2521881001/
  42. https://www.foxnews.com/politics/bureaucracy-bonanza-warrens-plans-would-establish-plethora-of-new-federal-offices
  43. https://www.wsj.com/articles/time-to-repeal-jfks-executive-order-10988-1528411962
  44. https://cei.org/blog/judge-strikes-down-trump-executive-orders-federal-employment


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    • profile image

      35 hours ago

      Lol, you picked the wrong hubber to attack what he has presented. Prepare to be corrected, and I’m putting that mildly.

    • profile image

      Randy Johnson 

      42 hours ago

      Wow! Not one person doubted you, understood that this is a very one sided opinion with millions of omissions of science, statistics, human behavior studies let alone any compassion for lesser ability humans, or those who have been left out of the opportunity trail.

      Other facts about Federal agencies you fail to mention are:

      1) They are Established through separate statutes passed by the Congress. This way we have a body of hundreds of ELECTED officials making these decisions as apposed to one derelict president like the one we have now. Which unfortunately at this time...

      2) Most executive agencies have a single director, administrator, or secretary appointed by the President of the United States.

      3) But fortunately, most independent agencies have a statutory requirement of bipartisan membership on the commission, so the president cannot simply fill vacancies with members of his own political party. This would disprove your implying that these bureaucracies (a word the right has so demonized) are run by only the left.

      4) The most important part people need to understand about your writing hear is it only tells the tip of the iceberg and only one side of the story. It speaks nothing to the millions of proven accomplishments these departments have made to help so many aspects of the human life not only in the present for this country, but for all humans on this planet both now and in the future. Let alone the protection of the unsuspecting they have afforded us from the greed and selfishness of capitalism.

      Is there bad, uncaring and dishonest? Certainly. But you can prove no greater degree than any other group of human beings in this country.

    • James A Watkins profile imageAUTHOR

      James A Watkins 

      10 days ago from Chicago

      T ~ I love the writings of Daniel Greenfield. Thank you for the link to that excellent video.

    • James A Watkins profile imageAUTHOR

      James A Watkins 

      10 days ago from Chicago

      Audrey Hunt ~ You are quite welcome, my friend. Thank you for reading my work and passing it on. I appreciate your gracious compliments. I am glad you enjoyed my piece.

    • tsadjatko profile image

      11 days ago from now on

      Can you see just how the deep state figures in The Second Civil War?


    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 

      12 days ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Yes! I've suspected, for some time now, that we are losing our freedom. I knew nothing about "The Deep State." This article is eye-opening and every citizen should read it. Thank you, James. I will pass this excellent read on.

    • James A Watkins profile imageAUTHOR

      James A Watkins 

      2 weeks ago from Chicago

      Yves ~ Thank you very much for taking the time to read my work on the Deep State. I sure appreciate your lovely laudations. I do hope it is widely read. It is off to a good start and it looks like it is moving over to SoapBoxie so that should help too.

    • savvydating profile image


      2 weeks ago

      This excellent article needs to be read by every American who cares about liberty. The Deep State is real and it is eating this nation alive. God help us.

      One of your best articles, James.....although, truth be told, you never disappoint.

    • James A Watkins profile imageAUTHOR

      James A Watkins 

      2 weeks ago from Chicago

      Devika Primić ~ Thank you for reading my article and you are quite welcome. I see you are from Croatia. When I lived in Orlando I had some good friends from Split. Good people, nice people.

    • James A Watkins profile imageAUTHOR

      James A Watkins 

      2 weeks ago from Chicago

      wba108@yahoo.com ~ I am a big fan of the Heritage Foundation. And what they said, "the transformation of representative government to a Deep state bureaucracy is the most significant political change in government in the last hundred years," is absolutely right.

      Thank you very much for taking the time to read my work. I appreciate your thoughtful insights, with which I surely agree.


    • James A Watkins profile imageAUTHOR

      James A Watkins 

      2 weeks ago from Chicago

      Eli ~ You are quite welcome. Thank you for your kind compliments. I sincerely appreciate your visit.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      3 weeks ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      I had no idea of this information. Deep State is new to me thank you for sharing this.

    • wba108@yahoo.com profile image


      3 weeks ago from upstate, NY

      The Heritage foundation posited that the transformation of representative government to a Deep state bureaucracy is the most significant political change in government in the last hundred years.

      You're absolutely right to point out that if it isn't dismantled now, the country as we know it will be gone! And the president will need all hands on deck to see it happen.

    • profile image


      3 weeks ago

      Indeed, very informative and detailed. Thank you

    • James A Watkins profile imageAUTHOR

      James A Watkins 

      3 weeks ago from Chicago

      Pamela Oglesby ~ Thank you so much for being my first visitor. I do believe QAnon is indeed strongly against the Deep State, yes. I also do not know much about them. I appreciate your kind compliments on my writing. It is always a pleasure to hear from you.


    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      3 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

      This article about the deep state is full of facts and very interesting. I have wondered if QAnon is against the deep state. I have heard of them but I do not know much about them. This artivle gives me much to think about, although most of what you wrote was not new to me. This is an excellent, well-written article that speaks out about the problems we have encountered over the years and the reason why.


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