Open Government Project
A Government Watchdog Group
State of Texas
City of Galveston
Public Interest Groups
City of Galveston
Have a Deep State?
by David Stanowski
17 December 2019
The Founding Fathers did create a "more perfect" form of government, but early Americans eventually had to come to terms with the historical reality that ALL governments are incompetent and corrupt. They had removed a king and his parliament, but they slowly discovered that their new government was also far from perfect.
By the 1830s, many Americans were disturbed by government corruption. At that time, newly-elected Presidents replaced bureaucrats from the previous administration with their campaign workers and contributors, which purged the bureaucracy every four to eight years, creating de facto "term limits" for most bureaucrats. This practice was known as "political patronage" or the "spoils system".
Efforts eventually began to replace the spoils system, because many considered it to be the source of government corruption. America's elites argued that bureaucrats should be selected exclusively from the ranks of "qualified" elites, because they knew how to run government better than "common people", i.e. "deplorables". The elites also claimed that they were "non partisan".
After the assassination of President Garfield (1881), by a disgruntled campaign worker seeking a government post, the elites had their opportunity to pass the Pendleton Act (1883) which created a "professional" federal civil service. The Act meant that most office seekers would have to be "qualified" to obtain a position, but, in return, they would eventually be virtually guaranteed lifetime employment, which ultimately lead to the modern permanent bureaucracy known as the Deep State.
With no direct accountability to the voters, the Deep State is free to pursue its own agenda, rather than that of our elected officials, and it continues to maximize its power, perks and compensation.
Presidents come and go, but the Deep State is forever.
This "political reform" has merely transferred a great deal of power from our duly elected representatives to unelected bureaucrats who have proven to be just as incompetent and corrupt as politicians.
After their success at the federal level, America's elites turned their attention to state and local government. One of their shrewdest "inventions" was the Council-Manager form of government (1908) that is now employed by many cities and counties. Voters choose the chief executive officer of the federal government (President) and of their state (governor), but are not allowed to choose the CEO in any city using Council-Manager government!
The CEO is the city manager, the "chief bureaucrat", with the exclusive power to hire and fire city employees. The "highest" elected official, the mayor, is merely a member of the city council and has NO authority over city employees, so there is no "turnover" of the bureaucracy after each election. All a mayor can do is to try to convince a majority of the council to "direct" the city manager to achieve specified "policy goals".
The council does have the power to hire and fire the city manager, but has no direct control over any other employees, which creates a permanent bureaucracy that is as isolated from the "will of the people" as the federal Deep State.
Since Galveston is a Council-Manager city, voters have little meaningful control over its permanent bureaucracy. Seven City Councilmembers are elected every two years, subject to six-year term limits, while the City's hundreds of bureaucrats are unaffected by elections and free to stay as long as it suits them. It should be obvious who usually has the upper hand in this "arrangement", which is how our City's bureaucracy has become our Deep State.
Regular turnover in our City's bureaucracy would make it more difficult for it to maintain its domination of our government. If Galveston changed its form of government to make the Mayor the Chief Executive Officer, bureaucratic turnover would be much more likely!