In History, Politics on February 5, 2012 at 3:23 pm

The 1960 Kirk Douglas epic, Spartacus, may soon prove to be more than great entertainment.  It may also turn out to be a prophecy of the end of the American Republic.

In the movie, Spartacus (Douglas), a Roman slave, entertains Marcus Crassus (Laurence Oliver) the richest man in Rome.  He does so by fighting to the death as a gladiator.

While Spartacus and his fellow gladiator/friend, Draba, slash and stab at each other in the arena, Crassus idly chats with his crony, Marcus Glabrus.

Crassus has just secured Glabrus’ appointment as commander of the garrison of Rome.  Glabrus is grateful, but curious as to how he did it.

After all, Gaius Gracchus, the leader of the Roman Senate, hates Crassus, and stands ever ready to oppose his every move.

“I fought fire with oil,” says Crassus.  “I purchased the Senate behind his back.”

Just as Crassus bought the Roman Senate in Spartacus, so, too, are billionaires now buying the 2012 Presidential election.

Consider the candidacy of Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House of Representatives.  Were it not for the endlessly deep pockets of casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, Gingrich would have dropped out long ago.

Perhaps no other major presidential candidate in recent times has relied so heavily on the contributions of a single donor, as Gingrich has on Adelson.  Since 2007, Adelson, 78, has spent millions in support of Gingrich and his causes.

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Sheldon Adelson

In a primary season dominated by the mega-spending of super PACs, Adelson’s efforts on Gingrich’s behalf speak volumes about the corrupting influence of the super-rich on American politics.

Adelson put up seed money and, ultimately, $7.7 million between 2006 and 2010 for a nonprofit group that served as a precursor to Gingrich’s presidential campaign.

In January, Adelson gave $5 million to a PAC run by former close aides to Gingrich.

Such a contribution is no small amount to the average American.  But Adelson is clearly not the average American. He’s listed by Forbes as the eigth-wealthiest American, with a net worth of $21.5 billion.

Naturally, Adelson denies he has any selfish motives for shelling out so much money to a candidate for the most powerful office in the world:

“My motivation for helping Newt is simple and should not be mistaken for anything other than the fact that my wife Miriam and I hold our friendship with him very dear and are doing what we can as private citizens to support his candidacy.”

Unfortunately, Gingrich is not the only candidate of the rich, by the rich and for the rich seeking the Presidency.

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is relying heavily on a small group of millionaires and billionaires for support.

A quarter of the money amassed by Romney’s campaign has come from just 41 people.  Each contributor has given more than $100,000, according to a Washington Post analysis of disclosure data. Nearly a dozen of the donors have contributed $1 million or more.

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Some of Romney’s biggest supporters include executives at Bain Capital, his former firm; bankers at Goldman Sachs; and a hedge fund mogul who made billions betting on the housing crash.

In short: This last contributor has directly profited from the suffering of others.

All of this can be directly traced to the 2010 “Citizens United” decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that ended limits in corporate contributions to political campaigns.  The decision is so named for the group that successfully sued over federal campaign finance laws.

The 5-4 decision led to the rise of Super PACs–outside groups affiliated with candidates that can take in unlimited contributions as long as they don’t directly coordinate with the candidate.

Meanwhile, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has a simple solution for people who don’t like all the political ads unleashed as a result: Change the channel or turn off the TV.

“I don’t care who is doing the speech–the more the merrier,” Scalia said. “People are not stupid. If they don’t like it, they’ll shut it off.”

On the contrary: A fundamental principle of propaganda holds that most people are stupid–or can be made to behave stupidly.  If they are ceaselessly bombarded with mind-numbing lies, they will eventually substitute these for reality.

As proof of this: Nevada has the country’s highest foreclosure rate and the nation’s highest unemployment rate.

So what is Mitt Romney’s solution for the foreclosure crisis threatening the homes of millions of Americans?

“Don’t try to stop the foreclosure process. Let it run its course and hit the bottom. Allow investors to buy homes, put renters in them, fix the homes up and let it turn around and come back up.”

On February 4,  Romney claimed victory in Nevada’s caucuses by a decisive margin.

So much for Justice Scalia’s comment: “People are not stupid.”

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