By Jim Hightower
The rich are different from you and me, but the really, really, really rich are also different from the merely rich.
For example, the rich can buy caviar and Champagne, but the Triple-R Rich can buy entire presidential campaigns.
Take Sheldon Adelson, the moneybags who's pumped $11 million so far into Newt Gingrich's right-wing run. He has single-handedly kept Gingrich's White House ambitions alive. Without this one guy's money, The Newt would've been long gone. Thanks a lot, Sheldon.
But Adelson can easily afford to roll the dice on a far-out candidate. This global casino baron hauled in $3.3 million in pay last year. Not for a year — that's what his hourly take was. In other words, his $11-million bet on Newt, which altered the Republican presidential race, was nothing — less than three-and-a-half hours of one of Sheldon's workdays.
Even Rick Santorum, who's so far to the right that his left brain has entirely atrophied from lack of use, is actually in the running for the GOP nomination. He insists that people are flocking to him because of the power of his ideas. Sure, Rick — and the power of Foster Friess' money.
This little-known Wall Street multimillionaire has long been a partner in the Koch brothers' plutocratic cabal and a steady funder of right-wing Christian politics. Friess modestly claims that God is "the chairman of my board." I doubt that, but Friess definitely is Santorum's guardian angel, having kept his campaign of wackiness afloat with untold infusions of cash. When Friess was told that Santorum's recent caucus wins would prompt Mitt Romney's Triple-R Richies to counterattack, he was thrilled. I think that "is so exciting," he warbled.
So there you have it — American politics has developed into a game for the fun and profit of a few superrich narcissists.
But, where did that guy go? Now that gushers of that money are pouring into this year's Republican presidential campaigns through super PACs, he has pivoted adroitly from condemning such corrupt funds ... to creating one of his own. Savvy, or cynical?
I call it sad. Not because Obama wouldn't stand on principle, but because his switch affirms that special interest money now governs us, too powerful for even the sitting president to resist. These super PACs, all of which are creatures of a handful of rich Americans, were already the biggest power in the Republican presidential contest. Front-runner Mitt Romney's last name is even an anagram that spells M-O-N-E-Y, and a $30 million super PAC financed chiefly by Wall Streeters is what has powered him to the front. They want to buy a president who'll undo Obama's financial reform law that restrains some of their greed. That's what our "democracy" has become. Sad.
Rather than taking the high road and rallying a public that's thoroughly disgusted by this, Obama now joins Romney, et al. on the money-slicked low road. His super PAC, named Priorities USA, is as corrupt as the Republicans'. All of them perpetuate the ludicrous legalistic fraud that the secretive funds operate independently of the candidates. Come on — hand puppets act with more independence than super PACs! While Obama piously says he won't work directly with the PAC, he has directed Cabinet officials and White House aides to rustle up big donors to fund it.