This phrase come from Roman times, from Wikipedia:
This phrase originates from Rome in Satire X of the Roman poet Juvenal (circa 100 AD ). In context, the Latin phrase panem et circenses (bread and circuses) is given as the only remaining cares of a Roman populace which has given up its birthright of political involvement. Here Juvenal displays his contempt for the declining heroism of his contemporary Romans.: Roman politicians devised a plan in 140 B.C. to win the votes of the poor; By giving out cheap food and entertainment, politicians decided that this policy of "bread and circuses" would be the most effective way to rise to power.
In other words, give the masses food and crazy entertainment and they won’t question what the people in power are doing.
Ever wonder why we see Lindsay Lohan all over all the news channels all the time but NEVER hear about bills trying to pass in congress, or what bills have already passed. They want us fat and happy so they can do what they want without the masses rioting or doing any other unfortunate things.
The problem is they got greedy, they got so carried away with stealing the product of our labor that they have taken away a lot of bread, so the middle-class shrinks and the number of poor go up. And people get restless.
Even in their own economic structure they need people to make enough money to buy things or everyone - even them - gets hurt.
Who are “they” you might ask? Our corporate overlords and the politicians who they get elected so that tax laws can be made in their favor. It’s happened time and again throughout history. It really doesn’t take much to keep the masses feed well enough so they don’t riot, after all, rioting is hard work and you could get hurt.
The best example of this is the French Revolution and Marie Antoinette, who said “Let them eat cake!” That was the problem, no one had any cake, everyone was in financial distress and starving. All the French Royalty had to do was make some minor sacrifices (like eating cake only twice a week instead of every day) and give some of the bread to the poor so they would calm down.
Not quite the same these days because television is the best entertainment in history. But the powers that be forgot to include the bread so the system is collapsing and there might be rioting in the near future. If too many become homeless they won’t have TV to calm them down.
Of course, the Corporate Masters have an escape plan: All they need to do is move to China and let the Chinese become their new market while letting America descend into third world status.