Orcs v. Goblins: Crazed Republicans Turn on Each Other in Ugly Fiscal Cliff Battle


Fear gripped Middle Earth. The little people looked nervously toward the horizon, wondering if their few remaining possessions would be snatched away by marauding bands of goblins and orcs. For years the simple, honest folk had suffered as the twin forces of greed and hatred darkened the land. But this time, maybe there was hope; maybe the goblins and the orcs would turn their fury upon each other as they battled on the edge of a cliff over which both might fall….

And so things appear as Americans watch the fiscal cliff deadline draw near. There’s just a week to go for lawmakers to make a deal to avert automatic tax increases and spending cuts. Last week, negotiations broke down as Speaker Boehner failed to get enough votes to pass a bill that would have required the wealthy to pay a minuscule increase in taxes at a time when income inequality is crippling the nation’s future. With the House gridlocked, attention turns to the Senate, where some Republicans appear to be in favor of Obama’s call for a partial deal that insulates most Americans from the tax increases but defers a resolution on spending. A deal may yet pass, but it’s getting very ugly in the GOP.

Goblins v. Orcs

The Republican Party, particularly in the House of Representatives, is so blinded by greed and stupidity that factions are turning on each other.

One group, let’s call them the goblins, is just plain greedy, but not completely crazy. These are the folks who favored Mitt Romney for president and simply want to continue shovelling money toward the one percent as they have been doing very successfully for the past three decades. They are willing to make a deal because they know that any deal, particularly one that will shred the social safety net with cuts like those Obama has proposed to make to Social Security (the widely condemned chained CPI adjustment), will work out very nicely to their advantage. They are thrilled that instead of focusing on the jobs crisis, the country has been railroaded into premature deficit-reduction deals that serve as a cover for conservative wealth redistribution schemes. They also know that many Americans are catching on to their scam, and so they tend to rely on subterfuge and the appearance of moderation or “centrism” to get what they want, which is, in essence, more of your money.

President Obama is comfortable with goblins, and is often secretly thought to be one of them, as Bruce Barlett recently explained in the Fiscal Times. They like him okay, too.

Then there are the orcs. These are the lunatics who favored your Santorums, Gingrichs, Bachmanns, Herman Cains and so on -- the assorted nuts in the GOP who are willing to fight ideological warfare with the battle cry “no taxes” and the battering rams of bad math and Ayn Rand-style social theory to send the land into total chaos. It's not enough for them to cut Social Security at a time when the retirement of hard-working Americans has not been so vulnerable since before the Great Depression. These monstrous right-wingers would rather see every American’s taxes rise than increase taxes on a single millionaire by a nickel. The orcs have got the upper hand in the House and it is they who have blocked a deal on the fiscal cliff. They were last seen dancing around a bonfire made from Econ 101 textbooks and an effigy of John Boehner.

The Money Wizards

Part of the problem is that the goblins and the orcs are acting on behalf of different money wizards.

The orcs are associated with the Club for Growth, which has a large PAC; Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks; Heritage Action for America; and contributors to ex-Senator DeMint's PAC. These orc-friendly elements want no deal, and their battle philosophy is summed up in Club for Growth spokesman Barney Keller’s recent comments: “We are pleased that the Republicans did not vote to raise taxes. We need to get real about our problems and stop playing political games.”

The orcs are for all-out war.

The goblins, on the other hand, dance to the tune of different money wizards. They are painfully aware, as Rep. Steve LaTourette (R., Ohio) explained, that failure to make a deal "weakens the entire Republican Party” and makes it appear to be a "bunch of extremists that can’t even get a majority of our own party to support policies we’re putting forward." The goblins are close to the Business Roundtable, many of America’s largest corporations, and a fair number of Wall Streeters. Haley Barbour and Karl Rove are on the goblins' side. Even Grover Norquist, the anti-tax man himself, seems to fear the price of a take-no-prisoners goblin/orc war; he recently signaled peace with the goblin faction in his endorsement of Boehner’s “Plan B.” It was all to no avail. The orcs are battle-crazed and eager to attack the goblins again.

As political scientist Thomas Ferguson succinctly put it: "Inside the GOP, all the little piggies go to market. Just not the same market. That's the party's problem."

The spectacle of the Republican Party diminishing itself with nasty internal battles is certainly a welcome sight for the little people. But there are still plenty of ways they can get squashed. The goblin-backed theft of their retirement money appears to have the president's support, a great victory for the Dark Side. Coming debt ceiling negotiations will offer goblins and orcs another chance to rob the honest folk and enrich themselves. But maybe, just maybe, the goblins and the orcs will exhaust themselves enough fighting each other that the little people can mount a counter-offensive. Hope springs eternal. At least in the movies.

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