Category Archives: Fall 2015 – Contemporary Cartoons

Fall 2015 post interpreting the contemporary political cartoons related to the theme of their Knott cartoons

Oct Reserve Bank Contemplates Housing Bubble

a door marked "reserve bank" thirteen men sitting at a table one is saying "Professor Beancycle, must you chew bubble gum while the board is discussing the housing boom" while another man blows a bubble. In the background there is a chart titled "lending" that shows a rising graph
a door marked “reserve bank” thirteen men sitting at a table one is saying “Professor Beancycle, must you chew bubble gum while the board is discussing the housing boom” while another man blows a bubble. In the background there is a chart titled “lending” that shows a rising graph

 

In Peter Nicholson’s cartoon “Oct Reserve Bank Contemplates Housing Bubble” the members of the Reserve Bank Board are seated at a long table with the Governor, or chairman, at the head of the table. There is a door marked Reserve Bank and a chart that shows lending is rising in the background. One man at the table is blowing a bubble with chewing gum, and the Governor asks him not to do so “when the board is discussing the housing boom,” (Nicholson). The humor in this cartoon comes from the author’s use of dramatic irony. The reader knows that the “boom” will lead to a bubble, and this bubble will eventually burst (Nicholson). The cartoon was published before the recession of 2008, but anyone reading the cartoon after the recession would know that the bursting of the housing bubble was a major cause of the worldwide economic downfall. Nicholson obviously knows this and points the readers attention to the fact that lending has always been, and will always be, a major factor in economic downturns. This cartoon also relies on the homophone “bubble,” referring to the housing bubble and the bubble gum (Nicholson). The Governor asks his colleague not to chew bubble gum because it will pop just like the housing market.

Nicholson’s cartoon was published in 2002 in The Australian, a long standing news source Down Under. It depicts worries held about a housing bubble that has, arguably, yet to burst. A ‘housing bubble’ is a period of time in the property market during whcih prices go through the roof. A housing bubble is fueled by an increase in demand and speculation. The Australian bubble was not spread evenly throughout the country. Rather, housing markets in Sydney and Melbourne saw a “double digit growth” while elsewhere home values were declining or stagnant (Spasik). This extreme price difference was caused by a shortage in the Sydney housing market (Spasik). To account for the demand “over 720,000 homes will be built across” Australia, at least half of which will be in either Sydney or Melbourne (Spasik). 

The text of the cartoon refers to the property market as a boom rather than a bubble. Excessive optimism was what allowed the bubble to expand. Investors and buyers alike are swept up in the boom of the market, but they always seem to forget the bust. The speculation that prices will continue to rise causes the market to soar. In order to accommodate the demand “loose lending” is often used to entice buyers (Razzi). However, these low interest mortgage rates are one of the primary causes of a housing bubble (Holt).

In a similar fashion to John Knott’s cartoon “It Was a Fool’s Paradise,” published in the Dallas Morning News in January of 1933, Nicholson points the blame at lending, or credit. Just as it was in the 1930’s America it is not the average buyer’s fault for using this credit, but rather a trick that will wreck their economy. Knott depicted the allure of credit as enticing buyers to their doom. Similarly Nicholson makes an effort to include lending in his cartoon while he does not include the Australian public at all. By doing this he alleviates the buyers of any fault and places the blame on the lenders.

While it is clear that the Reserve Bank depicted in Nicholson’s cartoon is the Australian Reserve Bank, the US Federal Reserve plays a large role in Australia’s economy. This global connection caused the worldwide economy to fall into a recession in 2008. The value of the US dollar influences the value of currencies around the world, and should it lower it will “push the Aussie dollar higher,” (Russell). In order to combat the this the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) is “lowering interest rates…to keep the Aussie dollar low,” and it is this lowering of rates that has allowed for the housing bubble to expand (Russell). The low interest rates lead to the housing bubble in a couple of ways. They “encouraged the use of adjustable rate mortgages” to combat buyers’ inabilities to pay for their home on a fixed rate mortgage (Holt). These low rates also led to leveraging, or “investing with borrowed money” (Holt). Once again this is reflective of Knott’s cartoon criticizing the use of easy credit, and how lending can turn an economy on its head in a matter of years.

Whether in 1930’s America or twenty first century Australia lending has proven to be a serious problem in the economic longterm. In Australia during the early twenty first century it lead to an incredible increase in housing prices, almost double that of the US (Sheehan). In his cartoon Nicholson is critical of the Reserve Bank’s role in the housing market as well as the role of borrowed money.

Works Cited

Holt, Jeff. “A Summary of the Primary Causes of the Housing Bubble and the Resulting Credit Crisis: A Non-Technical Paper.” The Journal of Business Inquiry 8.1 (2009): 120-29. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.

Nicholson, Peter. “Oct Reserve Bank Contemplates Housing Bubble.” Nicholson. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Nov. 2015.

Razzi, E. “Bursting the Bubble about the Causes of the Housing Bubble.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 08 May 2010. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.

Russell, Shae. “Why the US Federal Reserve’s Next Move Matters to Aussie Investors.” The Daily Reckoning Australia. The Daily Reckoning Australia, N.p., 04 Nov. 2015. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.

Sheehan, Paul. “Paul Sheehan: All Bubbles Burst, First China, Later Australia?” The Sydney Morning Herald. The Sydney Morning Herald, N.p., 27 Aug. 2015. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.

Spasic, Mat. “Why the Aussie Property Bubble Just Popped.” The Daily Reckoning Australia. The Daily Reckoning Australia, N.p., 21 Sept. 2015. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.

Same-Sex Marriage

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Individual rights have always a hard thing to define. Things like property rights are defended time and time again by the judicial system, but many substances remain banned for recreational use. In more recent news, same-sex marriage was legalized nationwide in the United States(Liptak), even though many states had banned it. As recently as 2012, less than a fifth of states had legalized same-sex marriage. This landmark case had a lot of people asking why same-sex marriage was banned anywhere in the first place. The cartoon above seeks to use recognizable symbols of justice and liberty to reflect on the now-obvious solution of letting an individual marry whoever they want.

Many conservative and religious groups were outraged by this decision. The argument that same-sex marriage should be illegal is a more complex one than may seem obvious. Many opponents clung to the bible(Blinder and Pena), quoting the book of Leviticus as declaring homosexuality as a sin. But for those with a more subtle complaint, it would seem that the threat they experienced was over the definition of the term “marriage.” Some opponents of same-sex marriage argued that if homosexuals could be married, then their marriage would be somehow cheapened. The idea there being that a marriage means less the less exclusive it is, almost like a club. Ultimately, however, the Supreme Court sided with the people who believed any consenting adults who were in love could be married.

The symbols contained in this cartoon seek to convey the degree to which the author deemed this solution obvious. The first way this is done is through the use of an ancient symbol, Lady Justice. Since ancient times, Lady Justice has been portrayed as a blindfolded woman holding scales. This represents an idea that goes back nearly as far as civilized human society, the idea that justice should be blind, and therefore give fair treatment to everyone. The scales held by Lady Justice are meant to symbolize a system that cannot be fooled by counterfeit ideas or testimony. This symbol is meant to convey that justice was done, as a blindfolded woman cannot tell whether a marriage is same-sex or not. Towards the same end, the scales that are designed to depict fair treatment, would be symbolically unable to tell if the two people being married are a same-sex couple or a “traditional” couple. A symbol that has forever exemplified the principles of justice applies again so far in the future from its creation.

The second of the symbols in the center of this cartoon is the Statue of Liberty. This American icon has always been a beacon of hope to oppressed peoples, as her broken shackles symbolize a place where one can live free of judgement. The torch Liberty holds is meant to represent enlightenment and hope for outsiders looking towards America. By using Liberty and Justice in conjunction, Bennett also visually evokes one of the most famous phrases from the Pledge of Allegiance, a pledge which describes America as a place that has “Liberty and Justice for all,” even though there were many couples that couldn’t be legally married until 2015. Using this visual joke highlights the misstep of many states in outlawing same-sex marriage. All of these symbols represent, in the more abstract, fair treatment and equal rights.

Finally, Lady Justice, and Lady Liberty are perched upon a wedding cake together. The wedding cake reads: “Same-sex Marriage.” This visual joke is meant to highlight the fact that when Liberty and Justice came together, to truly be “for all,” same-sex marriage had to be legalized. This joke also explores the irony that the symbols that represent the individual right to marriage are both female, so the figurative marriage of these ideals is also same-sex. Triumph is the theme of the cartoon, and the fact that the most appropriate symbols to represent the victory of same-sex marriage over restriction turned out to be the same sex is almost too impressive to be true.

This cartoon is meant to evoke the joy of a wedding while using symbolism to root this joy to the resolution of a long-debated issue. Opponents of same-sex marriage were finally defeated, and the euphoria of a wedding was rooted to the most popular symbols for liberty and justice. By portraying Lady Liberty and Lady Justice as a newly married couple, the artist also employed the figurative meaning of marriage, intending this to be a symbol of a meeting of the minds more than literal marriage. In using these symbols, Bennett captured the cultural rejoice that followed the defense of same-sex marriage by the Supreme Court. Individual liberties were again defended from States’ encroachment by the judicial system.

 

WORKS CITED

 

Blinder, Alan, and Richard Perez-Pena. “Kentucky Clerk Denies Same-Sex Marriage Licenses, Defying Court.” New York Times 2 Dec. 2015. Web. 13 Dec. 2015.

 

Liptak, Adam. “Supreme Court Rules Same-sex Marriage a Right Nationwide.” New York Times 26 June 2015. Web. 13 Dec. 2015.

 

McKinley, Jesse, and Laurie Goodstein. “Bans in 3 States on Gay Marriage.” New York Times 5 Nov. 2008. Web. 13 Dec. 2015.

Ura, Alexa. “Texas Concedes Legal Challenge to Same-Sex Marriage Ban.” The Texas Tribune 1 July 2015. Web. 13 Dec. 2015.

 

What Now?!!

 

political cartoon picture 2
Uncle Sam’s political view on the Prohibition of Marijuana
WHAT NOW?!!

Keith Tucker

As America ventures towards the legalization of marijuana, many political cartoonists boost their agenda by associating their political itinerary with American history. Specifically, Prohibition is widely used amongst cartoonist due to its well-known details and final 1930s decision that creates an easy analysis or similarity to the reader. Cartoonist, Keith Tucker, poses the controversial question, “what now?!!” to question America’s next step towards the legalization of marijuana.

Dr. Keith Martin states, “The “war on drugs” has done nothing to reduce illegal drug use, crime, harm, or cost.” Tucker compares prohibition to today’s marijuana problem. He portrays that the government’s decision to legalize marijuana will diminish the negative activities, which were caused by the prohibition of marijuana. He acknowledges, “Prohibition has failed [and] its time to legalize [marijuana] in America.” Similarly to those during the 1930s, he accents the effect that illegal marijuana has currently on the states – cost to the states and corruption – similar to the negative effects of the prohibition of alcohol (Martin). As Tucker lists the negative consequences, he implies the positive impact associated with the legalization of marijuana: cutting the cost to fight marijuana from the Country’s budget and the gain in tax dollars to stimulate the economy. He implies how States could tax the sale of marijuana as they do with alcohol and tobacco. For example, after Colorado legalized marijuana and implemented a tax, Colorado collected seventy million dollars in taxes after one year while alcohol only collected 42 million (Basu). This shows the significant advantage of ending the prohibition on marijuana. Ending prohibition of marijuana can save tax dollars that could be used in more beneficial ways to stimulate our economy. Additionally, the 21st amendment ended the major corruption associated with prohibition. Cartoonist, John Knott exposed the negative effects caused by prohibition in the cartoon John D does a Mural for Radio City. He claimed that America’s desire to eliminate the prohibition of alcohol decreased the number of bootleggers, speakeasies, gang violence, and other illegal activities (Van Essen). Similarly, the end of marijuana prohibition could dampen these social problems.

Tucker explicitly presents Uncle Sam stating, “It’s time to legalize it, America!” He notes that millions of American citizens have several uses for marijuana – from recreational uses to known medical value. Statistically, “over 94 million people in the US have admitted using it at least once (Marijuana).” So again, “what now?!!” Research has proved that the THC in marijuana helps with diseases such as multiple sclerosis, nausea from cancer chemotherapy, seizures, and Crohn’s disease (Feature). These various uses of marijuana tie back to tax profits, utilizing marijuana as a medical use may increase the total revenue collected.

In summary, Tucker highlights the progressive points that rise from dismissing the prohibition of marijuana. His title expressing, “what now?!!” is appropriate now as several states have legalized marijuana. Moving forward and following the history of the prohibition on alcohol, it seems as history may repeat itself with yet again another failed attempt on prohibition.

Bibliography

 Basu, Tanya. “Colorado Raised More Tax Revenue From Marijuana Than Alcohol.” Time. Time, 16 Sept. 2015. Web. 19 Nov. 2015. <http://time.com/4037604/colorado-marijuana-tax-revenue/>.

Feature, Anne HardingWebMD. “Medical Marijuana Treatment Uses and How It Works.” WebMD. WebMD, 04 Nov. 2013. Web. 19 Nov. 2015. <http://www.webmd.com/pain-management/features/medical-marijuana-uses>. 

“Marijuana Statistics – Cannabis Use Statistics – Drug-Free World.” Marijuana Statistics – Cannabis Use Statistics – Drug-Free World. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Nov. 2015. <http://www.drugfreeworld.org/drugfacts/marijuana/international-statistics.html>.

Martin, Keith. “Decriminalize Pot, Destabilize Gangs.” Cannabis Culture. Cannabis Culture Magazine, 13 Apr. 2009. Web. 19 Nov. 2015. <http://www.cannabisculture.com/content/2009/04/13/decriminalize-pot-destabilize-gangs>. 

Tucker, Keith. “What Now Cartoons Archives – by Keith Tucker.” What Now Cartoons Archives – by Keith Tucker. KTC@whatnowtoons.com, n.d. Web. 19 Nov. 2015. <http://www.whatnowtoons.com/wnt_archives.asp?.

Van Essen, Dane. “John D. Does a Mural for Radio City.” Web log post. Ut Libraries Blog. University of Texas at Austin, 5 Nov. 2015. Web. 12 Dec. 2015. <http://blogs.lib.utexas.edu/nonaka/page/3/>

 

Homeless Holidays

Mike Keefe illustrates the hypocrisy of charity that often occurs around the holidays.

Despite being one of the wealthiest countries in the world, chronic homelessness is overwhelmingly present in the United States. This reality does not register in its entirety in the mind of many Americans until the”season of giving” is marked not only on the calendar, but also through the communal holley, twinkling lights, and oversized trees present in public places: Christmas time. Denver Post political cartoonist Mike Keefe illustrates the irony often present between the “season of giving” and homelessness in America in his cartoon published on Christmas Eve in 2010 titled, “Homeless Holidays.”

“Homeless Holidays” shows a young child running toward a homeless man with an eager smile on his face and change in his hand. His parents are walking behind him with a smile on their faces and shopping bags in their hands. The homeless man is slumped over on the sidewalk next to a sign that says, “anything helps.” The boy is saying, “I wish all homelessness would disappear!” The homeless man replies, “Don’t worry, we’ll become invisible again on December 26th.”

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) identifies a homeless person as “someone who resides in a place not meant for human inhabitation,” including the street, a sidewalk, etc. (United States, Government Accountability Office [Page 4]). Much like the Great Depression, the recent Great Recession in 2009 reintroduced the country to intense homelessness of men, women, families, and unattached children. Perhaps one of the most troubling statistics of this most recent country-wide economic downturn is the thirty percent increase in homelessness from 2007 to 2009 (United States, United States Interagency Council on Homelessness [Page 8]). In response to the troubles citizens began facing, President Barack Obama soon instituted the Opening Doors policy in May 2009. This policy aimed to end chronic homelessness in ten years, and veteran and familial homelessness in five (United States, United States Interagency Council on Homelessness [Page 4]).

Opening Doors was one of the first policies of its kind—never before has an American president introduced legislation so specific and so galvanizing in the discussion of eradicating homelessness. However, the state of homelessness in the U.S. has taken on a face unlike that of the past. Traditionally in recessions and depressions people lost their homes due to the inability to maintain a steady and subsistent job, but the issue many face today is the increase in the cost of housing (“The State of Homelessness in America”). This is why, despite the increase in job availability, there are still 4.8 million people living in poverty (“The State of Homelessness in America”). In his open letter that discussed the reasons and means behind the policy, President Obama cited “‘home as being the center of the American dream” (United States, United States Interagency Council on Homelessness [Page 4]). Introducing this platform appeals to the reader’s pathos, and makes them more apt to listen to the continuous plan he intended to institute. This plan included providing the homeless with apartments in which the government paid the rent—allowing the homeless to achieve the “American dream” that is idolized by many, yet is unachievable in the minds of others (United States, United States Interagency Council on Homelessness [Page 4]).

The Opening Doors policy is working. According to an article published by Dina ElBoghdady in the Washington Post on October 31, 2014 titled “These five charts show the progress and challenges in fighting homelessness,” there was a decrease between 2010 and 2014 of ten percent in overall homelessness, thirty-three percent in veteran homelessness, and sharp decline in the use of temporary shelters. However, the plan has yet to create an all-encompassing, completely housed society. While there are less homeless people in the U.S. than there were in 2010, the program requires more money than initially called for in the original legislation— $300 million, to be exact— and many people remain unsheltered and without a home (ElBoghdady). Regardless, there is still support for the administration’s efforts to decrease homelessness. While the plan has not been instituted at the speed it originally called for, the U.S. government is spending $4.5 billion a year in efforts to lessen the evils that are synonymous with homelessness (“The state of homelessness in America” 4). The Secretary of HUD, Julian Castro, was quoted in the Washington Post article saying, “we’re confident that we’re not only saving lives, we’re saving money because folks are no longer caught in the cycle of shelters, emergency rooms and other public services that require taxpayer dollars” (ElBoghdady).

The viewer can easily understand the  satirical outlook the artist has taken strictly via the dialogue between the young child and the homeless man sitting on the street. The child is saying, “I wish all homelessness would disappear!” The homeless man replies, “Don’t worry, we will become invisible again on December 26th.” The “season of joy” and “spirit of giving” will run out— demonstrating the seasonality of homelessness assumed by the public.
The child is part of a nuclear family that appears to be well-off financially, as seen by the parents walking behind their young son carrying shopping bags. The parents have a nearly adoring look in their eyes as they watch their young son run to the homeless man with change, completely ignorant of the struggles he faces day-to-day. Their focus is on the fact that their son is sharing charitable actions with the world, rather than the actual depravity of the circumstance the child is “helping.” This illustrates the disconnect many Americans experience with their fellow citizens who are homeless. There is a concerning failure to understand that the people on the streets begging for food are, in fact, people, and are living a life many could not imagine.

This seasonality many place on homelessness is not entirely ignored by the general public. Bonnie Kavoussi published an article on Huffington Post’s website concerning the issue that consisted of minimal writing and an infographic courtesy of the website Thinkprogress. The article explained that the amount of money the citizens of the U.S. spend on Christmas decorations every year could eradicate homelessness. $20 billion is the price tag on the countless decorative trees and lights Americans buy every year— and it could cure homelessness and even leave a surplus of funds (Kavoussi).

Homelessness unfortunately is a topic that has transcended time. While government assistance programs have helped in the past, it is yet to be completely eradicated. Obama’s concept of “opening doors” is a chronic and universal one— John Knott even indirectly addressed it in his cartoon “Somebody’s at the Door,” which was published in 1931. In it, we see a family standing in front of a closed door of a prominent charity at the time, a family who is not receiving the Christmas charity so often celebrated by the mass public. This proves that there are several aspects of society that will always be present. However, despite their immortality, we as a society can still learn from mistakes and progresses made in the past, and use then to influence decisions and policy in the future.

Works Cited:

ElBoghdady, Dina. “These Five Charts Show the Progress and Challenges in Fighting Homelessness.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 31 Oct. 2014. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.

Kavoussi, Bonnie. “U.S. Could End Homelessness With Money Used To Buy Christmas Decorations [INFOGRAPHIC].” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.

“Obama Vows to End Homelessness in 10 Years.” Mcclatchydc. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.

“The State of Homelessness in America.” National Alliance to End Homelessness. Web. 20 Nov 2015.

United States Interagency Council on Homelessness. Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness. Washington: GPO, 2015. United Sates Interagency Council on Homelessness. Web. 8 Dec. 2015.

United States. Government Accountability Office. Homelessness: A Common Vocabulary Could Help Agencies Collaborate and Collect More Consistent Data. 111th Cong., 2nd sess. Rept. 702. Washington: GPO, 2010.  ProQuest Congressional. Web. 8 Dec. 2015.

Japan-China Island Dispute

Patrick Chappatte epicts an island lying in-between two naval ships rushing towards each other. One of the ships displays Japan’s national flag, while the other displays China’s national flag. A man that resembles Uncle Sam is tie to an anchor that is being dragged behind the Japanese ship. Uncle Sam is holding up a hand to signal “stop”.
Patrick Chappatte epicts an island lying in-between two naval ships rushing towards each other. One of the ships displays Japan’s national flag, while the other displays China’s national flag. A man that resembles Uncle Sam is tie to an anchor that is being dragged behind the Japanese ship. Uncle Sam is holding up a hand to signal “stop”.

Japan-China Island Dispute

Patrick Chappatte – September 19, 2012

The political cartoon Japan-China Island Dispute, created by Patrick Chappatte and published in The New York Times on September 20, 2012, depicts an island lying in-between two naval ships rushing towards each other. One of the ships displays Japan’s national flag, while the other displays China’s national flag. A man who resembles Uncle Sam is tied to an anchor that is being dragged behind the Japanese ship. Uncle Sam is holding up a hand to signal “stop” (Chappatte). The cartoon conveys the conflict between China and Japan over disputed islands and America’s role in this complex foreign issue.

The island in the political cartoon represents a set of eight uninhabited islands that are called “Senkaku” islands by the Japanese, “Diaoyudao” islands by the Chinese, and “Diaoyutai” islands by Taiwan (Yu). The Senkaku/Diaoyudao/Diaoyutai islands are located northeast of Taiwan and consist of seven square kilometers in total area. Their importance lies in their proximity to nearby shipping lanes, rich fish-filled waters, nearby (possible) oil and gas reserves, and strategic military location for dominance within the Asia-Pacific region (“How Uninhabited Islands Soured China-Japan Ties”). These islands are located on the East China Sea and should not be confused with another set of disputed islands between China, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam in the South China Sea (McKirdy and Hunt).

In some ways the disputes over these islands resemble events in Asia before, during, and after World War II, when nations were in conflict over territory and colonization (“The Mukden Incident of 1931 and the Stimson Doctrine”). The current Disputed Islands Conflict holds relevance to our lives because the countries in these territorial disagreements are the same major political players who were at odds immediately before and during the Second World War and also because the failure to satisfactorily resolve earlier territorial disagreements is now the source of renewed geo-political tension and potential conflict. This is worrisome; for as George Santayana would once wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it” (Santayana 284).

In Chappatte’s cartoon, the two colliding battle ships represent Japan and China and their this territorial dispute over the Senkaku/Diaoyudao/Diaoyutai islands. Japan claims it originally surveyed the islands, found them uninhabited, and officially made them part of Japan’s territory on January 14, 1895. According to the 1951 Treaty of San Francisco, however, Japan had to give up some of its islands to China, although these disputed lands were not a part of the treaty. The Senkaku/Diaoyudao/Diaoyutai islands remained under US trusteeship until they were returned to Japan in 1971. Meanwhile, China contends that the islands have been apart of China since before Japan’s nineteenth century survey and therefore should have been given to China under the Treaty of San Francisco (“How Uninhabited Islands Soured China-Japan Ties”).

Not mentioned in the political cartoon but equally important is Taiwan’s involvement in this conflict. Taiwan argues that the islands belong to them. The Senkaku/Diaoyudao/Diaoyutai islands are crucial fishing areas for the Taiwanese economy and food supply. Japan offered a diplomatic solution to Taiwan by allowing them to fish in the area in exchange for naval assistance in surveillance of the islands (Chiu Bi-Whei). This strategic move not only gave Japan a neighboring ally in this matter but also bolstered the division between China and Taiwan.

In Chappatte’s political cartoon, Uncle Sam represents America’s involvement on the side of Japan in this dispute. After its loss in World War II, Japan’s constitution was rewritten by U.S. General Douglas MacArthur (“Bringing Democracy to Japan”). Under Article Nine of the new constitution, Japan was to disband all military forces. After the formal U.S. Occupation ended, Japan was only able to operate a defensive military Self-Defense Force (“Article 9 and the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty”). Not having any military whatsoever would have left Japan crippled if foreign affairs were to turn violent. To resolve this pressing matter, in 1952 the two countries signed the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty. Under this treaty, America was allowed to station U.S. military bases in Japan; in exchange, Japan would receive U.S. military aide if they were to experience foreign conflicts (“Article 9 and the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty”).

The current discord between Japan and China is reminiscent of tensions between the two nations during the early 1930’s and leading up to World War II. The tense situation over the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyudao/Diaoyutai islands in the East China Sea revelas a continuous, unresolved source of friction between China and Japan. In order to maintain open international ocean trade routes as well as overall peace in the Asia-Pacific region, America has given support to Japan in this complex foreign dispute. If violent conflict were to erupt, the damage would not only be felt by Japanese and Chinese citizens and others in the region, but also by the American people here at home due to our alliance with Japan and our obligations to provide military support under the terms of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty.

Works Cited

“Article 9 and the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty.” Asia for Educators. Columbia University, n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.

“Bringing Democracy to Japan.” Crf-usa.org. Constitutional Rights Foundation, n.d. Web. 6 Dec. 2015.

Chappatte, Patrick. “Japan-China Island Dispute.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 19 Sept. 2012. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.

Chiu Bi-Whei. “Taiwan Wants a Say in Senkaku Talks.” DW.COM. Made for Minds, 09 Sept. 2013. Web. 8 Dec. 2015.

“How Uninhabited Islands Soured China-Japan Ties – BBC News.” BBC News. BBC, 10 Nov. 2014. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.

McKirdy, Euan, and Katie Hunt. “Showdown in the South China Sea: How Did We Get Here? – CNN.com.” CNN. Cable News Network, 28 Oct. 2015. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.

Santayana, George. The Life of Reason, Or, The Phases of Human Progress. New York: Scribner, 1954. Print.

“The Mukden Incident of 1931 and the Stimson Doctrine.” History.state.gov. U.S. Department of State Office of the Historian, n.d. Web. 4 Dec. 2015.

Yu, Miles. “Taiwan’s First President Ignites Firestorm with Claim That Disputed Islands Belong to Japan.” Washington Times. The Washington Times, 6 Aug. 2015. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.

Minimum Wage

Minimum Wage
A hefty, affluent man who is sipping champagne and relaxing amidst piles of ‘record-level profits’ is identified as ‘big corporations’ and sits atop a stone labeled ‘immorally low minimum wage’, crushing people below it. Wolverton underscores the issues prevalent in the United States’ upper class with regards to the helplessness of the working poor.

Minimum Wage

Monte Wolverton – April 21, 2013

The political cartoon, “Minimum Wage,” was created by Monte Wolverton and published in The Cagle Post on April 21, 2013; it depicts the helpless nature of the lower and middle classes in terms of the attempt to raise the minimum wage in the United States as well as the superiority that the upper class possesses. Similarly, John Francis Knott’s 1933 political cartoon, “Can’t You Spare a Nickel More,” parallels the issues of inadequate wages, the contrast between the upper and lower classes, and poverty. Wolverton’s cartoon in combination with Knott’s cartoon and related contemporary articles brings to light the manner with which the term ‘minimum wage’ evolved, the stark contrast of the concept of minimum wage from the past to the present, and the proposed inadequacy of these wages with regards to how poorly they affect lower classes.

The term ‘minimum wage’ is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as an amount of money that is the least amount of money per hour that workers must be paid according to the law (“Minimum Wage Definition”). Furthermore, the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) – which generally controls the employment and compensation in the United States – requires that a minimum wage be paid to employees regardless of if they are paid by the hour or by salary (“Minimum Wage”). This provides a foundation for an employee’s basic rights for adequate payment. Statistics show that from 1955 to 2014, the minimum wage in the United States gradually increased from $0.75 to $7.25; while this appeared to be a wage that aided the lower class in maintaining a stable life, proponents of a minimum wage increase would say otherwise (“Federal Minimum Wage Rates”). On the other hand, the term ‘living wage’ also comes into play. While a minimum wage is set by the law, a living wage is set by an individual’s standard of living; it should be large enough to provide an individual with the basic necessities to live an acceptable life (“Living Wage Definition”). There are currently two sides to the issue of raising the minimum wage: proponents of this issue state that the minimum wage should be increased due to the inability of the lower classes to work their way out of poverty, while its opponents argue that raising the minimum wage would lead to higher unemployment and an overall lack of a positive effect on the issue (Hasset).

The accompanying article to Wolverton’s cartoon, published by Tina Dupuy in The Cagle Post and titled “Don’t Like Food Stamps? Raise the Minimum Wage,” emphasizes proponents’ views to raise the minimum wage and outlines why their opponents’ perspectives do not appear to be the best option for the country. According to Dupuy, approximately ten million out of the forty-six million impoverished United States citizens are the working poor – she emphasizes that ‘work’ for the working poor does not buy food and shelter and that raising the minimum wage would help an individual with a full-time job and a child surpass the requirement for food stamps (Dupuy). On the other hand, opponents of raising the minimum wage, such as Kevin Hasset of the Los Angeles Times, believe that it would only increase the cost of hiring younger, low-skilled workers and raising it from $7.25 an hour to $9.50 an hour would only aid about eleven percent of impoverished workers (Hasset).

While the debate between whether or not the minimum wage should be increased continues, it is important to view the issue from a holistic perspective; Rex Huppke of the Chicago Tribune states that while both sides make valid arguments, there are points to consider from each angle which contribute to the long-term effects for the country. Huppke states that on one hand, raising the minimum wage could potentially improve the lives of the working poor; on the other hand, it targets all minimum wage workers rather than just the working poor. Improving the lives of all minimum wage workers rather than solely the working poor reduces the action’s effectiveness due to an inefficient distribution of financial assistance and thus sheds light on alternative opportunities to relieve the situation using other investment methods (Huppke). This thought process leads to the idea that raising the minimum wage without further action to permanently eliminate poverty would only create a vicious cycle and cause the problem to reappear.

Wolverton’s cartoon embodies the current wage inadequacy. It can be correlated to another political cartoon published in the Dallas Morning News on October 20, 1933 by John Francis Knott titled “Can’t You Spare a Nickel More” – in Knott’s cartoon, an upper-class man is depicted giving a ten cent loan to a man in tattered clothes who represents two million cotton planters. The two cartoons differ in terms of their depiction; however, they share similarities through meaning. Wolverton’s cartoon parallels Knott’s cartoon due to the way it visually parallels – the rather rotund and well-dressed man sipping champagne and grasping the ‘record-level profits’ represents Knott’s Uncle Sam, the ‘immorally low minimum wage’ stone represents the ‘ten cent loan’, and the crushed bodies underneath represent the ‘two million cotton planters’ in tattered clothing.

The two cartoons are similar in the sense that they both deal with the call to aid the impoverished and underscore that the inadequacy of the current minimum wage is simply crushing the working poor. The humor that can be extracted from Wolverton’s cartoon is from the plump, smirking man increasing the downward force of the ‘immorally low minimum wage’ stone to crush those below him – this is humorous due to the accuracy with which the upper class is represented according to proponents of raising the minimum wage as well as how helpless the working poor is depicted. Additionally, the idea of minimum wage vs. living wage creates new meaning for the people crushed by the ‘immorally low minimum wage’ stone. They are suffering due to the insufficiency of the minimum wage they are being paid; these lower class individuals – while lawfully paid – are not being paid enough to accommodate their standard of living, causing them failure to be self–sufficient. The prominent message conveyed by Wolverton’s cartoon is that more attention should be given to the lower class along with the methods in which we plan to eliminate poverty; actions must be taken in order to benefit the country in the long term, not just for temporary relief. Through the reparations for the working poor, the future for all of the socioeconomic classes may seem more optimistic.

 

Works Cited

(1) “Federal Minimum Wage Rates, 1955–2014.” Infoplease. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2015.

(2) “Living Wage Definition.” Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 09 Dec. 2015.

(3) “Minimum Wage.” Encyclopedia of Small Business. 3rd ed. Vol. 2. Detroit: Gale, 2007. 743-44. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 15 Nov. 2015. 

(4) “Minimum Wage Definition.” Merriam Webster. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2015.

(5) Dupuy, Tina. “Don’t Like Food Stamps? Raise the Minimum Wage.” The Cagle Post. Daryl Cagle, 21 Feb. 2014. Web. 10 Nov. 2015. 

(6) Hasset, Kevin A., and Michael R. Strain. “The Minimum-wage Debate.” Los Angeles Times 10 Mar. 2013: n. pag. Print. 

(7) Huppke, Rex. “In Minimum Wage Debate, Both Sides Make Valid Points.”Chicago Tribune 17 Mar. 2014: n. pag. Print.

(8) Knott, John. “Can’t You Spare a Nickel More.” Cartoon. The Dallas Morning News [Dallas, Texas] 20 Oct. 1933, sec. 2: 2. Print.

(9) Wolverton, Monte. “Minimum Wage.” Cagle Cartoons. Daryl Cagle, 21 Apr. 2013. Web. 15 Nov. 2015. 

Voter ID Laws in Texas

John Branch illustrates Greg Abbott, the governor of Texas, enforcing the requirement of voter IDs when voting in Texas. The voter ID laws in Texas are known to be very strict and this cartoon depicts how the policies discriminate certain groups of people.

The political cartoon above that was illustrated by John Branch, a cartoonist who has had several publications in newspapers such as New York Times and the Dallas Morning News, was published in 2014 in the San Antonio Express News. The main purpose of this political cartoon is to convey that Greg Abbott, the current governor of Texas, supports the strict voter ID laws that exist in Texas against college students, minorities, the elderly, and the poor.

In the United States, voter ID laws are determined and enforced upon the “discretion of each individual state” (Tarr). Typically, most states that tend to have a majority of Republicans have extremely strict voter ID laws that demand a current and valid governmental photo ID, such as a passport or license, in order to vote. Many civil rights groups oppose these laws because they “discriminate against low-income and minority voters-groups that tend to vote Democratic”(Eckholm). This strict law infuriated many people especially considering Texas has had a long history of racial injustice.

The law was originally blocked after a federal court ruled that it discriminated minorities, however, in 2012, “the Supreme Court struck down the portion of the federal voting rights act that requires states with a history of discrimination to seek approval from the federal government before changing legislation dealing with elections”(LoBianco). Other critics of this law argued how it was unfair that college students could not use their college IDs for voting, whereas concealed handgun permits were acceptable. This surely angered several people and just simply did not seem justifiable. Although this law has numerous critics, Greg Abbott defends this law as “the best way to prevent voter fraud and assure the public that only U.S. citizens were casting ballots”(Lachman). Abbott claims that “there is no proof”(Hassan) that the voter ID laws suppress the vote.

Greg Abbott has a very strong influence in politics because of his position as Governor of Texas. Because of this large influence, this cartoon touches on a very controversial subject that several people have strong opinions on. In the cartoon, Greg Abbott is sitting at a table that holds a locked ballot box with a sign that states “MUST HAVE VALID VOTER ID.” Greg Abbott is sternly pointing his finger to move away from the table, meant to be directed towards an elderly woman and two minorities who were just simply trying to vote. A word bubble floating above Abbott’s head conveys Abbott obnoxiously yelling “GET OUT!” at these people. Another important aspect of the cartoon is that Greg Abbott has his eyes closed while he is denying this elderly woman and minorities the right to vote. The cartoon is almost implying that Abbott is denying voting rights to these people without even thinking twice about it; he has no sympathy towards these people or their opinions. The most humorous aspect of this cartoon is the Texas state flag that profoundly hovers over the locked ballot box. The humor comes from the fact that it seems as if Greg Abbott and the state of Texas think they are superior in a way. The flag seems to represent the fact that because they are Texas, they are able to do what they want. This implication connects back to the idea that states rights is a heavily supported by Greg  Abbott, especially when it comes to voter ID laws.

An issue that needs to be addressed is how there are several laws, including the voter ID laws, that vary among different states. When it comes to controversial political issues, federal policies are usually not enforced considering there have “always been an abundant amount of states rights supporters” (Ruiz). Notorious for being an advocate for states rights, Al Smith, a previous governor of New York, was a huge opposer to Roosevelt’s monetary policy. Many times, federal policy is kept to a minimum in order to satisfy a variety of needs across the country. This is especially important so the citizens of the United States feel as though they have somewhat of a say and that they are not being forced by the government.

An article in the New York Times called “Texas ID Law Called Breach of Voting Rights Act” focuses on the fact that many people believe the Texas voter ID laws are way too strict and unnecessary. Many people believe that these laws are violating the Voting Rights Act which is was proposed several years ago to ensure that everyone had equal and fair opportunity to vote. Because of the strict enforcement of the voter ID laws, many people are unable to vote. Issues of unfairness and discrimination about voter ID laws have been addressed to Greg Abbott, however, he does not believe that the laws discriminate in any way.

Although Greg Abbott will claim that there is no evidence that would support the idea that these voter ID laws suppress votes and discriminate against minorities, there are still countless opposers to these unfair laws. Even though there are many supporters of states rights, an implementation of federal policy could solve problems and lead to a more politically cohesive country.

Works Cited
Eckholm, Erik. “Texas ID Law Called Breach of Voting Rights Act.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 05 Aug. 2015. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.

Hassan, Anita. “Abbott Defends Texas Voter ID Law.” Houston Chronicle. 11 Sept. 2014. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.

Lachman, Samantha. “Federal Appeals Court Rules Texas Voter ID Law Violates Voting Rights Act.” Huffingtonpost.com. 5 Aug. 2015. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.

LoBianco, Tom. “Texas Voter ID Law: Appeals Court Strikes down Key Part CNNPolitics.com.” CNN. Cable News Network, n.d. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.

Tarr, Dave, and Bob Benenson. “Voter Identification.” Elections A to Z. 4th ed. Los Angeles: CQ, 2012. 652-53. CQ Press American Government A to Z Ser. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 9 Dec. 2015.

“Voting Rights Act.” Latinas in the United States: A Historical Encyclopedia. Ed. Vicki L. Ruiz and Virginia Sanchez Korrol. Vol. 3. Indiana University Press, 2006. 804. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 9 Dec. 2015.

The Farm Bills

Large farm corporations take advantage of government agriculture subsides while small farms are left out to dry.
Mike Keefe illustrates how large farm corporations take advantage of government agriculture subsides while small farms are left out to dry.

The Farm Bills

Cartoon by Mike Keefe

This cartoon, by Mike Keefe in May of 2008, is a humorous crack at the corporate corruption within the farm bills that the U.S. passes every five years or so. The idea of a ‘farm bill’ originated as part of FDR’s New Deal during the Great Depression, called the Agriculture Adjustment Act. The idea behind this legislature was to compensate farmers for not growing crop on a percentage of their land, in order to induce market growth and raise the selling price of crops. With this bill the Department of Agriculture was given the power to more or less regulate the agricultural market. Farmers in desperate need for income, took the subsidies and were instructed to not use certain acres of their land. If the prices did not go up, then the Government guaranteed a minimum price per bushel contained in federal loans. This was good and well as the prices stabilized and caused food production to grow and flourish, until 1936, when the AAA was found unconstitutional. A new, temporary farm bill was put together as a solution, but was not made permanent until 1973. In current times, an average of $2,000 per tax payer per year has been put into agricultural support, though only 75% of agricultural support has gone to only 10% of subsidy receivers (Barber).

Ironically, the 10% that receive the majority of the benefits within recent years are companies such as Cargill, Continental, Bunge, ADM, Tyson and Smithfield, some of the largest Agricultural businesses in the nation. Many critics of the farm bills claim that the authors and re-writers have investments in the big farms and therefore continue to use this legislature for in their own self-interest. Theoretically, farm subsidies should help small, family farms more than large corporations, but attaining these subsides remain incredibly difficult and burdensome. Those who barely make ends meet by plowing their own fields and harvesting their own crops don’t have the time or funds to get into this questionable business (Sphairon).Consequently, all these subsides go straight to the big companies, which gives them another advantage over their smaller competitors. Big agribusiness siphons off the majority of the farm bill subsides, taking advantage of the overbearing system that small farms don’t have the means to effectively use.

The Hot Air article “Yes, the “new and improved” farm bill is still chock-full of agribusiness pork,” testifies that the corporate corruption that surrounded the farm bills of the past is still present, even in more recent re-issues of the bill. The article states that on top of unequal distribution, the 2013 farm bill cost taxpayers almost $1 trillion, about $300 billion more than the 2008 bill. The article goes on to weigh in on the outdated system of farm subsidies, specifically price guarantees for crops, where the author humorously comments that we should also have price guarantees “for gold, running shoes, and umbrellas” (Johnsen). Supporters of the bill claim that after over the next decade legislators will be cutting spending, saving taxpayers upwards of $20 billion dollars. While this may be true, the figure of $20 billion dollars is relatively negligible compared to the enormity of the trillion dollars budgeted for the 2013 version. Politicians have no issue with dishing out such a large amount of money, given that evidence shows it’s going to end up back in their own pockets.

In his cartoon, Keefe depicts the irony of the intention of the farm bill versus the corruption that actually takes place. As illustrated, “Farm Bill” airplanes drop loads of money labeled $300 billion over two large farms called “Big Agribiz.” It is easy to see that the “Small Farm” located in between the two large farms are not receiving any of the money being dropped by the planes. The irony is tied together with the man in a business suit speaking to the farmer in front of the small farm saying, “Feel id in the air? Another great year!” referring to the money falling from the sky. So here is a businessman, presumably involved in big agriculture business telling the local farmer about how excited he is about the free money from the sky, that the small farmer will never see any of. The point of the farm bill program, was to equalize the agricultural market, and level the playing field for small farms.  The fact is, that the opposite has happened, large companies received the majority of the government assistance, and eventually started buying up the less fiscally secure farms. As a result the big farms got bigger and local, family farms began to rapidly decrease. Inevitably, the large farming corporations became a huge political lobbying force. So now the people who had the power to change the corrupt system had vested interest in these large companies, and would be reluctant to lose out on the profits. The business man in the cartoon represents either the Argribusiness executives or the politicians who’ve wet their beak in the industry.  The man in the cartoon is obviously excited about the subsides, but appears to have a sarcastic and spiteful attitude toward the local farmer, who’s is obviously getting the bad end of a deal.

Works Cited

Barber, Tate. “How the Farm Bill Has Affected You Daily: Part 1.” Tate Barber. N.p., 18 Nov. 2013. Web. 10 Nov. 2015.

Johnsen, Erika. “Yes, the “new and Improved” Farm Bill Is Still Chock-full of Agribusiness Pork.” Hot Air. N.p., 16 June 2013. Web. 16 Nov. 2015.

Keefe, Mike. Unkown. Digital image. The Public Choice Capitalist. WordPress, n.d. Web. 10 Nov. 2015.

Munro, Donna. “Farm Bill: Cut Subsidies to Big Agriculture.” The Seattle Times. The Seattle Times, 21 Jan. 2014. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.

Smith, Dan. “Senate Farm Bill Continues Giant Giveaways to Big Agribusiness.” U.S. PRIG. N.p., 11 June 2013. Web. 13 Nov. 2015.

Sphairon. “Road to Rothbard: February 2009.” Road to Rothbard: February 2009. Blogspot, 20 Feb. 2009. Web. 10 Nov. 2015.

Lets cut back on spending by a ‘sprinkle’ percent!

Obama, as an ice cream server, "cutting back" on government spending by withholding the sprinkles.
Obama, as an ice cream server, “cutting back” on government spending by withholding the sprinkles.

In late January, President Barack Obama presents a federal budget proposal that would exceed restricted spending caps mandated by congress four years ago. This proposal includes new capital gains, bank taxes, and a new tax on american companies competing in world markets. The political cartoon was posted on January 2nd, 2015, prior to the announcement on Obama’s budget proposal, titled Bloated Government. It is shown and predicted by the cartoon artist, Steve Breen, that Obama voices his want to cut back on government spending but those are not his actions. Barack’s new proposal could cause the government to become further bloated, untiqued, and unresponsive to taxpayers, and that is exactly what the GOP would like to avoid. The cartoon strongly and correctly predicted that Obama would spend more rather than cut back on government spending, just as was seen previously through FDR’s term in office.

President Barack was never actually known for cutting back on costs. In his plans to cut taxes, extend unemployment benefits, fund job-creating public works projects, and increase defense spending, he added $6.167 trillion to the national debt, which is a fifty-three percent increase, in only six years. So far the national debt is building up like an enormous snowball. Today’s taxpayers and future generations face massive indebtedness, while congressional democrats and current administration(Obama) block every attempt to turn things around.

In Steve Breen’s cartoon, Bloated Government, there is a rather large, and heavy set man sitting on the left side of the counter, concluded to be the customer. This obese man is labeled “gov’t” to symbolize the nation’s government currently and how bloated it is. On the counter there is a large bowl, uncommonly huge for the size for a regular bowl of ice cream. The bowl is filled with more than eight bananas, dozens of ice cream scoops of assorted flavors, all drizzled in chocolate, foamed over with tons of whipped cream, and a cherry to top it off. Not your average cup of tea, or rather, bowl of ice cream. This bowl happens to be labeled “spending” to symbolize how great the national government’s spending is and common it has become for it to be that much. On the right side of the counter there are two thin men dressed as the ice cream servers. One man symbolizes Barack Obama, having the same characteristics. “You need to cut back so we withheld the sprinkles,” Obama says in the cartoon. All, put Steve Breen is depicting in his illustration that Obama says he wants the government to cut back on spending but in his actions he does not show that. All that government spending might anger, or already is angering taxpayers, republicans, and congress.

Although Barack’s proposal was likely to get prevented from making progress in congressional opposition, he did not give up. The budget is down to pre-financial crisis levels, and the president will seek approval to break through spending caps. This will play out to be more spending and more debt. After hearing the proposal Senate Orrin G. Hatch says, “He is the most liberal, fiscally irresponsible president we’ve had in history. I don’t know why he doesn’t see it. You’re facing a debt crisis not because Americans are taxed too little but because the government spends too much.” Obama’s plans represent roughly seven percent increase in 2016 government spending. To his credibility, Obama basically inherited a terrible financial crisis that was the worst that our economy has sustained since The Great Depression. Looking in the past, because of his policies the economy has come roaring back.

The resemblance is existent between President Obama term and FDR’s, just as the likeness of Steve Breen’s political cartoon and John Knott’s. Knott’s cartoon, Nice Work!, portrays the Director of the Bureau of Budgetary, Lewis Douglas, as a hard working man trying to cut down the national budget. In Breen’s cartoon, Bloated Government, Obama is seen “trying” to cut back on government spending. During FDR’s term in office, Lewis Douglas worked hard to cut down the national budget so that the government would not spend as much and taxpayers would remain contempt. FDR went along with Douglas’ plans until he showed his true colors and downplayed efforts to cut costs and balance the budget causing Douglas’ role to diminish. Likewise with Obama, he himself voiced that he needed to cut back on government spending. Not only did he go over the projected budget, but his proposal requests to spend even more. Unlike FDR, Obama worked with congress in order to help the economy. Congress on October 21st, 2015, moved a step closer to clearing a bipartisan budget deal that would boost spending for domestic and defense programs over two years while suspending the debt limit into 2017. The agreement would essentially end the ongoing budget battles between congressional republicans and President Obama by pushing the next round of fiscal decision making past the 2016 election when there will be a new congress and White House occupant. Obama and FDR have both set up the national budget situation for the president to come and take over. The next president will then also have political cartoons to be depicted in during their term.

 

Works Cited

Snell, Kelsey. “House Passes Budget Deal; Senate Expected to Act Soon.”The Washington Post. N.p., 29 Oct. 2015. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.

Mufson, Steven, and Juliet Eilperin. “Obama Budget Proposal Would Boost Spending beyond ‘Sequestration’ Caps.” The Washington Post 29 Jan. 2015, Business sec. Fred Ryan. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.

Mervis, Jeffrey. “Budget for 2016 Accentuates the Practical.” Science Mag 6 Feb. 2015: 599-601. Print.

Amadeo, Kimberly. “Which President Added Most to the U.S. Debt?”About.com News & Issues. Neil Vogel, 14 July 2014. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.

Amadeo, Kimberly. “Which President Added Most to the U.S. Debt?”About.com News & Issues. Neil Vogel, 14 July 2014. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.

Crew, Clyde. “Obama’s 2016 Federal Budget And Middle Class Economics.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 2 Feb. 2015. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.

Breen, Steve. San Diego Union-Tribune 2 Jan. 2015: n. pag. Print.

Knott, John. “Nice Job!” Cartoon. Dallas Morning News 25 Nov. 1933, 2nd ed. Print.

Their Fiscal Cliff or Ours?

President Obama attempting to prevent himself from being dragged down a cliff by a blind folded elephant by attempting to hook on to a tree with a cane.
Obama desperately attempts to save both himself and a blind folded Congress from going over the fiscal cliff.

Cartoonist Luo Jie, of the news site China Daily, created a significant portfolio of critical political cartoons addressing global issues. In his humorous cartoon, “Fiscal Cliff,” Luo Jie symbolically depicts the struggle between U.S. President Barack Obama and the ignorant Republican Congressional opposition in their efforts to pass the federal budget for the fiscal year 2013.

Jie’s cartoon, published December 8th, 2012, utilizes several symbols to convey meaning to the viewer: the man in the suit representing Obama; the blindfolded Elephant representing oblivious Republicans; the chain representing the bipartisan requirement to pass the fiscal budget; the other items representing actions regarding fiscal policy. The aggregate of the symbols constitutes a message censuring partisan politics in the United States, mocking both Obama and the Republican Party.

The 112th Congress, in office from 2012 to 2014, consisted of a Democrat-dominated Senate and a Republican-dominated House of Representatives. The ideological split between the Senate and House resulted in severe disagreements, bolstered partisan politics, and stalled policy development (Zeleny). The term “fiscal cliff” earns the name from the impending shift of fiscal policy. The cliff referred to large budget sequestration (reduction of the federal deficit through spending cuts) and the expiration of President George W. Bush era tax cuts. Republicans backed sequestration and opposed the increase on taxes while Democrats backed increasing taxes for only those considered upper-class (Sahadi). Despite the negative connotation of the word “cliff,” the fiscal cliff in its entirety holds the ability to cut the United States budget deficit seventy-five percent by 2022 which would result in significant positive economic impact in the long-run (CBO). Disagreeing with the increase of taxation on the middle class, Democrats pushed for higher taxation on the top two percent of income earners in lieu of the expected increase on middle class taxation hoping to still provide the positive economic benefits of reducing the budget deficit. Across the isle, Republicans refused to tax the wealthy – the vast majority of their campaign donors – resulting in a stand-still in the budget creation process (Jackson).

An article, released the same day as the cartoon, titled “GOP: White House ‘fiscal cliff’ idea ‘a joke’,” analyzes current Speaker of the House Republican John Boehner’s remarks regarding the fiscal cliff talks. Boehner sees the Democratic fiscal cliff proposition as an insult to the Republican Party and excoriates Democrats for not focusing more on cutting the budget, and relying almost exclusively on a tax increase (Jackson).

The humor in Jie’s cartoon consists of several layers generated by the visual representation of Obama and the elephant. Obama’s struggle to latch onto the tree of “THE RICH” with the cane of “RAISING TAXES” exists as the focal point of the cartoon due to Obama’s fight to keep both himself and the elephant alive. The mien of Obama, is that of panic and worry, signifying that Democrats truly believe the best and possibly only solution to avert going over the fiscal cliff is to keep the tax cuts for the middle class and increase taxation for the upper class. Meanwhile, the blind-folded elephant, the Republican dominated Congress, attempts to casually keep walking not realizing there is a cliff in front of it. The two branches of government chained together depicts the requirement of different parties to work together in order to accomplish anything. Unfortunately for President Obama, the elephant does not realize the impending danger of the situation, representative of Congress’ uncompromising rejection of raising taxes on the wealthy. The panicked expression of Obama lets the viewer understand the importance of the situation, but when contrasted with the blinded elephant’s absent minded actions allows the reader to laugh at Obama’s pain and the naivety of the Republican party.

The humor parallels that of John Knott’s 1931 cartoon titled “No Time For Fiddling!” in which Knott portrays Congress as an oaf who quite literally is fiddling around – playing a fiddle labeled “partisan politics” – while the world burns. The cartoon denounces the U.S. Congress for its inability to come together to act on the impending threat, later resulting in the Great Depression. Partisanship remains the biggest obstacle for functional and effective government, and cartoonists like John Knott and Luo Jie continue to criticize the institutions’ failures for years to come.

Partisan Politics serve as the biggest hinderance to change, and oftentimes, even in the face of an impeding crisis, opposing parties refuse to work together. Eventually Congress and the White House will probably become uniform and under one party, but until then President Obama will have to compromise with his Republican controlled House of Representatives.

Works Cited:

Congressional Budget Office. Economic Effects of Policies    Contributing to Fiscal Tightening in 2013. CBO, 8 Nov. 2012. Web. 12 Nov. 2015.

Jackson, Jill. “GOP: White House ‘fiscal cliff’ Idea ‘a joke'” CBSNews. CBS Interactive, 8 Nov. 2012. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.

Jie, Luo. Fiscal Cliff. Digital image. ChinaDaily. CDIC, 8 Dec. 2012. Web. 12 Nov. 2015.

Knott, John F. “No Time for Fiddling!” Cartoon. The Dallas Morning News[Dallas] 15    Dec. 1931: n.pag. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. Web. 25 Oct. 2015.

Sahadi, Jeanne. “Fiscal Cliff: Next President’s First Big Problem to Solve.”CNNMoney. Cable News Network, 6 Nov. 2012. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.

Zeleny, Jeff. “G.O.P. Captures House, but Not Senate.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 02 Nov. 2010. Web. 12 Nov. 2015.