Category Archives: Fall 2015

Posts created during the Fall 2015 semester.

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. 

Can’t You Spare a Nickel More

Can't You Spare a Nickel More
A cotton planter in tattered clothing is being given a measly ten cent loan by a much wealthier looking Uncle Sam. Knott emphasizes not only the strains placed on cotton farmers, but also the inadequacy of the payments received.

Can’t You Spare a Nickel More

John Francis Knott – October 20, 1933

The political cartoon, “Can’t You Spare a Nickel More,” was created by John Francis Knott and published in the Dallas Morning News on October 20, 1933. It depicts the cotton planters of the United States with regards to the Great Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, and the economic aspects that accompanied it. The cartoon reveals the economic issues faced by the United States and the twenty million cotton planters depicted in the image. Knott’s cartoon highlights the negative effects that the U.S. government and its New Deal policies – such as the Agricultural Adjustment Administration, the Agricultural Adjustment Act, and the Commodity Credit Corporation – had on cotton planters nationwide. These negative effects included the acreage reduction’s failure to raise crop prices, the tenant farming system’s lack of productivity, the Texas Cotton Acreage Control Law of 1931, and the overall economic incongruities which were created.

The Great Depression spanned from the late 1920s to the late 1930s. While the depression was most known for its negative effects on American society and the crash of the stock market, it was also associated with the sharp decline of profitable cotton prices; this was devastating due to the increased agriculture during that time period. Therefore, it was important for farmers and cotton planters to get back into business. In 1933, the U.S. government created a program that financially helped farmers for lowering cotton acreage, which reduced supply and thus created higher prices. The program, known as the New Deal, brought about interesting changes to the agricultural aspect of the nation – it constituted the Agricultural Adjustment Administration which called for a forty percent cotton acreage reduction and the Commodity Credit Corporation which provided a ten cent loan for each pound of cotton as long as planters promised to reduce its acreage in the following year (Golay 204).

“Can’t You Spare a Nickel More” depicts stress on the cotton planter’s face as well as Uncle Sam’s (Knott 2). These difficult times created a bleak outlook for the nation along with its twenty million cotton planters. Even after the Agricultural Adjustment Administration enforced an acreage reduction on cotton, thirteen million bales remained to sustain the world demand for the rest of the year. This countered the goal of raising the price of crops. In addition to this issue, the tenant farming system – a system in which tenant farmers contributed their own land and labor for capital resulted in wastefulness and inefficiency. It caused trouble for the South’s traditional cash crop and created conflicts between planters and tenants due to its many internal economic problems (Hawkins).

The accompanying article, “The Price of Cotton,” explains the cartoon’s exchange of ten cents profoundly; it questions the unfairness of lending of ten cents per pound of cotton rather than fifteen cents and explicitly states that the discrepancy is inadequate (“The Price of Cotton”). The Texas Cotton Acreage Control Law of 1931 further emphasized the strains placed upon cotton farmers by requiring that the amount of cotton planted in 1932 and 1933 could not surpass thirty percent of that of the preceding year (Jasinski). The synthesis of these two sources develops the notion that the combination of reduced cotton acreage and lowered payment to cotton farmers only created an increasing lack of sustenance as well as an overall miserable lifestyle.

The humor in this cartoon is evident in the distinct contrast between the two parties depicted and their relation to the underlying meaning of the image. Despite the fact that the wealthier man is not explicitly labeled as Uncle Sam, it can be inferred based on the combination of the cartoon, the article, and knowledge of American popular culture. While the man representing the twenty million cotton planters of the U.S. is illustrated in tattered clothing with a grim expression, the man who appears to be Uncle Sam handing him the ten cent loan looks stern yet well dressed which emphasizes the economic gap as well as the issues which were created by the loans and cotton reduction (Knott 2). The prominent issue that Knott’s cartoon focuses on is the unfair loans given to the cotton planters by the government. The cartoon focuses attention on the twenty million cotton planters receiving a ten cent loan which insinuates that the planters are not receiving sufficient funds for their duties, thus creating a cycle of internal and external economic incongruities.

 

Works Cited

(1) “The Price of Cotton.” Editorial. The Dallas Morning News [Dallas, Texas] 20 Oct. 1933, sec. 2: 2. Print.

(2) Golay, Michael. America 1933: The Great Depression, Lorena Hickok, Eleanor Roosevelt, and the Shaping of the New Deal. New York: Free, 2013. Print.

(3) Hawkins, Van. “Cotton Industry.” The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2015.

(4) Jasinski, Laurie E. “Texas Cotton Acreage Control Law of 1931-32.” N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Nov. 2015. 

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

(6) Novak, James L., James W. Pease, and Larry D. Sanders. Agricultural Policy in the United States: Evolution and Economics. London: Routledge, 2015. Print.

 

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.

“Boloney!”

John Knott illustrates Al Smith, a notorious opponent of federal policy, disapproving Roosevelt’s Monetary Policy.

The cartoon “Boloney!” published on November 27, 1933 by John Francis Knott illustrates the economist, Al Smith, to be very unhappy with Roosevelt’s Monetary Policy. Roosevelt’s monetary policy, in short, is “how the Federal Reserve regulates the money supply and the interest rates to reach or fine tune macroeconomic goals” (McCusker). The essential purpose of Knott’s cartoon is to highlight how recurrent it is for Al Smith to have opposing views towards national policies.

After taking office on March 4, 1933, Roosevelt made sweeping changes. Within two months he had taken the U.S. off of the Gold Standard. “The removal of the “Golden Fetters” and the devaluation of the dollar to $35 dollars per ounce of gold combined with political events in Europe to cause a flow of gold into America. The economy began to recover” (Napier).  Ultimately, “Roosevelt took away the gold standard to get people to use federal money on programs in hopes of jump starting the economy” (Fisher).  Because of this success, people of the United States were likely to believe that the monetary policy was a good idea.

Roosevelt’s Monetary Policy had great strengths which led him to having many supporters, however, this policy also had adversaries. The most notorious opponent of all was Al Smith. “He was elected as Governor of New York four times and was also the Democratic candidate in the presidential election of 1928″ (George). “Al Smith is known for being an anti-Prohibition candidate”(Richards) which further extends on the idea that Smith supported states rights. Smith’s determination to urge repeal of the prohibition amendment feathered from the fact that he believed in local government majority rather than federally imposed laws and policies.  As mentioned in the editorial that was coupled with this political cartoon, even Al Smith admitted that “his severe condemnation of present national policies is not the first time that he has taken the unpopular side of a question” (No Brass Collar). The article, “No Brass Collar”, delves into Al Smith’s past in order to give critical background information. The fact that Al Smith has always been a supporter of states rights further allows for the viewer of this cartoon to understand and analyze why Al Smith is showing so much animosity towards Roosevelt’s Monetary Policy. Because Smith was also extremely anti-FDR, this could lead to the viewer of this cartoon to believe that his animosity towards Roosevelt was the reason why he hated the monetary policy. However, with the accompanying article of “No Brass Collar,” it is evident that Al Smith hated Roosevelt’s Monetary Policy simply because he had been and always was an advocate for states rights.

Analyzing Knott’s carefully illustrated cartoon, the viewer is able to dig deeper into the real issues proposed in the cartoon. The expression that Al Smith exudes is mainly of disgust and resentment towards the monetary policy. In addition, Al Smith has his hand flexed in a manner that is almost his way of saying that the monetary policy is not even worth looking at, that it is worthless. It is evident in the cartoon that Al Smith does not believe that this policy will be successful by any means. Furthermore, with the title of the cartoon being “Boloney!” which is commonly coined to represent foolishness, the reader can assume that to be Al Smith’s reaction toward the “nonsense” that is Roosevelt’s Monetary Policy. The humor in this cartoon comes mainly from the title itself and how the word “boloney” is certainly not a common word used in politics. Also adding to the overall humor of the cartoon is of course, Al Smith’s facial expression. His face is masked into such disgust that one would believe his frown would never turn upside down. There is just enough humor in the cartoon to enlighten the viewer while also still adequately conveying the political component.

In essence, this cartoon depicts the antipathy that Al Smith exudes towards Roosevelt’s Monetary Policy because of his firm belief in local majority versus national regulation. With the accompanying article, the reader is able to understand that the purpose of Knott’s cartoon is to depict the idea that Al Smith is notorious for opposing federal policy, and that his opinion on Roosevelt’s monetary policy would be no different.

                                                                  Works Cited
“Alfred Emmanuel Smith.” Encyclopedia of World Biography. 2nd ed. Vol. 14. Detroit: Gale, 2004. 284-85. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 9 Dec. 2015.

    Fishback, Price, 2010. “US monetary and fiscal policy in the 1930s,” Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 26(3), pages 385-413, Autumn.

George, Alice L., John C. Stoner, and Daniel J. Walkowitz. Social History of the United States. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, 2009. 164-65. Print.

   McCusker, John J. History of World Trade since 1450. Farmington Hills, MI: Thomson Gale, 2006. Print.

Napier, Steven, “Roosevelt’s Monetary Policy” (2005). Theses, Dissertations and Capstones. Paper 746. http://mds.marshall.edu/etd/746

“No Brass Collar.” Editorial. Dallas Morning News. 27 November 1933, sec 2: 2.

Richards, Lawrence. “Prosperity, Depression, and War, 1921-1945.” Encyclopedia of U.S. Political History. Vol. 5. Washington, DC: CQ, 2010. 316-319. Print.

The Gold Standard of Politicking

Seated man (labeled Congress) playing a fiddle (labeled partisan politics) and an angry Uncle Sam standing and pointing out that the world is on fire and is experiencing distress to the seated man.
Knott’s depiction of an incompetent Congress fiddling around, and a furious Uncle Sam gesturing to the rest of the world burning.

Renowned for his critical illustrations of early twentieth century United States politics, John Francis Knott fueled debate on American policy through his work with the Dallas Morning News. The vast majority of Knott’s career as a political cartoonist consisted of criticizing the government on a plethora of issues ranging from welfare to war (Perez). In his cartoon “No Time for Fiddling!” Knott humorously denounces Congress, through symbolic images, for squandering valuable time over frivolous partisan politics instead of mobilizing to save the American economy during the onset of the Great Depression.

Knott’s piece, published December 15th, 1931, contains various symbols, each one conveying a unique concern of the times: the bearded man representing righteousness and action, the flames representing an imminent threat, the fiddle representing partisan politicking, and the sitting man representing an incompetent Congress. Through these symbols, Knott creates a symphony of critiques, which scolds Congress for their petty antics.

Uncle Sam, the man standing and aggressively gesturing to the flame-ridden world, represents American pride and strength. Used initially for war recruitment ads, Uncle Sam became associated with America’s call to action and impending threats (“The Most Famous Poster”). Knott utilizes this well-known American symbol to rhetorically attack the United States Congress, calling it to action to address and acknowledge the “WORLD’S DISTRESS.”

The accompanying editorial article titled “The Gold Standard” addresses the economic state of the world, and countries’ suffering due to reluctance to depart from the gold standard. It emphasizes that the United States is currently in a severe financial depression, later called the Great Depression, and continues on to request action from Congress to solve the economic suffering experienced by the world. Additionally, the departure off the gold standard by select countries (e.g. Japan, countries of the United Kingdom, Argentina) destabilized trade in regions since these countries were now trading in deflated currencies, which resulted in a significant negative impact on foreign economies (“The Gold Standard”). Beginning with Black Tuesday, the U.S. stock market crash of 1929, America spiraled into economic turmoil along with the rest of the world. The general consensus of historians blames the downward spiral primarily on Congress, which at the time was not willing or able to engage in some sort of expansionary fiscal policy or depart from the gold standard (Smiley).

Knott’s visualization displays Congress as a rotund geezer slouching on a chair with a fiddle, labeled “partisan politics,” in his hand. The large man has a look of both anger and frustration on his face while confronted by Uncle Sam. Clearly, Knott’s physical representation of Congress serves to associate the politicians with languidness, incompetence, and ignorance. The cartoon serves as critical commentary on the lack of bipartisan action in Congress during 1931, when the members of Congress were split almost evenly between the two major political parties, Republican and Democratic (“72nd Congress”). Republican policy, primarily characterized by its isolationist view on foreign policy and disdain towards governmental intervention, essentially acted as a catalyst for the Great Depression (“Republican Party Platform of 1928″). The debate regarding individualism versus intervention played a key role in the Great Depression, since it was individualism, supported by the Republicans, that led to the Great Depression, and intervention, supported by the Democrats, which brought the economy out of the Great Depression.

The fiddle, labeled “partisan politics,” generates most of the humor in the cartoon. The term “fiddling around” alludes to the colloquial phrase, “fiddling while Rome burns.” The phrase is a reference to a rumor that the Roman Emperor Nero played a lyre while Rome burned (“fiddle while Rome burns”). Knott draws a parallel, underscoring the point that in 1931 Congress was fiddling with partisan politics while the world was on the brink of destruction. Additionally, Knott lampoons Congress by drawing it as a plump old fogy, who appears to be clueless. The negative connotations created by the countenance and physique of Congress effectively delivers the point that Congress was absent-minded and only capable of fiddling around instead of acting.

“No Time for Fiddling!” serves as a vessel both to criticize a self-interested and ineffectual Congress and to draw attention to the chaos and despair of the world around them. A progressive agenda was eventually passed under a new Democratic majority and FDR’s New Deal shortly after, but only because of critics like John Francis Knott was the American public informed enough to move towards reform (Smiley). Although Knott’s cartoon wasn’t enough to prevent the Great Depression, it will forever remain a part of important critical discourse through the Dallas Morning News.

Works Cited:

“72nd Congress (1931 – 1933).” History, Art & Archives, U.S. House of Representatives. n.d. Web. 25 Oct 2015.

“fiddle while Rome burns.” Cambridge Idioms Dictionary, 2nd ed.. 2006. Cambridge University Press. 4 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.

Perez, Joan Jenkins. “Knott, John Francis.” Handbook of Texas Online. Demand  Media, 15 June 2010. Web. 25 Oct 2015.

“Republican Party Platform of 1928.” The American Presidency Project. Peters, Woolley, n.d. Web. 25 Oct 2015.

Smiley, Gene. “Great Depression.” The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics. 2008. Library of Economics and Liberty. Web. 25 Oct 2015.

“The Gold Standard.”  Editorial. The Dallas Morning News [Dallas] 15 Dec. 1931: n.pag. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. Web. 25 Oct. 2015.

“The Most Famous Poster.” American Treasures of the Library of Congress. Demand Media, n.d. Web. 25 Oct 2015.

How Much Wood Would Congress Chop if Congress Could Chop Wood

A hard-working Congress asks Uncle Sam if there is more work for him to do.
A hard-working Congress asks Uncle Sam if there is more work for him to do.

In the midst of a cold winter, a fast approaching holiday season, a sixteen percent unemployment rate, and the Great Depression; December of 1931 was a troubling time for a lot of people (“Unemployment”). On November 19, 1931 John Knott illustrated to humorously interpret what was occurring at that time in history in Dallas, Texas. The political cartoon accompanied an article published on the same page of the paper titled “A Disposition to Work.” The cartoon depicts Uncle Sam facing a young boy with “Congress” on his shirt, . Knott used the cartoon to educate people about current events and also to poke fun at politics.

On October 24, 1929, Wall Street saw disaster strike. The Stock Market came down, and brought thousands of people’s investments down with it. The initial crash set the course for the next several years, which would be filled with hardship and suffering for citizens all over the country (“The Sock Market”). Within the next year, twelve million people would lose their jobs and fifty million would fall into poverty. It became clear that government action was necessary to relieve these dire circumstances (“The Hungry Years”). It was in the middle of these trying times – accurately coined the “Great Depression”- that Knott worked at the Dallas Morning News illustrating cartoons paired with editorials about the current events of the time.

In 1931 Congress had their work set out for them. As the cartoon illustrates, immense pressure to pass relief efforts was placed on Congress by the citizens of the US. This is depicted by the Uncle Sam figure (the American public) looking at the little boy (Congress).The President at the time, Herbert Hoover, believed that relief efforts should be the responsibility of individuals and the states; however, many people believed the national government should play a role (“Financing”).

In Knott’s cartoon the boy has obviously been chopping wood, and working hard at it. Amongst the chopped wood are the words “moratorium” and “relief measures”, clearly suggesting that these things were also a product of Congress’ work. The moratorium referred to was proposed by Hoover to postpone paying debts for a year to encourage economic growth (Kennedy). By December 1931, the moratorium had gained support and was ready to be debated on the floor, one step closer to being passed (“A Disposition”). The boy asks Uncle Sam, “Is there any more wood you would like me to split, Paw?” Knott clearly believed that Congress had been hard at work for the country and was willing to do even more.

Knott was not alone in his optimistic view of the work Congress had done in the winter of 1931. Accompanying with his political cartoon, a separate editorial titled “A Disposition to Work” was published on page two section two of the Dallas Morning News. The opinion piece defended Congress and explained how the moratorium and relief efforts were important in order to move the country in the direction it wanted to go. At the time, President Hoover believed that the government should not be involved in relief efforts, however the author of editorial makes it clear that Congress was expected ones to lead the effort to relieve poverty, hunger and unemployment, and they had successfully done their job The article took an optimistic view that the members of Congress were willing to fight and work hard to bring relief to their fellow countrymen. It claimed that “patriotism is not dead under the dome of the capitol” (“A Disposition”).

Knott used his illustration to promote humor during the political battle between Hoover and Congress involving relief efforts. The wood acted as a simile for the work done by the legislature; this is made clear by the words strewn about in the logs. As its title suggests, the cartoon was appeared “just before Christmas” when it was cold out. Many people, especially those who were impoverished and without adequate shelter, had to split wood in order to have fire to keep them warm throughout the night. Because Congress would not be in session during the holidays, they needed to get their work done before it was time to go home; and at that time there was a lot of work to be done so that their suffering constituents could make it through those difficult times.. The moratorium and relief efforts were the wood that would keep everyone warm throughout the break. The immense size of the woodpile was Knott’s way of humorously exaggerating how much work Congress had to do, and just how large America’s problems were.

Knott’s ability to take the grim state of the country and turn it into a funny and optimistic cartoon is something truly exceptional. Both the editorial and the cartoon used their media outlet to focus on positives in a time of overwhelming negatives. Knott took serious daily concerns, such as the upcoming holiday and the struggle to stay warm, and highlighted their connection to politics. It is important that individuals stay in touch with current events no matter their social status or situation. Knott made it easier for people to get in touch with what was going on by making it relatable and light hearted. This still rings true today. Many people keep up with current events through comedic outlets. While the Great Depression was inarguably one of the most traumatic times in America’s History, Knott kept his spirits high, and worked to put a smile on the faces of those who needed it most.

 

 

 

Works Cited

“A Disposition to Work.” Dallas Morning News 19 Dec. 1931: 2. Dallas Morning News Historical Archive [NewsBank]. Web. 1 Oct. 2015.

“Financing Relief Efforts.” 1931 – Herbert Hoover. Texas A&M University, Texarkana. 26 Oct. 2015. Lecture.

Kennedy, David M. Freedom from Fear: the American People in Depression and War. New York: Oxford University Press. 1999.

Knott, John F. “Just Before Christmas”. 19 December 1931. Folder 2, Box 3L317, John F. Knott Cartoon Scrapbook. Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

Kutler, Stanley I. “Hoover Moratorium.” Dictionary of American History. 3rd ed. Vol. 5. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2003. 456. Gale Virtual Reference Library [Gale]. Web. 1 Oct. 2015.

“The Hungry Years: A Narrative History of the Great Depression in America.” Choice Reviews Online 37.06 (2000): n. pag. BRT Projects. Web. 28 Oct. 2015.

“The Stock Market: Crash.” American Decades. Ed. Judith S. Baughman, et al. Vol. 3: 1920-1929. Detroit: Gale, 2001. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 2 Nov. 2015.

“Unemployment Statistics during the Great Depression.” Unemployment Statistics during the Great Depression. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Sept. 2015.

Slavery Must Be Abolished

farmer labeled "The South" standing in a barren field chaned to a bail of cotton.
Cartoon by John Knott depicts farmer in a barren field, chained to a bale of cotton.

 

Slavery Must Be Abolished

John F. Knott- August 27, 1931

This cartoon published in August of 1931, is a raw depiction of a typical southern cotton farmer’s situation during the Great Depression. During the Great Depression era, before President FDR or his New Deal, little was being done to help cotton farmers handle the struggling market. The constant production of cotton at high rates caused the cost of the crop to drastically drop when the Great Depression hit, as consumer demand for these products fell. Farmers were left with copious amounts of unwanted crop that they could not get rid of. At the time, Southern leaders agreed the solution was to diminish cotton acreage, as to reduce the ample supply and therefore raise the market value of the crop. Texas proposed the Texas Cotton Acreage Control Law of 1931 (TCACL) as the remedy to the cotton problem, and as an example for other Southern states. However, unlike President Roosevelt’s Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA), passed in 1933, the TCACL did not directly offer subsidies to the farmers. Rather, it fined them if they overproduced under the provisions of the law (Jasinski). Knott compares these issues for farmers to the issues slaves had seventy years before with through his cartoon, “Slavery Must Be Abolished.”

The article that accompanies this cartoon, “He Owes Too Much Now,” explains the situation and relationship between the banks and the farmers of this cotton issue as well as sharing the author’s issues with the proposed solution. The article highlights that banks in Texas were not able to finance the large scale reduction of crop production for farms. Big banks were trying to keep a large supply of money in depositories in case of emergencies, and small banks had loaned out far too much to “take on a heavy line of credit” with the cotton industry (“He Owes Too Much Now”). After not receiving financial help from the government and being unable to borrow any more money from private investors such as banks, farmers were forced to sell their farms and lay off workers, including their tenants. Herbert Hoover, the president at the time, attempted to help with the issue by establishing the Federal Farm Board to “supervise agricultural cutbacks and levy a special tax” (Kentleton).  Despite Hoover’s endeavors, many felt he was not doing enough to affect much change in the market, typical of his laissez-faire approach to economics (Baughman).

The humor in this cartoon comes from the comparison of the struggles of 1930’s southern farmers with cotton, to the plight of African slaves to their slave owners in America up to the Civil War. The cartoon depicts an elderly man who is identified as “The South” by the writing on his shoulder. It is easy to surmise that he is a farmer by the hoe in his hands, the clothes he is wearing and the barren field he is standing in, specific characteristics of agricultural life during that time period. Knott uses the old man to represent southern farmers and the barren field he is in represents the mandated curtailing of cotton production to reduce the surplus that has slashed the market value. He also shows the farmer chained by the ankle to a bail of cotton, illustrating a metaphor for the fiscal issues southern farms faced with the surplus of their crop. The strongest factor of the humor of the cartoon is easily the title, where Knott points out the ironic parallel between the relationships of Great Depression farmers to their cotton, and pre-Civil War slaves to farmers/plantation owners. The fact that these farmers who are now slaves of their crops were generally the same people that participated in slave culture some seventy-plus years before creates the humor and apathetic message Knott wanted to portray.

Farmers in the south faced a tough situation throughout the Great Depression. Many were forced to sell their land and move, either to support their families or because banks would foreclose on their property. Knott’s cartoon “Slavery Must Be Abolished” creates an accurate depiction of the condition of these farmers.  These families had so much invested in cotton as their livelihood, the market crash forced them to cling to whatever assets they had remaining. The farmers were bound to their way of life, and needed to bare through the painful remedy of withholding supply if they wanted any chance of recuperating their businesses.

 

Works Cited

Author Not Listed. “He Owes Too Much Now.” Dallas Morning News. 27 Aug. 1931: n. pag. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. Web. 25 Oct. 2015

Baughman, Judith S. “The Farm Crisis.” American Decades. Ed. et al. Vol. 4: 1930-1939. Detroit: Gale, 2001. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 1 Nov. 2015.

Britton, Karen Gerhardt and Fred C. Elliott, and E. A. Miller, “COTTON CULTURE,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed November 02, 2015. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Jasinski, Laurie E. “TEXAS COTTON ACREAGE CONTROL LAW OF 1931-32,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed November 02, 2015. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on September 4, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Kentleton, John. “Success or failure? Herbert Hoover’s presidency: he sent the troops against the bonus marchers and gave his name to a shantytown in Washington, but has history been fair to President Hoover?” Modern History Review 14.4 (2003): 7+. General OneFile. Web. 1 Nov. 2015.

Knott, John F. “Slavery Must Be Abolished.” Cartoon. The Dallas Morning News [Dallas] 27 Aug. 1931: n. pag. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. Web. 01 Nov.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.