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The New Member

The New Member

John Francis Knott: May 5th, 1933

This political cartoon depicts the reaction of the public towards President Franklin Roosevelt’s effort to involve foreign powers in the attempt to balance the budget and end the Great Depression. A major factor of budget depletion was the New Deal, a political effort to aid the economy in order to end the Great Depression. Implementation of the New Deal began in 1933, during President Roosevelt’s first three terms. The New Deal consisted of programs whose goals concentrated on relief from economic depression. For example, the Civil Works Administration (CWA) was formed in order to create jobs for the unemployed and the Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA) worked to helped farmers.

However, some of the public doubted the New Deal due to a fear that the government was spending more money than they could gain, therefore causing the nation to plummet further into debt. This idea is supported in ‘Balancing the Budget’, the editorial that is partnered with this particular political cartoon. In this editorial, the unnamed author also suggested that the New Deal and other reform programs might only be beneficial if President Roosevelt could proceed with his threat to “cut off outgo from the Treasury”, thus limiting debt incurred by reform and relief programs. However, in the eyes of the public, this action could give more power to the President, contributing to the popular opinion that the New Deal only increased the power of the federal government, taking the power away from the people.

The most prominent feature of the political cartoon is the individual dressed in traditional Scottish garments, who is the ‘New Member’, or addition to Roosevelt’s cabinet. Upon further research, this individual is revealed to be Ramsay MacDonald, the British Prime Minister in 1933. Ramsay MacDonald met President Roosevelt in Washington in order to plan The World Economic Conference of 1933, a summit of the major economic powers in order to discuss methods in which they can deal with the worldwide Great Depression. However, President Roosevelt ended the conference early for an unknown reason, and thus no solution to the Great Depression was found.

This political cartoon conveys the opinion of the public: that Roosevelt had a risky dependence on aid from overseas. Ramsay is depicted to be carrying papers that proclaim, “Billion $ saved in Gov’t Expense”, thus demonstrating the belief of the public that the methods of Ramsay MacDonald aimed to benefit the federal government rather than the American people. The public may also have of been mistrustful of Ramsay MacDonald because he had roots in a Marxist society, which contrasted the capitalism of the American government. Moreover, Ramsay MacDonald was then a part of the minority labour government, which advocated fiscal conservatism, a policy that only threatened to worsen the Great Depression by focusing on saving the government money.

The main objective of this political cartoon focuses on influencing popular opinion, yet humorous intentions may be derived through irony and satire. Irony is primarily represented through the idea that the United States had received their independence from Britain not 150 years prior to this time period, and yet the American government seemed to be reconnecting with the powers that had once been the enemy. This notion contributed to the tensions among the public and the mistrust in Ramsay MacDonald’s meddling in the government. Irony is further represented in modern times, where the New Deal may be regarded as one of the greatest government reforms, yet in 1933, citizens may have been dubious of the outcome of reform programs and distrustful of the government’s intentions. Satire is represented in the traditional Scottish clothing that is worn by Ramsay MacDonald in the political cartoon. The clothing makes the individual seem out of place and distinctive. However, due to the mistrust that was instilled in the minds of Americans during the American Revolution, the distinctiveness of this individual in the cartoon may be represented in a negative, derisive light. Satire is emphasized when it is considered that despite the efforts of the New Deal, the economic crisis was elucidated only during World War II, when defense spending helped the employment rate soar.

 

Citations:

Lichtman, Allan J. “New Deal.” Encyclopedia of U.S. Political History. Ed. Robert H. Zieger. Vol. 5: Prosperity, Depression, and War, 1921 to 1945. Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2010. 251-257. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 30 Nov. 2014.

“The New Deal and American Society: Overview.” Social History of the United States. Ed. Daniel J. Walkowitz and Daniel E. Bender. Vol. 4: The 1930s. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2009. 49-50. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 30 Nov. 2014.

“James Ramsay MacDonald.” Encyclopedia of World Biography. 2nd ed. Vol. 10. Detroit: Gale, 2004. 84-85. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 30 Nov. 2014.

“America’s Great Depression and Roosevelt’s New Deal.” Omeka RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Dec. 2014.

Franklin D. Roosevelt: “Invitation to Ramsay MacDonald to Visit and Discuss the World Economic Situation.,” April 6, 1933. Online Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. 02 Dec. 2014.