The Whopper

“The Whopper”, by Nate Beeler
A cartoon by Nate Beeler that shows the reasoning behind Burger King’s move to Canada.

“The Whopper” is a political cartoon drawn by Nate Beeler in 2014 for The Columbus Dispatch and caglecartoons.com. It is about Burger King’s 2014 merger with Tim Horton’s, during which Burger King considered moving its headquarters to Canada. Such a move would significantly lower the amount of corporate taxes that Burger King would need to pay. Consequently, this cartoon is related to the Knott cartoon “Hunting Easter Eggs” and the Dallas Morning News editorial “Political Tax Bill”, since all of these portray corporate taxes as overly limiting for businesses. Specifically, in “The Whopper”, corporate taxes are shown through graphic symbolism as harmful and unreasonably high.

In August 2014, Burger King announced its intentions to buy Tim Horton’s, a large Canadian coffee chain. This deal would represent a merger that would, in addition to merging the two companies, move Burger King’s headquarters to Canada. (Hartley 1). This potential move was very significant, since the United States has some of the largest corporate tax rates in the world, while Canada has comparatively low tax rates. According to The Washington Post, the move would have ended up saving Burger King 1.2 billion tax dollars over three years (Ferdman 1), in a highly controversial tax inversion.

A tax inversion is “a transaction used by a company whereby it becomes a subsidiary of a new parent company in another country for the purpose of falling under beneficial tax laws” (“Tax Inversions” 214). Tax inversions, along with other corporate actions that shelter companies from taxes, are very controversial. Tax sheltering schemes like tax inversions have effectively cost the U.S. Treasury billions of dollars over the years, and ultimately they have escalated the federal deficit (Farell 63). Inversions have been so much of an issue that in early April 2016, due to concerns partially inspired by Burger King, President Barack Obama proposed new rules that would prevent U.S. companies from moving abroad to avoid taxes. “The measure appeared to end the proposed merger of U.S. pharmaceutical corporation Pfizer with Ireland’s Allergan Plc, which would have represented the largest tax inversion” (“Tax Inversions” 214) on record.

Such rules were not yet in place in 2014, so Burger King would have been allowed to carry out the merger. However, upon announcement of their intent to move to Canada, there was massive controversy, as expected from a tax inversion measure. Obama called companies like Burger King “corporate deserters who renounce their citizenship to shield profits” (Hartley 1), and both he and the Treasury Department began preparing bills and plans to prevent such inversions in the future, such as the aforementioned 2016 rules. In addition to government officials, consumers have historically responded unfavorably to corporate tax evasion. In 2013, “Starbucks saw its sales dip in the United Kingdom after the public learned the company was using complex accounting methods to pay less in taxes in the country” (Ferdman 1). Had the merger actually completely happened, it is likely a similar effect would have occurred in the United States.

Due to the massive backlash at their announcement, Burger King announced in late August that they would not move after all, and would simply share common ownership with Tim Horton’s. This was true to some extent-their headquarters did remain in Miami, the original location, but since the new parent company of both Burger King and Tim Horton’s, created by the merger, was still in Canada, Burger King still saved much tax money. Nevertheless, the maintaining of the headquarters’ location was enough to quell most of the controversy, and Burger King remains a very strong and successful company today.

In “The Whopper”, Beeler illustrates his view of the Burger King controversy primarily through visual symbolism. Burger King’s intentions are directly shown by a Whopper, Burger King’s signature product, with a flag reading “Canada or bust!”  Meanwhile, the implied reason for the move, America’s corporate tax rate, is represented by a much larger burger, full of trash, dangerous objects, and other disgusting objects. By using such a large and gross symbol for the tax rate, Beeler shows his opinion of the American tax rate, namely that it is far too much and that it is very harmful to companies. In addition to the immediate meanings of the symbols, their juxtaposition adds more meaning to the cartoon. Most noticeably, the “Whopping American Corporate Tax Rate” (Beeler 1) contains a pun on Burger King’s signature Whopper. This pun serves to enhance the humor of the cartoon and thus make it more accessible and entertaining for readers. In addition, the burger representing the tax rate is significantly larger than the actual Whopper, which symbolizes the dominance of corporate taxation over Burger King and other corporations in general.

The entire situation, and the contemporary cartoon’s depiction of it, has some relation to the Knott cartoon “Hunting Easter Eggs” and its accompanying editorial, “Political Tax Bill”. Knott’s cartoon and the editorial both are critical of the Undistributed Profits Tax, which was a bill that charged massive corporate taxes on unspent reserve funds. Like the Knott cartoon and editorial, “The Whopper” also criticizes large corporate tax rates, even if these rates are general rather than for reserve funds specifically. All of the works seem to be in favor of the corporations, and show business taxes as a negative burden on businesses.

“The Whopper” provides an interesting glimpse into 2014’s business situation and the overall impact of corporate taxes on business. This cartoon is particularly of interest because of its unique viewpoint. As mentioned earlier, Burger King’s announcement was met with severe backlash, being heavily criticized by both ordinary Americans and powerful government officials. In the midst of this backlash, it is odd to see a cartoon that supports Burger King and depicts the move as a valid response to a greater issue, that issue being the massive corporate tax rates in the United States. Whether or not one agrees with this view of the controversy, it is still very useful to analyze, just in order to further understand the attempted Burger King merger and the controversial general issue of corporate taxation in American. After all, taxation is an inevitable part of life in the United States, and it will always be a hotly debated issue. It is critical to have resources to understand it.

Works Cited:

Beeler, Nate. “The Whopper.” Cagle Cartoons, 27 Aug. 2014, caglecartoons.com/viewimage.asp?ID={4B1BCF82-33A5-427F-97C7-308C2F888F39}.

“Tax Inversions.” American Law Yearbook 2016: A Guide to the Year’s Major Legal Cases and Developments, Gale, 2017, pp. 214-215. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CCX3633800089&asid=af2451534afde7cb4a29adfbab2337ad. Accessed 17 Nov. 2017.

Farrell, Keith C. “Corporate Tax Shelters.” Encyclopedia of Contemporary American Social Issues, edited by Michael Shally-Jensen, vol. 1: Business and Economy, ABC-CLIO, 2011, pp. 59-67. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CCX1762600013&asid=cf85dfda1e7d01d522d806af2cb3db16. Accessed 16 Nov. 2017.

Hartley, Jon. “Burger King’s Tax Inversion and Canada’s Favorable Corporate Tax Rates.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 26 Aug. 2014, www.forbes.com/sites/jonhartley/2014/08/25/burger-kings-tax-inversion-and-canadas-favorable-corporate-tax-rates/#2ec8c4f53ed7.

Ferdman, Roberto A. “We finally have an idea of how much money Burger King will save by moving to Canada.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 11 Dec. 2014, www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2014/12/11/burger-king-could-save-a-whopping-amount-of-money-by-moving-to-canada/?utm_term=.51d85676f585.

Jacobson, Louis. “Burger King says it’s ‘not moving’ and ‘will continue to pay all’ of its taxes.” Edited by Angie Drobnic Holan, Politifact, 29 Aug. 2014, 5:29 pm, www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2014/aug/29/burger-king/burger-king-says-its-not-moving-and-will-continue-/.

Hunting Easter Eggs

“Hunting Easter Eggs”, by Knott
A Knott cartoon depicting Congress’s new tax bill taking the reserve funds of corporations.

John Knott was a prolific cartoonist who wrote cartoons for several decades in the early 1900s. His long career covered several historical events. One of these events, during which Knott was very active as a cartoonist, was during the Great Depression, specifically when Franklin Roosevelt (FDR) was first setting up the New Deal. In Knott’s political cartoon, “Hunting Easter Eggs”, published on April 9, 1936, Knott portrays the Undistributed Profits Bill, one of FDR‘s New Deal policies, as wrongly stealing reserve funds from corporations.

Knott’s cartoon, like the majority of his cartoons for the Dallas Morning News, appeared alongside an accompanying editorial, “Political Tax Bill”, where another writer for the Dallas Morning News describes in more explicit detail opposition to the tax bill. “Political Tax Bill” describes exactly what the bill entails, that being “a levy on undivided corporation profits that otherwise might be retained as reserve funds.” (“Political Tax Bill” 1) This policy would strongly discourage companies from saving their profits. After this description, the editorial writer argues that such a policy would hurt business in the United States overall by not allowing them to properly save their assets for troubling financial situations, in a view shared by many government officials and business owners of the time.

Before the publication of the cartoon, the Great Depression ravaged America. The Depression began with the crash of the stock market in 1929, and was subsequently exacerbated by waves of bank crashes for the following three years. The failure of the economy happened for a variety of reasons, including falling prices in all economic sectors and people rushing to withdraw their savings, which caused even more economic contraction and further failure (Darity 368). In the wake of the ongoing crisis, Franklin Roosevelt became president, promising to fix the economy. To accomplish this, he pushed for several new policy reforms, such as bank inspections and the establishment of the Social Security program (Darity 368-369). In addition to these assorted economic and public works changes, Roosevelt made several changes to the American tax system. Among these tax changes was the subject of Knott’s cartoon, the undistributed profits tax.

Roosevelt’s Undistributed Profits Tax was a bold proposal to change the existing corporate taxes to levy a specific, large tax on profits that were saved up and left undistributed to stockholders. The idea behind the change was that the undistributed corporate profits were not beneficial to the United States economy compared to the taxable wealth of stockholders. In addition, some government officials considered the tax to be an effective way to use surpluses for further economic growth through reinvestment. (Leff 966). However, the bill was received with mixed reactions from within the government, and was extremely unpopular among corporations. They considered the new program far too limiting of their control over their own capital and their ability to carry out financial planning. (Brownlee 58). This unfavorable corporate view of the bill can be seen in “Political Tax Bill”, where it is agreed that new taxes are necessary to reduce federal debt, but the Undistributed Profit Tax is the wrong way to go about it. The editorial claims that corporations “need to be allowed to save for a rainy day” (“Political Tax Bill” 1), in a claim that almost all businesses of the time would have agreed with. Both economists and the corporations also argued that forcing this kind of investment would actually hurt economic growth due to the control taken away from the corporations. Thanks to this outrage among businesses and the Department of the Treasury’s poor ability to argue in favor of the bill, the bill underwent several reforms, and was eventually removed completely.

The unpopularity of the bill that lead to its eventual removal is clearly illustrated in a variety of news sources from the time, in addition to Knott’s cartoon. For example, a 1936 issue of the New York Times describes initial disagreements in the Congress about the tax bill, stating that after the bill passed the House of Representatives, a majority in the Senate were opposed, with many arguments about alternative options and no action immediately being taken. (Catledge 1). However, none of the substitute plans were adopted, and so, as described in the preceding paragraph, ultimately the bill passed both houses of Congress and went into effect, much to the displeasure of the corporations. Eventually, a 1938 issue of the Los Angeles Times described ensuing conflicts about the bill, although at that time, the Republican attempt to completely repeal the bill actually failed, with only minor reforms going through (“Tax Measure Approved by House Commitee” 1). The bill was not fully repealed until 1939, but it faced several reforms and reductions before then, in attempts to satisfy the bill’s many detractors.

Knott’s cartoon illustrates the bill’s unpopularity, as well as the general political humor style of the time. To make his point, Knott uses a metaphor, portraying Congress as a farmer, stealing reserve funds (portrayed as eggs) from a chicken, representing the corporations. The comparison is most useful for portraying clearly the power difference between the two entities: just like a farmer has all of the control over a chicken, the bill gives Congress all of the control over the companies and their finances. In addition, the reserve funds being represented as eggs adds another layer to the comparison by implicitly comparing the funds to a “nest egg” that the corporations might want to “sit on” and not use, which the farmer and his tax bill would prevent. Aside from the overarching metaphor, Knott uses some more subtle details to make his point about the bill’s negative effects, particularly, the contrasting facial expressions of the farmer and the chicken. The expressions further solidify Knott’s portrayed unfavorable opinion of the bill, with the farmer’s eager expression showing Congress as greedy for revenue (eggs) and the chicken’s mortified expression contributing to the portrayal of the corporations as the victims.

“Political Tax Bill” is used to clarify the cartoon and put Knott’s message into more explicit terms. It uses its own metaphor of “the simple Pablo” (Political Tax Bill, 1) from the play “Russet Mantle”, who bemoans being told to spend all of his money instead of saving. Pablo’s plight is then shown to mirror the situation of the businesses, who are forced to spend and reinvest all of their profits by the bill instead of saving them for a rainy day. In addition, it uses examples of large companies like AT&T using reserves to survive during the depression to show that the corporations need to be allowed to keep their reserves. While the editorial does say that taxes are necessary to help pay for New Deal programs, it argues that the tax bill is the wrong way to go about it. By blending this comparison with more grounded facts about the situation, Knott makes his criticisms of the undistributed profits tax clear and appealing to the reader.

Knott’s cartoons all provide valuable glimpses into American history, with this particular cartoon being an interesting look at the New Deal. What makes this cartoon particularly of note is that it shows a uniquely negative view of a New Deal policy. Currently, FDR is widely regarded as one of the greatest presidents of all time for the New Deal and his handling of World War II, and so it is interesting to realize that at the time, his actions were not always so positively regarded, and indeed, some were largely unsuccessful. With this combined with the cartoon’s use as an example of general culture during the 1930s, it becomes a great source of historical information.

Works Cited

Knott, John. “Hunting Easter Eggs.” Dallas Morning News, 9 Apr. 1936.

Leff, Mark H. “Taxation.” Encyclopedia of the Great Depression, edited by Robert S. McElvaine, vol. 2, Macmillan Reference USA, 2004, pp. 963-967. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CCX3404500507&asid=cbba5683633e9fbba863222b15ab9ecc. Accessed 15 Oct. 2017.

Brownlee, W. Elliot. “Taxation.” Dictionary of American History, edited by Stanley I. Kutler, 3rd ed., vol. 8, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2003, pp. 54-59. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CCX3401804133&asid=1ef6d1d62bdd7d685007e32813aeb40a. Accessed 15 Oct. 2017.

“Great Depression.” International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, edited by William A. Darity, Jr., 2nd ed., vol. 3, Macmillan Reference USA, 2008, pp. 367-371. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CCX3045300960&asid=7c65cb64669fe11426d99ba85b273b05. Accessed 15 Oct. 2017.

Catledge, Turner. Special to THE NEW,YORK TIMES. (1936, May 15). SENATORS FAIL TO AGREE ON A CORPORATE TAX BILL; FIGHT MAY GO TO FLOOR. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from http://ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/101887722?accountid=7118

TAX MEASURE APPROVED BY HOUSE COMMITTEE. (1938, Feb 27). Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from http://ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/164860216?accountid=7118

Should Be Retired With Unsafe Cars

Should Be Retired With Unsafe Cars

 

In the 1920’s and 1930’s, the United States automotive industry saw the development of innovative engineering in automobiles such as semi-automatic transmissions, hydraulic brake systems, and engines with more and more cylinders. Fatal car accidents and traffic safety caught the attention of legislators in Texas and all over the country during that time. In the late 1930’s, politicians and their constituents feared that older cars posed a large threat to public safety. However, few people realized the overwhelming threats were actually new high-speed cars combined with people’s reckless driving and disregard for traffic laws.

The political cartoon by John Knott titled, “Should Be Retired With Unsafe Cars”, published on February 27, 1938, in the Dallas Morning News, illustrates the undeniable danger reckless drivers and high-speed sports cars manufactured at the time posed for passengers in other vehicles as well as pedestrians. In the cartoon, a man in a suit and tie labeled “Chronic Wild Driver” is illustrated in a sports car driving away from a crash where two people are left on the ground. One of the victims of the crash appears to be crawling away from the crash as he looks in the direction of the reckless driver, while the other victim is left lying on the ground unconscious or dead. The wild driver appears to be driving a 1938 BMW 328 Sports Coupe (Goodwood Revival). Released in 1938, the car was among the finest of its class at the time with a 6 cylinder, 4-speed manual engine and a then astonishing top speed of 93 miles per hour. Even in 1999, the car was a finalist for the “Car of the Century” award by a worldwide panel of automotive journalists (Law).

The title of Knott’s cartoon, “Should Be Retired With Unsafe Cars” directly correlates to the editorial that was published in the same edition of Dallas Morning News; the editorial, titled “Logical Car Retirement” is written in line with public opinion at the time and focuses on the danger of older cars and their increased likelihood of breaking down or losing brake control in a highway. Although the main focus of the editorial is older cars, it does state that, “admittedly, the major portion of fatal accidents (was) in the new and high-speed car class.” By illustrating a high-end sports car in the cartoon, Knott appears to have agreed with this point, however, Knott labeled the man in the car a “Chronic Wild Driver” expressing his belief that cars were not only the ones to blame.

At the time, the development of car safety features was almost nonexistent compared to the development of faster engines (World Health Organization). Because of this, Texas began to establish laws that regulated certain driving habits, instating it’s first mandatory drivers license examination in 1937 (U.S. Department of Transportation). The original driver’s license law of Texas took effect on February 14, 1936, and required each driver to possess a license issued by the County Tax Collector.Unfortunately, these early public safety laws did little to stop the massive loss of lives. During that time, cars became a typical household item. Vehicle ownership in the United States went up 150.44% from 1920 to 1930 (Davis).

In the U.S. in the late 1930’s, legislation was passed with the intention of making highways safer. However, these laws did not have a large impact on people’s driving habits at the time (Gibson and Crooks 453). At the time, people’s driving habits were predominant over their attention to traffic laws. The journal article, “A Theoretical Field-Analysis of Automobile-Driving” by James J. Gibson and Laurence E. Crooks explores the human behavior and self-awareness while driving. The article states that of the skills demanded by contemporary civilization, driving an automobile is the most important to humans because a defect in it has the greatest threat to our lives. Furthermore, in 1938, the sense that traffic laws were absolute agreed with the act of dangerous driving (467).

The need for more driver’s education in the public school system at that time was overwhelming (470). Additionally, the public needed to gain a common attention to the danger they were causing themselves through their ignorant driving habits. The mixture of chronic wild drivers and fast cars was detrimental to the highway safety of Texas in the late 1930’s and in his cartoon, John Knott emphasizes the danger of this combination.

 

Works Cited

Davis, Stacy C. Transportation Energy Data Book. Oak Ridge National Laboratory, 2013.

Department of Public Safety records. Texas Department of Public Safety, 1931.

Gibson, James J., and Laurence E. Crooks. A Theoretical Field-Analysis of Automobile-Driving. 1938.

Global Status Report on Road Safety 2015: Supporting a Decade of Action. World Health Organization, 2013.

Heck, Katherine E., and Keith C. Nathaniel. “Driving Among Urban, Suburban and Rural Youth in California.” University of California.

Highway Statistics, Summary to 1995. PDF ed., U.S. Department of Transportation, 1997. Federal Highway Administration Office of Highway Information Management.

Hugill, Peter J. Good roads and the automobile in the United States 1880-1929. PDF ed., Geographical Society, 1982.

Knott, John. Should Be Retired With Unsafe Cars. 27 Feb. 1938, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, Austin.

Law, Alex. “Car of the Century.” Auto123, 22 Dec. 1999, web.archive.org/web/20060308141111/http://www.auto123.com/en/info/news/news%2Cview.spy?artid=1082.

“Logical Car Retirement.” Dallas Morning News, 27 Feb. 1938. Editorial.

1938 BMW 328 Sports Roadster Chassis no. 85378 Engine no. 79280. Bonhams, 12 Sept. 2015.

Texas, Legislature, Senate. Senate Bill 15. 1835. 44th Legislature, 2nd session.

Traffic Safety Facts 2015. U.S. Department of Transportation, 2015, crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication812384. National Highway Safety Administration.

Freedom of Navigation versus Freedom of the Seas

The President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping, is seen pushing the United States’ 44th president Barack Obama back with a croupier stick in order to stop American military involvement in the South China Sea
The President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping, is seen pushing the United States’ 44th president Barack Obama back with a croupier stick in order to stop American military involvement in the South China Sea

In Heng Kim Song’s cartoon “Heng on the South China Sea Dispute” the United States (U.S.) is seemingly infringing upon China’s sovereignty in the South China Sea under the pretext of the current International Law of Freedom of Navigation. The main difference between Heng’s cartoon and the 1937 John Knott cartoon “What Price Freedom of the Seas” is that the past ideology of “Freedom of the Seas” (meaning the Seas are neutral regions without any national control) is instead set in International Law after 1994 in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The South China Sea (SCS) region has been a zone of conflict for many years after World War II with territorial and jurisdictional disputes. Having multiple nations fighting over potential natural resource deposits, fishing grounds, and strategic control over the waterways and islands make this region very dangerous. Currently, many of the countries in the region are working for peace and resolution. However, the U.S. has been sending military vessels under the pretext of Freedom of Navigation to spy on the islands owned by China due to speculation that the country is building major weaponry and military equipment on the Paracels, Spratlys, Macclesfield Bank, and Pratas groups of islands, threatening U.S. commerce and allied nations. Beijing has issue with the U.S.’s spying and over-extensive interpretation of the Freedom of Navigation agreement leading to tension and negative confrontation. Although 80 years apart, both cartoons depict the U.S. interpreting the notion that the seas are neutral, differently from other nations and people (whether the notion is an ideology or a law).

An article by Ankit Panda that sheds light on Heng’s cartoon is called “China Reacts Angrily to Latest US South China Sea Freedom of Navigation Operation” from the international news magazine: The Diplomat. The article presents both sides to the dispute. The U.S.’s argument is that “China claims to support freedom of navigation, but discriminates between civilian and military vessels” because they have captured American military vessels and drones in the past. While China’s argument is “Its [the U.S.’s] behavior has violated the Chinese law and relevant international law, infringed upon China’s sovereignty, disrupted peace, security and order of the relevant waters and put in jeopardy the facilities on the Chinese islands, and thus constitutes a serious political and military provocation.” (Panda) This article and other articles like “Protecting Freedom of Navigation in the South China Sea” from the Diplomat challenge the U.S. to ratify the UNCLOS before demanding other nations to allow them near their land under the international law.

The UNCLOS is “a comprehensive framework for the regulations of all ocean space” created in the third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea between the years 1973 and 1984. The UNCLOS set regulation rules for many different situations including: “…the limits of the territorial sea, contiguous zone, exclusive economic zone and continental shelf of individual states; the right of access to the sea, freedom of navigation and other lawful uses of the sea in various maritime zones; exploitation, conservation and management of living resources of the sea; deep sea mining in the area beyond the limits of national jurisdiction; marine scientific research; protection and preservation of the marine environment; and the settlement of disputes.” (Mensah 463) As of today there are 157 signatories (countries that have signed) that include both the U.S. and China. However, the U.S. never ratified this treaty, making China doubt the legitimacy the U.S. has on using this law for its Freedom of Navigation operations in the SCS.

The United States has always believed in having neutral oceanic territory across the globe from the Jefferson Embargo Act of 1807 to today. This “Freedom of the Seas” idea allowed nations to travel across all waterways for commerce, natural resource hunting, and simple passage across the oceans without fear of being attacked by other nations near their waterways. This idea is still extremely important to the U.S. today because of commerce, international business, and natural resource deposits rely heavily on being able to send ships freely through the seas.   However, this was only an idea, mostly reinforced through intimidation from the U.S. and small agreements between allied nations. The introduction of the UNCLOS in 1994 legally set this ideology in international law, changing the idea of “Freedom of the Seas” to “Freedom of Navigation” with many nations signing onto it, ratifying it, and abiding by it. This change gave the U.S. more incentive and protection to spy on China’s current developments on their islands (shared by many allied nations to the U.S. like Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines).

The main region of conflict in the SCS are the many groups of islands often categorized into the Paracels, Spratlys, Macclesfield Bank, and Pratas (these islands are also often simply grouped into either the Paracel islands which are all the islands in the northeast, and the Spratlys islands -northwest). These islands are currently owned by six claimates: Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines, and China. All of these nations recognize that “the Sea is one of the primary routes for international trade, and many claimants believe that the Sea hides bountiful oil reserves in addition to its plentiful fishing stocks.” (Mirski) However, it wasn’t always this way, in fact, at the end of World War II, no claimate owned a single one of these islands. Ownership of these islands only gained attention a year after the war: “Then, in 1946, China established itself on a few features in the Spratlys, and in early 1947, it also snapped up Woody Island, part of the Paracel Islands chain.” (Mirski) But the SCS was still not seen as a priority until 1955 and 1956 where other nations started to claim different portions of these island chains. In the 1970’s claiming these islands became even more urgent to the nations surrounding them because oil was found beneath the waters. This led to invasions and the Battle of the Paracel islands where many Vietnamese were killed by Chinese naval forces. China later invaded more chains in 1988 killing more Vietnamese people. In 1995 China built bunkers above Mischief Reef for protection, causing a dangerous increase of tension between all the claimates.

In response to this rivalry, in 2002 China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN- which included Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Myanmar (Burma), Cambodia, Laos) came together to sign the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the SCS. (Mirski) The declaration was “a code ‘to lay the foundation of long-term stability’ with respect to the territorial dispute.” (Baviera 348) This code’s purpose is to provide stability and peace between all the nations involved in the Sea, but it can only be upkept if all parties act civilly and peacefully. Today the U.S. speculates that China is beginning to show threatening signs of neglecting this code with the numerous sightings of increased militarization on these islands, threatening the friendly nations and U.S. commerce. (McLaughlin)

The reason for U.S. involvement in the Sea (other than for maintenance of free trade) is due to satellite images taken in 2015 revealing increased militarization on Chinese man-made islands. These man-made islands have been on the news since 2015: “China has begun secretly constructing a military airstrip on a man-made island in the South China Sea, provoking alarm among countries in the region already fearful of its increasingly aggressive actions. Satellite images released by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington show that Chinese workers have constructed a third of a runway, eventually expected to be almost two miles long, on Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands.” (Coghlan) The speculation around these islands is that they will be vital landing pads and pubs for military ships and planes as China wards off other claimates or eventually decides to invade the other islands. More images were captured later by drones, satellite, and planes throughout 2016, confirming American speculation. Beijing has had a number of these drones seized due to a violation on their Freedom of Navigation interpretation, making the U.S. want to send even more drones due to this need for secrecy.

The cartoon itself shows two main characters: Barack Obama and Xi Jinping who represent the leadership of the United States and the Republic of China at the time this cartoon was published. They are depicted standing at a sand table with models of jets, missiles, flags, and military vessels often used to coordinate war strategies. As Obama moves a jet towards where the Chinese arrows point, Xi Jinping pushes Obama back with a croupier stick while exclaiming “Beat it!” This cartoon depicts the conflicts going in the SCS on a smaller scale being just between Barack Obama and Xi Linping in a small room, around a sand table. The sand table is often used in war strategies, and this depiction in the cartoon shows the geo-political “game” these two leaders are playing. The consequences of this political game can be detrimental. The cartoon’s small-scale depiction and inclusion of toy planes and ships may also have a different meaning… Both nations think the other’s interpretation of the law is faulty, but not many things have been done to resolve the conflict, similar to arguments made by children on a playground. The model planes, ships, and the phrase “Beat it!” make Xi Linping look like a school bully on a playground, shooing away another kid wanting to play with the jets. Knowing the true magnitude of the actual conflict makes this interpretation seem a bit out there, but it may be Heng criticizing the actions made by both leaders that led to no resolution.

Behind Obama is a door with the word “Asia” written on it, suggesting that the rest of Asia may be metaphorically “behind closed doors” in this conflict because of how much more powerful both the U.S. and China are than the other Asian nations involved in this ordeal. Although much of the other claimates in this conflict are geographically much closer to China than the U.S., they are allowing the U.S. to continue getting involved in the SCS for personal interest. Barack Obama in this cartoon is in-front of the door that says Asia, representing the other countries and standing at the frontline against China. Many of these smaller nations depend of the U.S. for its umbrella of defense. Xi Linping pushing Obama back with a stick instead of a serious weapon also shows that the conflict for now is somewhat peaceful for the time being.

The U.S. involvement in the South China Sea is heavily based on the maintenance of international trade. The U.S. is taking actions that respect its interpretation of Freedom of Navigation, but so is China. As of today, there is no concrete resolution between these two interpretations, all the while the tensions keep rising. This is also apparent in John Knott’s cartoon where different groups of people and belligerent nations interpreted the ideology of Freedom of the Seas differently. In the Knott cartoon belligerent nations violated the ideology and it pushed America into the war, as many citizens predicted. Currently both China and the U.S. think the other is violating the law, and this is only leading to confrontation and conflict. The parallels of these instances that are 80 years apart are staggering, but hopefully this time the U.S. will not repeat history, and not enter a World War for a third time.

 

Works Cited

Baviera, Aileen S.P. “The South China Sea Disputes After the 2002 Declaration: Beyond Confidence-Building.” ASEAN-China RelationsRealities and Prospects, edited by Saw Swee-Hock, et al., Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2005, pp. [344]-355. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CCX2837300032&it=r&asid=e9e67811e01e9584838b665834463004. Accessed 15 Nov. 2017.

Coghlan, Tom. “Satellite images show China’s secret island airstrip” Times, The (United Kingdom) news edition 2, EBSCO Industries Inc. 18 April 2015. Web. http://web.a.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/ehost/detail/detail?vid=15&sid=51104f6e-5a1f-4bb5-ab34-b2092f0fe181%40sessionmgr4010&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#AN=7EH98423036&db=nfh

Gates, Douglas. “Protecting Freedom of Navigation in the South China Sea.” The Diplomat. 28 May 2015. Web. 12 November 2017. https://thediplomat.com/2015/05/protecting-freedom-of-navigation-in-the-south-china-sea/

Heng Kim Song. “Heng on the South China Sea Dispute.” New York Times. print.  22 February 2016. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/21/opinion/cartoon-heng-on-the-south-china-sea-dispute.html

McLaughlin, Elizabeth. “What you need to know about tensions in the South China Sea.” ABC News. 17 March 2017. Web. 12 November 2017. http://abcnews.go.com/International/tensions-south-china-sea/story?id=44306506

Mensah, Thomas A. “UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea).” Encyclopedia of Global Environmental Change, edited by Ted Munn, et al., vol. 4: Responding To Global Environmental Change, Wiley, 2002, pp. 462-463. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CCX3438400799&it=r&asid=f5dd4bf07e13cb536216649f578665f6. Accessed 15 Nov. 2017.

Mirsky, Sean. “The South China Sea Dispute: A Brief History.” Lawfare. Publ. by the Lawfare Institute in Cooperation With Brookings. 8 June 2015. Web. https://www.lawfareblog.com/south-china-sea-dispute-brief-history

Panda, Ankit. “China Reacts Angrily to Latest US South China Sea Freedom of Navigation Operation.” The Diplomat. 4 July 2017. Web.  3 November 2017. https://thediplomat.com/2017/07/china-reacts-angrily-to-latest-us-south-china-sea-freedom-of-navigation-operation/

Second Auto Bailout

The ‘Auto’ Industry begs ‘Obama’ for more ‘Bailouts’ after they are unsatisfied with all previous attempts from the government to help revive the auto industry.
The ‘Auto’ Industry begs ‘Obama’ for more ‘Bailouts’ after they are unsatisfied with all previous attempts from the government to help revive the auto industry.

During the 2007-2010 economic period, the auto-industry bailout was a huge controversy. It began with the collapse of many banks and very highly affected the auto industry. Along with the persistence of bad management, which lead to a poor response to the unexpected downfall, the labor union workers were outraged and demanded the unions do something. This brought the major automobile companies: Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors borderline bankrupt. The quality of these company’s products were already being scrutinized for not holding up to the standards that they had in previous years. In addition, their workers were also being paid dramatically low wages which made the matters worse since they were so close to bankruptcy. The public saw the low wages as an attempt, by the companies, to save money and at least stay afloat in the industry, but even with spending less money on labor the companies still found themselves struggling financially. During that time, the automobile companies requested bailout money in an effort to save their companies and their workers. Many factors were taken into account on making the decision of whether or not the government would grant the auto companies the money. The effect the decision would make on the country’s economy was the major influence in the situation. The dilemma arose that if the country lost three major auto companies the economy would suffer. On the other hand, if the government bailed the companies out the taxpayers would have a huge chunk of money taken from them; As the loss of so much tax dollars, through the act of bailing out the auto companies, would have a devastating effect on the economy. The factors were discussed and the American government decided to allow the release of funds towards the bailout of the automobile companies. The government’s decision to allow the bailout money to be issued to the automobile companies had caused the resentment in the tax payers towards the government, hurt the economy even more with this event having occurred at a bad time of economic recession, and brought negative connotation to ‘Auto Industry’ as they had received an unfair advantage.

Published on February 19, 2009 in The Buffalo News Newspaper, Adam Zyglis’ cartoon titled, “Second Auto Bailout” illustrates how the auto industry continues to misuse aid money and disappoint the country no matter how much help they are given; In this case it was widely believed that the auto industry had received an unfair advantage over all other struggling industries towards the end of the recession of 2007-2009. His cartoon shows Barack Obama as a baseball player who seems to be the supplier for the ‘Bailouts’ as they are depicted as steroids. The character representing ‘Auto’ asks Obama if he’s “Got Anything Stronger??” as he already has plenty of syringes stabbed into his back along with the many more used syringes in his hand that he hides behind his back. Obama is pictured as a weak, terrified, and disappointed individual while ‘Auto’ is huge, aggressive, and scary individual because he misuses, by over using, the ‘bailouts’.

The Great Recession, from December 2007 to June 2009, was ultimately the result of the failure of an 8 trillion dollar housing bubble. The loss of such wealth led to cutbacks in consumer spending. As a result, a collapse in business investments occurred, along with the financial market chaos combined with this loss of consumption. Once the business investments and consumer spending was depressed, extensive job loss followed. 8.4 million jobs were lost in 2008 and 2009 from the U.S. labor market.  It was the worst employment devastation since the Great Depression. The country was already in a bad state in the midst of a recession which made the bailout more costly that it would’ve been if it was in a stable economic period. The country, economically, could not afford this act to bailout the Big 3 auto companies. This would explain why Obama, in Zyglis’ cartoon, is scolding ‘Auto’ and why Obama has his back turned to ‘Auto’. Obama is making an effort to ignore ‘Auto’ because the country cannot afford to bailout the auto industry, however with the great recession occurring, the spotlight is really put onto the auto industry and it’s struggles so it is difficult for Obama to NOT acknowledge this issue.

Similar to the situation in John Knott’s 1937 cartoon entitled, “There’s an Idea”, the workers in Knott’s cartoon are basically striking for more and more demands they want from the government. Over 250 strikes took place in the auto plants within the span of 3 months, so it’s safe to think they had to be asking for a bit too much and had excessive demands. In Zyglis’ cartoon ‘Auto’ asks, “Got anything stronger??” as ‘Auto’ already has many used syringes; ‘Auto’ is wanting too much. In 1973, America experienced an oil crisis which caused the oil prices to rise from $3 per barrel of oil to $12 per barrel. At this time, gas guzzlers were popular vehicles as muscle cars took over the era. American muscle cars became very popular and the auto companies were bloated and successful. As the unexpected and unanticipated oil crisis hit the country, the auto industry had no time to prepare. As result, Japanese auto plants were established in America which was a huge blow to the American auto industry as more competition was added. American vehicles had been producing bigger and more fuel-inefficient cars for decades when the Japanese manufacturers arrived and produced smaller and more fuel-efficient cars which would come to outperform the american style models. The auto industry needed a bailout and the first bailout was issued after this crisis, which is why this cartoon is titled “SECOND Auto Bailout” as it refers to the bailout during 2007 to 2009 recession.

During the late 2000s, ‘the steroid era’ was a term created in Major League Baseball when many players were thought to have used performance enhancing drugs, or PEDs, in the form of steroids. During this period, offensive output had increased dramatically.  In Zyglis’ cartoon, his reference to steroid use alludes to ‘the steroid era’ with the syringes of steroid representing ‘bailouts’. It is likely that the reference could be towards Alex rodriguez, or A-Rod, as he admitted to using steroids in his MLB career, from 2001 to 2003, on February 9, 2009. The cartoon was drawn on February 19, only 10 days after the confession. In addition, at the time of the the confession, A-Rod played for the New York Yankees who are notorious for wearing pinstripes on their gameday uniforms, which many baseball fans see as an outdated fashion and ugly. In the cartoon, the players are wearing pinstripes. Going along the fact that Steroid use in sports was always referred to as an “unfair advantage”, it’s very likely that Zyglis used this reference to the bailout. Since the auto industry required a bailout in the 1970s and the government decided to give them another bailout during the recession was seen by most americans as an unfair advantage just like what steroids does. During the recession, out of all the corporations that were struggling and needed some help, the government decided to give the auto industry another bailout rather than give it to an industry that hadn’t had one yet.

Work Cited:

Amadeo, Kimberly. “Was the Big 3 Auto Bailout Worth It?” The Balance, www.thebalance.com/auto-industry-bailout-gm-ford-chrysler-3305670.

“A-Rod admits, regrets use of PEDs.” ESPN, ESPN Internet Ventures, 10 Feb. 2009, www.espn.com/mlb/news/story?id=3894847.

History.com Staff. “Energy Crisis (1970s).” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 2010, www.history.com/topics/energy-crisis.

“National Employment.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, www.bls.gov/iag/tgs/iagauto.htm.

“Newsfeed.” NTU – National Taxpayers Union, 12 Dec. 2009, www.ntu.org/governmentbytes/detail/the-auto-bailout-a-taxpayer-quagmire.

“Second Auto Bailout.” CagleCartoons.com – View Image, CagleCartoons, www.caglecartoons.com/viewimage.asp?ID=%7B8096AA1D-D136-416D-81EA-27FAFAADDBEB%7D.

Sepp, Pete, and Thomas Hopkins. “GM bailout costs each taxpayer $12,200, National Taxpayer’s Union says.” Bizjournals.com, The South Florida Business Journal, 20 Nov. 2009, 9:11am, www.bizjournals.com/wichita/stories/2009/11/16/daily42.html.

Swanson, Ian. “Rejecting bailout wins political capital for Ford.” TheHill, 27 June 2010, 11:00am, www.thehill.com/homenews/administration/78211-rejecting-bailout-wins-political-capital-for-ford.

“The Great Recession.” State of Working America, Economic Policy Institute, www.stateofworkingamerica.org/great-recession/.

“The Steroids Era.” ESPN, ESPN Internet Ventures, 5 Dec. 2012, 4:23 pm, www.espn.com/mlb/topics/_/page/the-steroids-era.

Trump Tells NATO: Pay Up

A stereotypical American couple lounges at a backyard pool. The man sits on the side reading a newspaper with the headline: "Trump Tells NATO: Pay UP." The man complains that "Nice Going Trump! Now the French are going to be even RUDER to us..."
A stereotypical American couple lounges by the pool, while the man comments on Trump’s assumed provocation of the French, remarking that now they will be even ruder than before.

In the spring of 2017, the tension was growing between the United States and various other nations. The US was still considering whether or not to remain part of the Paris Agreement, an accord within the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) aimed “to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change … [and] to strengthen the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change” (UNFCCC page on the Paris Agreement). According to Trump, “Compliance with the terms of the Paris Accord and the onerous energy restrictions it has placed on the United States could cost America as much as $2.7 million lost jobs by 2025” (NPR). For many Americans, this was an extremely unattractive prospect. When running for office, Donald Trump promised to back out the Paris Agreement if it failed to meet the needs of the US. The outlook for the US remaining bound by the agreement was dim. Due to this, many nations lowered their opinions of not only President Trump but of the United States as a whole.

Donald Trump spoke to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) on May 25th, 2017. NATO, an international alliance founded in April of 1949, is designed to mitigate both political and military disputes. Notable members of NATO include the United States, Germany, France, and Italy. The United States is a large proponent of NATO’s funding and, as one of the world’s leading powers, it is a key member of the organization. However, due to tensions that arose as a result of the Paris Accords, many other nations within NATO looked down on the US.

Consequently, when Trump spoke to the NATO saying that, “Massive amounts of money were owed,” the reception was not pleasant (BBC).  According to NATO’s report in 2016, the number of countries who had reached the target 2% spending on defense was only five. The President remarked that “[It] is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States, and many of these nations owe massive amounts of money from past years and [from] not paying in those past years” (BBC). While the goal for countries involved with NATO is 2% spending on defense, “NATO states’ contributions are voluntary and a target of spending 2% of GDP on defense is only a guideline” (BBC). Many United States citizens, including some high ranking government officials, believe this number to be a hard line. Eventually, the US did withdraw from the Paris Agreement on June 1st, 2017.

In Mike Lester’s political cartoon, Trump Tells NATO: Pay Up, a woman lounges in a backyard pool while a man nearby reads the newspaper. The front of the newspaper reads: “Trump Tells Nato: Pay Up” in bold, black letters. Presumably reading the story, the man remarks: “Nice going Trump! Now the French are going to be even ruder to us…” Lester’s cartoon presents the thought that President Donald Trump’s actions with NATO are derogatory not only to the organization but to international relations, particularly with France.

Mike Lester adds a bit of humor to his cartoon, with the male reading the newspaper stating that: “Nice going, Trump! Now the French are going to be even ruder to us…” For many years, the stereotypical view of French people by Americans is that they are stuck up, snobby, and altogether impolite. They seem to look down on those from the US. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center (PRC), the approval ratings of the US President dropped 70% between the past two administrations. Trump’s demands have not only led the general public to loathe him but other entire countries as well, including France. Thus, the man in the cartoon reading the newspaper fully expects the French to remain stereotypically snobby, but to an even greater extent.

Due to the tensions in the Paris Accord and the US’s new “mandate” for countries to pay their fair share, international opinion of the United States is diminishing. The American government has chosen to maintain a hard position rather than work to compromise with NATO and the countries involved with the Paris Climate Agreement. This relates to John Knott’s political cartoon, Dirty Work, from the Dallas Morning Newspaper. The rigid position and the decision of countries to avoid compromise in the 1930s links the two cartoons. The struggle of each nation to fulfill its own agenda led to another world war. It seems similar to the US’s current actions: threatening to pull out of arguably globally beneficial agreements if its own agenda is not brought to fruition. The parallels between present day and the 1930’s are eerily similar. If nations, and more importantly, international organizations such as NATO, cannot function effectively to create agreements,  then the consequences may be severe. If countries make the same unyielding demands as they did before World War II, then history may be destined to repeat itself.

Works Cited:

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. “Status of Ratification.” The Paris Agreement – Main Page, 12 Oct. 2017, unfccc.int/paris_agreement/items/9485.php 

Romo, Vanessa, and Miles Parks. “Confusion Continues: The United States’ Position On The Paris Climate Agreement.” NPR, NPR, 16 Sept. 2017, www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/09/16/551551083/u-s-still-out-of-paris-climate-agreement-after-conflicting-reports.

“Donald Trump Tells Nato Allies to Pay up at Brussels Talks.” BBC News, BBC, 25 May 2017, www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-40037776.

Wike, Richard, et al. “U.S. Image Suffers as Publics Around World Question Trump’s Leadership.” Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project, 26 June 2017, www.pewglobal.org/2017/06/26/u-s-image-suffers-as-publics-around-world-question-trumps-leadership/.

Dirty Work

France (represented as a person) climbs up the side of a mountain, tethered to and pulling up Russia. Hitler hides nearby with a knife, eyeing the rope connecting Russia and France.
France and Russia, tethered together with a rope, climb up the side of a cliff while Hitler hides nearby, holding a knife.

In John Knott’s political cartoon, Dirty Work (published March 15th, 1937), the intentions of France and Germany to sway Russia in their favor are depicted as climbers on a mountain. France is pulling Russia towards a renewed alliance with Britain, while Germany lies in wait to sever the ties between them.

On June 28, 1914, a Serbian nationalist assassinated the presumptive heir to the Austrian throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand. A month later, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. One by one, the European powers were dragged into the conflict” (Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. History: War). World War I, the international conflict between the Allied powers of France, Britain, Russia, Italy,  and the United States and the Axis powers of Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, and Bulgaria would critically change relations between European countries. In 1907, Britain, France, and Russia had already formed an understanding known as the Triple Entente. Italy decided to join the Entente in 1915 instead of siding with Germany. Prior,  France and Russia formed a cordon-sanitaire, or agreement, to protect one another in 1914. This group of nations was powerful opposition to the Triple Alliance between Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Bulgaria. The two opposing sides continued fighting until Germany signed an armistice in November of 1918 (Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. History: War). Despite the agreement for peace, Germany remained bitter and relations between European nations became extremely strained.

A year after the close of World War I, tensions between countries remained high. The 1919 Treaty of Versailles was signed by the Allies and a reluctant Germany. The agreement dictated that Germany’s Rhineland region would be occupied by an Ally army in order to ensure French security. Angered with the troops stationed so close to home and a part of everyday life, German citizens grew tired of the presence of Allied troops. When these occupiers attempted to form separatist governments, German citizens began to passively resist. For instance, “workers stayed home, and the civilian population refused to cooperate with the French occupiers” (Merriman and Winter). As tensions rose between the two opposing forces, “the new German foreign minister Gustav Stresemann called off passive resistance and began negotiations with France” (Andrea and Neel). Members of the German foreign office laid the framework for Locarno, an agreement designed to drastically improve relations with the French. Stresemann improved the idea, expanding the pact to include Britain and Italy, guaranteeing the territorial status quo of western Europe. In addition to the peace agreement, there would be no German military presence in Rhineland as a gesture of goodwill. The Locarno agreements were enacted in London in December of 1926.

Despite these agreements temporarily pacifying the opposing countries, the new Nazi Germany and France again butted heads. “In March 1936 Germany sent troops into the Rhineland, which had been demilitarized by the Treaty of Versailles, declaring that the situation envisaged at Locarno had been changed by the Franco-Soviet alliance of 1935” (Britannica). While France argued that this was a direct violation of Locarno, nothing was done, for Britain did not share the same claim. Nazi Germany was a threat looming on the horizon and France’s hope for positive political negotiation was dim. In the accompanying editorial to Dirty Work entitled No Locarno, the desire of both France and Britain to form a new agreement with Germany is discussed as unlikely to come to fruition. Germany refused to put itself in a position to be so easily controlled. New leadership in Germany would not be so cooperative. Stresemann, who had facilitated the creation of Locarno, was replaced as German foreign minister by Nazi Joachim von Ribbentrop. Ribbentrop and Hitler, referred to in the editorial as “fascist Tweedledum and Tweedledee,” looked to entice Britain and France into understandings that Germany had no intention of keeping. For Germany, however, the “bug under the chip,” or something undesirable subtlely attached to something valuable, was the French-Russian cordon sanitaire of 1914 (Editorial). If France was attacked, Russia would come to its aid and vice versa. While Nazi Germany was ambitious, it would not be able to survive an attack on two fronts from both Russia and France. Thus, the relations between Russia and France needed to be eliminated in the interest of Germany. Nazi Germany also had to entice Britain and France into an agreement OUTSIDE of the League of Nations, the international organization formed between countries after World War I. Both France and Britain wanted the backing of this organization and the countries that participated in it. Germany’s main goal then was to sever the ties between Russia and France.

John Knott’s political cartoon Dirty Work depicts the goals of the various nations through characterization of France, Russia, and Hitler as climbers on a mountain. While Hitler is portrayed as himself, France and Russia are sketched as what one might assume the typical Russian or French person to look like. France and Russia are tethered together with a rope that represents the cordon sanitaire between the two. Hitler, hoping to cut the tie between France and Russia, hides just around the corner with a knife. If the rope were cut, Russia would fall without something to support it. In 1937, Russia was going through the Great Purge, a period of political oppression under the Soviet Union. It was on the verge of collapse with no external stimulus (Rittersporn). Hitler’s knife would not only sever its ties but allow Russia to run itself into the ground. The knife, while not drawn to represent a physical act in 1937, eventually became the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact of 1939, ending the cordon sanitaire as Russia and Germany promised to not counter the actions of one another. With this in place, Germany waited a single week before invading Poland, a country under the protection of France and Britain. Thus, World War II began.

It is evident that no treaty is perfect. There are always concessions to be made and hard lines to be drawn. What is vital to the future of peace between countries is understanding the balance between compromise, necessity, and the importance of working together as opposed to against one another. The inability of nations to bridge the gap between the goals and necessities of each country led to the death of millions. Unfortunately, this lack of meaningful and effective agreements between countries persists today. It is uncertain just how detrimental the effects of current decisions will be on the future of the human race.

Works Cited:

Axelrod, Alan. “Ribbentrop, Joachim von (1893–1946) Nazi German foreign minister (1933–1945).” Encyclopedia of World War II, edited by Jack A. Kingston, vol. 1, Facts on File, 2007, p. 689. Facts on File Library of World History. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CCX4067800556&it=r&asid=eebdb853d57e8646f13df326a8a63383. Accessed 28 Sept. 2017.

“German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact.” Encyclopedia Britannica, edited by The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. 22 Jul 2016. https://www.britannica.com/event/German-Soviet-Nonaggression-Pact

Karabell, Zachary. “Eden, Anthony [1897–1977].” Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa, edited by Philip Mattar, 2nd ed., vol. 2, Macmillan Reference USA, 2004, p. 755. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CCX3424600873&it=r&asid=8872902e8a07698ec62fcc7c67dcaa3b. Accessed 28 Sept. 2017.

Knott, John. “Dirty Work.” Dallas Morning News. 15 Mar. 1937.

“Locarno Pact.” World History Encyclopedia, edited by Alfred J. Andrea and Carolyn Neel, vol. 18: Era 8: Crisis and Achievement, 1900-1945, ABC-CLIO, 2011, pp. 583-585. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CCX2458803623&it=r&asid=99045c1562ff275fc3e1c4c109a04b57. Accessed 28 Sept. 2017.

Mombauer, Annika. “Alliance System.” Europe 1789-1914: Encyclopedia of the Age of Industry and Empire, edited by John Merriman and Jay Winter, vol. 1, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2006, pp. 47-50. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CCX3446900030&it=r&asid=023dc0910917a3301c8e3da5b6cffe43. Accessed 28 Sept. 2017.

“No Locarno.” Dallas Morning News. 15 Mar. 1937. p.5

“Pact of Locarno.” Encyclopedia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 13 Oct. 2016, www.britannica.com/event/Pact-of-Locarno. Accessed 19 Oct. 2017.

“Rhineland Occupation.” Europe Since 1914: Encyclopedia of the Age of War and  Reconstruction, edited by John Merriman and Jay Winter, vol. 4, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2006, pp. 2217-2221. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CCX3447000751&it=r&asid=ae5e37e051910a79f9c6de5a484271b2. Accessed 28 Sept. 2017.

Rittersporn, Gabor T. “Purges, The Great.” Encyclopedia of Russian History, edited by James R. Millar, vol. 3, Macmillan Reference USA, 2004, pp. 1247-1251. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?

“World War I (1914–1919).” Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. History: War, vol. 1, Gale, 2008. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CCX3048500018&asid=6aaa3eab990420667484bc968b96a420. Accessed 15 Nov. 2017.

 

Isolationism versus Freedom of the Seas

Debating Freedom of the Seas, Uncle Sam reminds Senator Hiram Johnson of the consequences of entering World War I by displaying a list of casualties and war debt accrued.
Debating Freedom of the Seas, Uncle Sam reminds Senator Hiram Johnson of the consequences of entering World War I by displaying a list of casualties and war debt accrued.

The political cartoon “What Price Freedom of the Seas” by John Knott illustrates the struggle between the general public and politicians in the United States (U.S.) during the years preceding World War II. Opposing interpretations of the ideology: Freedom of the Seas, caused much debate between people who were against the war, but for commerce, and people who were against both. In the U.S.’s best interest to stay out of the war, Neutrality Acts were passed which  allowed U.S. ships to be neutral against belligerent nations, and continue trade with both allied and hostile nations alike. Many of the people in the Senate were Isolationists (people who were against any foreign contact/conflict) including Hiram Johnson who also was an advocate for free trade. However, the continuation of free trade with belligerent nations was a mistake in many citizen’s eyes and that position was the subject of the editorial, “Senate Neutrality Bill.” According to the editorial, many people understood the need for commerce, but they also predicted that continuing trade with belligerent nations would inevitably lead to conflict. The editorial compared the leadership during 1937 under Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) to a past president’s ideology with foreign nations: “Speak softly and carry a big stick” -Theodore Roosevelt. This ideology and later policy meant negotiating peacefully with foreign nations while simultaneously intimidating them with a big stick (military power).(Big Stick Diplomacy 132)  This comparison is critical of FDR’s decision to continue trade while intimidating opposing forces with a “big-stick” as “a more timorous leader would stop trade at once in order to avoid trouble-making incidents” (Dallas Morning News) The different interpretations of the ideology “Freedom of the Seas” led to contradictory actions, unsuccessful neutrality acts, and an eventual entrance into the war just four years after Knott’s cartoon was published.

Knott’s 1937 cartoon depicts only two characters: Hiram Johnson and Uncle Sam. Uncle Sam holds a piece of paper tallying the number of wounded and killed during World War I and the amount of debt accrued to the United States (U.S.) after the war ended. He has a disappointed expression on his face as he sadly puts his hand on Hiram Johnson’s shoulder who raises his fist and exclaims: “I believe that a nation’s commerce is its lifeblood and that we should insist upon our rights under International Law!” In Johnson’s hand he strongly holds onto a poster with the words “Freedom of the Seas” written on the side.

Hiram Johnson was a Republican U.S. senator in California from the years 1917 to 1945. Although Johnson took progressive positions in domestic affairs, he was an isolationist – strictly against getting involved in foreign affairs. He was against signing the Treaty of Versailles, and joining the League of Nations under Woodrow Wilson, but he helped endorse FDR’s New Deal. He was a big name and had a big voice in the isolationist movement. He was one of the few progressive republicans who was in favor of FDR, so when he chose to be in favor of the Neutrality Acts, he had much influence due to being favored by both Democrats and Republicans. FDR originally opposed the Neutrality legislation, but eventually approved the acts because of both parties agreeing, and his re-election on the horizon. Johnson tried to stay out of foreign conflict until the end of his career: “Although Johnson had been an outstanding Progressive governor, by the time of his death on Aug. 6, 1945, his views on foreign affairs made him part of an outdated isolationist minority in Congress.” (Hiram Warren Johnson 300) As a stylistic choice, Hiram Johnson was drawn heavier in the political cartoon. This portrayed the greediness of his statement in the cartoon to continue free trade while many citizens strongly predicted it would lead to war.

The U.S. firmly believed in having neutral waterways for commerce to continue, this protection in the seas is rooted in the ideology of “Freedom of the Seas.” In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, while many countries were being colonized, some nations also wanted control of the seas surrounding their land. They enforced their power with naval force and bases at canals. (Rappaport 111) However, many of these nations believed the seas to be free like air: “Queen Elizabeth I of England proclaimed: ‘The use of the sea and air is common to all; neither can any title to the ocean belong to any people or private nation fought for free water travel, beginning with Thomas Jefferson, who enacted the Jefferson Embargo Act of 1803 (mentioned in the editorial as a parallel to the need for free water travel and commerce in 1937). The Embargo Act prohibited U.S. ships from going into foreign ports. This was to compel French and English ships from interfering with American merchant ships while they were in the Napoleonic Wars (a war over French expansion). This act eventually backfired and negatively impacted the U.S. economy until it was repealed. (Embargo Act (1807) 379) Freedom of the Seas was declared by London in 1908 as an unofficial agreement with allied and enemy nations, but no belligerent nations ratified it thus not binding them to it during World War I. “Upon the outbreak of war the United States called for a de facto observation of the Declaration of London.” (Young) The ideology was never set in international law except for small treaties between allied nations. As years went on this ideology was disputed in many nations, the U.S. being extremely for it, especially Hiram Johnson who used this ideology to continue to trade while war went on. It’s very contradictory that he was an isolationist that wanted to continue foreign trade at the cost of inevitably entering war.

Uncle Sam holds a sign with the debt owed to the U.S. after World War I and the number of American soldiers killed or wounded during the war. (Schuker 542) The expression on Uncle Sam’s face symbolizes the disappointment much of the public had in the Senate’s interpretation of Freedom of the Seas. Many people in both the general public, and in political chairs wanted to avoid war at all costs, as the war only 20 years prior to this cartoon was World War I, which was detrimental to the U.S. as a whole. Although many politicians knew about how devastating the past war was, they continued to push for free trade, which many people disagreed with as that would most likely lead to war. Due to there being no international law for free trade, and America simply enforcing it with a “big-stick” initiative, it was only a matter of time before hostile nations attacked U.S. ships bringing resources to friendly nations. This violation of the ideology would most likely bring the U.S. into the war. Robert Lansing, (Legal Advisor to the State Department at the beginning of World War I and later the Secretary of State under Woodrow Wilson) compared the neutrality of 1937 to the neutrality of 1915 (World War I) due to the U.S. establishing itself as a neutral power, but eventually being brought into both wars because of belligerent nation violation of free waterways. (Lansing)

After World War I, the need to stay out of war in 1937 expanded into the Isolationist viewpoint (originated in 1934 in the Nye Committee). The main idea of Isolationism was avoiding alliances and conflict with all foreign nations completely. In 1934, there was speculation that the entrance into the World War I was for profit instead of good ethics. Created by the U.S. Senate, this committee investigated business leaders who were suspected of manufacturing supplies and trading with belligerent nations. “Committee members found little hard evidence of an active conspiracy among arms makers, yet the panel’s reports did little to weaken the popular prejudice against “greedy munitions interests.” (Schlesinger) This viewpoint was driven by Hiram Johnson in 1937, however his drive for free trade with belligerent and allied nations contradicted part of the Isolationist viewpoint, confounding the original ideology.

The Neutrality Acts, passed between 1935 and 1939, were the main catalysts of the cartoon and editorial because they allowed trade to continue between the U.S. and hostile nations. Congress passed four acts that limited American involvement in the ongoing war on the Seas and in Europe (Delaney 66). “[The Neutrality Act of 1935] banned all arms and ammunition shipments to belligerent nations and placed America’s armaments industry under federal control for six months.” (Delaney 66) As the four acts came out they edited the previous acts, usually strengthening them. The 1937 act had a “cash-and-carry” provision, allowing the U.S. to supply belligerent countries resources if they paid in cash and guaranteed that the U.S. would not become 9 (the same year the U.S. declared war). The Neutrality Acts were passed to keep the U.S. out of the war, but the inclusion of enforcing free trade with these acts ultimately made them unsuccessful as belligerent nations infringed upon the notion of “Freedom of the Seas” and attacked vessels sent to friendly nations.

The editorial “Senate Neutrality Bill” expressed the differing viewpoints different groups of people at the time. Citizens, knew that free trade was vital, but they predicted it would lead to conflict. Isolationists wanted nothing to do with any foreign nation. Hiram Johnson wanted free trade under the pretext of Freedom of the Seas, but he did not want to enter a war. The ultimate decisions made by FDR and the Senate couldn’t satisfy all of these viewpoints and this angered many people. Articles were written by regular citizens calling out the acts for not giving the citizens a choice and calling the neutrality a “compound of ignorance, timidity, and ignorant isolationism.” (Peace act). Although many of these people interpreted Freedom of the Seas differently, the ideal outcome as stated in the editorial, would be peace.

“What Price Freedom of the Seas” by John Knott illustrates how Hiram Johnson believed that through the Ideology of Freedom of the Seas and the upkeep of its principles through force or a “big stick” America should’ve been allowed to continue free trade with any nation. This greed made him blind to the possibility of conflict happening due to this continued trade, as it had happened before in 1807. Many citizens and politicians recognized the problem of continuing trade, including FDR, but the actual decisions made in the Senate did not align with these perspectives. The idea of Freedom of the Seas has been debated since ships were able to travel across the oceans. Many regions around the globe have had treaties signed to ensure power over their portion of the ocean while other nations pushed for complete neutrality of the seas (U.S. being one of these nations). Today, 57 years after the cartoon was published, Freedom of the Seas is set in international law: Freedom of Navigation, but the differing interpretations still exist, which may lead to miscommunication and conflict.

 

 

 

Works Cited

“Big Stick Diplomacy.” Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History, edited by Thomas Riggs, 2nd ed., vol. 1, Gale, 2015, pp. 132-133. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CCX3611000096&it=r&asid=e50dd9ad437cd28effb3d2d4e51265db. Accessed 16 Oct. 2017.

Delaney, David G. “Neutrality Acts.” Major Acts of Congress, edited by Brian K. Landsberg, vol. 3, Macmillan Reference USA, 2004, pp. 66-69. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CCX3407400231&it=r&asid=5857bae0871ce8e2105ea29c237e5a36. Accessed 16 Oct. 2017.

“Embargo Act (1807).” Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History, edited by Thomas Riggs, 2nd ed., vol. 1, Gale, 2015, pp. 379-381. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CCX3611000275&it=r&asid=04f56b30da03c843f1df9631a1d454b4. Accessed 16 Oct. 2017.

“Hiram Warren Johnson.” Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd ed., vol. 8, Gale, 2004, pp. 300-301. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CCX3404703347&it=r&asid=40aa2a37ec20e231ef4e2ec6ad2c5a76. Accessed 16 Oct. 2017.

Knott, John. “What Price Freedom of the Seas.” Dallas Morning News. 5 March 1937.

Lansing, Roberrt. (1937, Jan 31). NEUTRALITY: 1915 SHEDS LIGHT ON 1937. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from http://ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/docview/102014742?accountid=7118

“Peace act,” 1937 model. (1937, Feb 23). The Washington Post (1923-1954) Retrieved from http://ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/docview/150925381?accountid=7118

Rappaport, Armin, and William Earl Weeks. “Freedom of the Seas.” Encyclopedia of American Foreign Policy, edited by Richard Dean Burns, et al., 2nd ed., vol. 2, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2002, pp. 111-122. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CCX3402300066&it=r&asid=63c0fb9915224211a6b2b41f192d9311. Accessed 16 Oct. 2017.

Schlesinger, Arthur M., Jr., and Roger Bruns, eds. Merchants of Death Congress Investigates: A Documented History, 1792-1974.  New York:  Chelsea House Publishers, 1975. https://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/minute/merchants_of_death.htm

Schuker, Stephen A. “World War I War Debts.” Dictionary of American History, edited by Stanley I. Kutler, 3rd ed., vol. 8, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2003, pp. 542-543. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CCX3401804606&it=r&asid=393cc8c39279d947d296ff78adc127b8. Accessed 16 Oct. 2017.

Young, Jr., James Leroy: Freedom of the Seas , in: 1914-1918-online. International Encyclopedia of the First World War, ed. by Ute Daniel, Peter Gatrell, Oliver Janz, Heather Jones, Jennifer Keene, Alan Kramer, and Bill Nasson, issued by Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin 2014-10-08. https://encyclopedia.1914-1918-online.net/article/freedom_of_the_seas

“Senate Neutrality Bill.” Dallas Morning News. 5 March 1937, page two. http://infoweb.newsbank.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/iw-search/we/HistArchive/?p_product=EANX&p_theme=ahnp&p_nbid=F54G4FSDMTUxMDgxNzg1OS41MjgyMjA6MToxMjoxMjguODMuNjMuMjA&p_docref=v2:0F99DDB671832188@EANX-10425769CAC69DDF@2428598-1042576A718AA444@17

Speaking of Raising Taxes

Speaking of Raising Taxes
Uncle Sam and Marriner S. Eccles discussing their conflicting views on taxes and economic policy

According to the business cycle, economic activity is in a cycle that is both necessary and inevitable. The business cycle consists of expansion which is defined by increased output, employment, and profit, followed by contraction which includes decreased input, growing unemployment, and profit losses (Sherman, 2014). It is commonly accepted that this cycle contributes to the progression of a capitalist economy. Another key characteristic of the cycle is the belief that in a free market economy the government should limit its intervention and just let the cycle play out naturally. However, the Great Depression was a severe and unprecedented contraction period that lasted longer than expected, and the absence of the natural forces that led toward recovery called for government intervention in the form of expansionary fiscal policies (May, 2004).

The Great Depression started in 1929 for the United States, leaving devastating effects around the globe lasting throughout the 1930’s. When  Franklin D. Roosevelt became president in 1933 he immediately took action implementing the New Deal, which involved several federal programs that stimulated financial reforms and regulations. Although the New Deal’s purpose was to ignite the economy, many of the programs and reforms proposed never came to fruition due to the conflicting views in Congress. Those conflicting views were a commonality during the Great Depression and often were expressed through political cartoons.

On March 18, 1937, John Knott’s Speaking of Raising Taxes was published in the Dallas Morning News; during that time the United States was still consumed with the Great Depression and its ramifications.  Depicted in the cartoon, Marriner S. Eccles was appointed as the head of the Federal Reserve Board,  under Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration. The supplemental editorial Eccles Explains, provided context for the cartoon. It stated that Eccles intended to balance the budget through an increase in taxes (“Eccles Explains”, 1937). This new tax proposal was part of a contractionary policy that would make it possible to balance the budget, which was at a deficit of 26.4 billion dollars (“1937 United States Budget”), at the cost of allowing the recession to continue. An alternative to this proposal was an expansionary policy that called for deficit spending and tax cuts in order to boost the economy onto a path towards recovery from the recession.

Speaking of Raising Taxes, depicted Eccles saying, “This is no money at all. Uncle.” in addition to holding a paper in his hand that reads “higher taxes to balance budget”. Sitting in front of him is Uncle Sam who’s saying, “Why not cut expenses and stop borrowing?” while clutching one of the many stacks of money lying around him labeled “record income tax returns.” Knott’s cartoon illustrates Eccles, the chairman of the federal reserve board, in a quandary with the Uncle Sam in trying to figure out the best means for restructuring the country in recovery from the Great Depression.

Before being appointed as chairman of the Fed, Eccles was assistant to Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau Jr. Prior to going into politics, Eccles made his own conclusions as to what caused the Great Depression. His suggestions revolved around the concept that to keep a sound economy there must be constant movement of money. By this, he meant that instead of having money just sitting under large corporations and the rich, that money should be distributed among the lower income groups. This concept was similar to the idea of famous economist John Maynard Keynes and what is now known as Keynesian Economics. Keynesian Economics calls for expansionary policy in times of recession. (May, 2004) Keynesianism generally recommends countercyclical policies. For example, in order to suppress inflation, the government can increase taxes or reduce outlays.

Within the cartoon, Knott illustrates opposing views through a discussion between Eccles and Uncle Sam. In this case, Uncle Sam represents both the national government and the American people. Eccles stating, “This is no money at all. Uncle ” justified his proposal of higher taxes. The stacks of money lying around Uncle Sam labeled, “record income tax returns” represented what the outcome of what Uncle Sam said. With taxes being cut from such high rates the returns would be massive, revealing why Uncle Sam is clutching a stack of money. Taxpayers would then be able to spend their new disposable income and boost growth in the economy. The recurrence of the dilemma on whether to choose an expansionary policy or contractionary policy is inevitable as the economy is constantly changing.  

 

 

Works Cited

“1937 United States Budget.” Rate Limited, federal-budget.insidegov.com/l/39/1937.

Amadeo, Kimberly. “Deficit Spending Is Out of Control. Here’s Why.” The Balance, 2 May 2017, www.thebalance.com/deficit-spending-causes-why-it-s-out-of-control-3306289.

“Eccles Explains.” The Dallas Morning News, 18 March 1937.

MAY, DEAN L. “Keynesian Economics.” Encyclopedia of the Great Depression, edited by Robert S. McElvaine, vol. 1, Macmillan Reference USA, 2004, pp. 539-541. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CCX3404500304&asid=55eeb9551783fd782464aa2fc29212f7. Accessed 8 Nov. 2017.

“Marriner Stoddard Eccles.” Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd ed., vol. 22, Gale, 2004, pp. 160-162. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CCX3404708008&asid=2c560e98f0e4272451e86080b7aa4db2. Accessed 8 Nov. 2017.

Sherman, Howard J. The Business Cycle. Growth and Crisis under Capitalism. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014. Web. Retrieved 9 Nov. 2017, from https://www.degruyter.com/view/product/452516

 

Walmart Scalia Thomas

Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia disrespectfully forcing women back to work at Wal-Mart.
Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia disrespectfully forcing women back to work at Wal-Mart.

As workers of the 21st century continue to pursue the fairest and most equal opportunities for their individual careers, the conflict of sex discrimination and fair pay between those powers and authoritative entities have continued.  Even with the establishment of the 14th Amendment over a century back, the Supreme Court’s interpretation has shifted.  The amendment states there should be no denial to, “any person within its (United States’) jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws (law.cornell.edu).”  Unfortunately, there are court cases that discuss the very question of whether or not an individual is given equal protection under laws, which applies to Danziger’s cartoon portrayal of sex discrimination and unfair pay, applying to female employees of Wal-Mart.  

Back in 2001, a Wal-Mart employee named Betty Dukes and 5 other women, filed a class action lawsuit against Wal-Mart, claiming that they had been employing company-wide discrimination acts against women (cnn.com).  The women essentially claimed that it was more difficult for them to get promoted than their male counterparts and that the level of pay for women was inferior.  Dukes and the five women who filed the lawsuit represented over 1.5 million women at Wal-Mart, which made it the largest class-action lawsuit in U.S. history (cnn.com).  That class action lawsuit didn’t result in a victory for Dukes, however, as the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 against it.  Danziger’s political cartoon above expresses these results, and emphasizes the crucial relationship of Supreme Court decisions to worker’s rights, in addition to continuous business development.

These women felt as if they were being unfairly treated, which is supported by a clear violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act that was created after the fall of the National Recovery Administration (NRA) in 1935.  The Fair Labor Standards Act clearly states that, “The equal pay provisions of the FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act) prohibit sex-based wage differentials between men and women employed in the same establishment who perform jobs that require equal skill, effort, and responsibility and which are performed under similar working conditions (dol.gov).”  Given that, it is apparent that Dukes and the female employees of Wal-Mart have a clear-cut point of reference for defending themselves in the lawsuit.

This occurrence of discrimination also ties into the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, which was preceded by a Supreme Court ruling over Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co.  That decision resulted in employees not being able to take action over discriminatory pay if the pay decision by the employer occurred over 180 days earlier, which frustrated those seeking complete elimination of that discrimination (nwlc.org).  A dissenting opinion by Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg in the 5-4 ruling, discussed the need for Congress to take legislative action in order to fully rectify the discrimination conflict occurring in the workplace.  Thus, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 came into the worker’s rights equation, which finally assisted and protected workers subject to unfair treatment in the workplace, with anti-discrimination laws and a reset to the 180 day limit to file a claim(nwlc.org).  With evidence in play, it was up to the Supreme Court to validate the claim of Dukes and Wal-Mart female employees.

The two justices depicted in the political cartoon above, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, are regarded as two of the more conservative justices among those of the Supreme Court, and voted.  Although there may be a public perception of conservatives being less favorable than liberals towards gender issues, the personal history of both Scalia and Thomas provides more insight into his vote in favor of Wal-Mart in Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes.  During Clarence Thomas’ confirmation process to be a Supreme Court Justice, he was involved in a sex scandal.  His former assistant Anita Hill claimed he verbally harassed her with sexual language.  The coke can displayed in the political cartoon with Justice Thomas appears to be a reference to this sex scandal, because of the fact that Anita Hill once recalled Thomas asking, “Who has pubic hair on my Coke?(zimbio.com)”  This, among other sexual claims by Anita Hill, led to the one of the closest confirmations for a Supreme Court justice over the past couple of centuries, at a 52-48 vote from the U.S. Senate.  

In reference to Justice Scalia, there has been controversy on his views towards women, along with his preference for less-restricted business.  Scalia’s strict interpretation of the Constitution has etched a negative image of his views towards equal rights, particularly in association with his quote that sex discrimination will basically occur depending on the state of society,”If the current society wants to outlaw discrimination by sex, you have legislatures (Cohen).”  That interpretation of the constitution is frowned upon because of the equal-protection clause of the 14th amendment, which strived to not deny anyone equal protection of the laws.  Also, it gives the perception that sex discrimination acts are changeable based on the state of society.  Scalia’s corporate view also correlates to the political cartoon above, in his vote of Wal-Mart over Dukes, with an attempt to assist corporate influence.  One way in which he has done this was through halting any restrictions on corporate spending during federal elections, which he believed violated the First Amendment (Cohen).

The political cartoon by Jeff Danziger above, created on June 21st, 2011, depicts two Supreme Court Justices as greeters of Wal-Mart, telling women to get back to work.  It’s apparent that the cartoonist views both Justice Scalia and Thomas as the main antagonists of this incident involving women, regarding the court case of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes.  Also, Scalia is shown as forcefully kicking a female employee back into the store, and back to work.  Justice Thomas is shown holding and looking at a coke can, while clearly irony abounds in these Wal-Mart “greeters” making the women go back in the store to work.

Danziger’s cartoon connects back to the John Knott cartoon of Hatching Another One for the Ax (Knott) and the editorial of Haste Made Waste with a correlation to a deficient business environment and the denial of the Supreme Court in a legal setting. The 5-4 decision against Dukes in the case, occurred because of a lack of any real substance when staking the claim that Wal-Mart was nationally discriminating women and giving less opportunity for promotion.  As stated in Justice Scalia’s majority opinion, “it will be impossible to say that examination of all the class members’ claims will produce a common answer to the crucial discrimination question(oyez.org).”  This statement asserts not only the lack of legitimate support the women had, but also points to how difficult it is to win against a business of Wal-Mart’s magnitude.  The Knott cartoon also includes a Supreme Court restriction in helping out workers.  As the Great Depression peaked and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was looking to improve the economic condition in the United States, he announced changes in the form of the New Deal, a set of programs, regulations and acts designed to reconstruct the economy.  One of his acts was known as the National Industrial Recovery Act, or NIRA, which was enforced by the National Recovery Administration, or NRA.  The goal of the NRA combined with NIRA, was to implement industrial codes that would essentially regulate businesses in a fashion that could simultaneously benefit workers through improved wages, hours worked and working conditions.  Unfortunately, the NRA’s lifespan was cut short in FDR’s eyes, as the Supreme Court invalidated it due to legality issues in distribution of power(law-making powers to the president) and the failure to operate successfully.  The Knott cartoon portrays FDR’s desire to re-implement an NRA, but the past left a poor mark on that piece of legislation.  Ironically enough, the power of big business was increased by the NRA because of such poor regulation on industrial codes, leading to continuous big business power. Thus, not changing the fact that the Supreme Court indirectly helped big business with a denial to a new NRA, similar to how the Supreme Court benefited Wal-Mart with its decision in not granting money to the women of the Dukes lawsuit.  

The editorial, Haste Made Waste, in John Knott’s cartoon, references FDR’s desire for wage legislation to be introduced with the NRA, which is essentially what Dukes and the women of Wal-Mart wanted.  That said, FDR was given an opportunity to showcase what the NRA could do with its first introduction, but failed.  Dukes and the women of Wal-Mart have yet to be given an opportunity to adjust their work environment they way they want it. It’s evident that the business and worker problems of FDR’s era differ from that of today, but the connection in worker’s rights and the branches of related legislation are still prevalent in dictating how business and people will be organized and maintained for future years.

Works Cited:

Danziger, Jeff. “Walmart Scalia Thomas.” www.huffingtonpost.com.

Mears, Bill. Supreme Court Rules for Wal-Mart in Massive Job Discrimination Lawsuit. www.cnn.com/2011/US/06/20/scotus.wal.mart.discrimination/index.html.

“Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.” National Women’s Law Center, nwlc.org/resources/lilly-ledbetter-fair-pay-act/.

“Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes.” Oyez, 13 Nov. 2017, www.oyez.org/cases/2010/10-277.

“Handy Reference Guide to the Fair Labor Standards Act.” United States Department of Labor, www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/hrg.htm.

Cohen, Adam. “Justice Scalia Mouths Off on Sex Discrimination.” Time, Time Inc., 22 Sept. 2010, content.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2020667,00.html.

Staff, LII. “14th Amendment.” LII / Legal Information Institute, 12 Nov. 2009, www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/amendmentxiv.

Knott, John. “Hatching Another One for the Ax.” The Dallas Morning News, 4 March 1937.