The Farm Bills

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

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

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

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

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

Works Cited

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

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

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

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

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

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

Their Fiscal Cliff or Ours?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Works Cited:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Gold Standard of Politicking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Works Cited:

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

“fiddle while Rome burns.” Cambridge Idioms Dictionary, 2nd ed.. 2006. Cambridge University Press. 4 Nov 2015.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do Something!

Do-nothing Congress gets ready to jump into vacation and crush the remaining issues.
Do-nothing Congress gets ready to jump into vacation and crush the remaining issues

In the winter of 1931, only a few years after a debilitating Stock Market crash and in the midst of the Great Depression, unemployment was at a staggering sixteen percent and the holiday season was approaching rapidly (Darity, Shmoop). Nearly eighty years later in 2007, the housing bubble popped and the stock market came crashing down once again (Ferrara). In these times of economic calamity, Congress is placed in the spotlight. The pressure was on to pass legislation to help the country’s suffering citizens (“The Hungry Years”). In a cartoon illustrated by John Knott and accompanying article published on December 19, 1931 in the Dallas Morning News, Knott established just how hard Congress had worked to pass relief efforts before the holiday season. However in the midst of the more recent economic problem, this wasn’t the case. In 2012, an article by Amanda Turkel of the Huffington Post described just how unproductive the 112th Congress was. Many, such as John Darkow, a cartoonist for the Columbia Daily Tribune poked fun at Congress for being so lazy and useless. Congress has gone through cycles of productivity, but throughout history one thing has stayed the same: the American people always want them to do more.

The editorial in the Dallas Morning News in 1931 titled “A Disposition to Work” gave an optimistic view of the work congress had done during the Depression. The author clearly held a very optimistic view on how much work Congress had done. Knott’s cartoon reflected the views of the article, illustrating a very productive and obedient Congress. However in the editorial, the author hinted that others were not quite as pleased about Congress. “The notion that Congressmen are numbskulls and scalawags has its humorous possibilities”, hints that even in 1931, people did not trust congress nor the member within it. This is still an ongoing problem, as of October of this year only thirteen percent of citizen trusted Congress to actually do its job (Gallup).

In 1948, President Harry Truman coined the term “do nothing congress” when he bashed the work done by the 80th Congress (“Truman”). While Truman saw the Congress as being slow to act, they still managed to pass 906 bills into law during the session (“Truman”, Terkel). In the 1960’s, in the midst of civil rights activism and the beginning of the Vietnam War, Congress was passing around 1500 bills each session (“Vital”, Baughman). In the 1980’s, Ronald Reagan pledged to cut down big government and passed legislation that often cut funds to government programs (Valelly). Congress passed around 900 bills each session during Regan’s time and public approval for congress hovered around thirty five percent (“Vital”, Gallup).

In 2012, with only a week left until the end of the session, the 112th Congress had only managed to pass 219 bills. This put the congress on track to be one of the least productive sessions of Congress in US history (Terkel). And although there were a multitude of issues during the time which could have used some Congressional intervention, Terkel of the Huffington Post argued that a number of the bills that were passed have not been of particular importance. With “at least 40 bills… [that] concern[ed] the renaming of…public buildings [and] another six [that] dealt with commemorative coins”, it is no wonder that congressional approval ratings dropped below twenty percent (Terkel).

An enduring theme over the decades has been a negative attitude about Congress. Journalists and comedians find humor in the futile Congress, many poking fun at the members being lazy and stubborn. In August of 2012, John Darkow published a cartoon about the 112th congress in the Columbia Daily Tribune. It depicts a robust man labeled “Do-Nothing Congress” with his clothes and briefcase in a pile behind him, jumping into the shallow end of a swimming pool. He is shouting “Five weeks of summer recess! Boy do I need this! fussin’ an’a feudin’ can cause a lot of stress!” “Congress” is about to land on a frightened man in an intertube labeled “issues”. Darkow paints congress in a negative light by portraying him as a heavy man, implying that the US Congress is lazy. The physical size of “Congress” compared to the size of the “issues” makes it clear that “Congress” is about to destroy all of the issues that are important and floating right on the surface. The quote from “Congress” is humorous because it implies sarcasm. Congress has no reason to be stressed, since he has done nothing. “Congress” also uses an unexpected dialect when saying “fussin’ an’a feudin’” which makes him seem undereducated. This pokes fun at the fact that congressmen and elected officials in government are supposed to be elite and educated. Darkow makes it clear that he disapproves of the little work the 112th Congress did by humorously rendering Congress lazy, unintelligent, stubborn, and unable to tend to the issues at hand.

In 1931, some citizens of the US may have seen Congress as “numbskulls and scalawags”, but in the end, they were able to pass bills involving important issues at the time (“A Disposition”). In 1948, Harry Truman may have believed Congress was “do nothing”, but they did manage to pass over 900 bills (Terkel). In the 1960s and 1980s Congress was a little more productive but was still overall disliked by the public. In 2012, the historically disapproving attitude toward Congress became more justified when the 112th Congress had passed less than 300 bills right before the end of the session (Terkel). And although there was a lot of work to be done in the US, many people, like John Darkow, turned to humorously judging Congress. And with approval ratings so low, it is clear that the rest of America was laughing along.

 

 

 

Work Cited

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

Baughman, Judith S. “The 1960s: Government and Politics: Overview.” American Decades. Vol. 7. Detroit: Gale, 2007. Gale Virtual Reference Library [Gale]. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.

Darity, William A. “Great Depression.” International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. 2nd ed. Vol. 3. Detroit: Macmillan Refence USA, 2008. 367-71. Gale Virtual Reference Library [Gale]. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.

Darkow, John. Columbia Daily Tribune 11 Aug. 2012: n. pag. Print.

Ferrara, Miranda H., and Michele P. LaMeau. “U.S. Housing Bubble and Credit Crisis in the Late-2000s.” Corporate Disasters: What Went Wrong and Why. N.p.: n.p., 2012. 339-42. Gale Virtual Reference Library [Gale]. Web. 10 Nov. 2015.

“Congress and the Public.” Gallup.com. Gallup Polls, n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2015.

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

Shmoop Editorial Team. “The Great Depression Statistics.” Shmoop.com. Shmoop University, Inc., 11 Nov. 2008. Web. 13 Nov. 2015.

Terkel, Amanda. “112th Congress Set To Become Most Unproductive Since 1940s.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, n.d. Web. 12 Nov. 2015.

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

“Truman Brands Session ‘Do Nothing’ Congress.” Los Angeles Times 13 Aug. 1948: 1. ProQuest Historical Newspapers [ProQuest]. Web. 15 Nov. 2015.

Valelly, Richard M. “Ronald Reagan.” Encyclopedia of U.S. Political History. Vol. 7. Washington, DC: CQ, 2010. 320-25. Gale Virtual Reference Library [Gale]. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.

“Vital Statistics on Congress.” Brookings Institute, n.d. Web.

 

How Much Wood Would Congress Chop if Congress Could Chop Wood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Works Cited

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nice Work!

The United States’ economy took a hard strike in 1929. Since that devastating moment in history and throughout the time frame of economic struggle, the active presidents did what they could, in their opinion, to help the economy from self destructing. The Dallas Morning News’ November 25, 1933 editorial visits one of the methods used to succor the nation in times of hardship. In addition, John Knott’s political cartoon accompanies the editorial depicting Lewis Douglas, the director of the Bureau of Budget and Planning during Fredrick D. Roosevelt’s term in office, trying to cut down the national budget to save the economy. The Bureau of Budget and Planning director primarily inspects government activities, coordinate fiscal estimates, and generally control expenditures. The editorial and political cartoon render an illustration of the vigorous attempt to rescue the United States from its state of penury.

On October 29, 1929, also known as Black Tuesday, the United States fell into the worst economic period of the twentieth century when the American stock market crashed. Due to the Great Depression, banks failed, the nation’s money supply diminished, companies went bankrupt causing them to fire their workers in flocks. President Herbert Hoover urged patience and self reliance and claimed that it was not the government’s job to try and resolve the issue. Thus, 1932 was  the blackest year of the Great Depression with one-fourth of the work force unemployed. Once Franklin D. Roosevelt became the nation’s thirty-second president, he acted swiftly to try and stabilize the economy and provide jobs and relief to those suffering. As it turns out, Roosevelt actually created more problems for the government in his attempt to help and by creating the New Deal. Although, not in the beginning. At first, when Lewis Douglas was chosen as the Director of the Bureau of Budget, the nation was contempt with his plans. Douglas was an advocate of balanced budgets and limited government expenditures.

The $2,600,000,000 Budget editorial that is paired with the cartoon voices Lewis Douglas’ plan for the nation. He set a goal of two billion six hundred million dollars for normal annual expenditure by the government. This plan cuts off twenty-five percent in the figure for the fiscal year. The article also mentions how the budget director would have to deal with Congress. Since Douglas’ budget was undoubtedly astray from the normal budget, congress decided to proceed with caution as far as permitting this plan. In contrast, the article articulates that the nation’s taxpayers would love Douglas, for the budget required drastic reductions in pension programs and also economy in all offices. The budget director would not be popular in Washington, but would be worshipped by the tax-bearing citizens.

The political cartoon, Nice Work! by John Knott, a rather rugged man is shown chopping off a portion of a tree log, while another more comfortable looking man is shown sitting on the opposite end of the log. The tree log laid out on the ground is labeled ‘National Budget’ and is already partially cut through. The man holding the ax in the air getting ready to continue chopping the log is Lewis Douglas. His arm is labeled ‘Douglas’ and he is not wearing a coat and has his sleeves rolled up. Douglas is illustrated with a sweaty, frustrated, yet determined face. This portrays how Douglas was hard at work to cut down the national budget. The taxpayer sitting on the end of the log has his hand up and his mouth open as if he is alarmed by what Douglas is doing. Although the taxpayer is not showing any sign of stopping him. Taxpayers are alarmed by this proclamation that the director of budgetary is suggesting because the nation has never seen this done and they are not sure if this will necessarily help their current economy’s issues. The cartoon is ironic since the taxpayer should actually be cheering Douglas on for cutting down their taxes, rather than what Roosevelt has in store for them. The government is the one who should be worrying about this new plan when their salary will be cut down just like the tree log.

In the long run, Lewis Douglas was only awarded with a short term in the spotlight. Roosevelt later downplayed efforts to cut costs and balance the budget causing Douglas’ role to diminish. A month after signing the Economy Act on March 20, 1933 to fulfill Douglas’s expectations, Roosevelt restricted gold imports, signaling his turn toward inflationary measures. Given Roosevelt’s new change in direction for the economy, the government needed more funding than what was available so they increased taxes. The monetary extraction from hardworking America prolonged the depression. Lewis Douglas resigned which magnified the increasing divergence between what Frederick D. Roosevelt had promised during a 1932 presidential campaign and what played out to be even more problems for the economy.

Works Cited

Dickinson, Matthew J. “The BoB and Other Institutional Staff Agencies.”Bitter Harvest: FDR, Presidential Power, and the Growth of the Presidential Branch. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1996. 59-62. Print.

Hazlitt, Henry. “Lewis Douglas Dissects The New Deal: The Former Director of the Budget Thinks We Are Heading Toward Collectivism.”The New York Times 28 July 1935, The Liberal Tradition sec.: BR4. Print.

Patton, Mike. “A Brief History Of The Individual And Corporate Income Tax.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 31 Oct. 2015. Web. 06 Nov. 2015.

History.com Staff. “New Deal.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, 2009. Web. 06 Nov. 2015.

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

“$2,600,000,000 Budget” Editorial. Dallas Morning News 25 Nov. 1933, 2nd ed., sec. 2: 2. Print.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Works Cited

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s All Greek to Me

A confused Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras holding a book entitled, “Basic Economics".
A confused Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras holding a book entitled, “Basic Economics”.

Since the global recession of 2008, Greece’s economy has been struggling. While Europe suffered from a debt crisis following Wall Street’s crash, Greece was hit the hardest by the recession. In October 2009, Greece revealed the severity of deficit  (of about 317 billion Euros) admitting that it had been understated for years. Many countries in the European Union(EU) began to worry about the country’s economic status. Because the European Union shares economic responsibility of all states between every member state due to a shared currency, the state of Greece’s economy has a large effect on other countries in the EU. The EU decided to take preventative measures by refusing Greece’s requests to borrow money; however, without the ability to borrow, Greece spiraled into bankruptcy, so the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank, and European Commission issued two bailouts for Greece that totaled about 240 billion Euros. Although, these bailouts did not come without strings attached. Greece was required to revamp its economy, instituting harsh austerity measures, deep budget cuts, and large tax increases. The lenders also wanted Greece “to overhaul its economy by streamlining the government, ending tax evasion and making Greece an easier place to do business” (New York Times). This crisis illustrates the importance of proper financial reporting and decision making in a nation.

While the two bailouts were supposed to help stabilize Greece’s economy, most of the money has gone to paying Greece’s outstanding loans.  in July of 2015, Greece’s economy was in a dire situation and its relationship with the European Union was in a fragile state. Greece’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has been unable and unwilling to make many reforms that were necessary for a successful economic reform. They have made no reforms, and many people, including Tsipras, believe Greeks are too proud to change. Even though the EU has imposed austerity measures onto Greece in exchange for the bailout money, Tsipras said, “We don’t believe in the measures that were imposed upon us” (Petroff). Tsipras has refused to make any internal reforms other than those imposed upon the country by their lenders. This has led to disagreement on lending from the EU countries, such as Germany.

Now after receiving a third round of bailout money from the EU, Greece’s creditors are angry that no significant economic or governmental reform has been made in Greece because Greece’s economy affects their creditors. Now many members of the EU want Greece to leave the union as Greece does not contribute enough financially, yet needs constant support (New York Times). While many believe that Greece’s economic situation is straining the EU’s economy, others believe that Greece should be supported during their economic hardship until they can recover and once again contribute to the EU’s economy.

This political dilemma is the focus of Michael Ramirez’s political cartoon in Investor’s Business Daily on July 7, 2015, we see Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras holding a book titled, “Basic Economics,” and saying, “it’s all Greek to me.” Ramirez employs a classic cliche relating to Greece, “It’s all Greek to me,” which colloquially means that something is impossible to understand like Greek letters. The usage of this phrase is comical due to the fact that Tsipras is Greek, so not only should he be able to understand his own language, but as the Prime Minister of a country that founded Western Civilization, he should be able to understand basic economics. Ramirez’s cartoon claims many of the economic issues in Greece are due to Tsipras’s inability as a Prime Minister to enact change effectively, and his exaggerated drawing of Tsipras’s illustrates him as baffoonish and caveman-esque with his large brow ridge and jowls.  Since Tsipras is pointing at an economics book and saying that it is impossible to understand, Ramirez is highlighting Tsipras’s ineptitude as a Prime Minister. He has been unable to employ successful economic and political reform following the bailouts, and he could not convince his fellow politicians to accept the bailout.

In Knott’s comic, There Ain’t No Such Animal, he focuses on Germany’s reparations and their affect on other nations, just as Ramirez focuses on Greece’s economic woes and the effect of this on the EU. Both comics employ an exaggerated caricature holding signs to illustrate their political meaning. Both cartoons focus on the economic strife of a country, and other countries reaction to said economic trouble. In Knott’s comic, he illustrates the world ignoring the struggle of Germany due to their compliance with stringent reparations, while Ramirez illustrates Greece’s ineptitude and the EU’s disapproval of Greece’s economic policies. While both cartoons deal with complex economic situations and the world’s reaction to those economic policies, they differ in the reactions.

Greece’s Economic crisis has had a huge effect on the global economy, and the crisis has shown the importance of economic reform and proper usage of bailout funds. Due to this crisis and inability to control the Syriza part, Tsipras resigned his post as Prime Minister of Greece on August 20 (The Economist). If Greece had been able to control their financial reports and made better financial decisions in the years leading up to the 2008 recession, this situation could have been avoided, but due to poor financial planning and an ability to cooperate with creditors Greece has earned a reputation within the EU as uncontrollable and risky, and its exit from the Union and return to the Drachma could be soon to follow if things do not change in Greece.

Works Cited

Alderman, Liz, et al. “Greece’s Debt Crisis Explained.” New York Times [New York City] 9 Nov. 2015: n. pag. nytimes.com. Web. 17 Nov. 2015. <http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/business/international/greece-debt-crisis-euro.html?_r=0>.

Data Team. “Another Greek Vote: Tsipras Resigns.” The Economist 20 Aug. 2015: n. pag. The Economist. Web. 17 Nov. 2015. <http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2015/08/another-greek-vote>.

Hatzigeorgiou, Andreas. “The Greek Economic Crisis – Is The Euro To Blame?.” World Economics 15.3 (2014): 143-162. Business Source Complete. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.

Knight, Daniel M. “The Greek Economic Crisis As Trope.” Focaal 2013.65 (2013): 147-159. Academic Search Complete. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.

Petroff, Alanna. “Tsipras: I Don’t Believe in New Greek Reforms.” CNN Money.  N.p., 14 July 2015. Web. 29 Nov. 2015. <http://money.cnn.com/2015/07/14/   news/economy/greece-crisis-tsipras-parliament-vote/index.html>.

Ramirez, Michael. “It’s All Greek to Me.” Cartoon. Investor’s Business Daily: n. pag. Investor’s Business Daily. Web. 17 Nov. 2015. <http://www.investors.com/default.htm>.

There Ain’t No Such Animal

Uncle Sam as he passes by the "Germanese Twins"
Uncle Sam as he passes by the “Germanese Twins”

There Ain’t  No Such Animal

John Knott ~ December 28, 1931

World War I was an enormous global conflict that completely altered the geopolitical landscape and changed the way the world thought about war. Many societies, including the United States, were astonished by the unprecedented death toll that occurred due to advances in weapons, machines, and trench warfare. The introduction of tanks, the automatic gun, and use of chemical weapons, such as tear gas, led to horrors that had never been seen before. With a generation of young men killed and injured due to the Great War, society was left changed, and the United States’s view of the contributing factors and aftermath of this war were broadcast throughout the nation in newspapers. In the political cartoon There Aint No Such Animal, by John Knott from the December 28, 1931 issue of the Dallas Morning News, we see a satirical and politically biting interpretation of the controversial war reparations brought upon Germany by the Allied powers.

Following World War I, at the Paris Peace conferences, the Allied powers had to decide what punishments to divvy out to the Central powers. The Allied powers decided to force the defeated Central powers to pay reparations. However, the other Central powers could not pay reparations because many countries were bankrupt and their governments had broken apart, such as the dissolution of Austro-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire. Therefore, Germany was forced to take sole responsibility for World War I and for the reparations. Many countries recognized there were other contributing factors to World War I and believed the reparations would be too harsh, which would lead to geo-political and economic consequences in the future (Webb, 786). However, France believed Germany deserved to pay all these reparations due to France’s destruction at the hands of German troops. The debate over reparations was a point of contention throughout the Paris peace conferences. Germany had to pay thirty-three billion US dollars to the Allied powers in 1931, which is the equivalent of five hundred and sixteen billion dollars in 2015 (Webb, 793-4). The Allied powers should have had the foresight to see that these penalties were too harsh and would ultimately lead to further tragedy, such as World War II.

In the political cartoon, There Aint No Such Animal, we see Uncle Sam passing a store front acknowledging, yet walking away from the ‘Germanese twins’.  The title of the cartoon alludes to the idea that this colossal amount of debt and reparations had never been seen before because no war resolution had ever resulted in such large reparations directed at one country. As we see Uncle Sam peering into a window, in shock at the two fat twins, and he is trying to wave at them. Yet, the twins look back angrily through the window. Germany was angry because America was one of the countries that contributed to the reparations, and the German people believed the reparations were unfair and humiliating to their country. The twin’s size illustrates that Germany had a large war debt. Uncle Sam’s facial reaction alludes to the American people’s guilt of Germany’s financial situation. The ‘Germanese twins’ represent the massive war debts and the one hundred and thirty-two billion gold marks of war reparations that Germany had to pay (Taussig, 37-8). Knott employs the use of humor through his characterizations of the two global superpowers. The emblem of Uncle Sam is supposed to demonstrate American military heroism, yet here Uncle Sam shies away from his own actions. The large size of the twins and their angry expressions are literal in demonstrating Germany’s large debts and reparations and their anger about said debts and reparations, and Knott illustrates the humiliation and reduction of Germany as a country by placing the twins behind a glass window. The glass window allows others to ignore their plight and their accountability.

The Basel Report opinion article that is paired with the cartoon explains the economic consequences of Germany’s war debts and reparations. The article states that economists in over eleven nations believed that Germany was unable to pay these reparations due to their “declining business, departures from the gold standard, tariff bars, and heavy interest charges on loans and credits” (The Basel Report).  Another issue set forth in the article is that taxes could not be raised to pay the reparations. There was growing fear that Germany’s economic crisis could start a global economic decline. In the cartoon, we see Uncle Sam shying away from the twins, but also staring at them in fear of what troubles they could bring. The issue that the war debts and reparations were part of the same issue and could not be separated is demonstrated in the cartoon by representing them as twins. Basel asks, “If war debts due us cannot be met in full, they should be reduced. Why worry over the loss of driblets, when billions of dollars are being lost annually through the continuance of hard times and unemployment?” (The Basel Report). Clearly the reparations were not the answer to global economic repair, and many people found the reparations to be ridiculous and humiliating, as the cartoon illustrates.

Ultimately, these reparations were unjust and shortsighted because they forced Germany into a financial crisis from which they could not recover. As world renowned economist John Keynes said this was a ‘Carthinagian’ solution that ultimately led to the complete destruction of Germany’s economy and political system. The economic collapse and degradation of the ineffective Weimar Republic led to poor quality of life, rampant poverty, and desperation in Germany that ultimately led the German people to alternatives like the Nazi party to save the country from total disaster.

Works Cited

Bradley, Megan. “Reparations.” The Encyclopedia of Political Science. Ed. George Thomas          Kurian. Vol. 5. Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2011. 1459-1460. Gale Virtual Reference              Library. Web. 5 Nov. 2015.

Knott, John. “There Ain’t No Such Animal.” Cartoon. Dallas Morning News 28 Dec. 1931, 89th ed. Print.

Taussig, F. W.. “Germany’s Reparation Payments”. The American Economic Review 10.1 (1920): 33–49.

“The Basel Report.” Editorial. Dallas Morning News 28 Dec. 1931, 89th ed., sec. 1: 4. Print.

Webb, Steven B.. “Fiscal News and Inflationary Expectations in Germany After World War I”. The Journal of Economic History 46.3 (1986): 769–794.

 

Caveat Emptor: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Political Corruption

Two men waiting in line for a handout from a government official while behind a fence around the Capitol
Two men waiting in line for a handout from a government official while behind a fence around the Capitol.

Economic turmoil created heavy doubt in civil servants in 1930’s Dallas. Political scandals didn’t help the federal government’s case when trying to win over the good hearted people of Dallas, Texas. The Dallas Morning News’ 1933 editorial “Civil Service Needed” is an outcry against the job buying problem in political machines. Knott’s political cartoon, “Caveat Emptor,” perfectly captures political bosses ripping off Congressmen in a back alley deal. Knott’s humorous insight and the Dallas Morning News sheds light on corruption at the federal level.There are many factors that prelude to the punchline in Knott’s cartoon. Political machines created problems long before 1933, such as the Tweed Ring of the late 19th century (Kennedy 473). Progressive legislation from the Theodore Roosevelt Administration simmered down political machines (Jackson); however, with FDR’s New Deals creating about three million empty jobs at the state and local levels (Kelber), the system began to pick up some more momentum. Traditionally with this form of corruption, people at the lower rung of the machine would give funds and votes to a certain candidate. A newly elected and corrupted official would then rig legislation to give jobs and contracts to contributors to his campaign, cutting out the poor souls who believed in hard work over money. Now with such a large increase in government owned jobs in Depression era America, who was to determine the allocations of these jobs? Enter newly surcharged political machines, ready to give out jobs to the highest bidder.

The good folks of Dallas, Texas weren’t so keen on government handouts made by the political machines. An November 3rd 1933 editorial in the Dallas Morning News titled, “Civil Service Needed” strongly urges, “the wider need of civil service in state employment” The editorial serves as a response to new revelations of campaign solicitation within the Treasury Department (Dallas Morning News 18), which slides perfectly into the definition of political machines. According to the Editorial, corruption can’t be eliminated until change has been brought at the highest level, a burning need for legislation that penalizes political machines higher and higher. It’s also pretty safe to say the, “evil revelation” of job buying is also shared by the mass majority of Americans, a time where nobody found new jobs in a broken economy.

Knott’s cartoon repeats this message against job solicitation, but allows the audience to laugh at the powerful individuals involved. The young man with his hand in his deep pocket portrays congress. His happy-go-lucky face clearly describes he has no idea what is going on. His counterpart to his left has a better idea of a bigger picture. The cigar, large gut, and authoritative demeanor of the man to the left makes him literally large-and-in-charge in the transaction. Cigar man can easily be related to the political bosses who ran the machines, holding a parchment titled state jobs. He’s not the only boss, the next guy behind him is expecting the same treatment and handout from congress on the right. The fence in the background makes the action in the foreground very wrong, like some back alley drug deal. So clearly Knott is saying political machines are shady, and this process is happening again and again. What’s humorous comes from the relationship between the two parties. In a political machine, the representative is meant to be seen as the guy in charge, as he is the one giving the jobs to the highest bidder. Though the other guys look more aware of what’s going on, after all, “the job buyer is no less guilty of political corruption than the job seller” (Dallas Morning News 18). Very much akin to the image of the communist spy in the war room in Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove; two parties who think they have the upper hand, but in the end are still the loser. Knott flips that around because the bosses are ripping off the corrupt congress, instead of politicians apparently selling to the highest bidder.

Can there be any benefits to job distribution? Or does Knott’s cartoon serve as the ultimate warning to corrupt politicians? The cartoon title, “Caveat Emptor” translates from Latin to “Let the buyer’s beware” Although, the machines weren’t so wary against they’re actions, they believed corruption was in the right. The political machines did manage to benefit those who were a part of it, and they were the only way to, “ultimately provide stable and reliable government,” in an already corrupt system (Ehrenhalt). Take Mayor Daley’s Chicago in the 1950s, where his political machine built many jobs in and around the city (Ehrenhalt). So to some Americans, and I guess some politicians, in order to move forward as a nation, jobs must be bought, and loyalty must be seized, and men must appear with big guts and cigars behind fences. There are definitely men such as Mayor Daley who oppose Knott’s opinions, saying he’s just Knott funny. According to machine supporters, if you corrupt an already corrupt system, then two wrongs can make a right.

Political Machines bought and sold jobs like hot commodities during the Great Depression. The desperate American people and general apathetic feelings toward government allowed corruption to spread. Nevertheless, the people at the Dallas Morning News weren’t afraid to show their true colors. Knott’s cartoon made politicians look like the fools that they are, creating humor in an otherwise dark subject.  The impact of the article at the time may have been small, but in today’s world of information, the archives help show how Americans thought in 1930s Texas. Knott was a forefather in political satire, a sign of not only more mistakes made by politicians, but great satirists such as Stanley Kubrick. Both the editorial and Knott’s cartoon make America’s voice heard in an otherwise silenced nation, crying against any form of political corruption, and making fun of those who do.

Sources:

Dallas Morning News, ed. “Civil Service Needed.” Editorial. Dallas Morning News 3 Nov. 1933: 18. America’s Newspapers [NewsBank]. Web. 26 Oct. 2015.

Ehrenhalt, Alan. “Why Political Machines Were Good for Government.” Why Political Machines Were Good for Government. Governing, July 2015. Web. 03 Nov. 2015. <http://www.governing.com/columns/assessments/gov-political-machines-positives.html>.

Kelber, Harry. “How the New Deal Created Millions of Jobs To Lift the American People from Depression.” How the New Deal Created Millions of Jobs To Lift the American People from Depression. The Labor Educator, 9 May 2008. Web. 26 Oct. 2015. <http://www.laboreducator.org/newdeal2.htm>.

Jackson, Bill. “Political Machines.” Political Machines. The Social Studies Help Center, 2015. Web. 26 Oct. 2015.

Kennedy, Robert C. “Nast, Thomas (1840–1902).” Encyclopedia of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era. Ed. John D. Buenker and Joseph Buenker. Armonk, NY: Sharpe Reference, 2013. 473-474. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 5 Nov. 2015.