All posts by Zachary Windham

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.