Category Archives: Fall 2015

Posts created during the Fall 2015 semester.

A Grand Ol’ American Tradition: Corrupt Politics in the Past, Present, and Unfortunately the Future

Rod Blagojevich sitting in his prison cell- by R.J. Matson
Rod Blagojevich sitting in his prison cell- by R.J. Matson

On December 10, 2008, Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich was arrested and convicted for attempting to sell multiple political offices, including the one previously occupied by Barack Obama. As great of a head of hair he has, apparently there isn’t much head underneath it all. Selling jobs to the highest bidder has been around since the 19th century, and especially apparent in 1930’s New Deals congress. R.J. Matson’s political cartoon above shows how corrupt men like Blagojevich can still be politically involved after negative exposure, suggesting corruption will always be a part of American Politics. Blagojevich isn’t the only one, however, in current politics to try and make easy money; Many Supreme Court cases, individuals, and entire administrations demonstrate the clear and present danger today as it was back in the 1930’s.

Blagojevich’s arrest is nothing new in Illinois politics. Thanks to an all too revealing affidavit and secret recordings in his office, Blagojevich and John Harris, his chief of staff, were charged with, “…conspiracy to commit wire fraud and solicitation to commit bribery…” (Coen 1). Blagojevich really took after his predecessor, Governor George Ryan, who in 2002, highly suspected of being the leader of a racketeering ring in his administration (Rosenberg). No wonder Illinois is widely known as a hotbed for buying and selling civil service. We can trace corruption in Illinois to Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, a man of very strict beliefs, strict policies, and strict bribery (Rosenberg).  Corruption even goes FURTHER at the federal level, Jack Abramoff made a huge mess out of the Bush administration in 2006 with his lobbying tactics: often employing bribing officials, fake wire transfers to scam, and a little bit of contract killing (Rosenberg). Don’t forget corruption in FDR’s New Deals, because in 1930’s congress, representatives were caught in the actions of selling state jobs to various organizations (Dallas Morning News 18). This list of historical no-no’s could go on, but a precedence forms, a never ending cycle if you will. So this begs the question: will political corruption remain in american politics, now and forever? Those people who fought against big government corruption in the 1930s, such as Cartoonist John Knott and The Dallas Morning News, will their efforts be in vain? According to all this information, the future may be bleak.

Matson’s cartoon explores the previously explained unfortunate future in politics. Here there’s a very amusing depiction of Rod Blagojevich. Sitting in his prison cell, Rod happily looks across from a poster titled, “Rod Blagojevich 2026,” which is fortunately the year he is released from prison. So what’s hilarious is that this man clearly thinks he can run again for office, but as a society we know he isn’t going to re-elected; convicted felons are mostly frowned upon, especially those that are convicted of fraud and political corruption! There is something, however that is more unsettling about the cartoon, unsettling since it could be true. Is Blagojevich smiling because he’s naive and thinks he still has a shot of the big leagues, or because he knows that his conviction doesn’t change anything? If political machines have been running around politics for a hundred years, what’s to say they’ll stop? When it comes to combatting the current state of politics, “Faith in the judicial system itself can be undermined by corruption” (Handlin). This scary revelation amidst something originally intended as humorous scares many forward thinkers in todays political climate. If the past couldn’t fix its wrongs, what’s to say we can?

Blagojevich was just the tip of the iceberg. Examination of political corruption isn’t just a new issue, but has been rampant in 20th century government, such as FDR’s congress, and Mayor Daley. Political Cartoonist such as R.J. Matson and John Knott of the Dallas Morning News become freedom fighters of these issues, but no matter how much work they put in, no change will come about. The only hope is push this knowledge to the masses, if there is any hope at all.

Bibliography

Coen, Jeff, Rick Pearson, John Chase, and David Kidwell. “ROD BLAGOJEVICH: Gov. Rod Blagojevich Arrested, Charged, Released.” Tribunedigital-chicagotribune. Chicago Tribune, 10 Dec. 2008. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.

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

Handlin, Amy. “Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 588 U.S. 1 (2010).” Dirty Deals?: An Encyclopedia of Lobbying, Political Influence, and Corruption Ed. Amy Handlin. Vol. 2: Articles. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2014. 394-395. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.

Handlin, Amy. “The Roots of Corruption.” Dirty Deals?: An Encyclopedia of Lobbying, Political Influence, and Corruption Ed. Amy Handlin. Vol. 1: Essays. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2014. [273]-291. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.

Handlin, Amy. “The Corruption Tax.” Dirty Deals?: An Encyclopedia of Lobbying, Political Influence, and Corruption Ed. Amy Handlin. Vol. 1: Essays. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2014. [292]-300. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.

Homel, Michael W. “Daley, Richard J.” Encyclopedia of American Urban History. Ed. David Goldfield. Vol. 1. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Reference, 2007. 203-204. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.

Matson, R.J. “Blagojevich 2026-COLOR.” Cagle Cartoons. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Dec. 2011.

Rosenberg, Stuart. “Abramoff, Jack (1958– ).” Dirty Deals?: An Encyclopedia of Lobbying, Political Influence, and Corruption Ed. Amy Handlin. Vol. 2: Articles. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2014. 337-338. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.

Rosenberg, Stuart. “Blagojevich, Rod (1956– ).” Dirty Deals?: An Encyclopedia of Lobbying, Political Influence, and Corruption Ed. Amy Handlin. Vol. 2: Articles. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2014. 368-370. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.

The Credit Crunch

INKCINCT Cartoons, "The Credit Crunch"  A car crash occurs between subprime mortgage market, private investors, and the financial sector.
INKCINCT Cartoons, “The Credit Crunch”
A car crash occurs between subprime mortgage market, private investors, and the financial sector.

“The Credit Crunch”

INKCINCT

September 11, 2008

The Credit Crunch

In 2008, a large number of Americans were fighting staggering unemployment, plummeting house prices, and a complete meltdown in their retirement accounts.  Naïve homebuyers and controversial banking practices had created the biggest financial catastrophe since The Great Depression.

In the years leading up to 2008, the financial sector utilized loose lending practices to qualify individuals with low income and poor credit to purchase homes.  This collection of homebuyers was known as the subprime mortgage market (“U.S. Housing Bubble and Credit Crisis in the Late-2000s”, 340).  By extending credit to an unqualified subprime mortgage market, the banks created an artificial surge in demand for housing, consequentially inflating house prices (Arner, 92).  To further fuel demand for their mortgage products, the banks provided options for small down payments and low introductory rates (“U.S. Housing Bubble and Credit Crisis in the Late-2000s”, 340).  These types of lending tactics enabled individuals in the subprime mortgage market to buy bigger homes than they could actually afford (Arner, 92).  As introductory rates began to expire, these homeowners were unable to make their full monthly payments and the number of foreclosed homes rose at a startling rate (Hirsh, 38).

The increasing foreclosures led to a degradation of the entire real estate market and caused downward pressure on housing prices overall (Arner, 93).  Suddenly homes were not worth enough for banks to recoup their loans amounts from the perpetually growing defaulters in the subprime mortgage market (“U.S. Housing Bubble and Credit Crisis in the Late-2000s”, 340). Accordingly, the banks were forced to take huge accounting losses for their failed loans (“U.S. Housing Bubble and Credit Crisis in the Late-2000s”, 340).  The resulting downturn in the housing, financial, and consumer sectors had a ripple effect throughout the entire economy.  Consequently, stocks and bonds of just about every company tanked.  Small investors who were invested in mutual funds of stocks and bonds through their retirement accounts, college funds, and pensions were unexpectedly devastated (Arner, 96).  Government officials were afraid of the economic ramification of the financial sector collapsing and the lack of consumer protection available to subprime mortgage borrowers (“U.S. Housing Bubble and Credit Crisis in the Late-2000s”, 341).  Therefore, they offered assistance programs to the subprime mortgage borrowers and created enormous bailout plans for the vast majority of the financial sector (“U.S. Housing Bubble and Credit Crisis in the Late-2000s”, 341).  On the other hand, many small investors were losing a large part of their life savings and were left to deal with the consequences on their own.

The article, “More Zeroes for Investors,” described the multi-billion dollar loss in the stock market caused by the subprime mortgage crisis.  Specifically, it highlighted the large percentage drops in each sector of the market and the impact of those declines on small investors (Craig, 1). The editorial provided an anecdote from a non-profit worker, Barron Segar, who was too afraid to look at the computer due to the falling mutual fund prices but considered buying more funds if the downtrend continued (Craig, 2).  It also described a 59 year-old doctor, Roy Steiman, who planned to purchase additional shares in Bank of America and mentioned, “If Bank of America [failed, we’d] be in big trouble” (Craig, 1).  Through those examples, the article emphasized the hopes of people like Mr. Steiman and Mr. Segar as they looked to recoup their losses by purchasing additional shares at lower prices.  The editorial also underscored the notion that these individuals were undoubtedly afraid of further losses.  Mr. Segar was quoted as saying, “I think the biggest lesson that investors [learned was] that there [was] no safe haven” (Craig, 2).  Another example of investor fear in “More Zeroes for Investors” was a story about Mr. Segar’s father.  He was described as a 76-year old man who was heavily invested in financial stocks due to his employment within a bank trust department (Craig 2).  It could be inferred that he was nearing retirement age and depended on those investments to provide him support.  Mr. Segar expressed concern for his father in the article and mentioned, “My dad [was] going to fall over when he [received] his next statement” (Craig 2). The article concluded by noting other areas of the market which were likely to be pushed down and provided a forecast for the general downtrend in the economy to linger (Craig, 2).  In short, as there was more pain ahead for the stock market, small investors were expected to continue to get hurt.

The political cartoon, “The Credit Crunch” also portrayed the suffering of small investors as it illustrated the interaction between the three primary participants in the 2008 credit crisis:  “small investors”, the “subprime mortgage market”, and the “finance sector”.  The involvement of these groups was shown through a car accident in which the small investors were crushed in between the subprime mortgage market and the finance sector. Though there were several elements that contributed to the 2008 credit crunch, the artist placeed an emphasis on the general obliviousness of the subprime mortgage market and the cold-hearted greed of the finance sector.

In “The Credit Crunch”, the finance sector was driven by a pointy-nosed chauffeur inside of a large Roll Royce.  This representation alluded to the enormous amount of wealth generated by the banks using their loose lending policies.  It also underscored the greed that was involved in carrying out their deceptive practices.  The subprime mortgage market was shown through what appeared to be a lone driver in a giant SUV.  This portrayed the consumerist nature of the subprime mortgage market participants and their inclination to purchase items that were larger or more expensive than necessary. The finance sector was depicted as leading the pack and could be seen as the forerunner in the crisis.  The subprime mortgage market was thoughtlessly following the path laid out by the finance sector unaware that it caused small investors to suffer.

The individuals shown inside the cars also contributed to the message of the artist.  The finance sector participants were shown with emotionless, forward looking faces, which indicated their apathy towards the individuals they had hurt and the general unawareness of the destruction they had left in their path.  The individual shown inside the subprime mortgage market vehicle looked young and clueless.  His youthful demeanor and wide-eyed smile indicated his naïve nature and obliviousness to the damage caused by his actions.

Both the subprime mortgage market and finance sector were illustrated as larger vehicles that were seemingly damage free.  Meanwhile, the artist portrayed the small investors with a tiny automobile that was completely crushed and had a life-less hand of one its passengers hanging out from the side.  It appeared that there were many passengers inside the small investors’ car; however, they were shown without faces in order to possibly hide the emotional turmoil they encountered. Through an otherwise humorous medium of a political cartoon, the author emphasized the seriousness of the anguish and devastation felt by small investors during the 2008 credit crisis.

The article, “More Zeroes for Investors”, and the cartoon, “The Credit Crunch” both highlighted the damage the banks and the mortgage market created for the small private investors during the 2008 Credit Crisis. The excessive borrowing, lending, and fear in the markets that were seen in the modern credit crisis echoed the events that led up to The Great Depression (Arner, 98). The 1931 Knott cartoon, “Urgent Letter to Santa Claus” and the accompanying editorial, “Panic or Prosperity” referred to the extreme borrowing of Germany following the First World War that ultimately led to the disastrous Great Depression. Likewise, the concept of over-lending and over-borrowing was present in the modern credit crisis between the banks and the mortgage market.

Works Cited

“Credit Crunch.” The Encyclopedia of Money. Larry Allen. 2nd ed. Santa Barbara, CA:   ABC-CLIO, 2009. 92-93. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.

Hirsh, Michael. “Mortgages And Madness.” Newsweek 151.22 (2008): 38-40. Academic Search Complete. Web. 17 Nov. 2015

“U.S. Housing Bubble and Credit Crisis in the Late-2000s.” Corporate DisastersWhat   Went Wrong and Why. Ed. Miranda H. Ferrara and Michele P. LaMeau. Detroit: Gale, 2012. 339-342. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.

Arner, Douglas W. “The Global Crisis of 2008: Causes And Consequences.” International Lawyer 43.1 (2009):91-136. Academic Search Complete. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.

“Credit Crisis: Market Effects | Investopedia.” Investopedia. N.p., 18 Nov. 2008. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.

“What Is a Subprime Mortgage?” Investopedia. N.p., 02 Sept. 2007. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.

“The Credit Crunch.” INKCINCT Cartoons. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.

Craig, Susanne. “As Subprime Write-Downs Top $100 Billion, Dow Industrials Drop 306.95 Points; Small Investors Brace for More.” Wall Street Journal 18 Jan. 2008, Eastern ed., sec. 15: 1-2. EBSCO eBook Collection. Web. 12 Dec. 2015. <http://web.a.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/ehost/detail/detail?sid=121db932-d031-4e4f-aa5f-64985dccdfef%40sessionmgr4002&vid=0&hid=4114&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#AN=28450284&db=a9h>

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.

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.

Two!

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For states in the South, the question of what they are and aren’t allowed to do may never be clear to them. John Knott uses this humorous cartoon to portray a skinny boxer named “Kid Injunction,” who represents the power of judicial review, has knocked out two very large opponents. The first opponent, named “Martial Law in Oil Fields” is a burly man who’s been beaten senseless. The symbol of Martial Law here is intended to represent a power perceived as limitless, that has been taken down by the judicial system in Texas. The second opponent, “Cotton Planting Law” is just as burly as his unconscious compadre, and has also been definitively knocked out. The “Cotton Planting Law” this character is named for was a law enacted to limit cotton crop sizes in texas to respond to the Great Depression. This law was also struck down by “Kid Injunction,” as courts also reviewed and overturned this law.

Martial Law is defined as a use of military personnel to enforce laws and control a designated civilian population. This power can technically be enacted at any time by almost any executive branch head (I.E. Governor, Mayor, President) In Texas, in 1932 Martial Law was declared by Governor Ross Sterling to enforce new conservation statutes that he imagined would cause rioting in the oil fields that would be limited by said statutes. The statutes were quite extreme, limiting daily production of oil to less than a fifth of the previous yield(Smith). This event raised a question that Knott asked directly in the article: “If the Governor elects to and can without challenge declare Martial Law arbitrarily, what guarantees exist for property rights?” The cartoon implies that injunctions by the judicial system sufficiently limited the power of Martial Law in this instance as well as establishing precedent and did guarantee some rights for property owners. The precedent that was set was that Martial Law can be reviewed, and found unwarranted, and also that any soldier enforcing martial only has the powers a standard police officer would have (Author not listed). While this is not overly inconsistent with historical uses of Martial Law, such as cases where federal troops were used to control riots and stop looting after the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 and the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and similar states of emergency, this case still offered important definitions as to the rules of Martial Law.

The Great Depression had the entire world on its heels, and the Southern cotton economy was no different. Low consumption and flat production lead to falling prices and farmers hemorrhaging money no matter how much they planted. A law was enacted in 1932 that required any crop to only be 30% the size of the crops from the year before, as well as requiring more crop rotation in an attempt to force farmers to diversify and, through that diversification, stabilize the export market of the Southern economy (Jasinski). While on paper this law seems like a smart idea, it was not handled in an ideal way, it was viewed as entirely too extreme and too limiting to the farmers. The reception of this law lead to most farmers either ignoring or finding ways around these limitations, and resisting diversity in their crops. The long-term effectiveness of this law was never determined, as it was struck down by district courts and declared unconstitutional. Kid injunction from the cartoon is credited with this knockout as well, as he is demonstrative of the power of judicial review that can often overturn decisions made by legislators and executives. This further proved that a state’s laws do not supercede the laws or constitution of the parent country.

In conclusion, Knott uses this cartoon and the accompanying editorial to convey that a conflict of state’s rights and the rights of people had been resolved by injunctions from courts. The undersized, and comedically skinny “Kid injunction” defeated Martial Law and cotton planting restrictions, limiting the power of the government of Texas. Private property owners were guaranteed due process before they were restricted, and the need to review any declaration of Martial Law was further emphasized and exercised.

 

 

Citations:

Author Not Listed. “Martial Law Decision.” Dallas Morning News 21 Feb. 1932: 36. Print.

 

“Martial Law.” West’s Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. 2008. The Gale Group 3 Nov. 2015 http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Martial+Law

 

 

 

“Martial Law.” Gale Encyclopedia of American Law. Ed. Donna Batten. 3rd ed. Vol. 6. Detroit: Gale, 2011. 480-482. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 3 Nov. 2015.

 



Ross Shaw Sterling Papers”, 1930-1939, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

 

“TEXAS COTTON ACREAGE CONTROL LAW OF 1931-32,” Jasinski, Laurie E. Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/mltpc), accessed November 03, 2015.

 

All Over the Plan!

Stalin is angered because global depression ruined his Five Year Plan for the rapid industrialization of Russia.

John Francis Knott
December 13, 1931
All Over the Plan!

The article, ‘Soviet Russia’, accompanied Knott’s cartoon and painted a grim picture for the future of Russia. With the Great Depression hitting the world, Western capitalist countries weren’t importing as much raw materials as they were before. Russia’s agrarian economy relied on the exportation of wheat, timber, and oil (Jones 1). With that revenue source diminished considerably, Russia did not have the money to import industrial machinery. Also, they could not afford to pay experts to set up factories and give instruction on manufacturing processes. The article went on to say that this wasn’t solely Russia’s problem. If Russia fell into an even deeper economic pit it would drag down all of Europe (Author 6). The writer of the article along with Knott did not have an optimistic opinion on what would become of Russia. Russia’s economic depression is the subject of Knott’s cartoon.

‘All Over the Plan!’ is a cartoon by John Knott that was published on December 13, 1931 that illustrated his grim forecast in dictator Joseph Stalin’s first Five Year Plan (1928-1932) which aimed to transform the mainly agrarian economy into an industrial powerhouse. The cartoon depicts Stalin drafting his Five Year Plan and it being ruined by an ink blob labeled ‘world depression’. Stalin’s efforts to industrialize his country were temporarily stymied by the world depression that stemmed from the stock market crash in the U.S. in 1929. Encompassing both industrial and agricultural production, the Five Year Plan is a common feature of Communist nations’ centrally controlled economies, in which state run committees decide what products should be produced and in what quantity. In stark contrast, free market systems allow businesses and market forces to dictate production.

The Five Year Plan was Stalin’s initiative to catapult Russia to a more centralized position in the world since it had been historically agrarian and poor. Wanting to avoid the failures of the contemporary capitalist economies, Stalin took control and set up a planned economy with output numbers for every factory operating in the system as well as output goals for the state farms.

Collectivization is the second half of Stalin’s Five Year Plan, which calls for the state control of agricultural production. To achieve this end he had to take control of the peasant farmers in the major grain producing regions and convince them to stop selling their crops for profit (Collectivization 637-640). Stalin needed to strip these peasants of what little they had and make them work for him; it did not go well. The peasants slaughtered livestock and destroyed harvests and crop stores when Stalin sent collectors to take the goods to the cities to feed the quickly growing industrial urban workforce (Collectivization 637-640). Stalin’s first effort at collectivization was such a disaster that he blamed the collectors and made collectivization voluntary. Stalin hoped that the middle peasantry would flock into the state farms as they were the most successful in implementing traditional farming techniques to new areas, but only the poorest peasants were voluntarily moving into the state farms (Atkins 325-329). They had nowhere else to turn to and the farms provided food. The second goal of collectivization was to eliminate the large land holding peasants; the kulaks. They were barred entry into the state farms and were killed or shipped to slave camps in Siberia and Central Asia (The Great Depression in Soviet Union 446-447). They had held a surprisingly large amount of power relative to their small numbers in the rural areas. These people had the most land that Stalin wanted for his state farms, so he killed them and took it.

Collectivization’s benefits did not come to Russia until the late 1930’s. The effects of trying to collectivize forcefully were felt in Ukraine when a famine hit the region from 1932-1933 (Atkins 325-329). Millions died because of Stalin’s initial failure at collectivization. Even with this gross tragedy, Russia’s industrialization was ticking along successfully. The first Five Year Plan (1928-1932) was completed in four years and three months. One thousand and five hundred factories were built in this time span which doubled the industrial capacity of Russia (Atkins 325-329).

The humor in Knott’s cartoon comes from Stalin’s expression of surprise as well as the play on words with ‘planned economy’ and depicting Stalin as a drafter. Stalin’s expression is one of anger and surprise. It is trivializing the consequences that Russia endured due to Stalin and his Five Year Plans. It shows Stalin drawing on a piece of paper that is labeled “Five Year Plan” and signed “Jos Stalin, Arch.” (Knott 6). A planned economy requires state ownership of all means of production. The products and how much of the products produced are determined by the state as well as the price for the goods. So showing Stalin as a drafter is taking the planned economy aspect of communism quite literally, thus creating humor.

‘All Over the Plan!’, depicted a dire picture for the future of Russia. Knott did not think that the Soviet Union would be able to pull through and achieve industrialization because of the “world depression”. The article, ‘Soviet Russia’ forecasted a similar fate for Russia as Knott. The article called for other European countries to send relief because a “140,000,000” starving Russian peasants wouldn’t better the situation for Europe (Author 6). As it turns out Soviet Russia did not take as big of a blow as it was thought, due to the general declining economic affairs of the capitalist west. Industrialization continued rising, but the peasant farmers of Russia did pay the price for this advancement. Stalin killed and enslaved the kulaks and forced all the other peasants into state farms. The Soviet Union would soon become an industrial powerhouse in WWII, only being outpaced by the Americans. Although, this achievement came at the cost of millions of innocent Russian lives.

Works Cited:

Atkins, William Arthur. “Forced Labor: USSR.” St. James Encyclopedia of Labor History Worldwide. Ed. Neil Schlager. Vol. 1. Detroit: St. James Press, 2004. 325-329. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 5 Nov. 2015.

Author Not Listed. “Soviet Russia.” Dallas Morning News [Dallas] 13 Dec. 1931, sec. 3: 6. American Historical Newspapers. Web. 5 Nov. 2015. .

“Collectivization.” Europe Since 1914: Encyclopedia of the Age of War and Reconstruction. Ed. John Merriman and Jay Winter. Vol. 2. Detroit: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2006. 637-640. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 5 Nov. 2015.

Jones, Gareth. “Majority for Russian Imports Bill: Dwindling Soviet Trade.” Western Mail [Cardiff] 6 Apr. 1933: n. pag. Print.

Knott, John Francis. “All Over the Plan!” Dallas Morning News [Dallas] 13 Dec. 1931, sec. 3: 6. American Historical Newspapers. Web. 5 Nov. 2015. .

“The Great Depression in the Soviet Union.” World History Encyclopedia. Ed. Alfred J. Andrea and Carolyn Neel. Vol. 18: Era 8: Crisis and Achievement, 1900-1945. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2011. 446-447. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 5 Nov. 2015.

Urgent Letter to Santa Claus

John Knott, "Urgent Letter to Santa Claus"  A personified globe is writing a letter to Santa Claus requesting to receive credit "or else".
John Knott, “Urgent Letter to Santa Claus”
A personified globe is writing a letter to Santa Claus requesting to receive credit “or else”.

“Urgent Letter to Santa Claus”

December 21, 1931

John Knott

Following World War I, Germany was asked to pay reparations to Britain and France; however, Germany was reluctant given the staggering sum requested and the inevitable financial distress associated with paying such reparations.  Germany’s reparation bill seemed so incredibly outrageous that it was almost impossible for the struggling country to pay for the large sum (Schuker, 542) . A 1931 Los Angeles Times article supported the notion that, “Germany [would] simply not pay, [because] no party and no government…willing to agree to payment [could] possibly stay in power” (“Germany and Reparation”, 4).   At the same time they also accumulated a large amount of international debt.  Consequently, the public lost faith in the German currency, and hyperinflation took over the country.  In 1931 the German government battled high unemployment, plunging farm income, and political unrest as economic depression enveloped the country.  To combat the deflated currency and economic distress, Germany continued to borrow capital and placed a massive strain on its banks.  The German debt spiraled to an unsustainable level while debtors became increasingly concerned about recovering their capital.  It was important to note that forty percent of those debts were owed to Americans (Fearon, 510) .  By the summer of 1931, the banking system of Germany began losing when “Germany introduced exchange controls and froze foreign-owned credits, [which made] it impossible for US citizens to withdraw their capital (Fearon, 510). Similarly, that consequential loss of economic confidence could also be traced back to modern economic dilemmas, such as the 2008 Credit Crisis (Stewart).  Those measures set the stage for heated foreign relations and an international credit crisis, because most countries were occupied with their own domestic economic difficulties in the midst of The Great Depression.

The 1933 editorial in The Dallas Morning News, “Panic or Prosperity,” underscored the bleak economic outlook for the world and emphasized the necessity for international cooperation to resolve the crisis.  “Panic or Prosperity” explicitly highlighted a suggestion for an international conference on debt as recommended by Great Britain, “in order to restore confidence and credit relations among the states of the world” (“Panic or Prosperity”, 2).  The editorial also articulated concerns regarding restrictions on the war debt revisions due to the Hoover Moratorium. The Hoover Moratorium was a proposal by President Herbert Hoover to postpone all intergovernmental debt payments and reparations, excluding governmental obligations held by the general public (Fearon, 511).  The moratorium was an attempt to alleviate some of the financial turmoil and depression that plagued Germany due to their massive debt after World War I (Robinson, 456).

“Panic or Prosperity” claimed that the ratification of the moratorium would hinder war debt revision as well as the global discussion required for effectively combating the German credit crisis. The article supported its plea for international collaboration by referencing the thoughts of world-renowned economist, Sir George Paish of England, who predicted, “a speedy breakdown in world credit [would occur] unless an international conference is held” (“Panic or Prosperity”, 2). Moreover, there was concern that the strong financial interdependence between nations would serve as a catalyst for global economic decline. Reliance on the stability of other foreign nations directly impacted the economic condition of the United States. Such economic dependence rendered the U.S. more vulnerable to the Great Depression due to international instability and the inability to withdraw U.S. capital from Germany. Accordingly, Germany left other nations susceptible to poverty, unemployment, and overall economic instability. The editorial concluded that passing the moratorium and ignoring the need for an international debt conference could have dire consequences. Such actions, therefore, should not be viewed from an isolationist perspective since putting the needs of a single country or political party above the collective need for international collaboration would result in global economic chaos.

An accompanying political cartoon by John F. Knott, “Urgent Letter to Santa Claus”, illustrated personification of the globe writing a letter to Saint Nicolas and demanding the receipt of credit. The sketch alluded to the growing tension amid world powers in 1931 and their impatience with Germany for causing an international credit crisis.

In his cartoon Knott highlighted these grievances against Germany and their freeze on global credit by addressing the problem to Santa Claus. The depiction of Santa Claus, universally known as a giver of gifts during Christmas, was incorporated within the illustration. The cartoon itself was drawn around the time of the holiday, a season that is known to encourage thoughts of generosity and hope. The character of Santa Claus or Saint Nicolas originated from Germany, therefore, it can be assumed that the cartoon was directly addressing Germany.

Worldwide dissatisfaction with the international credit freeze was apparent as the primary figure of the cartoon clearly expressed frustration with the international financial situation. Likewise, Knott’s use of “…or else” sardonically pokes at the destructive financial consequences following Germany’s actions in the summer of 1931 (“Panic or Prosperity, 2).

Furthermore, Knott illustrated the deteriorating nature of the financial condition within the U.S., depicted by broken windows, tattered clothing, and lack of shoes on the character. The use of these details emphasized the poverty and economic collapse that followed the stock market crash of 1929 and the ensuing Great Depression era (Mcelvaine, 151).

Upon closer examination of Knott’s work, there was also a juxtaposition of the scribe with a lower body which resembled a young boy, while his hands were seemingly aged.  The depiction of the adult hands stressed the seriousness of the message and the threat of “or else”—i.e., the dire consequences of the credit crisis.  The kid-like aspects of the cartoon suggested a needy world looking, as children do, towards Santa to deliver wishes.  Through this contrast, Knott implied that even though the world powers were delivering a serious message to Germany, their requests could come across as foolishly desperate.

The congressional vote on the Hoover Moratorium was set to occur within days of the cartoon’s publication.  Accordingly, even the title, “Urgent letter to Santa Claus”, conveyed the pressing nature of the topic. As a final attempt to alter the impending ratification of the Hoover Moratorium, the cartoon directly addressed the readers of The Dallas Morning News as well as Congress to carefully consider the consequences of passing the bill.

John Knott’s, “Urgent Letter to Santa Claus”, directly addressed the plummeting financial circumstances of countries directly involved with the debt that Germany owed. Knott acknowledged the frustration with Germany and the poverty and instability caused directly by their actions. As a way of combating the destruction created by Germany, Knott drew attention to the matter to fight for future economic restoration.

Both the editorial “Panic or Prosperity” and John Knott’s cartoon, “Urgent Letter to Santa Claus”, directly addressed the need to reconsider the consequences of passing the Hoover Moratorium.  Knott’s cartoon placed the blame for the declining international economies on Germany and suggested that the primary solution to the problem was to coerce Germany to unfreeze repayment of foreign credit. Meanwhile, “Panic or Prosperity” highlighted that the true means of repairing the economic destruction would occur solely through international cooperation rather than isolationist actions. Differences aside, the two sources agreed that immediate action was required to restore the deteriorating financial situation and prevent further damage to the world economy.

Works Cited

“Panic or Prosperity.” Editorial. Dallas Morning News [Dallas] 21 Dec. 1931, 82nd ed.,  sec. 2: 2. Print. <http://infoweb.newsbank.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/iw-search/we/HistArchive/HistArchive?d_viewref=doc&p_docnum=-1&p_nbid=U50X50WDMTQ0OTk1NjYwOC44ODgyODQ6MToxMjoxMjguODMuNjMuMjA&f_docref=v2:0F99DDB671832188@EANX-104D22155F61DF68@2426697-104D221569F70FFE@0&p_docref=v2:0F99DDB671832188@EANX-104D22155F61DF68@2426697-104D22159BA346A4@9-104D2217C3412E7A>

Knott, John F. “Urgent Letter to Santa.” Dallas Morning News [Dallas] 21 Dec. 1931, 82nd ed., sec. 2: 2. Print.

Robinson, W. A. “Moratorium, Hoover.” Dictionary of American History. Ed. Stanley I.  Kutler. 3rd ed. Vol. 5. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2003. 456. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 23 Oct. 2015.

Schuker, Stephen A. “World War I War Debts.” Dictionary of American History. Ed. Stanley I. Kutler. 3rd ed. Vol. 8. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2003. 542-543. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 23 Oct. 2015.

“War Reparations.” World History Encyclopedia. Ed. Alfred J. Andrea and Carolyn Neel. Vol. 18: Era 8: Crisis and Achievement, 1900-1945. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-  CLIO, 2011. 439-441. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 25 Oct. 2015.

FEARON, PETER. “International Impact of the Great Depression.” Encyclopedia of the Great Depression. Ed. Robert S. McElvaine. Vol. 1. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2004. 510-516.Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 25 Oct. 2015.

MCELVAINE, ROBERT S. “Causes of the Great Depression.” Encyclopedia of the Great Depression. Ed. Robert S. McElvaine. Vol. 1. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2004. 151-156.Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.

“GERMANY AND REPARATIONS.” Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File): 1. Jan 12 1932. ProQuest. Web. 9 Dec. 2015.

Stewart, Heather. “We Are In The Worst Financial Crisis Since Depression, Says IMF.”  Editorial. The Guardian. N.p., 9 Apr. 2008. Web. 9 Dec. 2015.

The Sunken Road

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Joseph Knott depicts the problems facing the French economy in 1933 amidst the Great depression in his cartoon, “The Sunken Road”.            

In 1933, a time plagued with fear and uncertainty amidst the deepest economic downturn in history, the Prime Minister of France, Albert Sarraut, believed that the French economic condition could be restored by cuts in administrative expenses, lowering taxes, and increasing shares of the gold standard. However, the French economy did not recover as expected placing a huge responsibility of the global Great Depression on France. In “The Sunken Road, ” a political cartoon by Joseph Knott, featured in The Dallas Morning News, a man on horseback leading France into an “Economic Waterloo” represents the potential economic degradation of France.

Sarraut is drawn on horseback, continuing to use the gold standard, and running into a field marked “Economic Waterloo.” The cartoon suggests that the use of the gold standard was pushing France into a horrible economic defeat. This is a reference to the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 when France, lead by Napoleon, was defeated and thus ended Napoleon’s rule as emperor (Dodds). Knott’s illustration suggested that the French economy would soon be defeated as if they were in battle. Much of the humor found in the cartoon derives from the comparison to the Battle of Waterloo. In comparing the economic situation of France to a horrible French military defeat, the audience is able to find humor in the extreme comparison.

The inflated exaggeration is also shown through the startled expression on the horse’s face. The horse exemplified that the economic decisions and leadership of France were not in their best interest. France was still using the gold standard in 1933, an economic system in which the value of currency was defined in terms of gold. Most countries including the US and Britain abandoned the gold standard in the late 1920s through the early 1930s because it did not allow much economic stimulation to take place (Lars). Thus, during the Great Depression, governments were fairly powerless in the battle against the economic downturn because the gold standard was too restrictive of a grip. Despite this, France continued to use it and even increased their share of world reserves, further harming and limiting their control on the economy.

Ultimately, between 1927 and 1932 France increased its share of world gold reserves from 7% to 27%. In comparison, many other large countries were backing out of the gold standard (Irwin). France failed to monetize much of their new reserves. They placed extreme amounts of deflation on other countries and contributed a large part of why the world witnessed a period of economic downfall before World War II. This caused France to go down in history as one of the largest global contributors to the Great Depression (Lars).

The accompanying editorial that also appeared in the Dallas Morning News, “Too Many Factions,” explained that France was concerned with the possibility of one ruler taking over. Sarraut was quick to discourage this, but the public feared Sarraut’s economic ideas would not be well received, forcing the deputies to shut down the cabinet, leading to a period of economic uncertainty with a dictatorship (“Too Many Factions” [Page 2]).

France feared “the man on horseback,” that one ruler, would take over like that of Hitler’s Nazi Germany (“Too Many Factions” [Page 2]). The analogy is humorous because of the political and historical truth behind it. France had a figurative fear that Knott depicted literally in his cartoon. Because of differing opinions in the French government about how to deal with the economic crisis and despite the fact that Prime Minister Sarraut was opposed to opening relations with Germany, France was forced to look at Germany with a small amount of envy for its political unity and strength, but with greater fear that a single dictatorial rule would suppress differing opinions and actions within their government (Weinburg [Page 32]). Knott’s cartoon shed light on the economic and diplomatic issues that challenged France in 1933. These issues ultimately impacted not only the French economy, but also the World economy.

Works Cited:

Christensen, Lars. “France Caused the Great Depression – Who Caused the Great Recession?” The Market Monetarist. 3 Oct. 2011. Web. 5 Nov. 2015.

Dodds, Lawrence. “The Battle of Waterloo, as It Happened on June 18, 1815.” The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group. Web. 6 Nov. 2015.

Irwin, Douglas. “Did France Cause the Great Depression?” NBER (2010) Web. 5 Nov. 2015.

Knott, John F. “ The sinking road.” Cartoon. The Dallas Morning News [Dallas] 18 Nov. 1933: n. pag. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. Web.02 Nov.2015. <http://www.lib.utexas.edu/taro/utcah/02261/cah-02261.html>.

“Too Many Factions.” Editorial. The Dallas Morning News [Dallas, Texas] 18 Nov. 1933: 2. Print.

Weinburg, Gerhard L. Hitler’s Foreign Policy 1933-1939. New York: Enigma Books, 2005. Print.

“WHKMLA : History of France, The Economy 1929-1939.” WHKMLA : Historyof France, The Economy 1929-1939. Web. 3 Nov. 2015.

 

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