Category Archives: Contemporary Cartoons

Posts about contemporary cartoons, created during the Spring 2018 semester

Rick Perry Carries on Texas’s Unethical Political Traditions

Sustaining damage to his political image, former Texas Governor Rick Perry suffers a black eye after being indicted for abuse of power.
Sustaining damage to his political image, former Texas Governor Rick Perry suffers a black eye after being indicted for abuse of power.

 

In Texas, the government is big, and the ethical dilemmas are even bigger. For decades, the Lone Star State has been home to scandals—i.e., conspiracy, stock fraud, bribery, and other forms of corruption—caused by unscrupulous politicians, including high-ranking ones, whose actions mislead voters and undermine good governance. Recently, one of Texas’s most notable politicians, former Governor Rick Perry, continued this infamous Texas legacy. In 2014, the Los Angeles Times published the article, “Texas Gov. Rick Perry is indicted, accused of abusing his power,” which examined one of many controversial events that took place during Perry’s time as governor (“Texas Gov. Rick Perry Is Indicted”). Perry, who served in office for fourteen years, made headlines for his questionable ethical decisions and corruption, all while consolidating power and exerting a strong influence that continues to resonate in and through state government (“Rick Perry Biography”). Like his infamous 20th century predecessor, Jim Ferguson, as head of the executive branch of state government Perry exercised abuse of power, engaged in cronyism, and maneuvered to extend his political reach beyond his time in office (Nadler and Shulman).

Rick Perry has never been shy about making bold moves to keep a foothold in public office. After two failed runs for the presidency, Perry currently serves as the fourteenth United States Secretary of Energy appointed by President Donald Trump (“Rick Perry”). In 1989, after switching allegiance from the Democratic Party to membership in the Grand Old Party (GOP), Perry became one of Texas’s most controversial Republican figures (“Rick Perry Biography”). His leadership and political promises were overshadowed by the numerous scandals that took place during his time in elected office—i.e., as a member of the Texas House of Representatives (1985-1991); as Commissioner of Agriculture of Texas (1991-1999); as Lieutenant Governor of Texas (1999-2000); and as Governor of Texas (2000-2015) (Texas State Archives). Whenever ethics were in question, Perry did not shy away from conflict and regularly made unorthodox decisions to maintain his image and power for future political endeavors (Barabak).

During his years in state office, Perry was known as a political powerhouse who was not afraid to bend the rules or to govern in sometimes controversial ways. For example, as Governor in 2013 and while saddled with low approval ratings, he engaged in a bitter power struggle with public universities, especially with then University of Texas President, Bill Powers. The challenges arose after Perry met with advocates from the conservative think tank, Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF). The organization pushed for public research universities in the Lone Star State to be run in a more “business-like” way, following “seven breakthrough solutions” offered by Perry’s friend, donor, and TPPF board member, Jeff Sanderfer (Ramsey).  Some of the most controversial suggested reforms included: “rating professors, based on student assessments; separating teaching and research; and including revenue as one measure of whether a program or class should continue” (Ramsey). In response to the proposed changes, there was immediate resistance from university leaders, but under Perry’s control and in the wake of the 2008 Great Recession, change was inevitable. The Governor’s alma mater, Texas A&M University, did not last long in the resistance, ultimately resulting in University Chancellor Mike McKinney’s replacement by John Sharp (none other than the Governor’s former classmate and fellow yell leader), as per Rick Perry’s request (“John”). As aggressive changes were taking place on A&M’s campus, tensions continued to escalate on Texas’s flagship research campus, The University of Texas at Austin (UT).

These acts of dominance over Texas’s higher education system were a clear overstep by Perry. As a C student himself, he did not have much credibility to make decisions for postsecondary educators. Nevertheless, the Governor used his political authority and power to make changes that appeased voters. Bill Powers, former UT-Austin President, resisted Perry’s “business-like” higher ed reforms, which turned into a contentious public battle between university officials and the Governor (Jensen). Despite objections from Powers and the UT Austin community, Perry succeeded. He appointed Board of Regents and UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa, who eventually called for Power’s resignation (Jensen).

Even as the public became aware of Perry’s domineering leadership style, he continued to make headlines for certain unprincipled decisions, and these controversies culminated in 2014 when Perry was indicted for abuse of power for his attempt to force Rosemary Lehmberg, the Travis County District Attorney (DA) to resign. When she refused, Perry then attempted to unilaterally veto funding for the DA’s Office. More specifically and very controversially, the Governor threatened to defund the statewide public integrity unit (Malewitz, Ramsey).

According to the Perry, he sought Lehmberg’s resignation solely because she was professionally disgraced, after being arrested and pleading guilty to driving while intoxicated. The DA’s Office, on the other hand, understood the Republican Governor to be making a threat that was designed to drive out the DA who was a Democrat. Moreover, given the drastic efforts Perry made, there was speculation that his actions were fueled by his own political agenda, because at the time, the nearly defunded public integrity unit was in the process of investigating “his own party’s mismanagement of state government agencies, including alleged corruption in CPRIT [the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas] (Nueman)”.

On August 14, 2015, a grand jury in Austin, Texas, indicted Rick Perry “on two charges related to his effort last year to force District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg to resign” (Plohetski). That indictment was eventually overturned, however, by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Two judges’ dissension and another judge’s abstention notwithstanding, the Court dismissed the case after finding Perry’s veto lawful on behalf of his 1st Amendment rights (Malewitz, Ramsey). Immediately thereafter, Perry spoke of how the indictment was “nothing less than a baseless political attack, and an assault on constitutional powers,” that negatively affected his run for U.S. President at the time (Tatum).

With over fourteen years of governorship, Perry had extensive connections and deep political ties that he kept loyal to, even if they did not benefit the greater public good. His participation in the “good ol’ boy network” garnered scrutiny in the public eye. Most notably and as an example, in 2007 Governor Perry issued an executive order requiring all girls entering the sixth-grade to receive the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.  Only a few hours later, Perry rolled back his decision and claimed, “he was misinformed” and “made a mistake” (Root).  In Perry’s eyes, his mistake may have not been that he made an unethical decision on behalf thousands of Texan’s public health, but that he did not keep his ties to the drug distributor, Merck, more undercover from the public, for his own personal gain. To make things even murkier, Mike Toomey, Perry’s former Chief of Staff, was one of three lobbyists for the company at the time, revealing an obvious act of cronyism that was an embarrassment to the Perry Administration. Still more accusations were made against Perry’s ethics and personal interests after watchdog groups exposed the fact that Merck donated money to Perry’s re-election campaign (Root).

During his extended governorship, Perry’s involvement in cronyism scandals and political favors became a normal practice in the Texas Capitol. In 2013, CPRIT was back in the news, as a criminal investigation was opened after finding out that an eleven billion-dollar grant was given to a Dallas based bio-therapeutic company without proper “scientific or business review” (Drew). Perry later signed a bill to restructure the agency in order to regain confidence and trust during his national run for the presidency.

As more stories were published concerning corruption in the capitol, the public began to grow weary of his administration’s dominance in Texas politics. In 2014, 62% of Texans felt that Perry’s resignation was “long overdue,” and 51% of Americans disapproved of his presidential run as a GOP candidate (Jensen). Even as public opinion dwindled, Perry was not finished with his position just yet. Before he left, he made sure to build a strong foundation for continuing conservative dominance in Texas politics for years to come (“Gov. Rick Perry, Leaving Office”).

During the fourteen years that Perry controlled the Texas executive branch, he established an influence and legacy that is continuing well after his time in office. With over 8,000 appointments made, Perry established deep roots for his own ideology and for conservatism in Texas’s state capitol (McDonald). This record number of appointments will shape policy and establish his power in several different areas throughout the state—i.e., over the University of Texas System Board of Regents, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, and in many other positions throughout the state. (McDonald). Even now, as the U.S. Secretary of the Department of Energy, Perry’s influence continues to make an impact on Texas and American politics far beyond his time as governor. By championing energy independence, Perry continues to keep his political agenda a priority, which in turn still points to Texas. Since oil is one of the state’s largest industries, Perry’s political influence still makes an impact back home (Braun).

Rick Perry, the strong Texas political figure that he was, garnered equal parts attention and criticism for his bold behavior and shady politics. Just as Perry did not shy from controversial views, neither did his critics, most notably the late political columnist, Molly Ivins. Born and raised in the Lone Star State, she famously penned the nickname, “Governor Goodhair” to describe to him and wittily highlighted the difference between “Texas Tough and Texas Stupid” (Ivins). Her criticism was welcomed by many Texans and helped create comic relief during Perry’s extended governorship.

Illustrated by William “Bubba” Flint and published by the Dallas Morning News, the political cartoon atop this blog post depicts Rick Perry looking roughed up. He has a black eye, the result of the “Perry Indictment.” On his head is a large-brimmed cowboy hat labeled “Texas Politics.” Deceptively simple, Flint’s cartoon visually represents the rough and tumble of state politics: By “donning the hat”—i.e., engaging in Texas Politics—Rick Perry has taken a beating, and his public image has been battered and bruised by all the scandals and indictments.

Throughout Texas’s political history, Rick Perry is only one of many governors who have endured scandals and implemented questionable policies in their time of governorship. In many ways, Jim “Pa” Ferguson, Texas governor from 1914-1917, was involved in scandals that closely mirrored Perry’s. For instance, Ferguson was the first governor to be indicted and impeached while in office, and like Perry, Ferguson was indicted for overstepping his power and starting political turmoil with University leadership (Steen).

Like today, the Lone Star State’s gubernatorial scandals were captured in political cartoons of the era. For example, in a political cartoon published by the Dallas Morning News in 1932, Ferguson was depicted playing a “shell game”, a gambling game that is meant to confuse and disarm the players (Dallas Morning News). The illustration refers to the numerous scandals and shifting of political responsibility by Ferguson and the resultant mistrust that the Texas public had for him. Due to several acts of cronyism and mishandlings of power on his part, the media coined a new phrase, “Fergusonism,” to describe the corruption and scandalous behavior that characterized his extended time in office (Brown). The Dallas Morning News published an accompanying editorial, titled, “Sterling Support”, to publicly revoke their past support of Ferguson, in direct response to the mishandling and scandals that Fergusonism brought (“Sterling Support”).

In their respective times at the Texas State Capitol, former governors Rick Perry and Jim Ferguson boldly took office and used their power for personal advantage and for the benefit of those in their inner circles. Many of their policies recklessly abandoned ethics and followed in the long line of corrupt politicians who have set a rather low bar as the standard in Texas politics. As it often does, history is repeating itself, and in the 21st century, Texas appears on track to continue its legacy of deep partisanship and dirty politics for years to come.

 

Link to LA Times article ‘Texas Gov. Rick Perry is indicted, accused of abusing his power’

http://www.latimes.com/nation/politics/politicsnow/la-na-pn-rick-perry-indictment-texas-20140815-story.html

 

Works Cited

Anderson, Nick, and Houston Chronicle. “Rick Perry’s Return to Spotlight Brings a Return to Editorial Cartoons for ‘Oops’ Moment.” San Antonio Express-News, San Antonio Express-News, 19 Jan. 2017, www.mysanantonio.com/opinion/anderson/article/Rick-Perry-s-return-to-spotlight-brings-a-return-10869459.php#photo-8616106.

Barabak, Mark Z. “Gov. Rick Perry, Leaving Office, Ends an Influential Era in Texas.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 19 Jan. 2015, www.latimes.com/nation/politics/la-na-texas-politics-perry-abbott-20150120-story.html.

Barabak, Mark Z. “Texas Gov. Rick Perry Is Indicted, Accused of Abusing His Power.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 15 Aug. 2014, www.latimes.com/nation/politics/politicsnow/la-na-pn-rick-perry-indictment-texas-20140815-story.html.

Braun, Stephen. “Perry Brings Oil Industry Ties to Energy Department.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, 14 Dec. 2016, www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/perry-oil-industry-energy-department.

Burnett, John. “Are Texans Tired Of Gov. Rick Perry?” NPR, NPR, 13 Oct. 2010, www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130521544.

Burrough, Bryan, and André Carrilho. “Rick Perry Has Three Strikes Against Him.” The Hive, Vanity Fair, 30 Jan. 2015, www.vanityfair.com/news/politics/2012/01/rick-perry-201201.

Flint, William Bubba. “Rick Perry Political Cartoons.” The Dallas Morning News, www.dallasnews.com/local-politics/local-politics/2011/10/06/rick-perry-political-cartoons.

Goodwyn, Wade. “Showdown At The UT Corral.” NPR, NPR, 14 July 2014, www.npr.org/sections/itsallpolitics/2014/07/14/330752898/showdown-at-the-ut-corral.

Handbook of Texas Online, Norman D. Brown, “Texas In the 1920s,” accessed March 27, 2018, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/npt01.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Handbook of Texas Online, Ralph W. Steen, “Ferguson, James Edward,” accessed March 27, 2018, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/ffe05.

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Modified on February 24, 2016. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Ivins, Molly. “Shrub Flubs His Dub.” The Nation, 31 May 2001, www.thenation.com/article/shrub-flubs-his-dub/.

Jensen, Tom. “Header Poll Results.” Public Policy Poling, 29 Jan. 2013, www.publicpolicypolling.com/polls/most-texas-voters-done-with-rick-perry/.

“John Sharp Wins Approval as Texas A&M Chancellor.” Longview News-Journal, 16 Aug. 2011, www.news-journal.com/news/local/john-sharp-wins-approval-as-texas-a-m-chancellor/article_332680e0-6787-5e9d-b174-d953161cad66.html.

Jr., Leonard Pitts, and Tribune Content Agency. “The Dumb Indictment of Texas Gov. Rick Perry.” Statesman Journal, Statesman Journal, 24 Aug. 2014, www.statesmanjournal.com/story/opinion/2014/08/24/dumb-indictment-texas-gov-rick-perry/14522427/.

Knott, John. “He Remembers the Old Shell Game.” The Dallas Morning News, 18 Aug. 1932.

Malewitz, Jim, and Kiah Collier. “Rick Perry’s Energy Legacy Is More Complicated than You Think.” The Texas Tribune, Texas Tribune, 13 Dec. 2016, www.texastribune.org/2016/12/13/recap-rick-perrys-texas-energy-legacy/.

Malewitz, Jim, and Ross Ramsey. “Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Dismisses Rick Perry Indictment.” The Texas Tribune, Texas Tribune, 24 Feb. 2016, www.texastribune.org/2016/02/24/texas-high-court-dismisses-rick-perry-indictments/.

McDonald, Christian. “The Rick Perry Legacy: Government Overseers Who Think like He Does.” Mystatesman, American-Statesman Staff, 22 Sept. 2014, www.mystatesman.com/news/the-rick-perry-legacy-government-overseers-who-think-like-does/mbVM77p7aMTVC2OzWqnpNP/.

Plohetski, Tony. “Rick Perry Indicted for Lehmberg Veto Threat.” Statesman, Associated Press, 16 Aug. 2014, www.statesman.com/news/rick-perry-indicted-for-lehmberg-veto-threat/tQ4rPHj7Zx2HOxCECBfMsO/.

Ramsey, Ross. “Tensions Between Rick Perry and U.T.’s Bill Powers.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 30 Mar. 2013, www.nytimes.com/2013/03/31/us/tensions-between-rick-perry-and-uts-bill-powers.html?auth=login-smartlock.

Staff, KUT. “Governor Rick Perry Indicted on Two Felony Charges.” KUT 90.5, 15 Aug. 2014, kut.org/post/governor-rick-perry-indicted-two-felony-charges.

Staff. “Sterling Support.” The Dallas Morning News, 18 Aug. 1932.

Tatum, Sophie. “Charges against Rick Perry Dismissed in Abuse of Power Case – CNNPolitics.” CNN, Cable News Network, 24 Feb. 2016, www.cnn.com/2016/02/24/politics/rick-perry-indictment-dropped/index.html

 

NATO and U.S. Debt

Screen Shot 2018-08-16 at 12.46.04 PMU.S. President Donald Trump insists that German Chancellor Angela Merkel “deposit money” and bear more of the costs of the NATO alliance.

 

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), or North Atlantic Alliance, is an intergovernmental military alliance between 28 North American and European countries that was formed in 1949 in response to World War II. According to the NATO website, the alliance has goals of deterring Soviet expansionism; forbidding the revival of nationalist militarism in Europe through a strong North American presence on the continent; and encouraging European political integration (North Atlantic Treaty Organization). For NATO to work, members must make sure their armed forces are financially stable. To do that, NATO partners agreed on an official budgetary goal or standard that determines how much each country should contribute. That standard was, and still is, 2% of each country’s gross domestic product or GDP (Kottasova). Presently, however, the United States and its NATO allies are debating whether all members are shouldering their fair share of the cost burden.

Historically, the United States has provided the biggest share of military power to NATO. Over the decades, debates over whether or not this arrangement is fair have ebbed and flowed. For example, in a 2011 editorial in the New York Times, entitled “Talking Truth to NATO,” former Defense Secretary Robert Gates implied that the United States can no longer “afford to do a disproportionate share of NATO’s fighting and pay a disproportionate share of its bills, while Europe slashes its defense budgets, and free-rides on the collective security benefits” (Talking Truth To NATO). Donald Trump, the current United States President, is particularly concerned about this issue. Since his election, Trump has repeatedly and publicly complained that NATO allies are not paying their fair share financially. He contends that they are “free riders,” reaping the benefits of peace and security provided by the United States military (The Hill).

NATO was formed to protect the North Atlantic Alliance from military attacks from other countries. In order to be a part of NATO, countries must meet certain requirements. The (candidate) members must first have a secure and stable democratic system of government. Additionally, they must have good relationships with their neighbors and show a commitment to the rule of law and to human rights. Finally, the (candidate) members must contribute their military to the collective defense, and the country has to bring their budgetary legislation in line with NATO’s standards (Tomuic).

Illustrated by Dana Summers, the contemporary cartoon featured in this blog post first appeared on the US News website as their daily cartoon on May 31, 2017. The cartoon depicts Donald Trump confronting German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Brussels to discuss NATO and the amount of money Germany is (or is not) contributing to NATO. The cartoon represents the meeting Donald Trump had with NATO allies to discuss each country’s total contribution to the collective defense (Applebaum). That meeting occurred on May 25 in Brussels and focused on the “new security environment, including the Alliance’s role in the fight against terrorism, and the importance of increased defense spending and fairer burden-sharing” (Kottasova). Therefore, the cartoon illustrated by Dana Summers, came from the meeting Trump had with the allied countries regarding NATO and the expenses the U.S. has already paid.

In a New York Timesarticle, entitled “Trump Says NATO Allies Don’t Pay Their Share. Is That True?”, which was published a day after the meeting in Brussels, President Trump complained that “NATO members must finally contribute their fair share and meet their financial obligations, for 23 of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying and what they’re supposed to be paying for their defense” (Baker). The quote reflects Trump’s frustration with NATO partners who, in his perspective, have not held up their end of the deal. He believes the United States has been loyal to the financial agreement it made as a NATO member. In return, he believes the other NATO allies should be contributing more of their GDP to NATO.

Summers’ cartoon depicts Trump’s demand that other countries pay more as part of their commitment to NATO. In the cartoon, Trump looks frustrated, as though he has been waiting for the money he believes he is owed. In the illustration, the hat on the ground serves as if it is a collection plate, into which Angela Merkel is expected to “deposit money” for NATO. In this political cartoon, Merkel also symbolizes other European allies with whom Trump is frustrated. Merkel’s facial expression in the cartoon appears as though she too is upset—with the fact that President Trump is asking for money and because she does not think Germany and other European allies owe that money to NATO. In short, Summer’s cartoon captures the mutual dissatisfaction and consternation among allies over matters of fairness and free-riding.

Because NATO does not have legislative power, its members cannot be punished for not putting in as much money as the United States. However, as Summers’ political cartoon illustrates, Trump expects them to keep their word and pay more, in case one of the European allied countries goes to war or needs protection. Basically, having an alliance with these countries means believing that they will do what they agree to do. In Trump’s view, the other countries are not fully living up to their agreements vis-a-vis NATO. That is, they are not making financial contributions reflective of their GDPs. Trump is frustrated and feels that the United States cannot trust its NATO allies. This defeats the purpose of an alliance. Of the 28 countries that belong to NATO, the United States pays the most according to our country’s GDP, along with providing the most protection (Kottasova). Other NATO countries should accept the same degree of responsibility and loyalty that the United States has displayed.

President Trump feels as though the financial responsibility for NATO has not been reciprocated by other member countries. This “free rider” problem was further aggravated by the 2008 Great Recession, which significantly added to the United States’ debt. By the end of 2017, the United States’ national debt totaled approximately $19.84 trillion. To put this in perspective, this is equal to each citizen of the United States having to pay $60,890 to cover the national debt (Patton). Debt correlates to stress and worry. It is not something most Americans want to deal with in their personal lives, so it is no mystery that debt causes concern in many people regarding our country and its future (Foster).

The United States government operates on an annual budget each year. The budget provides a guide that helps determine where and how to spend the money generated through taxes. If the government only spends as much as it makes, then the United States stays on budget. When the government spends more than it takes in through taxes, it is forced to borrow money either from domestic and foreign investors or from other governments. The result is a budget deficit and indebtedness to other groups. The total national debt equals the sum of all budget deficits over the years, and for most of the last 60 years, the United States federal government has had an issue with spending more than it takes in, causing a massive national debt (Patton).

AnotherNew York Times article,“As Debt Fear Fades, Risks Remain,” warns Americans not to get too comfortable with the growing amount of national debt (Applebaum). One of the downsides of debt is that interest has to be paid for the amount of money that is borrowed. Interest is the money charged for borrowing a sum over an amount of time and is essentially a fee that must continue to be paid every year until the amount of money borrowed is completely paid off (“Interest”). Theaforementioned article estimates that the United States could be paying a total of $6 trillion in interest over the next decade. This $6 trillion is in addition to what was previously borrowed, and will only continue to grow until the loans are paid off (Applebaum).

National debt is not a new problem. It is as old as the United States itself. Concern about the prospect of American insolvency has been going on for years. The United States is not the only country that struggles with national debt. Many countries have national debt, especially after the worldwide financial meltdown of 2008 and protracted Great Recession.

The United States also experienced significant war debt after World War I. At that time, Great Britain and France owed the United States money that had been borrowed and loaned between the Allies during WWI (Potter). In 1931, a Dallas Morning News cartoonist named John Knott published a comic referring to that debt. Knott’s cartoon, “Better Than Nothing,” shows Uncle Sam, who represents the United States, standing off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico asking Great Britain and France to make good on the war debts they owed but were unable to repay. The representations of these countries look quite unfazed as they share a smoke together. The Knott cartoon is an example of how concern over debt in the United States has been a pattern in the context of the United States’ relationships with its allies. Similarly, debt is aggravating Trump’s concern over insufficient funding by NATO allies. Since the United States currently has significant debt, that increases the need for other NATO members to contribute their fair shares financially. For them not to pay their fair shares would be a continuance of allies not matching what the United States is contributing financially.

Both Knott’s and Summers’ political cartoons show representations of the United States insisting that its European allies either pay back debt from or pay more money to the costs of collective defense. These cartoons focus attention on the fact that other countries enjoy security provided by the United States, arguably without paying a sufficient amount to cover the costs of that security. Both cartoons suggest that the United States should be more fairly compensated for the significant contributions that it brings to allied defense.

Both historically and currently under Republican leadership, military and defense spending has been a high priority in America. This priority has continued under President Trump, increasing the financial pressure on the United States and making NATO contributions even more important. Chancellor Merkel may feel that her country’s spending for NATO is enough due to its non-monetary contributions (e.g., providing in-country military bases) and based on what she believes is important for German national priorities. However, President Trump feels that the United States is owed more money from Germany, and from other NATO allies, because of the expensive security umbrella that the US provides and that covers other countries in the North Atlantic Alliance. He insists that NATO allies are not paying their fair share financially and that the United States should be more fairly compensated for the significant contributions America makes to NATO.

 

 

 

 

References

 

Appelbaum, Binyamin. “As Debt Fear Fades, Risks Remain.” New York Times, 5 Oct. 2017, p. B1(L). Opposing Viewpoints In Context, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A508069774/OVIC?u=txshracd2598&sid=OVIC&xid=2818e965.

 

Baker, Peter. “Trump Says NATO Allies Don’t Pay Their Share. Is That True?” New York Times, 26 May 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/05/26/world/europe/nato-trump-spending.html.

 

Foster, Michael. “Federal Debt Is Reaching $20 Trillion and That’s Not A Bad Thing.” Forbes, 27 Dec. 1931, p. 1, www.forbes.com/sites/michaelfoster/2017/11/08/federal-debt-is-reaching-20-trillion-and-i-dont-care/#6e68494832ba.

 

”Interest.” Investopedia, www.investopedia.com/terms/i/interest.asp.

 

Kottasova, Ivana. “How NATO Is Funded and Who Pays What.” CNN, 20 Mar. 2017, money.cnn.com/2017/03/20/news/nato-funding-explained/index.html.

 

“North Atlantic Treaty Organization.” NATO Otan, www.nato.int/cps/ie/natohq/declassified_139339.htm

 

Patton, Mike. “National Debt Tops $18 Trillion: Guess How Much You Owe?” Forbes, 24 Apr. 2015,

https://www.forbes.com/sites/mikepatton/2015/…/national-debt-tops-18-trillion…/2.

 

Potter, Edmund D. “World War I debts.” The 1930s in America, edited by Thomas Tandy Lewis, Salem, 2011. Salem Online.

 

“Talking Truth To NATO.” New York Times, 10 June 2011, www.nytimes.com/2011/06/11/opinion/11sat1.html.

 

Tomuic, Eugen. “NATO: What Does It Take To Join?” RadioFree Europe, 7 Mar. 2002, www.rferl.org/a/1099020.html.

 

“Trump confronts NATO’s free riders.” Chicago tribune, 17 Feb. 2015, www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/editorials/ct-nato-trump-russia-edit-20170217-story.html#.

 

Roman Hero

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Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is depicted humorously in the Palazzo Massimo in a political cartoon by Paresh Nath, contrasted with prominent historical works of art: Augustus of Primaporta and The Lancellotti Discobolus.

In this political cartoon by Khaleej Times cartoonist Paresh Nath, former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is illustrated alongside famous Roman sculptures of Augustus Caesar Octavianus and The Discobolus. The cartoon is an ironic depiction of the corrupt Italian politician juxtaposed against great figures in Italian historical culture, and references a larger historical context. In addition to the contrasts Nath attributes between the celebrated connotations of these prominent masterpieces and Silvio Berlusconi’s nefarious political career, wider connections can also be drawn among Berlusconi and another leader from Italy’s past: Benito Mussolini. Though far from identical leaders in practice, their respective rise and fall in political power share notable similarities. The egotistical demeanor with which both men governed Italy would indeed lead many to satirically label them as self-proclaimed Roman heroes.

The figures in Paresh Nath’s cartoon are depicted in the Palazzo Massimo, one of four parts of the National Roman Museum in Italy. This particular building holds “one of the world’s largest collections of ancient art” (National Roman Museum), featuring prominent Roman paintings, mosaics, and sculptures. The Discobolus, translated simply as “The Discus-thrower,” was originally produced by the 5th century Greek artist Myron (Sculpture of the Classical Period, 411). The Roman Empire adopted this masterpiece and reproduced countless copies, which were dispersed throughout villas as a symbol of cultured taste. “One of the most famous sculptures from ancient times” (Butler, 1), the Discus-thrower represents the perfect image of beauty, youth, athleticism, and balance, according to ancient Greek ideals. The specific Discobolus that is located in the National Museum of Rome today is the Lancellotti (or Palombara) Discobolus, which was “notoriously sold to Adolf Hitler in 1938 as a trophy of the Aryan race” (Butler, 1). The importance of this transaction will be revisited later in the analysis.

Even more intriguing is the inclusion of Augustus Caesar Octavian in the cartoon, wherein Berlusconi’s pose is notably identical to Octavian’s. This statue of the Roman Emperor is named Augustus of Primaporta, sans the small angel that accompanies him at his feet. There exist many different sculptures of the man, although this is certainly the most famed version. The decision to include this particular version is significant, because it was sculpted as an idealization after his death (Ford, 1). Throughout his life – and especially during his political career – Octavian only wanted himself depicted by others as humble and modest; thus, it is the only sculpture of him in military attire and with an allusion to the divine (although the angel is absent in Nath’s cartoon).

Successor to his great-uncle Julius Caesar, Octavian faced many adversaries at the inception of his rule, including those who murdered his great-uncle (“Augustus, Caesar Octavianus”, 88-89). The Battle of Actium concluded in his favor when his last rival, Marcus Antonius, was defeated (“Augustus Caesar Octavianus, 88-89). The sole remaining ruler of the Roman Empire, Octavian stabilized, expanded, colonized, and reformed the civilization, bringing about a golden age and a Pax Romana. During this time, Roman culture and commerce flourished under his reign and even well after his death (Augustus, Caesar Octavianus”, 89-90).

Over two millennia later, Silvio Berlusconi’s rise to power began with his entry into the real estate market during the post-war development boom of the 1960s (Silvio Berlusconi, 48). He followed this success by building a media empire throughout the 1970s and 1980s, developing of a massive private network television market (Silvio Berlusconi, 48). His status as a prominent media mogul would eventually propel him to the seat of government power in 1994. Berlusconi utilized his expansive media holdings to campaign for the office of the Italian Prime Minister, and won the position on the promise that he would clear out the corruption that plagued the Italian government. Despite convictions of financial crimes and allegations of further corruption that temporarily forced him from the seat, he remained in Parliament as the opposition party leader until his re-election to premiership in 2001 (Silvio Berlusconi, 49-50).

By 2004, Berlusconi had been Prime Minister of the longest-lasting Italian government in the history of the country, gaining the respect of many Italians for years to come. In what was perhaps Berlusconi’s most dictatorial maneuver of his premiership, after his re-election in 2008 he prioritized his government’s legislation to pass a law that granted the Prime Minister immunity to prosecution (Hooper). Of course, this law was swiftly dismantled by Italy’s constitutional court.  Unfortunately for his image, by 2011, years of corruption and scandal finally caught up to the unethical politician. Berlusconi resigned from the position amidst allegations of abuse of office, child sexual abuse, and tax fraud (Giuffrida). After being convicted of the tax fraud charges in 2013, he was forcefully removed from Parliament as well and banned from office. However, he would remain the iconographical leader of the Forza Italia party, which would renew his political strength in only five years.

In Nath’s illustration, Berlusconi is facetiously being placed on the same degree as Octavian. By drawing Berlusconi imitating Octavian’s pose, Nath is humorizing Berlusconi’s consistent practice of idealizing himself as a great man and an experienced politician. Even though both rulers promoted economic growth under their authority, Octavian actively sought to root out corruption in his government, while Berlusconi only claimed to do so (Encyclopedia of World Biography). In fact, most of the moral degradation of Berlusconi’s government derived from his own premiership. Despite this, Berlusconi has repeatedly upheld that he is “the best political leader in Europe and in the world” (BBC News). This egotistical attitude is contrasted with irony in Nath’s cartoon. His pants, labeled “Morality,” are drawn at his ankles, and his heart-spotted underwear is a clear innuendo to the 2011 child sexual abuse case he was involved in with the underage prostitute, “Ruby the Heart Stealer” (Squires). The crowd surrounding him represents the massive publicity that his numerous scandals provoked.

Furthermore, Berlusconi is also contrasted with the Discus-thrower. The cartoonist Nath even characterized them with the same body type, a simple action that degrades The Discobolus from its status as one of the most prominent historical works of art. Again, Nath is utilizing irony to spuriously situate Berlusconi at the same level of prominence as a historical masterpiece; however, one subject is famous, while the other is infamous. As discussed previously, The Discobolus was crafted out of the ancient Greek notion of physical perfection and ideal form. It is now regarded as one of the greatest works of art ever created, which gives more power to Nath’s juxtaposition of the piece against the public humiliation and shame that riddled Berlusconi’s late political career.

The 1930’s era political cartoon, “Telling the World” by John Knott depicts the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini during his 1932 address to the citizens of Turin, Italy. Its accompanying editorial in the Dallas Morning News, “Mussolini and the Crisis,” provides more universal context referencing the content of the speech. A strong connection exists between the John Knott’s “Telling the World” and Paresh Nath’s “Roman Hero”. Mussolini’s Turin speech took place during the tenth anniversary of the Fascist Party’s political takeover of Italy. In an effort to legitimize his party’s political scheme as well as his dictatorship in the eyes of the citizens of Italy, Mussolini utilized ancient Roman architecture and art – such as the statues in Nath’s cartoon – heavily in his fascist propaganda (Brangers, 125). His goals were to cast the Fascist party as unifiers under a new Rome and to associate himself with the great Emperor Augustus Caesar Octavianus (Brangers, 125). “The State before the individual” was a belief that both the ancient Romans and the Fascists seemed to share. Mussolini promoted the construction of works of art glorifying the united Roman Empire under Octavian throughout Italy as part of his propaganda machine. He even initiated major archeological projects to uncover four ancient Roman buildings that he hoped would epitomize the magnificence of ancient Rome and of his own ruling. These projects also had a practical purpose other than ideological propaganda, however. The plans to clear old buildings and roads in order to uncover the ancient buildings also included arrangements to build wider roads and piazzas to better accommodate the rapidly growing population in the city of Rome (Brangers, 125). The demolition and construction of these locations also granted jobs to many laborers that were desperate for employment in a deteriorating economy.

In addition to this, the famous Lancellotti (or Palombara) Discobolus – as mentioned previously – was sold to Adolf Hitler in 1938 for five million lira (Italy’s currency at that time) by the struggling Italian Lancellotti family (Sooke, 1). It was placed in the Glyptothek museum in Munich for all Germans to view, however it was returned to Italy in 1948 after World War II’s conclusion. The Nazi leader had taken large interest in the marble sculpture as supremely representative of Germany’s then-visual ideology of the “master race” (Sooke, 1) due to its portrayal as a beautiful, ideal white male body in athletic form. Personally, Hitler wanted to be associated with the era that the original piece was built during: 5th Century BC, the golden age of Classical Greece (Sooke, 1). He also desired to bring with the sculpture the values it embodied: balance, athleticism, and of course, male beauty. Similarly to how Mussolini utilized archeological projects and ancient Roman architecture for fascist propaganda purposes, Hitler used this statue to propagandize the Nazis’ idealization of the perfect physical Aryan form.

Finally, direct ties can even be drawn between Silvio Berlusconi and Benito Mussolini. When initially forming his Forza Italia political party, Berlusconi allied himself with the leader of a disbanded neo-fascist group (Silvio Berlusconi, 49). This disrupted his 1992 campaign briefly when the leader of the group praised Mussolini as “the century’s finest statesman” (Silvio Berlusconi, 49). Berlusconi managed to overcome criticisms as a result of this comment and emerged as Italy’s Prime Minister; however, his charismatic influence could not shield him from scathing backlash when he himself praised Mussolini as a good leader on Holocaust Memorial Day in 2013 (BBC News).

Although enough differences exist between the two men to reject characterizing Berlusconi as a repetition of Mussolini, there are similarities between their efforts to gain initial political standing. The Italian public’s discontent with established institutions and the country’s poor economic standing offered both men the opportunity to gain power through promises of change and rectification. They utilized the media to establish political footing and to “cultivate a direct bond with Italians” (Ben-Ghiat), a bond that was severed when each was disgracefully forced from their respective positions of power.

Despite certain fundamental disparities between the two leaders – Mussolini was a socialist at his core, Berlusconi a self-made capitalist – they were both severely corrupt in their own ways. It’s no coincidence that the mockumentary film, “I’m Back”, which  portrays the late Italian dictator staging a modern comeback through a darkly humorous gradient, was released in the midst of Italy’s 2018 Parliamentary elections (Poggioli). The film firmly alludes to Silvio Berlusconi’s own surprising political resurgence through his Forza Italia party in the elections. This was highlighted by the film’s Mussolini opposing the 600,000 African immigrants seeking asylum in Italy, “…you won’t find it so funny when an African steals your job” (Poggioli). The comment bears marked resemblance to the intense anti-immigration rhetoric and policy proposals imposed by Berlusconi’s right-wing coalition during the Parliamentary elections.

Unlike the statues in the Palazzo Massimo, the legacies of Benito Mussolini and Silvio Berlusconi as leaders are permeated with dishonor and public reproach. Far from Roman heroes, their deeds and convictions are in stark contrast to the accomplishments of Octavian and the philosophies of Myron. Paresh Nath’s political cartoon focuses on the convoluted morality of one of Italy’s longest running leaders, while addressing the dilemmas of the country’s past that have resurfaced in the present.

Works Cited

“Augustus, Caesar Octavianus.” Ancient Greece and Rome: An Encyclopedia for Students, edited by Carroll Moulton, vol. 1, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1998, pp. 87-91. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/apps/doc/CX2897200063/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=a6828a46. Accessed 22 May 2018.

Ben-Ghiat, Ruth. “An American Authoritarian.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 10 Aug. 2016, www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/08/american-authoritarianism-under-donald-trump/495263/.

“Berlusconi Praises Mussolini on Holocaust Memorial Day.” BBC News, BBC, 27 Jan. 2013, www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-21222341.

“Berlusconi, Silvio.” Encyclopedia of World Biography, edited by Tracie Ratiner, 2nd ed., vol. 25, Gale, 2005, pp. 48-50. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/apps/doc/CX3446400032/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=bd181530. Accessed 20 May 2018.

Brangers, Susan L. Fugate. Political Propaganda and Archaeology: The Mausoleum of Augustus in the Fascist Era. International Journal of Humanities and Social Science, Aug. 2013, www.ijhssnet.com/journals/Vol_3_No_16_Special_Issue_August_2013/15.pdf.

Butler, Simon. “The Discobolus.” Hidden History, 30 June 2018, www.hiddenhistory.co.uk/2017/03/28/the-discobolus/.

Ford, Josh. “Augustus of Prima Porta.” Ancient Art, 24 Apr. 2015, ancientart.as.ua.edu/augustus-of-prima-porta/.

Giuffrida, Angela. “After Tax Fraud, Sex Scandals and Heart Surgery Silvio Berlusconi Is Back.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 12 Nov. 2017, www.theguardian.com/world/2017/nov/12/silvio-berlusconi-after-tax-fraud-sex-scandals-heart-surgery-back-sicily-election.

History.com Staff. “Augustus.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 2009, www.history.com/topics/ancient-history/emperor-augustus.

Hooper, John. “Silvio Berlusconi: Immunity Granted by Parliament Could Yet Be Voided by Top Court.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 18 Feb. 2009, www.theguardian.com/world/2009/feb/18/silvio-berlusconi-immunity-prosecution.

“In Quotes: Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi in His Own Words.” BBC News, BBC, 2 Aug. 2013, www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-15642201.

Knott, John. Telling the World, 25 Oct. 1932.

Leslie, Larry Z. “Worldwide Perspective.” Celebrity in the 21st Century: A Reference Handbook, ABC-CLIO, 2011, pp. 75-103. Contemporary World Issues. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/apps/doc/CX2532800012/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=94ef7b2d. Accessed 20 May 2018.

“Mussolini and the Crisis.” Dallas Morning News, 25 Oct. 1932. Page 2.

infoweb.newsbank.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/iw-search/we/HistArchive/?p_product=EANX&p_theme=ahnp&p_nbid=D6EV58HUMTUyMjAyNzk5NC4zMTM5OTM6MToxMjoxMjguODMuNjMuMjA&p_action=doc&s_lastnonissuequeryname=5&d_viewref=search&p_queryname=5&p_docnum=1&p_docref=v2:0F99DDB671832188@EANX-10483DC3263E3494@2427006-10483DC38F61D2DC@15-10483DC58BE0310B@Mussolini%20and%20the%20Crisisp.

“National Roman Museum – Useful Information – Rome & Vatican Museums.” Entradas Museos Vaticanos: Reservaciones Museos Vaticanos – Roma, www.rome-museum.com/national-roman-museum.php.

O’Mahony, Mike. “In the Shadow of Myron: The Impact of the Discobolus on Representations of Olympic Sport from Victorian Britain to Contemporary China.” Taylor & Francis, 8 May 2012, www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09523367.2012.657628?src=recsys.

“Sculpture of the Classical Period.” Arts and Humanities Through the Eras, edited by Edward I. Bleiberg, et al., vol. 2: Ancient Greece and Rome 1200 B.C.E.-476 C.E. Gale, 2005, pp. 410-420. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/apps/doc/CX3427400368/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=984ec1f8. Accessed 22 May 2018.

“Silvio Berlusconi, Roman Hero.” World Scene Today, 26 Feb. 2011, ericyoungonline.wordpress.com/2011/02/26/silvio-berlusconi-roman-hero/.

Sooke, Alastair. “Culture – The Discobolus: Greeks, Nazis and the Body Beautiful.” BBC News, BBC, 24 Mar. 2015, www.bbc.com/culture/story/20150324-hitlers-idea-of-the-perfect-body.

Squires, Nick. “Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi Faces April Trial for Relations with ‘Ruby the Heart Stealer’.” Christian Science Monitor, 15 Feb. 2011. EBSCOhost, ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nfh&AN=58113259&site=ehost-live.

Sylvers, Eric. “Italy’s Berlusconi Ordered to Stand Trial for Alleged Bribery.” The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones & Company, 26 Mar. 2018, www.wsj.com/articles/italys-berlusconi-ordered-to-stand-trial-for-alleged-bribery-1522073623.

Sylvia, Poggioli. “Anti-Migrant Slogans Are Overshadowing Italy’s Election Race.” Morning Edition (NPR), 21 Feb. 2018. EBSCOhost, ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nfh&AN=6XN201802211017&site=ehost-live.

Trentinella, Rosemary. “Roman Portrait Sculpture: Republican through Constantinian.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art, I.e. The Met Museum, Oct. 2003, www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/ropo/hd_ropo.htm.

“Trials and Allegations Involving Silvio Berlusconi.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 1 May 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trials_and_allegations_involving_Silvio_Berlusconi.

“Work Discus Thrower or ‘Discobolus.’” Law Code of Hammurabi, King of Babylon | Louvre Museum | Paris, www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/discus-thrower-or-discobolus.

Equal Treatment for All Social Classes?

Emblematic of the problems of income and healthcare inequality, an upper-class man boasts that his wealth will increase if Obamacare is repealed.
Emblematic of the problems of income and healthcare inequality, an upper-class man boasts that his wealth will increase if Obamacare is repealed.

 

Discrepancies in the treatment of the rich and poor have long been a hot topic in the United States, and more recently, this issue has manifested itself in the realm of healthcare. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a “comprehensive health care reform law enacted in March 2010” during Barack Obama’s Presidency and is supported emphatically by the Democratic Party (“Affordable Care Act (ACA) – HealthCare.gov Glossary”). The ACA provides many millions of previously uninsured Americans access to affordable healthcare. As Nancy Pelosi, former US Speaker of the House, said upon passage of the law, “Today we have the opportunity to complete the great unfinished business of our society and pass health insurance reform for all Americans as a right, not a privilege” (Murray and Montgomery “House Passes Health-Care Reform Bill without Republican Votes”). For almost a decade, thereafter, the Republican Party has adamantly opposed this legislation, derisively referring to it as “Obamacare” or “socialized medicine.” Some of the most vociferous opposition has come from the populist Tea Party that “loves Medicare but hates ‘Obamacare’” (Gerard “Why the Tea Party Loves Medicare but Hates Obamacare”). Ironically, many Obamacare detractors oppose the health care reform that is in their best interests. As of July 2017, a report in Newsweek noted that there have been “at least 70 Republican-led attempts to repeal, modify or otherwise curb the Affordable Care Act” (Riotta “GOP Aims to Kill Obamacare Yet Again after Failing 70 Times”). Nevertheless, the ACA remains the law of the land. Even in the era of the Trump Presidency and the Republican-controlled House and Senate, majority of Americans have turned against efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare because doing so would provide significant tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans while removing healthcare coverage for millions of middle and lower-class citizens along with downstream detrimental effects (Alic “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act”). Monte Wolverton’s political cartoon, “Obamacare Repeal Good for the Rich,” takes a heavily sarcastic tone in addressing these disparities by utilizing an affluent appearing cartoon figure’s commentary to address the blatant inequities inherent in GOP efforts to do away with the ACA.

Before the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, it was estimated that over 53 million Americans were living without healthcare coverage and millions more were underinsured due to the increasing price tag (Alic “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act”). In order to combat these alarming truths, the Affordable Care Act was passed on March 23, 2010, and under the law, more than 20 million previously uninsured Americans were granted healthcare coverage. ACA coverage is funded, in large part, through higher taxes on individuals making over $200,000 and couples making $250,00 in annual income such as the 3.8% investment income tax or .9% payroll tax (Horsley “GOP Health Care Bill Would Cut About $765 Billion In Taxes Over 10 Years”).

By contrast, Republicans, through their various repeal-and-replace bills, hoped to redistribute hundreds of billions of dollars by providing large tax cuts to the wealthy. The aforementioned taxes on the upper class that were required for establishment of the ACA would be targeted for repeal. It has been estimated that this would result in cutting around $247 billion collectively, and, by 2020, it would save those making over $1 million in income about $15.9 billion (Drucker. “Wealthy Would Get Billions in Tax Cuts Under Obamacare Repeal Plan”).

In addition to the proposed beneficial tax cuts for those in the upper annual grossing bracket, only approximately 20% of the American population, the repeal-and-replace effort was estimated to cause 23 million Americans to lose their healthcare coverage by 2026 because of impending increases in the cost of insurance rates. For example, people with incomes up to the 150% poverty level who currently pay a $255 a-per month deductible under the Affordable Care Act would face a new deductible price tag of more than $6,000 (Michael “How Many People Will Die from the Republicans’ Obamacare Repeal Bills? Tens of Thousands per Year”). This grossly immense disparity in healthcare payments for the majority of the population would directly result from removing taxes imposed on the affluent. This raises questions about the true aims of the GOP’s various plans to repeal-and-replace Obamacare.

Whereas the Democratic Party tends to “rely more heavily on government intervention to influence the economy’s direction and keep the profit motive of businesses more at bay,” the Republican Party traditionally organizes its economic agenda as a “business friendly” approach that limits government economic regulations and avoids “restrictions that might seek to dimunize the pursuit of profits in favor of… healthcare benefits” (Fuhrmann “Republican and Democratic Approaches to Regulating the Economy”). Thus, Republicans approached their repeal-and-replace proposals from the perspective that the tax cuts not only would directly help the rich but also find their way to the lower classes through what is known as the “Trickle-Down Effect.” “Trickle-Down Economics” is an economic theory that promises economic growth through the practice of providing large benefits and tax breaks to the wealthy in the hopes that the wealth will be distributed down the social class ladder through the creation of new jobs and economic stimulus. When the theory was applied in the early 1960’s and 1980’s, however, those most negatively affected were middle to lower-class workers and small business owners due to their inability to compete with ever-growing corporations that actually hindered money, jobs, and other purported benefits from trickling down. In fact, “Trickle-Down economics” policies only facilitated the increasing gap between the poor and the rich (Wilson “Trickle-Down Theory”).

Wolverton’s political cartoon, “Obamacare Repeal Good for the Rich,” takes the stance of opposing the desired Republican repeal of the Affordable Care Act and the GOP’s proposed replacement schemes. The artist’s choice of character, a well-dressed, distinctly wealthy man, represents the wealthiest American’s as a whole. With his champagne and pet, the affluent character has isolated himself on a desert island, a reflection of the separation of the upper and lower-classes in the Unites States. Drinking champagne, an extravagance, he toasts the Republican’s proposed plan to replace the ACA. Through the character’s dialogue, especially the reference to wealth “trickling-down” so that “maybe” other social classes can afford health insurance, Wolverton asserts his opinion that the GOP-led-repeal-and-replace propositions are unfair.

The cartoonist underscores this fundamental unfairness by bolding the “good news” that by “repealing Obamacare” the “tax break” for the “wealthiest Americans” will “trickle down” to the “rest” us so that “then” perhaps we can afford “insurance.” The asterisk mark in Wolverton’s illustration points readers to the evidence: a 2017 report authored by Brandon Debot and published by the Center on Budge and Policy Priorities. In his analysis of the unbalanced tax breaks proposed by the GOP through repeal-and-replace of Obamacare, Debot and the CBPP estimate that the “400 highest-income taxpayers — whose incomes average more than $300 million a year — would get average tax cuts of at least $15 million a year each,” while the benefits for working families are seldom noted; in fact, the likelihood of primarily adverse effects is anticipated (Debot “Trump Tax Plan Would Give 400 Highest-Income Americans More Than $15 Million a Year in Tax Cuts”).

Obamacare Repeal Good for the Rich” is reminiscent of the 1933 John Knott cartoon, “Regardless of Dress.” Both comics express concern about the unequal treatment of American citizens, especially inequities in their wealth and well-being, vis-à-vis the pressing economic issues of their respective times—i.e., the Great Recession and the Great Depression. In Wolverton’s case, he approaches the attempted repeal of “Obamacare” with a sarcastic tone. The artist juxtaposes the treatment of the rich and the poor, highlighting repeated attempts to, by, and for the wealthy to undermine ACA legislation aimed to directly assist poor individuals in gaining access to healthcare. Republican repeal-and-replace efforts, by contrast, would only indirectly aid the poor by “trickling down.” For the non-affluent, their access to healthcare would only occur if and when wealth generated from tax cuts for the rich gradually permeated down from the highest to the lowest classes. For his part, Knott also addressed the need for balanced and shared sacrifice as part of the New Deal. His illustration focused on Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Economy Act of 1933, which cut millions of federal dollars from some programs receiving an unbalanced amount of aid in order to more equitably reallocate those funds to other groups in need (Knott “Regardless of Dress”).

“Roosevelt at Chicago,” and editorial that accompanied Knott’s political cartoon in the Dallas Morning News, provided a more in-depth explanation of Knott’s visual commentary on Roosevelt’s legislative actions for equal treatment to all American citizens. A precursory discussion of extreme inequities in wealth allocation in America then and now, the 1933 editorial explained FDR’s call for cutting unequal funding from banks and veterans and redistributing the money to other constituencies in need—a call for fairness that Wolverton echoed decades later (The Dallas Morning News “Roosevelt at Chicago,” Knott “Regardless of Dress,” Wolverton “Obamacare Repeal Good for the Rich”).

Both Wolverton’s and Knott’s cartoons shed light on economic inequality during the most trying economic times of the current and previous centuries. The contemporary comic mocks the GOP’s Trickle-Down economic agenda and its restrictive impact on healthcare access for ordinary Americans while the Depression-era drawing depicts Roosevelt’s direct, bottom-up approach to combating economic suffering and inequality by reallocating monetary assistance and jobs to those most in need. Together, the two illustrations not only highlight how those in power conceptualize wealth and equity but also how legislative policies affect average citizens.

Wolverton’s cartoon evokes humor through the satirism of the GOP’s repeal-and-replace proposal and views of healthcare being voiced in America during 2017. Its importance rings with majority of US citizens due to their social standing and the effect that may have on their access to affordable healthcare in the near future.

 

Works Cited

“Affordable Care Act (ACA) – HealthCare.gov Glossary.” HealthCare.gov,   www.healthcare.gov/glossary/affordable-care-act/.

Alic, Margaret. “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” The Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine. Ed. Jacqueline L. Longe. Vol. 6. 5th ed. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale, 2015.p3866-3870.

Debot, Brandon. “Trump Tax Plan Would Give 400 Highest-Income Americans More Than $15 Million a Year in Tax Cuts.” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 11 Oct. 2017,             www.cbpp.org/research/federal-tax/trump-tax-plan-would-give-400-highest-income-  americans-more-than-15-million-a.

Drucker, Jesse. “Wealthy Would Get Billions in Tax Cuts Under Obamacare Repeal Plan.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 11 Mar. 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/03/10/business/tax-cuts-affordable-care-act-repeal.html.

Fuhrmann, Ryan C. “Republican and Democratic Approaches to Regulating the Economy.” Investopedia, Investopedia, 18 May 2018,   www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/regulating-economy.asp.

Gerard, Leo. “Why the Tea Party Loves Medicare but Hates Obamacare.” Thousands of Garment Factory Workers Across Cambodia Are Fainting on the Job, inthesetimes.com/article/15732/the_tea_partys_misconception_of_medicare.

Hiltzik, Michael. “How Many People Will Die from the Republicans’ Obamacare Repeal Bills? Tens of Thousands per Year.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 26 June 2017,             www.latimes.com/business/hiltzik/la-fi-hiltzik-repeal-deaths-20170623-htmlstory.html.

Horsley, Scott. “GOP Health Care Bill Would Cut About $765 Billion In Taxes Over 10 Years.” NPR, NPR, 4 May 2017, www.npr.org/2017/05/04/526923181/gop-health-care-bill-would-cut-about-765-billion-in-taxes-over-10-years.

Knott, John. “Regardless of Dress” The Dallas Morning News, 4 Oct. 1933.

Murray, Shailagh, and Lori Montgomery. “House Passes Health-Care Reform Bill without    Republican Votes.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 22 Mar. 2010,  www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/21/AR2010032100943.html.

Riotta, Chris. “GOP Aims to Kill Obamacare Yet Again after Failing 70 Times.” Newsweek, 29 July 2017, www.newsweek.com/gop-health-care-bill-repeal-and-replace-70-failed-attempts-643832.

“Roosevelt at Chicago.” The Dallas Morning News, 4 Oct. 1933.

“Trickle-Down Theory” Historical Encyclopedia of American Business. Ed. Richard L. Wilson. Vol. 3. Pasadena, CA: Salem Press, 2009.p872-873. Wolverton, Monte. “Obamacare Repeal Good for the Rich.” Cagle, 23 Jan. 2017, www.cagle.com/monte-            wolverton/2017/01/obamacare-repeal-good-for-the-rich.

foodconserv

Milk The Taxpayers

From 1929, when the Agricultural Marketing Act  was enacted by President Hoover, through 2008, there was consistent need for agricultural relief. The industry was still receiving massive subsidies from the Federal Government, and the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 was similar in purpose and scope to its predecessor around 80 years earlier. The striking similarity between the two was the rampant subsidy abuse that farmers exploited and took advantage of on the brink of economic collapse in the United States.

In this Jimmy Marguiles cartoon, which appeared in New York Newsdayin 2008, there is a farmer awaking and yawning who says “5am…time to feed the chickens, slop the hogs, and milk the taxpayers”. Given the date of the cartoon, it must relate to the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 – known colloquially as “The 2008 Farm Bill”.

According to the National Agricultural Law Center, the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 was the sixteenth law in the United States that was referred to as a “farm bill” (Hyder). The 2008 bill, similar in intent to the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1929, was intended to subsidize farmers. The 2008 farm bill had an allocated amount of around $300 billion to cover agricultural related costs. This bill also was specific in that it covered a wide range of fruits and vegetables that had not been covered in previous versions of “Farm Bills” (Hyder).

The Farm Act of 2008 was also instrumental in creating the “Average Crop Revenue Election” program – also known as ACRE. This program provided better protection to farmers than previous programs. It gave the farmers more breathing room with subsidies as it paid out to farmers when they had a loss of revenue that could be directly attributed to crop failure, price fluctuations or other specific causes (Hyder).

Within the ACRE program, farmers may elect to receive revenue-based paments instead of price-based countercyclical payments. One of the other main benefits for those enrolled in ACRE – they had a 20% decrease in direct payments and a 30% decrease in marketing assistance loan rates (Cooper).

The bill had a big snafu in Congress. The bill had passed both houses of the Senate and was sent to President Bush to sign. Bush went ahead and vetoed the bill. However, the bill that Bush had vetoed was missing 30 pages from the Congressional version. As such, Congress had to revote on their bill which, again, passed. When the proper version of the bill reached President Bush’s desk, it was again vetoed. Bush’s veto was to the dismay of environmental and agricultural groups. Hundreds of groups sent formal requests to congress to override the veto, despite their own acknowledgement that the bill itself wasn’t “perfect”. The groups stated that the bill was a “carefully balanced and compromise of policy priorities that has broad support among organizations representing the nation’s agriculture, conservation, and nutrition interests” (Hyder). Eventually, Congress overrode Bush’s veto and the Farm Act of 2008 became law.

Since this bill, just like the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1929, subsided farmers, there were no shortage of critics. The European Union, for example, cited that the subsidies in the 2008 Farm Bill were a sign of growing American protectionism. They were seemingly in fear of a trade war after the 2007 food price crisis. Likewise, high tariff’s on imports such as sugar can-derived ethanol from Brazil was upsetting to trade partners who were being taxed heavily (Hyder).

The Duke Environmental Law & Policy Forum released a report about the 2008 Farm Bill. They specifically note the emergency nature of farm bills from the late 1920’s and early 1930’s to the current farm bills which are “monolithic legislation” of the current versions, including the 2008 Farm Bill. One of the issues that they cite with the 2008 Farm Bill is that it focused more on helping urban farmers for the local economy in those urban areas, especially the rust belt areas, rather than the rural farmers (Mersol-Barg 300).

Because the Farm Bill of 2008 did more to help urban farming, high operational costs in those areas can be considered part of the bills issues. Feasibility studies have shown that a 4.4-acre urban farm with $112,000 in revenue would still result in a loss (Mersol-Barg 287). That is where the government would step in – subsidizing the loss to result in the profit. This would benefit, mainly, only the local economy and not the U.S. economy.

Just as an economic disaster followed the 1929 Agricultural Marketing Act, one did with the  2008 Farm Bill as well. The Great Recession of 2008 occurred largely in part to subprime lending and bank failures. The Great Depression and “Black Tuesday” occurred within six months of the 1929 law being passed. The 2008 Farm Bill was passed just four months before the Lehman Brothers and other large banks begin to fall. Though both occurred just months before economic disasters, they were far from the main factor as to why the economy failed.
While a John Knott cartoon “And the Echo Answers: Where!” from 1930 had touched on the need for farm relief that had yet to arrive, this Marguiles cartoon touches on similar problems.

In the Knott cartoon, we see a drowning farmer with wheat and cotton being shown “flooded” by low prices. It is raining heavily, signaling the prices will seemingly decrease and the product demand will suffer even more. The farmer is asking where the relief for farms is because then-President Hoover, Congress and the Farm Board were largely unable to help them. In the 2008 cartoon, perhaps Bush helped them too much to the point of extreme comfort.

At the time that the Knott cartoon was published, the loophole in the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1929 had yet to be fully exploited. That loophole allowed farmers to grow as much as they wanted since the Government would purchase any of the excess crops.

In this 2008 Marguiles cartoon, it is obvious that the farmer subsidies were fully being exploited and therefore agricultural relief was still struggling because of the abuse. The humor in the Marguiles cartoon details the way that the farmers had grown comfortable with the bill. The cap for payment: $750,000. Any farmer making $749,999 or less was eligible to subsidy assistance. So, farmers found loopholes in the law that would allow them to still make a considerable amount of money even if they didn’t really need the money. So, by showing a farmer cozy in bed, it is the same as the farmer being cozy with government existence. They still made money off of their crops and the government stepped in to help fill the “void” in payment.

While nearly 80 years had passed between both laws, neither had worked out for very long. The two cartoons also show a similar pattern: Farm Relief has no easy solution. Throughout the 16 Farm Bills between 1929-2008, there is always need for a new bill to replace the old. The one constant theme, however, is that farmers are taking advantage of Government subsidies to build their wealth while not entirely delivering their end of the deal, though sometimes through no fault of their own.

 

Works Cited

Cooper, Joseph C. “Average Crop Revenue Election: A Revenue-Based Alternative to Price-Based Commodity Payment Programs.” American Journal of Agricultural Economics, vol. 92, no. 4, 2010, pp. 1214–1228. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/40931076.

Marguiles , Jimmy. “Farming the Government .” Newsday, 2008.

Mersol-Barg, Amy E. “Urban Agriculture & the Modern Farm Bill: Cultivating Prosperity in America’s Rust Belt,” Duke Environmental Law & Policy Forum vol. 24, no. 1 (Fall 2013): p. 279-314.

Hyder, Joseph P. “Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008.” Food: In Context, edited by Brenda Wilmoth Lerner and K. Lee Lerner, vol. 1, Gale, 2011, pp. 316-318. In Context Series. Science In Context, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/CX1918600101/SCIC?u=txshracd2598&sid=SCIC&xid=380563ce. Accessed 15 Apr. 2018.

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Dump Everything

Ohio born political cartoonist Tony Auth is best known for his pieces with The Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for over 40 years.  It was during this period that he won a Pulitzer Prize for his publications (Tony Auth Wikipedia).  A political cartoonist’s work is tricky, they must attempt to create a piece which is often supposed to provoke a positive reaction from the reader, but at the same time make a strong political statement.  Auth’s Tea Party Cartoon, posted on April 10, 2010, in The Philadelphia Inquirer, caught my attention not only for attacking the far right-wing Tea Party, but also drawing a parallel back to the Revolutionary War.  Tony Auth depicts the modern-day Tea Party members’ lack of support for balanced taxation and their complete disregard for the defining benefits of being a citizen of a first world country by ironically comparing their beliefs to the principles held by the original participants of the Boston Tea Party, their party’s namesake.

The Tea Party holds extreme views on several topics.  In March of 2010, President Obama’s push for his version of government sponsored health care, the Affordable Care Act, was passed by Congress, but would not fully take effect until 2014 (Affordable Care Act Wikipedia).  This established a government-run health insurance agency that could be funded through taxation, so people who previously were not able to afford health insurance through a private insurer were able to receive basic health coverage.  It primarily taxed the wealthiest 1% of the country and provided healthcare benefits for approximately the bottom 40% (Affordable Care Act Wikipedia). The members of the Tea Party were worried that the United States was headed too far into what they refer to as “socialized medicine”.  The Tea Party has employed the term socialized medicine to scare people into thinking that it is a socialist program, when, in actuality, it is not so different than many other welfare programs already offered by the United States government. Supporters of this health care system often refer to it as national, single payer, or public option healthcare. While the different names do not change the function of the agency, they provide a more accurate description of the Affordable Care Act.  Overall the Tea Party did not favor the version of health care the United States was approaching in April of 2010, their obvious disgust for this type of health reform is visualized by the Tea Party members throwing crates labeled as Medicare and health reform over the side of a ship (Montopoli).

Another one of the largest programs funded by federal taxes is social security.  While the Tea Party is not as cohesively decisive on this topic, they are shown throwing social security overboard in the cartoon.  This is because they seem to have no solution to the issue we currently face with a large increase in the population of elderly people who rely on social security.  The Tea Party does not want to raise taxes, but they also want to avoid deficit spending (Vernon). Ideally, everyone would want social security to exist so long as they did not have to pay for it, and that contradiction is what Auth displays in his cartoon.  He shows members of the Tea Party in 2010 throwing Social Security overboard, almost as if they are proud. Although many Tea Party members believe in the benefits of social security, their stance against taxation contradicts this belief, as taxes are needed to support the Social Security program (Vernon).  In the background, instead of a historically correct sign reading “ no taxation without representation,” theirs simply says “no taxation,” highlighting the Tea Party’s lack of cohesion.

The Tea Party is not looking to reform the public education system, instead they encourage parents to take an active role in making sure their child is getting the best education possible (Tea Party Patriots).  Many people strongly disagree with this belief of the Tea Party. They worry that this will erode away at America’s capitalist foundation. The Tea Party’s belief against helping establish better school systems for impoverished areas stems from their reluctance to give money in the form of taxes to help the poor, as well as their belief in devolution in government (Tea Party Patriots).

When the cartoon is compared to John Knott’s “Arousing the Countryside” cartoon, from the Dallas Morning News on January 29, 1932, many similarities become apparent.  Both Knott and Auth use Revolutionary War time references to spark patriotism in their readers; however, they prove separate points, Auth’s cartoon bashes what it represents, the Tea Party, while Knott’s cartoon appears to support its subject, the State Taxpayers Association of Texas.  Patriotism is a powerful tool when persuading readers because generally people want to be proud of the country they live in.

It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words, and I personally believe that statement.  Both the “Arousing the Countryside” and the Tea Party political cartoons are able to tell a story through past beliefs and maintain an argument for or against modern day beliefs.  It is seen through the cartoons that taxation has been a topic of debate for centuries, and will continue to be so.

 

Works Cited

Auth, Tony.  Cartoon. The Philadelphia Inquirer. 15 April. 2010: Print.

“Education.” Tea Party Patriots, www.teapartypatriots.org/education/.

Knott, John. “Arousing the Countryside.” Cartoon. Dallas Morning News, 29 January. 1932: Section 2, page 2.

Montopoli, Brian. “Tea Party Supporters: Who They Are and What They Believe.” CBS News, CBS. Interactive, 14 Dec. 2012, www.cbsnews.com/news/tea-party-supporters-who-they-are-and-what-they-believe/.

“Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 12 May 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patient_Protection_and_Affordable_Care_Act.

“Tony Auth.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 14 May 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tony_Auth.

Vernon, Steve. “Do Tea Partyers Support Social Security and Medicare?” CBS News, CBS Interactive, 8 Nov. 2011, www.cbsnews.com/news/do-tea-partyers-support-social-security-and-medicare/.

The Tariffs that Broke the Camel’s Back

Gary Cohn

On March 7, 2018, President Donald Trump signed a sweeping steel tariff act into law via executive order. As of the writing of this blog there have been several material changes made to this tariff in terms of the countries subject to it and the products covered. In addition to steel, the tariff initially included aluminum, washing machines, and solar panels.  It is unclear what the long-term legacy of these tariffs will be. However, in the short term they have conclusively led to Gary Cohn’s departure as the Director of the National Economic Council under President Trump. The exact circumstances of Cohn’s resignation are murky, but Jack Ohman, the artist of the cartoon above, thinks that Cohn was kicked out. Bret Stephens, author of the editorial “Gary Cohn’s Breaking Point,” believes that Cohn hit a breaking point either personally or professionally. Whatever was happening behind the scenes between Trump and Cohn, clearly the steel tariff was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

John Knott’s Right in the Middle of his Speech and this untitled cartoon by Jack Ohman work well together as bookends. Both cartoons address the same subject: the professional fallout of unpopular tariffs. Their differences highlight how divisive tariffs are as a tool for boosting the national economy. In Right in the Middle of his Speech, President Hoover is paying the price for the Smoot-Hawley Tariffs at the hands of the voters who have had two years to observe the effects of the tariff. In Ohman’s untitled cartoon, it is Gary Cohn who’s career is plummeting even before the steel tariffs were officially signed into law.

Gary Cohn and President Trump had a fraught working relationship. Before joining the Trump Administration, Cohn was a high-ranking employee with Goldman Sachs. The two had very different points of view regarding what would be best for the economy of the nation. Donald Trump was the first presidential candidate since Herbert Hoover to run on a platform of economic protectionism. By contrast, Cohn was a globalist and proponent of free trade.

The difficulties between the two men took a personal turn in the aftermath of the August 2017 Charlottesville protest, Rally for the Right. The Rally for the Right was comprised primarily of alt-right political groups that included white supremacists and neo-Nazis who chanted anti-Semitic slogans and waved Nazi flags. Counter-protestors showed up to oppose the Unite the Right rally. While violence did erupt between the two groups, it was the neo-Nazis who were there for Unite the Right that had showed up with weapons and shields. It was also a neo-Nazi supporter that drove a car through a group of counter-protestors, injuring 19 and killing one.

The public outcry was immediate; however the Trump administration was slow to issue an official response. When President did respond to the incident in Charlottesville, it was via a tweet which read in part “…There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Lets [sic] come together as one!” (Trump). People were shocked by the weak response. The day after this tweet President Trump had a press conference where the American public expected him to denounce the hateful ideology of the neo-Nazis and the violence committed by their supporters. What Trump said instead of that was, “There were many fine people on both sides” (Wang, “Read the Transcript…”).

There was a great deal of anger from many quarters due to Trump not only failing to condemn the vicious bigotry of the neo-Nazis, but saying they were “fine people”. Gary Cohn, a Jewish man who gave generously to Jewish charities, was standing in the lobby of Trump Tower when the President made these equivocating remarks. Then Cohn was left to field economic questions immediately after Trump completed his statement. In the aftermath of this, Cohn would publicly criticize the Trump administration’s response to Charlottesville but without naming the president explicitly. “…that the Trump administration “can and must do better” to condemn hate groups and “do everything we can to heal the deep divisions that exist in our communities”,” (Kelly, “Gary Cohn, Trump’s Adviser, ….”). In that same article Cohn said the only reason he did not resign was that he wanted to shepherd through tax cuts that he had helped author, a once in a lifetime opportunity.

However, after the tax cuts were passed into law in December of 2017, Cohn and Trump began butting heads over the prospect of the heavy steel tariffs President Trump wanted to impose. Cohn was among many voices that protested the tariffs. Once it became clear that the tariffs were going to happen, Cohn tendered his resignation within days. Cohn resigned on March 6, 2018 and Trump signed an executive order to enact tariffs on March 8. The reason he gave was that if Trump was not going to listen to his advice, there was little point in holding the position of Director of the Economic Council.

In addition to the professional, economic disagreements between the two men, there was doubtless a large amount of personal conflict. President Trump has always valued personal loyalty above any other characteristic of the people who work with and for him (Olen, “Trump’s Creepy, Autocratic Obsession with Loyalty). Cohn’s criticism of the Trump Administration’s handling of the Charlottesville incident stung. While Cohn and Trump were on a similar wavelength regarding the tax cuts, the steel tariff was Trump’s personal pet project; thus, when Cohn spoke out against the tariff, there is little doubt that President Trump saw the action as further evidence of Cohn’s disloyalty.

Ohman’s cartoon depicts the moment that Cohn officially resigned on March 6, 2018 (Ohman). Visually it is incredibly similar to John Knott’s cartoon Right in the Middle of his Speech.  As Cohn leaps from the crumbling steel infrastructure, he insists, “I jumped, I swear…”; meanwhile, Trump is standing on the construction platform and appears to have kicked Cohn from the building. There’s good reason for Cohn to insist that the departure was of his own volition. Before he left Goldman Sachs to join the administration as the Director of the National Economic Council, Cohn was on the shortlist of candidates to replace the CEO of Goldman Sachs; thus, resigning as the result of a stubborn president would look much better for his career than being fired.

The steel tariffs are referenced in this cartoon by the crane labeled “Art of the Steel Tariff,” which is also a play on the 1987 autobiography about Trump– The Art of the Deal– that actually was authored by ghostwriter Tony Schwartz. In Ohman’s cartoon, the “Art of the Steel” crane seems to be out of control. The cable is whipping back and forth, and the hook is snagged on a beam of the steel infrastructure that Cohn has just been kicked from. This is likely more than simple artistic license. One of Cohn’s pet projects was the rebuilding of American infrastructure; bridges, railways, power grids, and so forth (“Gary Cohn Joins the Exodus”). Such infrastructure projects would require lots of steel and aluminum, which would be made more expensive by the tariffs.

The last notable feature of the comic is the sign behind President Trump, which reads “Trump Chaostruction Inc.” In addition to many other industries, the Trump Organization included construction companies. Ohman makes reference to this as he makes a portmanteau with “construction” and “chaos.” One of the things that the Trump administration has been criticized for is the high churn rate among appointees and employees. In the first year of his administration the turnover rate was more than 40% (Keith, “White House Turnover was Already Record Setting….”). At the time of his departure, Gary Cohn was the highest-ranking member of Trump Administration to leave, a move that prompted speculation about instability. Trump responded to that criticism with the following tweet:

The new Fake News narrative is that there is CHAOS in the White House. Wrong! People will always come & go, and I want strong dialogue before making a final decision. I still have some people that I want to change (always seeking perfection). There is no Chaos, only great Energy!

The circumstances of the two cartoons are very different. The Knott cartoon Right in the Middle of his Speech was created with the benefit of hindsight. It was published more than two years after the implementation of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff. In contrast, this untitled cartoon by Ohman was published the day after Trump’s steel tariffs. Hoover supported the Smooth-Hawley tariff; Cohn opposed Trump’s steel tariffs.

Nonetheless, both cartoons use the same visual language and have the same moral: tariffs can be deadly to a politician’s career. This is illustrated in both cases with the politician falling from a structure. Like Knott, Ohman chooses to focus his cartoon on the personal consequences of a tariff. Trade wars, recessions, high prices, and other pitfalls of tariffs are incidental to the point the artists are making.

 

 

Works Cited

Diamond, Jeremy. “Top Economic Adviser Gary Cohn Leaves White House in Wake of Tariff Rift.” CNN, 7 Mar. 2018, www.cnn.com/2018/03/06/politics/gary-cohn-white-house-tariffs/index.html. Accessed 9 Apr. 2018.

The Editorial Board. “Gary Cohn Joins Exodus.” The New York Times, 6 Mar. 2018. The New York Times, www.nytimes.com/2018/03/06/opinion/gary-cohn-resignation.html. Accessed 8 May 2018.

J.E.F. “Gary Cohn Resigns as Donald Trump’s Economic Advisor.” The Economist, 7 Mar. 2018, www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2018/03/tariff-rifts-0. Published the day after he resigned

Keith, Tamra. “White House Staff Turnover was Already Record Setting. Then More Adivsers Left.” National Public Radio, 7 Mar. 2018, www.npr.org/2018/03/07/591372397/white-house-staff-turnover-was-already-record-setting-then-more-advisers-left. Accessed 16 Apr. 2018.

Kelley, Kate, and Maggie Haberman. “Gary Cohn, Trump’s Adviser, Said to Have Drafted Resignation Letter after Charlottesville.” New York Times, 25 Aug. 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/08/25/us/politics/gary-cohn-trump-charlottesville.html. Accessed 17 Apr. 2018.

Knott, John Francis. Right in the Middle of his Speech. 15 Oct. 1932. America’s Historical Newspapers, infoweb.newsbank.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/iw-search/we/HistArchive/?p_product=EANX&p_theme=ahnp&p_nbid=L63Q49PFMTUyMjMzMzk1Mi42MTE4MzI6MToxMjoxMjguODMuNjMuMjA&p_action=doc&s_lastnonissuequeryname=4&d_viewref=search&p_queryname=4&p_docnum=1&p_docref=v2:0F99DDB671832188@EANX-10483D9233E8A080@2426996-10483D92A9E93CD3@17-10483D94E2A30003@.

Ohman, Jack. “Jack Ohman.” GoComics, Universal Press Syndicate, 8 Mar. 2018, www.gocomics.com/     jackohman/2018/03/08. Accessed 14 May 2018. Cartoon.

Olen, Helen. “Trump’s Creepy, Autocratic Obsession with Loyalty.” The Washington Post, 30 Apr. 2018, Opinion sec. The Washington Post, www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2018/04/30/trumps-creepy-autocratic-obsession-with-loyalty/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.3d0a68b808d2. Accessed 11 May 2018.

Stephens, Bret. “Gary Cohn’s Breaking Point.” The New York Times, 7 Mar. 2018. The New York Times, www.nytimes.com/2018/03/07/opinion/gary-cohn-breaking-point.html. Accessed 8 May 2018.

Trump, Donald J. “The new Fake News narrative is that there is CHAOS in the White House. Wrong! People will always come & go, and I want strong dialogue before making a final decision. I still have some people that I want to change (always seeking perfection). There is no Chaos, only great Energy!” Twitter, 6 Mar. 2018, twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/971006379375972354.

—. “We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Lets come together as one!” Twitter, 12 Aug. 2018, 10:19 AM, twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/896420822780444672?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.vox.com%2F2017%2F8%2F12%2F16138610%2Fcharlottesville-nazi-rally-trump-tweet&tfw_site=voxdotcom.

Wang, Christine, and Kevin Breuninger. “Read the transcript of Donald Trump’s jaw-dropping Press Conference.” Dwd. www.CNBC.com, CNBC, 15 Aug. 2017, www.cnbc.com/2017/08/15/read-the-transcript-of-donald-trumps-jaw-dropping-press-conference.html. Accessed 16 Apr. 2018.

Obamabear Penalty

A bear, symbolizing Russia, bites into Crimea, a region of Ukraine, while U.S. President Barack Obama trims the bear’s nails with clippers labeled “sanctions.”
A bear, symbolizing Russia, bites into Crimea, a region of Ukraine, while U.S. President Barack Obama trims the bear’s nails with clippers labeled “sanctions.”

In 2014, Ukraine was a country that many Americans had not heard of- let alone could point to on a map. Buffeted through the wars and conflict of the 20th century, Ukraine had to fight for its independence while being treated as a voiceless territory by Russia and other European neighbors. Into the 21st century, Ukraine had a short-lived independence from the early 1990’s to 2014, until Russia invaded the Crimean Peninsula and triggered an armed conflict over the territory that has continued into 2018. Ukraine’s internal divide between pro-Russian and nationalist regions allowed Russia to easily infiltrate the government and invade the peninsula under President Vladimir Putin, Russia’s persistent and unforgiving leader. Global powers have and continue to criticize Russia to no avail; ultimately, Ukraine has been left to fend for itself against a country with a centuries-long record of militaristic and political prowess. A 2014 article in the Christian Science Monitor, titled “Russia Advances into Ukraine, West Wonders What to Do Now,” discusses reactions to the Ukrainian crisis, yet the root of the conflict starts a century before, not 2014. In A.F. Branco’s cartoon, “Obamabear Penalty,” Russia’s aggressive actions are showcased in the form of a bear unflinching to the meager efforts of the U.S President, Barack Obama, as he clips the bear’s nails. Russia is shown tearing into Crimea, representing its self-serving purpose and apathetic regard for Ukraine’s struggles.

Ukraine had been a land made up of many ethnicities, influenced greatly by Poland and Russia before the 20th century. It’s own sense of nationalism emerged in the mid 19th century. Ukraine began to establish political parties and a stronger government, but ethnic and cultural conflicts persisted in some of its regions (Yekelchyk). Through WWI, Russia had become so involved in Ukraine that in 1917 Ukraine was absorbed into Russia as a province- Ukraine’s access to the Black Sea was of key interest to Russia (Yekelchyk). This was during Russia’s Bolshevik Revolution, and as politics shifted, Ukraine tried to distance itself from Russia. Soon, both countries were claiming opposite ideas about Ukrainian independence. After a short conflict, Russia ceded Ukraine a year later, and Ukraine claimed the Crimean Peninsula as its own. Crimea had previously belonged to Russia since the 18th century (Kuzio). However, the country endured political unrest until Ukraine, along with Crimea, fell back into Russia’s hands in the 1920’s (Yekelchyk).

The Union of Soviet Social Republics(U.S.S.R.) was formed in 1922, with Ukraine as one of the four founding states, yet Russia ruled over the other members of the union with unequal power. Ukrainian resentment towards Russian mistreatment began to grow.

WWII threw Europe into extreme turmoil and Ukraine was occupied by Germany. Many of Ukraine’s Jews were exterminated. After the war Russia liberated the country, once again absorbing it and bringing back into the Soviet Union for the next five decades.

A movement for independence began to develop, and in 1991 the U.S.S.R. was disbanded because of Russian political unrest (Brown). Ukraine was now autonomous, yet not without difficulties. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Crimea began to develop a movement for pro- Russian secession, yet nothing came to fruition because of Ukrainian pressure and lack of Russian support (Kuzio). Crimea, along with other eastern regions, identified more with Russia because of an intimate history, geographic proximity and a shared language(Russian). Ukraine had a rocky independence through the 1990’s and 2000’s with many economic issues. Nevertheless, Russian relations remained friendly, especially since they were still allowed access to the Black Sea through the Crimean Peninsula (Kuzio).

In 2013, the Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovych, was facing criticism for deciding not to sign a European Union trade deal. Russia pressured Ukraine to not get too close to the EU and to keep Russia as its main ally. This sparked some protests in the capital city of Kiev, as citizens were angry that the President was throwing away a beneficial deal. The violence began in February 2014 when protesters were attacked and killed by government snipers and police(Thompson). President Yanukovych fled to Russia, and within days Russian troops entered Crimea effortlessly; east Ukraine was sympathetic to the cause as the troops slowly began to establish checkpoints (Simpson). The government in Kiev started a campaign against pro-Russian fighters in eastern Ukraine, with fruitless ceasefires being established only to be broken repeatedly.

Russian President Putin denied Russia’s involvement in Ukraine for many months, attempting to remain as unassuming as possible despite clear evidence of its military in Crimea. Russia was able to skirt behind the line so that its actions could not be considered a direct invasion. This left the United Nations unable to punish Russia harshly, resulting in only sanctions as a threat. Yet these sanctions did not hinder Russia, as portrayed in Branco’s cartoon.

96.7% of Crimeans voted to join Russia in a referendum, yet the ballot didn’t even have the option of remaining in Ukraine (Tamkin). Through 2015, over 1,000 people had been killed in Ukraine, and casualties continued to rise as the stalemate proceeded through the years, trapping Eastern Ukrainian citizens in a bleak war zone to this day(Tamkin).

The Christian Science Monitor article, “Russia Advances in Ukraine, West Wonders What to do Now”, explains the dilemma of the U.N. as it decided how to act when Russia first entered Crimea. The United States had denied providing armed assistance to the Ukrainians, fearing an escalation of conflict with Russia. Russia responded to criticism by blaming Ukraine for the conflict and warning Western countries not to interfere. Although President Obama had spoken of providing arms, training and equipment to Ukraine, no action was taken to realize such a plan.

This inaction on the U.N.’s part is reminiscent of the conflict over Manchuria in the early 1930’s, when Japan invaded the region and broke a global agreement of peace. A political cartoon by the Dallas Morning News’ John Knott in 1932 depicts Russia as watchful of Japan’s hold over Manchuria. At the time, the League of Nations only imposed sanctions in response to the invasion. Russia was a key player in that dispute since it had interests in Manchuria’s sea ports, much like the access to the Black Sea in Crimea. In both situations, Russia was able to avoid resistance from other powers because of its patient tactics. In Manchuria, Russia waited for Japan to be weak enough to (re)claim power in that territory. Similarly, Russia avoided military conflict by influencing rebellion within the Ukrainian population, secretly sending in troops without a grand expression of violence that would warrant heavy punishment from the United Nations.

Russia has always been an imperial, assertive force, whereas Ukraine never has been able to find peace. The back-and-forth relationship between Ukraine and Russia has stretched over the past century with peace never lasting long. Russia had always believed it had a right to Ukraine, and its divided population has made it unclear what would be best for regions such as Crimea. Perhaps the stalemate dragging on today might convince the two countries to finally come to an agreement.

Works Cited:

Branco, A F. “Branco Cartoon – ObamaBear Penalty.” Le·Gal In·Sur·Rec·Tion, Le·Gal In·Sur·Rec·Tion, 24 Mar. 2014, legalinsurrection.com/2014/03/branco-cartoon-obamabear-penalty/.

BROWN, ARCHIE. “Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.” Encyclopedia of Russian History, edited by James R. Millar, vol. 4, Macmillan Reference USA, 2004, pp. 1608-1610. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/CX3404101426/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=aec45a99. Accessed 1 May 2018

KUZIO, TARAS. “Crimea.” Encyclopedia of Russian History, edited by James R. Millar, vol. 1, Macmillan Reference USA, 2004, pp. 339-340. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/CX3404100316/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=0a98946e. Accessed 18 Apr. 2018.

LaFranchi, Howard. “Russia Advances into Ukraine, West Wonders What to Do Now.” The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor, 28 Aug. 2014, m.csmonitor.com/USA/Foreign-Policy/2014/0828/Russia-advances-into-Ukraine-West-wonders-what-to-do-now.

Simpson, John. “Russia’s Crimea Plan Detailed, Secret and Successful.” BBC News, BBC, 19 Mar. 2014, www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-26644082.

Tamkin, Emily. “A Timeline of Vladimir Putin’s Excuses and Evasions Regarding Russia’s Actions in Ukraine.” Slate Magazine, The Slate Group, 5 Sept. 2014, www.slate.com/blogs/the_world_/2014/09/05/the_art_of_doublespeak_a_timeline_of_vladimir_putin_s_excuses_and_evasions.html

Thompson, Nick. “Ukraine: Everything You Need to Know about How We Got Here.” CNN, Cable News Network, 3 Feb. 2017, www.cnn.com/2015/02/10/europe/ukraine-war-how-we-got-here/index.html.

YEKELCHYK, SERHY. “Ukraine and Ukrainians.” Encyclopedia of Russian History, edited by James R. Millar, vol. 4, Macmillan Reference USA, 2004, pp. 1600-1605. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/apps/doc/CX3404101422/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=77b16099. Accessed 16 Apr. 2018.

The Race Gap in 21st Century American Healthcare

A man reading a newspaper headline about healthcare, explains to his wife that, he believes, racial health inequities is what led to Michael Jackson’s skin color change.
A man reading a newspaper headline about healthcare, explains to his wife that, he believes, racial health inequities is what led to Michael Jackson’s skin color change.

Racial health inequities have been an issue in the United States since at least the nineteenth century when the Jim Crow laws, which enforced racial segregation in the South, were put in place. The end of Segregation occurred in 1964. While Civil Rights did much to improve discrimination caused by segregation, there are still issues of inequality that remain, like in healthcare.

On March 20, 2002, the Institute of Medicine, now known as the National Academy of Medicine, released a report, titled “Unequal Treatment: What Healthcare Providers Need to Know About Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Healthcare” (Institute of Medicine). It provided the first comprehensive look at racial disparities in healthcare among people who have health insurance (Stolberg). Racial health disparities were a topic that had been looked at well before this study, but the report claimed that a majority of the problem was due to lack of access offered to minorities. For instance, the Institute of Medicine’s report found that blacks have higher death rates when it comes to cancer, heart disease, and H.I.V. infection (Stolberg). Additionally, blacks are twice as likely to develop diabetes than whites, which also contributes to higher death rates. These outcomes were due to the fact that the appropriate medications, surgeries, transplants, or treatments were less likely to be given to African Americans.

The persistent gap in health care due to race is the subject of Mike Luckovich’s political cartoon, published on March 25, 2002, in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In the cartoon, we see a black couple reading a newspaper with the headline, “Report: Whites Get Better Healthcare.” In response to the paper’s headline, the husband comments to his wife, “I finally understand why Michael Jackson bleached himself.”

Michael Jackson was, a very successful African-American singer, songwriter, and dancer, but he was also the subject of much controversy in the late twentieth century. One controversy involved his lightening skin tone. People began speculating about Jackson’s appearance once his skin color began to noticeably lighten. They assumed that the change was done with intentional bleaching treatments. Additionally, he had plastic surgery to change some of his facial features, such as his chin and nose. Due to the many cosmetic changes, many people speculated that Jackson was intentionally changing his appearance in order to try to look white (Harris). In a 1993 interview with Oprah Winfrey, however, Jackson said “I’m a black American. I am proud to be a black American. I am proud of my race, and I am proud of who I am. I have a lot of pride and dignity of who I am.” (Park). He explained that the reason his skin began to lighten was due to vitiligo, a disease that causes the loss of skin pigmentation.

The meaning behind Luckovich’s cartoon resonates with that of John Knott’s 1931 cartoon, “The Shadow” (Dallas Morning News 18), and its accompanying editorial, “The Black White Plague” (Dallas Morning News 18). Knott’s cartoon and the editorial were published during the middle of a big tuberculosis epidemic. Due to racial segregation of the time, whites were given priority over blacks when it came to healthcare. This neglect of equal health care, at the time, led to many black deaths. Both Luckovich’s and Knott’s cartoons illustrate how race affects people’s access to healthcare; and both cartoons depict the negative effects resulting from discrimination in healthcare.

Inequities in healthcare today still remain a problematic issue. People of color place their trust in the healthcare system, hoping to get the best care possible, are often let down. Mike Luckovich’s cartoon, highlights the sad fact that the color of one’s skin can change the way one is treated within the healthcare system, an issue that has persisted for the past three centuries.

Works Cited

Harris, John E. “Did Michael Jackson Have Vitiligo?” University of Massachusetts Medical School, 18 Jan. 2016, www.umassmed.edu/vitiligo/blog/blog-posts1/2016/01/did-michael-jackson-have-vitiligo/.

Institute of Medicine. “Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care.” Nationalacademies, 20 Mar. 2002, www.nationalacademies.org/hmd/~/media/Files/Report%20Files/2003/Unequal-Treatment-Confronting-Racial-and-Ethnic-Disparities-in-Health-Care/PatientversionFINAL.pdf.

Knott, John. “The shadow” Illustration. Dallas Morning News 25 Feb 1931: 18. News Bank. Web. 2 May 2018. < http://infoweb.newsbank.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/iw-search/we/HistArchive/?p_product=EANX&p_theme=ahnp&p_nbid=V50N4DWHMTUyNTc2MTEzOS4yNjA3MDU6MToxMjoxMjguODMuNjMuMjA&p_docref=v2:0F99DDB671832188@EANX-104D1FAAE39AFF33@2426398-104D1FAB9E250B09@17

Luckovich, Mike. Illustration. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution 25 March 2002. AJC. Web. 2 May 2018. < https://www.ajc.com/news/opinion/michael-jackson-cartoons-mike-luckovich/L7LO4mAObSWzVoaI5iSytK/#6>.

“Michael Jackson.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 18 Jan. 2018, www.biography.com/people/michael-jackson-38211.

Park, Madison. “In Life of Mysteries, Jackson’s Changed Color Baffled Public.” CNN, Cable News Network, 8 July 2009, www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/07/06/skin.color.vitiligo/.

Smith, Troy D. “Medicine and Medical Care.” Gale Library of Daily Life: Slavery in America, edited by Orville Vernon Burton, vol. 2, Gale, 2008, pp. 48-49. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/apps/doc/CX3057200169/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=b844d00c. Accessed 2 May 2018.

Stolberg, Sheryl Gay. “Race Gap Seen in Health Care Of Equally Insured Patients.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 21 Mar. 2002, www.nytimes.com/2002/03/21/us/race-gap-seen-in-health-care-of-equally-insured-patients.html.

Urofsky, Melvin I. “Jim Crow Law.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 19 July 2017, www.britannica.com/event/Jim-Crow-law.

This May Hurt a Little

Depicted as a doctor, Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson gives a “bailout” shot, or capital injection, during the “Great Recession.”
Depicted as a doctor, Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson gives a “bailout” shot, or capital injection, during the “Great Recession.”

In the wake of dramatic financial deregulation (e.g. the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, see McDonald) that occurred in the late 20th century, questionable financial practices (e.g. over-the-counter derivatives, see Beers) and outright corruption (e.g. the Credit Rating Controversy, see CFR Staff), were abundant in many companies on Wall Street. Due to loose lending/borrowing practices, many credit rating companies that were in charge of analyzing bank’s credit and checking eligibility for loans, failed to oversee many banks on Wall Street. By the Fall of 2007, prices of homes in the US were at their highest, which enabled homeowners to use their property as equity to borrow more and more money. Due to prices of homes being so high, many homeowners applied for loans for homes that actually were out of their price range—a major step on the path towards the subprime loan crisis. A subprime loan is “a type of loan offered at a rate above prime to individuals who do not qualify for prime rate loans” (Investopedia). They were given to “borrowers with impaired credit records” because such borrowers were turned away from traditional lenders (CFPB). These loans had higher interest rates compared to the normal rate for conventional loans. Giving subprime loans was “intended to compensate the lender for accepting the greater risk in lending to such borrowers” (CFPB).  As the use of subprime loans continued, an economic downturn began when bad accounting and poor management of investment banks and other institutions were revealed among many companies on Wall Street.

Known as the “Great Recession,” it was the most “severe, prolonged economic downturn” the US had experienced since the 1930’s (Rouse). Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Paulson (2006-2009), was called in to aid the failing financial system. Paulson, with the help of the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke (2006-2014), oversaw several forms of bailout, including the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). Contrary to his conservative economic philosophy, circumstances forced Paulson to implement capital injections into big banks, to bring America out of its financial crisis.

By early Spring of 2008, many homeowners had accrued so much debt that they were not able to pay their mortgages anymore. As mortgages became too high, many people were forced to foreclose their homes, which led big financial institutions to stop buying mortgages. Big institutions such as the banks, Bear Stearns, and Lehman Brothers, and the insurance company, American International Group, or AIG, were “too big to fail;” if they failed the rest of country was at major risk of an economic downfall.

Paulson dealt with many dilemmas, including “moral hazard,” “the idea that a party protected in some way from risk will act differently than if they didn’t have that protection” (Beattie). Institutions were held to the standard, that if they are bailed out, they were not going to be bailed out again. The bailed-out companies were expected to learn from their mistakes, rather than make that mistake again. Paulson was also in charge of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, which purchased “troubled companies’ assets and equity” for $700 billion” (Investopedia). However, along with many other conservatives, the Secretary of Treasury could not have been any more against TARP. He was a firm believer in the government refraining from intervention, and TARP did just that. Along with the use of TARP, the highly debated capital injections were implemented. Again, although very against it, Henry Paulson infused capital injections into banks, which was “an investment of capital into a company,” in return, the government would own stock in their company (Investopedia).

Warnings about a possible recession were given many times before by Brooksley Born, Chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (1996-1999). Born knew that Wall Street’s lack of regulation and over-the-counter derivatives were causing a threat to the American public (Beers). Over-the-counter derivatives were “private contracts that [were] traded between two parties without going through an exchange,” therefore posing a credit risk for many companies due to the absence of a clearing corporation (Beers). Alan Greenspan, the former Chairman of the Federal Reserve (1987-2006), refused to believe what Born had brought to the table. Greenspan’s unwillingness to believe Born would be our country’s biggest mistake.

Before the stock market crashed in 2008, unemployment was at its highest, peaking at “10 percent,” which was just “15 percent less than that of the Great Depression” (Horton). In the housing sector, supply and demand was uneven, meaning more houses were on the market than there were buyers. This caused commercial and investment banks to suffer large from the loss of payments from their borrowers.

Goldman Sachs’ former CEO, Henry Paulson, was Secretary of Treasury, while Ben Bernanke, expert on the Great Depression, was Chairman of the Federal Reserve during the recession. Bernanke and Paulson were called in to combat the panic on Wall Street. They both knew that something needed to be done immediately, but how were they going to do it? Bear Stearns was their first item of business. On March 10, 2008, Bear Stearns, one of the smallest investment banks on Wall Street, could not open for business due to lack of financial capital (Inside the Meltdown). Bernanke and Paulson agreed that the Federal Reserve was not going to interfere with banks by aiding them with money, but money was what Bear Stearns needed desperately. Bernanke was able to find a way to provide the funds to assist Bear Stearns. He persuaded JP Morgan and the Federal Reserve Bank to give secure funding to Bear Stearns, which almost immediately backfired. Other banks did not like that Bear Stearns was given money and they weren’t. Despite the bailout, Bear Stearns was back to normal for just seven days before shutting down permanently.

After Bear Stearns shut down, came the ethical concerns associated with moral hazard and the rapid decline of the economic system. Moral hazard entailed, if the government bailed out a corporation, what incentive would they have to not make that mistake again? The administration of Bernanke and Paulson was “accused of allowing the creation of moral hazard risk from its bailout of Bear Stearns” thus “raising expectations that other firms facing failure would also be bailed out” (Markham). Therefore, Bernanke issued a warning to Wall Street that they were not to loan money to any other banks.

Almost a week later, on March 17, 2008, Lehman Brothers, the “fourth largest investment bank in the United States,” went into bankruptcy, this signaled the coming of the largest financial crisis since the Great Depression (Horton). Paulson, exhausted and under immense political pressure, was searching for a buyer for Lehman Brothers. The problem was that no banks wanted to lend to another bank for fear they would not get paid back. Bankruptcy was a certainty and the government wasn’t going to intervene any further. After Lehman Brothers went into bankruptcy, Wall Street froze, and the pressure to solve the economic decline returned (Kessler).

In September 2008, AIG, the largest insurance company on Wall Street, was next to call for Paulson and Bernanke’s help. AIG did not have enough money in the bank to honor the commitments they had made with their clients (Manning). Their crisis was so severe that members of Congress were brought in to help Bernanke and Paulson. They came to the decision to save AIG by bailing them out from the US government with over $183 billion (Manning). After the efforts given to save Wall Street’s largest corporations, many believed the government was reacting but not acting (Manning). With the criticism of the government’s lack of intervention, Bernanke then called in Paulson to explain that it was time for them to do something more direct; something that would hit all investment banks.

Bernanke and Paulson went to a congressional leadership meeting held at Capitol Hill to deliver the news. Paulson told Congress that, “Unless you act, the financial system of this country and the world will melt down in a matter of days” (Inside the Meltdown). Paulson brought the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, to Congress that stated he needed $700 billion from taxpayer dollars “to be used to buy the kinds of toxic mortgage securities that were creating so many problems for the banks” (Inside the Meltdown). Moreover, those funds were needed in a matter of days. Capitol Hill was furious, “It was an unprecedented, unaffordable and unacceptable expansion of federal power” (Inside the Meltdown). Thus, when the House voted on the bill, it failed, leading to an immediate and dramatic drop in stock prices.

After the act failed, the idea of capital injections came into play. Capital injections entailed inserting “billions of dollars into ailing banks in order to boost confidence and unfreeze credit” (Inside the Meltdown). There were insiders in Congress who liked the idea and believed it was what they needed to save the banks. Authorization of capital injections was added into the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, but Paulson could not have been any more against it. The bill passed, and Paulson reluctantly had to “step in directly with government capital” (Inside the Meltdown).

Due to the act passing, Bernanke and Paulson had to sit down with executives from the top banks on Wall Street at the time, such as Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and Goldman Sachs. Paulson told them he would be giving each bank tens of billions of dollars in return for the government being a major stockholder in their companies; “Paulson would spend $125 billion that day” (Inside the Meltdown). For Paulson and Bernanke, government intervention was not morally right, but it was their only option. Along with enforcing capital injections, the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) was created to make up for lost capital in banks.

Against Paulson’s beliefs, he was assigned as head of TARP, which “stabilize[d] the country’s financial system, restore[d] economic growth, and mitigate[d] foreclosures” (Investopedia). It allowed the government to buy stake in banks, in return, companies would lose certain tax benefits, and have limits placed on executive compensation, in order to protect funds being spent. By 2010, Paulson would spend $350 billion to save the financial system.

During the time of the Great Recession, many cartoons were printed in newspapers regarding the 21st century’s worst economic crisis. For example, in Gary Varvel’s cartoon above, Paulson is depicted as a doctor giving a shot with the term “bailout” written on it. Varvel incorporated a humorous play on the word injection, by creating a parallel image between government intervention and a shot.  Paulson is shown saying “this may hurt a little,” meaning not only the pain of a needle but portraying a poke at the government’s administrations ego and outlook. There is a play on words with capital injection, by the word “injection” being represented as a needle to symbolize companies getting a shot of capital “bailout,” as an immediate cure to the failing financial system.

The cartoon by Gary Varvel resonates with the 1930s’ era cartoon titled, “What This Congress Needs,” published in the Dallas Morning News (Knott). These cartoons depicted the main influencers during the time of the major financial crises: President Herbert Hoover and Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Paulson. Knott’s cartoon and the accompanying editorial, “Mr. Hoover Reproves,” discussed saving America’s economy and the efforts needed in order to end the financial crisis (Dallas Morning News). Varvel’s cartoon about capital injections related to Knott’s cartoon, “What This Congress Needs,” by showing how each era was in desperate need of funds and the efforts gone to preserve these funds. Both men depicted in the cartoons were harshly criticized by their peers and the people of America for their efforts in aiding their country.

The “Great Recession” was unlike anything America had seen since the Great Depression of the 1930’s. When banks started to have lack of regulation and poor accounting, it caused the beginning of the financial crisis on Wall Street. Sadly, had the advice of Brooksley Born been applied earlier on, the disaster could have been avoided. Rather than being prevented, however, the Great Recession had begun when an influx of homeowners received such large loans that they were unable to pay the banks back. Henry Paulson and Ben Bernanke did everything in their power to bring America’s finances back to normal, by loaning funds, establishing bills, and injecting capital into companies. As shown in Knott and Varvel’s cartoon’s, the efforts given in order to fix the failing financial system were actions Hoover and Paulson thought were necessary for the United States. Hoover and Paulson had many different successes and failures during their terms in the US government. Their efforts have given modern-day government an outlook on how to avoid and handle another disastrous stock market crash.

 

Works Cited:

Beattie, Andrew. “What Is Moral Hazard?” Investopedia, Investopedia, 3 Jan. 2018, www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/09/moral-hazard.asp.

Beers, Brian. “What Is an Over-the-Counter Derivative?” Investopedia, Investopedia, 2 Apr. 2018, www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/052815/what-overthecounter-derivative.asp.

CFR Staff. “The Credit Rating Controversy.” Council on Foreign Relations, Council on Foreign Relations, www.cfr.org/backgrounder/credit-rating-controversy.

Horton, Ron. “The Great Recession.” St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture, edited by Thomas Riggs, 2nd ed., vol. 2, St. James Press, 2013, pp. 541-543. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/apps/doc/CX2735801140/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=87cd5064. Accessed 12 Apr. 2018.

“Inside the Meltdown.” Frontline, produced by Michael Kirk, Jim Gilmore, and Mike Wiser, PBS, 2009.

Investopedia. “Subprime Loan.” Investopedia, Investopedia, 22 Feb. 2018, www.investopedia.com/terms/s/subprimeloan.asp.

Kessler, Andy. “What Paulson is Trying to Do.” The Wall Street Journal. 2008. Factiva. https://global-factiva-com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/ha/default.aspx#./!?&_suid=152528787598900347533194525429.

Manning, Robert D., and Anita C. Butera. “Consumer Credit and Household Debt.” Encyclopedia of Contemporary American Social Issues, edited by Michael Shally-Jensen, vol. 1: Business and Economy, ABC-CLIO, 2011, pp. 33-45. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/apps/doc/CX1762600011/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=635eef03. Accessed 16 Apr. 2018.

Markham, Jerry W. “The Crisis Begins.” A Financial History of the United States, vol. 6: From the Subprime Crisis to the Great Recession (2006-2009), M.E. Sharpe, 2002, pp. 473-523. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/apps/doc/CX1723800208/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=5e26353e. Accessed 15 Apr. 2018.

McDonald, Oonagh. “The Repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act: Myth and Reality.” Cato Institute, 16 Nov. 2016, www.cato.org/publications/policy-analysis/repeal-glass-steagall-act-myth-reality.

“Moral Hazard.” International Encyclopedia of Organizational Studies, edited by Stewart R. Clegg and James R. Bailey, vol. 3, SAGE Publications, 2008, pp. 917-919. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/apps/doc/CX2661400320/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=7d7982a8. Accessed 15 Apr. 2018.

Rouse, Margaret. “What Is Great Recession (Great Recession)? – Definition from WhatIs.com.” SearchCIO, Mar. 2012, searchcio.techtarget.com/definition/The-Great-Recession.

“The Warning.” Frontline, produced by Michael Kirk, Jim Gilmore, and Mike Wiser, PBS, 2009.

“What Is a Subprime Mortgage?” Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), 24 Feb. 2017, www.consumerfinance.gov/ask-cfpb/what-is-a-subprime-mortgage-en-110/.

Varvel, Gary. “This May Hurt a Little.” 28 September 2008. Found, Cartoonist Group, 20 April 2017,  http://www.cartoonistgroup.com/store/add.php?iid=26948