Walmart Scalia Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Works Cited:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hatching Another One for the Ax?

FDR shields a New NRA egg, as the Supreme Court awaits for its inevitable denial.
FDR shields a New NRA plan in the form of an egg, as an old man representing the Supreme Court awaits with a ready ax for its inevitable demise.

“Hatching Another One for the Ax?” is a political cartoon published on March 4th, 1937 by John Knott, that exemplifies the unconstitutionality conflict between the contents of the National Recovery Administration(NRA) and the Supreme Court.  FDR hoped that the new NRA would revitalize the business industry, which was badly damaged by the severity of the Great Depression.  The Great Depression was historically considered one of the greatest economic disasters the United States has ever sustained, so understandably, its ripple effects are still in effect. Its magnitude was so noticeable, that it made sense for legislation to be introduced as quickly as possible.  It was desirable for legislation to be introduced because the U.S had never encountered such widespread economic disaster in its history.  As part of then president FDR’s first 99 days, he implemented the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) on June 16, 1933 (history.com).  He also established the National Recovery Administration (NRA) to enforce it. Unemployment rate was one contributing factor to the NRA’s creation, but others included minimum wages, shorter hours, the ability to join labor unions, better working conditions and greater regulation for competition between businesses.  The unemployment rate was up to nearly 25% by the time the NIRA was introduced, and by 1933 the economy had produced half as much money as it did only 4 years back ($57 million to $105 million)(history.com).

 Within John Knott’s political cartoon, Knott portrayed FDR, the Supreme Court(represented as an old man), and a chicken with a “New NRA” egg under it.  FDR appears to be attempting to hide the egg from the Supreme Court in the background, but based on the title of the cartoon, it appears inevitable that Supreme Court will terminate the New NRA as soon as they see it.  As expressed in the editorial, Haste Made Waste, the NRA attempted to basically do too much to o fast because of the urgency of the situation, but FDR would still not be given a pass when attempting to produce a new NRA.

The editorial touched on one of the main issues with the introduction of the NRA, which was the debate in the readiness of all the industries for its policies.  Roosevelt wanted to do what the steel industry had already done, with regulation over wage and hours.  The value of the NRA came into place with its regulation over a more widespread level of industries, thus impacting the economy in a more immediate and in depth fashion.  But again, the editorial discussed how difficult it was to put something like that in place, given the failure of the first NRA.  That previous failure, combined with the need for economic reinvigoration were the two butting heads in FDR attempting to pass a second NRA(along with the desire for it to be constitutional this time around).

When it first came into existence, the NRA was based on industrial codes that could change the formatting of how business was done.  One overarching example of this was the attempt to completely eliminate any chance of monopolies, or one company dominating an entire industry.  The NRA preached fair trade and fair competition between business, and went to the lengths of code implementation to reach their goal.  What perhaps was underestimated by FDR before he went ahead and installed this code system all across varying industries, was the fact that the regulation aspect of the NRA became exceedingly difficult to accomplish(Buchholz).  Bigger name industrialists didn’t like the regulations of the codes that forced minimum wages and shortened hours, so the leadership of the NRA was tested.  Companies began to alter codes in their favor, and essentially continued the path of unfair competition that the NRA had hoped to stop in the first place.  General Hugh Johnson was the man set in charge of overseeing the NRA, but his lack of awareness clearly forced the NRA downhill.  This sequence of events led to the legality conflict that is alluded to in the cartoon (Knott), with the Supreme Court being the only real opposing force in FDR getting away with the “New NRA.”

A couple of points were made by the Supreme Court to invalidate the NRA, but one of the major points revolved around the new law making power of FDR.  When the NIRA and NRA began, the codes that FDR basically forced on businesses came across as a power that should only be distributed to members of Congress(Buchholz).  That alone, violated a major cornerstone of the U.S. government, in the individual branches knowing their responsibilities and not crossing boundaries.  The other point of emphasis by the Supreme Court was Congress’ freedom that they gave to FDR in order to put his codes in place. FDR was essentially given lawmaking powers, which should only ever be in the hands of the legislative branch . Also, Congress had become too involved in interstate commerce, when in reality the states know best on how to regulate their pricing, wages and hours (brittanica.com).

The NRA was eliminated May 27th, 1935, but parts of its legislation continued in the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) of 1935 and Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which stood for the better parts of what the NRA represented, in labor unions, fair pricing, wages and hours.  Prior to any regulation, businesses weren’t forced in any way to have an hour limit for their workers, or a set wage.  Also, without any labor unions, workers couldn’t establish any control over any of those wage and hour issues they dealt with.  Even with these acts created to rectify an economy in bad condition, the long-term effect of something like the Fair Labor Standards Act can be for the worse in modern times(sites.gsu.edu).  The reason for this, is because the FLSA was, in short, an act put into place to install a minimum wage and bring more equality to workers through actions such as overtime compensation standards (brittanica.com). Minimum wage is seen as a beneficiary in allowing a certain amount of income to be received by those who are working jobs.  However, the ability for the minimum wage to be included in society, paved way for issues to arise in labor unions, like the common desire to raise minimum wages.  For example, smaller businesses of today will be forced to close down if the minimum wage is raised from a number like maybe $10 to $15.  That amount could be too much money for those individual small businesses to pay their employees, thus initiating a vicious cycle of firing workers and not being able to produce to a high enough level will ensue, hurting the economy.  This adjustment is one of the problems associated with how the NRA has left its legacy, but a balance in how workers are treated and how businesses can simultaneously be sustained is still a major goal for future economic growth.

Works Cited:

History.com Staff. “The Great Depression.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 2009, www.history.com/topics/great-depression.

Buchholz, Rogene A. “National Industrial Recovery Act.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 7 Feb. 2014, www.britannica.com/topic/National-Industrial-Recovery-Act.

The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. “National Recovery Administration (NRA).”Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 14 Feb. 2017, www.britannica.com/topic/National-Recovery-Administration.

“National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA).” Powered by Sites@Gsu – Blogs for Georgia State University, sites.gsu.edu/us-constipedia/national-industry-recovery-act-nira/.

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

 

S-T-O-P texting and driving

A distraught driving instruction tells a teenager to “S-T-O-P” texting during his driver’s education test.
A distraught driving instructor tells a teenager to “S-T-O-P!” texting during his driver’s education test.

In the contemporary cartoon by Gary Varvel, which the author has chosen to pair with the editorial “Graduated license for teens, safer roads for everyone,” Varvel illustrates the trend of teenagers texting while driving. In the cartoon, the two characters are sitting in a car with a sign reading “Driver’s Ed” on top. The character behind the wheel, looking to be of adolescent age, is on his phone texting. The other character, presumably the driving instructor due to the clipboard he is holding, yells “S-T-O-P!” with a panicked expression on his face.

The similarities between Varvel’s cartoon and Knott’s cartoon are evident immediately, even on a visual level. Both depict two characters, one an instructional figure and the other a younger pupil and both deal with the issue of safe driving. While there is a difference of 72 years between the cartoons, the context they were drawn in is not dissimilar. When the Knott cartoon was drawn, the lack of education about driving was causing the amount of automobile accidents to reach an alarmingly high number. When the Varvel cartoon was drawn, the lack of education surrounding distracted for teenagers led to teen drivers being four times more likely to get into an accident than older drivers (Sutton).

In 2009, when this cartoon was drawn, bans on texting while driving were beginning to be passed in earnest, and by 2010, 30 states had outlawed texting and driving (Gale). The law the cartoon was drawn particularly to depict was the Indiana law that extended the time frame and increased the effort new drivers would have to go to to get their license. (News-Sentinel). The cartoon exaggerates the amount of texting and driving done by teen drivers, but does so to emphasize the severity of the issue.

One way Varvel shows the severity is by the way the texter is drawn. He is using both hands to text with only one of his fingers remaining on the wheel. His tongue is stuck out in concentration and his eyes are completely closed. The closed eyes shows the lack of attention being payed to the road or to the rest of his surroundings. This is an exaggeration, but the truth is not far off: looking down for 5 seconds going 55 miles per hour can cause a driver pass by the distance of a football field while completely distracted (Binnall).

Varvel employs clever visual tactics in his cartoon, the main one being the “S-T-O-P!” being said by the driving instructor. The way that it is drawn with the dashes separating the letters indicates that the instructor is speaking in the way that letters are typed while texting. This shows that the instructor has to go to extreme measures to get his point across to the teenager, literally spelling it out for him, as one idiom goes. This also serves as social criticism about the overuse of technology by those in modern society. The idea that the only way to get through to someone is by texting them (or, in this case, speaking a text out loud) is one that shows the pervasiveness of technology into our communication and everyday lives.

Another similarity this cartoon has with the Knott cartoon is that the legislation the cartoons illustrated both faced opposition from certain groups, and for similar reasons. The author discussed in the previous blog post how the Knott cartoon itself could be a criticism of driver’s education being put into place, mainly due to the young age of the student. The Indiana legislation extending the process for teen drivers to acquire a license and similar legislation also faced oppositions by groups claiming it was unfairly targeting young people. The opposing groups said that this was particularly unfair due to the fact that the drivers under age 18 could not vote to represent their own interests politically (Binnall).

In the years since this cartoon was drawn, harsher bans and more severe punishments have been enacted against texting while driving due to the danger it puts drivers in. In Texas particularly, a statewide texting and driving bill was recently passed in June of 2017 and went into affect in September which increased the fine for texting and driving and classified it as a misdemeanor (Draper). The fact that the bill went through the approval process and was shot down three times before goes to show that opposition to texting and driving bans are still prevalent. Before the bill was passed, the policy on texting and driving was left for towns to decide separately, which was criticized because drivers passing through would have to keep up with the specific laws and policies of every town.

The reluctance of citizens and lawmakers to implement harsher laws for texting and driving reflects the reluctance surrounding the implementation of drivers education itself. In both cases, said reluctance seems odd; the laws would unquestionably cause less accidents and make the roads safer. This could be because it is not the laws itself people have problems with, but the prospect of changing the way they were used to doing things. The act of changing the accepted way things are in regards to driving is the underlying reason that the Knott and Varvel cartoons are so similar.

Works Cited

“EDITORIAL: Graduated License for Teens, Safer Roads for Everyone: And the New Law Isn’t Being Sprung on Them; There’s Time to Prepare.” News-Sentinel, the (Fort Wayne, IN), 12 May 2009. EBSCOhost, ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nfh&AN=2W63887152383&site=ehost-live.

“Facts About Teen Drivers.” Adolescent Health Sourcebook, edited by Amy L. Sutton, 3rd ed., Omnigraphics, 2011, pp. 472-473. Health Reference Series. Gale Virtual Reference Librarygo.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CCX1727600144&it=r&asid=4c0f02e7bb4fcd6aad1d2a57405a4927.

“Automobiles.” American Law Yearbook 2012A Guide to the Year’s Major Legal Cases and Developments, Gale, 2013, pp. 12-13. Gale Virtual Reference Librarygo.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CCX2018000011&it=r&asid=37d0d0cd7f3b89537cf3a5b37bedd34d. Accessed 16 Nov. 2017.

Binnall, James M. “Texting-While-Driving Laws.” Encyclopedia of Criminal Justice Ethics, edited by Bruce A. Arrigo, vol. 2, SAGE Reference, 2014, pp. 929-931. Gale Virtual Reference Librarygo.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CCX6500200350&it=r&asid=98d8a33652868ce987183d132256ee6a. Accessed 16 Nov. 2017.

Draper, James. “State Weighs Texting/Driving Ban — Again.” Kilgore News Herald (TX), 31 Mar. 2017. EBSCOhost, ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nfh&AN=2W63323978933&site=ehost-live.

Rules to the road

A school authority teaches a child safe driving practices from a book labeled “The Safe Way.”
A school authority teaches a child safe driving practices from a book labeled “The Safe Way.”

In the John Knott political cartoon, “Train Up a Child in the Way He Should Go,” which accompanies the editorial “Traffic Schooling” in the Dallas Morning News, the implementation of driver’s education in schools is depicted. There are two prominent figures in the cartoon: one is a woman labelled “School authorities” sitting in a chair and holding a book titled “The Safe Way” while pointing. The other figure is a small boy around elementary school age that the woman is talking to. In the background are two informative posters, one reading “Traffic Rules” with a block of implied text and the other visually showing instructions on how to turn. Knott uses his cartoon to take a critical stance on the implementation of driver’s education, portraying it as excessive or overzealous.

This cartoon depicts the implementation of driver’s education in schools. When automobiles first rose to popularity from 1900 to the 1930s, there was very little regulation due to the novelty of the technology. At first, there were no “stop signs, warning signs, traffic lights, traffic cops, driver’s education, lane lines, street lighting, brake lights, driver’s licenses or posted speed limits” (Bill Loomis), and due to that there were innumerable car accidents. By 1923 alone, there were 100,000 traffic-related deaths and car accidents were the fifth leading cause of death in 1926 (Clay McShane). Over time, safety precautions were added, but up until the 1930s, the death toll was still too high due to the lack of education about driving.

The general public began to pressure lawmakers and school officials into implementing a driving education program for students approaching driving age. Herbert J. Stack, director of the New York University Safety Center, spoke about the need to add driver’s education to the New York State Congress of Parents and Teachers. (School Aid Urged). School officials eventually succumbed to the public pressure, and by the time the Knott cartoon and its accompanying editorial were posted in 1937, there were already 3,000 schools across the nation that had some sort of driver’s education program.

The accompanying editorial itself covers the importance of formal education when teaching adolescents how to drive and proposes ways to incorporate driving classes into high school curriculums, particularly in Texas. The author restates and supports a recommendation by the State Board of Education to provide all students with a textbook outlining the rules of the road and safe driving practices. At the time, driving in Texas was very accessible; the Texas Department of Public safety began to issue free licenses in 1935 (Automobile), so cost was not an issue for anyone seeking to obtain a license. Due to this easy access, it is understandable that citizens would also want new drivers to have easy access to education.

The main indicator of Knott’s critical stance in the cartoon is the age of the child being taught. The boy is obviously not of driving age, not even the range of 14 and 15 where children started driving in rural communities. The reaction intended is to think that it is unnecessary to start teaching children about driving so early. The driver’s education programs did not actually start teaching that early, so the portrayal is a criticism of the programs being excessive. Another indicator of Knott’s criticism is the word choice of the title. “Train” often has a negative connotation as opposed to teach. “Child” is used instead of a more accurate descriptor such as teen or adolescent, which further emphasizes the point about the young age of the child depicted. While Knott’s criticisms may seem unfounded now, it is important to take into consideration what the people of that time period were accustomed to as far as driving regulations went. To suddenly have an onslaught of new rules added where there were none before would be jarring.

The teacher figure in the cartoon is used to represent school authorities, as the label on her jacket tells us. It is notable that Knott felt it necessary to make the distinction between school authority and regular teacher. This was done because it was the school authorities in particular who were pressured to add driver’s education courses by various advocacy groups and societal clubs (Mark Tebeau). The woman appears stern and serious, sitting in a chair while the student is standing and pointing a finger. Her instruction of the boy looks similar to scolding, which is perhaps Knott’s way of scolding those who made driver’s education courses necessary by practicing unsafe driving. The book she is holding is entitled “the Safe Way,” which further emphasises the way that people had been driving up until that point, implied to be the ‘unsafe way’.

The place in the comic where the most similarity can be found with modern driver’s education are the posters in the background. The “Traffic Rules” poster is shown to have a large block of text accompanying it. To the modern viewer, the norm when learning to drive is learning the various traffic that accompany driving. When driver’s education was first being introduced however, the jump from not having to learn any sort of traffic rule to having to learn a huge block of them would have seemed excessive. The things that were taught in driver’s education when it was first introduced were “recognize the pedestrian’s right of way when walking at a cross-walk or at a green light: and all other traffic rules,” (Howard F. Wentworth) which seems a very obvious and second nature to the modern driver. The use of the word ‘rules’ instead of the modern ‘laws’ shows how much more regulated and enforced modern driving has become.

The diagram next to the “Traffic Rules” poster shows a seemingly simple instruction on how to properly turn. The simplicity suggests that the drivers of that time were so incompetent that they didn’t know how to turn onto another street correctly and needed detailed instructions to accomplish this. It is likely that this is a subtle criticism by Knott about the incompetence of the drivers of the time.

The unsafe driving practices of the early 20th century culminated with societal pressures to the addition of driver’s education courses in schools. The buildup and public outraged shown is similar to the phenomenon of texting and driving in modern times. The amount of accidents and public pressure has built up to where states are now passing legislature with very strict stances on texting and driving.

 

Works Cited:

McShane, Clay. “1899 Automobile Fatalities.” Disasters, Accidents, and Crises in American History: A Reference Guide to the Nation’s Most Catastrophic Events, by Ballard C. Campbell, Facts on File, 2008, pp. 180-182. Facts on File Library of American History. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CCX4085100098&asid=16e2c60dac4d7f6141d76c9dfcc03ec5. Accessed 19 Oct. 2017.

Tebeau, Mark. “Accidents.” Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood: In History and Society, edited by Paula S. Fass, vol. 1, Macmillan Reference USA, 2004, pp. 12-14. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CCX3402800018&asid=e56694d5a48fa15aa193ecd1e2e3d77e. Accessed 19 Oct. 2017.

Loomis, Bill. “1900-1930: The years of driving dangerously.” Detroit News, 26 Apr. 2015, www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/michigan-history/2015/04/26/auto-traffic-history-detroit/26312107/.

By E T STRONG, General Sales Manager, Buick Motor,Company. “Efficient Driving Developed as Art Requiring Expertness.” The Washington Post (1923-1954), May 27, 1923, pp. 68, ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Washington Post, http://ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/149348020?accountid=7118.

“SCHOOL AID URGED IN TRAFFIC SAFETY.” New York Times (1923-Current file), Oct 04, 1939, pp. 34, ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times, http://ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/103073062?accountid=7118.

By Howard F Wentworth (Winner of first prize in the Nation-wide CIT Safety Contest with his 1936 series appearing in,The Post. “Traffic Experts Begin Classes in Motor Safety at G.W.U.” The Washington Post (1923-1954), Mar 10, 1937, pp. 1, ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Washington Post, http://ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/150958398?accountid=7118.

“Fast Facts: The 113-Year History of the Driver’s License.” Automobile, Feb. 20, 2012 http://www.automobilemag.com/news/fast-facts-the-113-year-history-of-the-drivers-license-110875/

There’s an Idea

A steel worker and the steel corporations contemplate an agreement over the Chrysler sit-down strike in 1937.
A steel worker and the steel corporations contemplate an agreement over the Chrysler sit-down strike in 1937.

Published on March 19, 1937 in The Dallas Morning News newspaper, the cartoon titled “There’s an idea” by John Knott illustrates the measures that the industrial unions took during the 1930s to attain better working conditions, higher wages and improved job security through the depiction of the Chrysler sit-down strike of 1937. In his cartoon, one man, labeled ‘STEEL WORKER,’ is sitting on top of a factory which is specified as ‘CHRYSLER CORP.’ With his hands clutching the two edges of the roof, the worker uses the building as a bench. Alongside the worker stands a man representing ‘STEEL CORP.’ as he holds a document which states ‘Injunction’ as well as having on a fancy suit and top hat. Both the men look off in the distance at themselves signing a contract for an ‘AGREEMENT TO AVOID STRIKES FOR ONE YEAR.’ The signing takes place atop a different structured factory while the men use the building as a table.

Sit-down strikes throughout 1936 and 1937, towards the end of the great depression, were important components in the social movements at this time that gave the Committee of Industrial Organization (CIO) power to unionize many workers in this era’s industries. In late December of 1936, a sit-down strike was held in Flint, Michigan against General Motors (GM). The strike was unplanned and pretty spontaneous. This 44 day strike eventually proved to be an extremely influential event during this time period. Initially, shop radicals, communists, and socialists had led the way but soon were replaced, as commanders, by the United Automobile Workers (UAW) and the CIO. Even though the proportion of who participated in the strike was outnumbered by the rest of the occupants in the factory, the whole ceased production. The ultimate goal of the protest was to urge and require management to obey and enforce labor law. A resolution was achieved on February 11, 1937, between General Motors and UAW. The Company recognized that the union is the consolidated voice of its workers and agreed to work with the UAW on a multi-plant basis. As a result, thousands of unsure auto workers beforehand, now joined the UAW. The chain reaction began with “47 sit-down strikes in March, 170 in April, and 52 in May.” (“Sit-Down Strikes” 2003) While many outside perspectives acknowledged that the act of sit-down striking legally violated corporate property rights, the worker viewed the act as an ethical response to the management’s misstep of not abiding by the law.

After the sit-down strike in Flint, Michigan, around 60,000 workers sat down in all 6 Chrysler plants in Detroit and completely halted production on March 8, 1937. The workers demanded higher wages, better working conditions, and stronger job security. The author of the editorial, titled In the Chrysler Plant, and John Knott were definitely in agreement that the labor workers in the Chrysler plant organized there protest in the wrong way. The author of the editorial wrote, “The sit-down strike is not collective bargaining. It is organized hijacking.” It is evident that the author had strong feelings on the subject. Indisputably, he felt that the workers were in the wrong and should not have handled their dilemma the way they did, as they broke the law during their course of action. On the other hand, Knott titled his cartoon ‘There’s an Idea,’ as if to indicate the solution to the protest is obvious. Knott seems to feel that the decision the workers made, to do a sit-down strike, was ridiculous, that they should have just proposed there demands formally. When the strikes started, supervisors were given the boot, entrances and exits were blocked off and secured by workers, and security guards were replaced by union men. Because, in the plants the workers had established many communities and committees. Similar to the strike in Flint, the workers had committees such as publicity, security, and entertainment. Each committee had a job to perform respectively. For example, the entertainment were to keep the workers entertained.

As a result of this strike being in the midst of plenty of strikes during this period, the protesters had precedented expectations. The workers continued their sit-down strike for 17 days in the Chrysler plants. On March 24, the workers made an agreement to evacuate the plants in return for nothing other than continued negotiations. A week later they signed a contract that did not agree to a single one of the workers’ wants and gave Chrysler a no-strike pledge. However, the contract also recognized the UAW and showed the strength of the workers, potentially when they are united. The workers considered this a major victory. They may not have been able to get everything they wanted at once, but they continued to show their dedication. All the way through World War II, pushing past the next three decades they continued to make gains in their progression as a community because the workers were ready to strike at any time.

Even though the workers had, what they thought of as, success, they also had some missed opportunities to strengthen their act of protesting. For example, with all the committees the workers had set up, they failed to assign a committee responsible for monitoring the officials of the strike who could replace the officials that went against their demands. Instead they had overwhelming power over the protest: what they said went. Although the ones appointed to be officials were mostly well-respected workers and held high status’ with the workers, if any corruption was to go on, they should have had a group of people in charge of impeachment. Another missed opportunity they may have prolonged the protest and could have possibly prolonged the protest for more better benefits in the contract, was assigning a committee responsible for conducting hands-on activities and not just entertainment performances that were only visual.

Over the next many decades the UAW continued to grow and gain respect. People and the government began to take the UAW serious after these events. Around the 1970s was when Japanese and German auto companies opened plants in the US. The workers that worked at those plants were not part of unions. Soon, around the late 1970s, is when the peak membership of the UAW occurred and began declining at the point. By 2010, almost ⅔ of its members were retired and covered under pension and medical care plans.

Work Cited:

“Little Steel Strike of 1937.” Little Steel Strike of 1937 – Ohio History Central, www.ohiohistorycentral.org/w/Little_Steel_Strike_of_1937.

“Minewar.org » Archive » Sit-Down In Wilsonville.” Minewar.org RSS, www.minewar.org/?p=643.

“Sit-Down Strikes.” Edited by The Gale Group Inc., Dictionary of American History, Encyclopedia.com, 2003, www.encyclopedia.com/history/united-states-and-canada/us-history/sit-down-strikes.

“The Chrysler Sit-down of 1937: The Workers Organize.” The Chrysler Sit-down of 1937: The Workers Organize – The Spark #796, The Spark, 16 Apr. 2007, www.the-spark.net/np796401.html.

2008 Bailout of Wall Street

Uncle Sam struggles to bear the burden of Wall Street while distraught President George W. Bush assures Wall Street, not Uncle Sam, that everything will be okay.
Uncle Sam struggles to bear the burden of Wall Street while distraught President George W. Bush assures Wall Street, not Uncle Sam, that everything will be okay.

In the early fall of 2008, America’s financial system nearly collapsed. Some of Wall Street’s biggest corporations had engaged in what President George W. Bush called “irresponsible actions” that caused widespread panic. Eventually, the situation became precarious enough to warrant action by the federal government in the American free-enterprise system. The federal government’s plan was to use $700 billion dollars of taxpayer money to resolve the crisis and bailout Wall Street. President George W. Bush addressed the nation on September 24, 2008 to propose the bailout through a joint congressional bill. The federal government promised that the bailout, while costly to American taxpayers, was essential to the maintenance of the financial system, and that the “irresponsible actions” of Wall Street executives would not be ignored (C-SPAN 2). Many American taxpayers begrudgingly agreed in 2008 that the federal government’s plan to bailout Wall Street was necessary; however, the burden of funding the bailout and empty promises made by the federal government eventually led to a high degree of taxpayer dissatisfaction.

In Daryl Cagle’s humorous depiction of the 2008 bailout, Uncle Sam struggles under the weight of Wall Street. Uncle Sam, a symbol of American taxpayers, is depicted as small and skinny. He holds the entire weight of a fat pig, representative of Wall Street coporations, on his back. The Wall Street pig is dressed in a formal business suit and is accessorized with features of stereotypical Wall Street wealth, such as a large bag of money, a ring, and a cigar. President Bush, representing not only himself but the federal government at large, worriedly screams “Don’t worry! You’re going to be okay!” (Cagle) This is humorous because the President Bush character is much more worried about the rich pig than the burden the pig places on Uncle Sam. This cartoon reflects the American taxpayer sentiment of dissatisfaction about the actions by the federal government and the consequences of the bailout.

The financial crisis of 2008 spurned the need for government action and the bailout. President Bush summarized how the crisis came about in his speech to the American people in the midst of the chaos in 2008. President Bush explained the crisis started when Wall Street lenders, including banks and insurance companies, began giving credit to individuals who could in no way afford the mortgages on the homes they purchased. The good housing market led to a boom in housing construction resulting in a surplus of new homes. This surplus caused the housing market to fall, and many homeowners were stuck with mortgages they could not pay and homes they could not sell. As a result, the institutions that had lent the homeowners the money began to fail. In addition, many of these institutions had invested in mortgage-back securities which are risky investments. According to President Bush, these securities allowed the investors of Wall Street to borrow “huge sums of money, fuel the market for questionable investments, and put our financial system at risk”. He then told Americans that action by the federal government was now vital and explained his administration’s proposal that Congress pass a bill for a bailout funded with $700 billion dollars in taxpayer money (C-SPAN 2). Congress passed H.R. 1424, called the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, in early October 2008 (United States).

President Bush placed the blame of the crisis on Wall Street, which satisfied Americans. The unsatisfactory part of the bailout for taxpayers was that they were expected to cover the expenses of Wall Street’s mistake. While many middle class taxpayers opposed having to pay $700 billion dollars to protect what they saw as money-hungry businessmen, President Bush’s many promises made the bailout more easy for taxpayers to understand. For example, in his speech, he promised that there would be consequences for the Wall Street executives responsible for the crisis and that all taxpayer money would be paid back (C-SPAN 2). Regardless, many taxpayers felt that an unfair burden was being placed upon them as reflected in Cagle’s struggling Uncle Sam character. The Los Angeles Times released a poll in late September 2008 that  showed fifty-five percent of Americans opposed the use of taxpayer dollars to fund the bailout (Bensinger). Other Americans showed their dissatisfaction through protest. On September 25, 2008 protestors gathered outside of Wall Street to demonstrate their opposal to the federal government’s plan. AFLCIO president John Sweeney told reporters, “We want our tax dollars used to provide a hand up for the millions of working people who live on Main Street and not a handout to a privileged band of overpaid executives” (Weissner). This statement by Sweeney reflects the sentiment of Cagle’s cartoon. Taxpayers felt that not only were they burdened with the costs of funding the bailout, but also that the federal government was essentially giving the hard earned money of average Americans to the already very wealthy executives of Wall Street.

Lack of follow through on promises by the federal government caused even more dissatisfaction with the bailout. As earlier presented, President Bush promised that the bailout was not a handout to Wall Street but rather a way to save America’s financial system (C-SPAN 2). This perhaps made it easier for some Americans to agree to support the bailout. However, this sentiment changed greatly in the aftermath of the bailout. President Bush relayed to Americans in his 2008 speech that top executives on Wall Street knowingly made risky investments, were responsible for the crisis, and would face consequences for those actions. However, this proved to be an empty promise. The New York Times released an article in 2011 addressing this very issue: “no senior executives have been charged or imprisoned, and a collective government effort has not emerged” (Story). Three years after the bailout, no executives had been criminally prosecuted. In fact, many of the institutions that had received money from the bailout actually gave their top executives large bonuses in 2008. Representatives from these institutions told ABC News that the bonuses were given to executives to entice them to stay on as executives at the institutions (Bernard). This apparent free pass given to Wall Street, in addition to taxpayer money, caused even more dissatisfaction from Americans on the bailout. A joint poll released by CBS and the New York Times five years after the bailout in 2013 showed that over sixty percent of Americans did not support the bailout and over eighty percent felt that Wall Street had not faced harsh enough consequences for its risky actions and investments (Kopicki). This sentiment is reflective of Cagle’s cartoon. Americans truly felt that Wall Street was a greedy and already wealthy group that not only was saved by the federal government at the expense of regular taxpayers, but also faced practically no repercussions for its actions.

As similarly depicted in John Knott’s 1937 cartoon, “How About Sharing The Load”, American taxpayers are depicted struggling to carry what they perceive to be an unfair burden imposed on them by the federal government. In Knott’s cartoon, a figure labeled “taxpayer” struggles to carry a large bundle labeled “expenses of government”. Another man labeled “public jobholder” looks on while smirking because he has a piece of paper in his pocket labeled “income tax exemption” (Knott). This cartoon refers to the nation-wide public dissent from American taxpayers concerning federal tax exemptions for government job holders. While both these depictions reflect strikingly similar sentiments and widespread dissatisfaction from Americans, these two situations in American history have reaped different outcomes. In the case of the 1937 federal income taxes, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s sentiments reflected those of the American population; therefore, he was able to use his influence as president to help ensure change in the form of ending the exemptions. In the case of the 2008 bailout, however, President Bush felt that the burden placed upon American taxpayers was not as great as the importance of the financial crisis on Wall Street, so he was able to use his influence as president to perpetuate the passage of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 despite public dissent.

The financial crisis of 2008 was a large source of public dissatisfaction for average Americans in the early 21st century. While some Americans agreed to support the federal government’s plan to use $700 billion dollars of taxpayer money to bailout many Wall Street corporations in 2008 with promises of punishment for Wall Street, the lack of consequences for Wall Street corporations and executives caused many of those to join with their fellow Americans in widespread public dissatisfaction for the bailout. Cartoonists John Knott and Daryl Cagle both reflect public dissent in their respective cartoons by depicting American taxpayers as struggling under a financial burden set upon them by the federal government. Unfortunately, public dissent and frustration did little to reap any kind of change in the 2008 bailout compared to how it did in the 1937 federal tax exemption issue. Despite this recent unfortunate outcome, Americans should still be encouraged to voice their opinions to federal government officials in order to keep the average American spoken for as the 21st century progresses.

Works Cited:

C-SPAN 2. “George Bush Wall Street Bailout.” 24 Sept. 2008, Washington D.C., White House.

Cagle, Daryl. “Wall Street Bailout Pig.” DarylCagle.com, darylcagle.com/2008/09/23/wall-street-bailout-pig/.

United States, Congress, Cong. House, Energy and Commerce; Education and Labor; Ways and Means. “Congress.gov.” Congress.gov, 110ADAD. 110th Congress, bill H.R. 1424, www.congress.gov/bill/110th-congress/house-bill/1424.

Bensinger | Times Staff Writer, Ken. “Masses Aren’t Buying Bailout.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 26 Sept. 2008, articles.latimes.com/2008/sep/26/business/fi-voxpop26.

Weisnerr, Christian. “Labor Leaders Decry Bailout.” National Post, 26 Sept. 2008, www-lexisnexis-com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/hottopics/lnacademic/p. A10.

Story, Gretchen Morgenson and Louise. “In Financial Crisis, No Prosecutions of Top Figures.”The New York Times, The New York Times, 14 Apr. 2011,   www.nytimes.com/2011/04/14/business/14prosecute.html.

Bernard, Stephen, and Business Writer. “Bailed-out Banks Gave Millions in Exec Bonuses, NY AG Report Shows.” ABC News, ABC News Network, abcnews.go.com/Business/story?id=8214818&page=1.

Kopicki, Allison. “Five Years Later, Poll Finds Disapproval of Bailout.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 26 Sept. 2013, economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/09/26/five-years-later-poll-finds-disapproval-of-bailout/.

Knott, John. “How About Sharing The Load?” Dallas Morning News 10 April 1937, sec 2: 2. Print.

Ending Income Tax Exemptions

An income taxpayer struggles to carry the expenses of government by himself while a public job holder, not bearing and tax burden, looks on while smirking blithely
An income taxpayer struggles to carry the expenses of government by himself while a public job holder, not bearing and tax burden, looks on while smirking blithely

Clearly stated in Article I, Section VIII, Clause I of the Constitution of the United States of America is the power of Congress to levy taxes to raise funds for the nation. The sixteenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution, passed in 1913 gives Congress the power to “lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration” (“The Constitution”). Starting that year, U.S. citizens had to pay income taxes in addition to the income tax in their own state if any were levied (“The Constitution”). A national controversy arose after the passage of the 16th amendment; government employees at both state and federal levels were not required to pay income taxes like the rest of the American public. While officials of the federal government eventually decided that the exemptions needed to end, disagreements between the three branches of government ensued about how to do so. Giving governmental employees exemptions on income taxes created an immensely frustrated American public that eventually caused President Roosevelt and Congress to take action after the Supreme Court made an unsatisfactory case decision in 1937.

In John Knott’s political cartoon titled “How About Sharing the Load?” published April of 1937, Knott compares the overburdened American public to a relaxed public job holder. In this cartoon, a skinny man with the tag “income taxpayer” on his shirt struggles to walk down the road while carrying an enormous bundle on his back labeled “expenses of government.” A carefree public job holder walks along side him, carrying an “income tax exemption”. The income taxpayer holds his hand out toward the public job holder as if to ask for help to carry the obviously heavy and overbearing load while the latter smokes his cigar with a grin on his face (Knott). The Dallas Morning News published Knott’s cartoon and the accompanying editorial titled “Income Tax Exemption” on April 10, 1937. The editorial addresses the ongoing issue of tax exemption for governmental employees by supporting an end for the exemptions by stating that government employees “should be the last to object to contributing to the support of the public services” (“Income Tax Exemption”).

The national controversy over income tax exemptions arose as a consequence from the Whitlock vs. Foster Wheeler LLC Supreme Court decision in early 1937. The Federal government attempted to withhold tax funds from the salary of William Whitlock Brush, the chief engineer of New York City’s water supply system. The Supreme Court ruled on the case in March of 1937 in a seven to two decision. The Court determined that both the federal government could not require state employees to pay federal income taxes. This decision allowed over 200,000 public jobholders to qualify for an income tax exemption (“Supreme Court Ends Income Tax”). This decision created much dissent in the American public. By exempting public jobholders from paying income taxes, the Supreme Court unintentionally placed a great burden on the majority of Americans. Knott’s cartoon clearly depicts the public’s burden as the heavy bundle on the “income tax payer” figure. Allowing public jobholders to have the exemption placed great financial burden on the American public that was still struggling due to the immense economic downturn of the Great Depression in the 1930’s. The dissent from the public pushed the exemptions to become a national controversy.

The issue of exemptions eventually became such a big enough problem that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt intervened. In April of 1938, FDR submitted a strongly-worded letter to Congress arguing that both state and federal employees should not receive exemptions on paying income taxes. He also expressed his disappointment in the Supreme Court’s ruling concerning the exemptions in 1937 (“Text of the President’s Tax Message”). FDR’s New Deal program had greatly increased the number of public jobholders in America; therefore, the exemptions applied to the new employees as well (“Income Tax Exemption”). FDR encouraged Congress to pass legislation to end the exemptions, but many legislators favored the idea of passing an amendment to the constitution. For example, Senator William King of Utah expressed that ending the exemptions could only “be accomplished by a constitutional amendment”. FDR believed that an amendment would be a “cumbersome and… unnecessary”. (“President Aims at Wealth”). The Supreme Court, responsible for interpreting the law, determined in their 1937 ruling that Congress did not have the power to levy income taxes against public jobholders except under a constitutional amendment (“Supreme Court Ends Income Tax”). This created confusion for Congress in deciding how to actually put an end to the exemptions. This debate further delayed the ending of the exemptions on the public; however, FDR’s interest ensured that the exemptions would remain a leading issue on the national agenda.

On February 8, 1939, the Dallas Morning News released a poll that showed much support from the American public for the ending of the exemptions. When asked if people who work for the government should pay income taxes, eighty-seven percent of respondents answered “yes” (Gallup). This sentiment reflects the depiction of the disgruntled “income tax payer” in Knott’s cartoon. The accompanying editorial to Knott’s cartoon points out the “psychological advantages” of ending the exemptions. According to the editorial, ending exemptions would not only address and resolve the grievances of the overburdened public, but also make public jobholders tax conscious (“Income Tax Exemption”). The Dallas Morning News also reported that while public jobholders opposed ending the exemptions, many of them understood the public’s desire for the exemptions to end (“Plugging Tax Loopholes”). Knott’s cartoon does not reflect this sentiment through its grinning and smug “public jobholder” figure.

Support for ending the exemptions from both FDR and the public encouraged other governmental officials to take action. In August of 1938, Treasury officials produced a report for the Secretary of the Treasury at the time Henry Morgenthau. The report supported FDR’s request of action through Congressional legislation to end exemptions (“Treasury Asks State”). In January of 1939, four Federal officials appeared before the Senate Committee and requested a statute be made to end exemptions. This took place a few days before FDR submitted another request to Congress which reiterated his support for ending exemptions in his letter to Congress in April 1938 (“Tax Exemption Elimination”). These events put pressure on Congress to act. These actions by officials ensured that the government would address the public’s grievances; however, the Supreme Court actually took action before Congress could enact new legislation to end the exemptions.

In March of 1939, the Supreme Court ruled that states could withhold taxes from governmental employee salaries. This decision opposed the previous precedent that the court set with their ruling to extend exemptions to more public jobholders in 1937 (“Text of The Supreme Court’s Decision”). Because of increasing pressure from the public, the president, and the likelihood of a statute by Congress, the Supreme Court decided to end exemptions by breaking its previously established precedent. This resolved the national dilemma of exemptions and ensured that the public would no longer struggle to pay the expenses of government on its own.

Income tax exemptions for public jobholders created a frustrated American public as depicted in John Knott’s political cartoon “How About Sharing The Load?” (Knott) The issue of exemptions became an increasingly pressing issue in the country that caused president FDR to intervene and call for an end the the exemptions. FDR’s interest not only made the issue highly publicized but also put pressure on Congress to act; however, disagreements on the best way to proceed perpetuated the exemptions and the burden on the public. The Supreme Court, in a surprising turn of events, ruled in 1939 to end the exemptions after it became clear that Congress would act to pass legislation (“Text of The Supreme Court’s Decision”). Knott’s cartoon accurately reflects the public’s frustration and dissatisfaction with “carrying the load” of government expenses alone while public jobholders carried no load at all. In the editorial published alongside Knott’s cartoon, the writer outlines not only the public’s resentment over the exemptions but also the poor optics of allowing supposed public servants to escape in helping to pay for public services (Income Tax Exemption). Knott’s cartoon appeals to the average American citizen and paints the public jobholder as the cause of the public’s burden. The smirking and unburdened  “public jobholder” figure may have represented government in general, thus making government and all government employees the thorn in the side of all Americans. The public’s dissent, a major factor in the eventual ending of exemptions, proved that the public, while depicted as the weaker party in Knott’s cartoon, had more power over the government than was perceived by many at the time.

The American public’s dissatisfaction with the exemption of income taxes for  governmental employees caused all three governmental branches of government to act to end the exemptions. Repealing the exemptions on federal taxes for public job holders would have been increasingly more difficult without the public’s voice. In 21st century America, however, sometimes public dissatisfaction is not enough to cause change in policy as the federal government has grown significantly in its power since the late 1930’s.

Works Cited:

“The Constitution of the United States: A Transcription.” National Archives and Records Administration, National Archives and Records Administration, https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/constitution

Knott, John. “How About Sharing The Load?” Dallas Morning News 10 April 1937, sec 2: 2. Print.

“Income Tax Exemption.” Editorial. Dallas Morning News 10 April 1937, sec 2: 2. Print.

“Supreme Court Ends Income Tax on Salaries of More City Officials.” New York Times (1923-Current file), Mar 16, 1937, pp. 1, ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times

“Text of the President’s Tax Message.” New York Times (1923-Current file), Apr 26, 1938, pp. 2, ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times

“President Aims at Wealth Now Tax-Free.” Dallas Morning News, City ed., 26 Apr. 1938, p. 1.

George Gallup. “Wages Favored in Poll.” Dallas Morning News, 8 Feb. 1939, p. 4.

“Plugging Tax Loopholes.” Dallas Morning News, 7 Sept. 1938, p. 2.

“Treasury Asks State, Federal Salary Taxes.” Dallas Morning News, 8 Sept. 1938, p. 2.

“Tax Exemption Elimination Wins Support.” Dallas Morning News, 19 Jan. 1939, p. 9.

“Text of the Supreme Court’s Decision Permitting a State to Tax Federal Pay.” New York Times (1923-Current file), Mar 28, 1939, pp. 16, ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times

 

The Rise and Fall of Australia’s Mining Tax

Julia Gillard and her “Mining Tax” have been stomped into the ground by Tony Abbott and Australia’s “Mining Industry,” depicted as an elephant, representing Australia’s Mining Tax controversy of the early 2010s.

 

In the 2000s and early 2010s, Australia’s mining industry was booming. Australia’s economy had always been resource dependent (Critchlow, “Australia Abandons Mining Tax…”), but increased demand from Asian countries had caused steadily rising prices on coal and iron since 2003. This increased demand led to increased industry profits and a bolstered Australian economy moving into the 2010s (Phillips, “The Mining Boom…”), insulating it against the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) of 2008. In 2010, the Australian government led by then Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, began to create a mining tax on these booming coal and iron ore industries to fund new pensions and tax cuts on new businesses throughout the nation. This tax was called the Resource Super Profit Tax (RSPT), and caused much controversy among the mining behemoths of Australia and throughout the population. The RSPT eventually failed and was replaced by the Minerals Resource Rent Tax (MRRT).

John Ditchburn’s political cartoon “Where Gillard and Abbott Stand on the Mining Tax,” published on March 20, 2012, depicts Tony Abbott, the Australian Prime Minister from 2013 to 2015, standing proudly atop an elephant labeled “Mining Industry.” The elephant appears to have just stomped Julia Gillard, the Australian Prime Minister from 2010 to 2013, into an elephant-foot-shaped hole. Gillard has a large lump atop her head, and is looking at a piece of paper titled “Mining Tax” in disbelief (Ditchburn). Around the time that this cartoon was published, there was much controversy surrounding the mining tax, and Gillard and Abbott were at the center of it. As the Prime Minister replacing Kevin Rudd, Gillard was working to amend and pass Rudd’s RSPT, resulting in the MRRT; while at the same time, Abbott’s political campaign for Prime Minister was built upon the opposition of Gillard’s MRRT. The humor depicted in Ditchburn’s cartoon alludes to the flawed development and implementation of the MRRT, as well as the response of Australia’s mining conglomerates.

In 2008, economies across the globe were suffering from the GFC, the worst economic depression since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The GFC was triggered by the 2007 collapse of the United States housing market, when many homebuyers with poor credit were unable to pay off their mortgage loans, leading to a lack of liquid funds in the United States’ banking systems. The collapse of the United States housing bubble was the catalyst for the GFC, causing stock markets around the world to crash and become highly volatile (Davies, “Global Financial Crisis”). The GFC was impacting nations across the globe, but largely due to Australia’s mining boom – the biggest boom since the United States’ gold rush of the mid-1800s (Phillips) – Australia was well insulated from the negative effects of the GFC. The Australian mining boom began in 2003, and was fueled by the rapid development of Asian nations, especially China. These developing countries drove up demand for natural resources like coal and iron ore, which led to massive price increases for those resources. Iron ore prices were around $25 per ton, and peaked at $170 per ton during the boom; while coal prices were around $45 per ton and peaked around $180 per ton during the boom (Phillips).

In 2010, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd proposed the RSPT, a single, simple forty percent taxation rate on all profits of mining corporations in Australia, which would replace the previously complex, confusing taxation policy on natural resource mining corporations. The RSPT was projected to generate twelve billion dollars of government revenue in its first four years; however, it was heavily criticized by mining corporations, due to a lack of corporate consultation regarding the tax rate during its development. This led the new Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, to negotiate with Australia’s biggest mining conglomerates: Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton, and Xstrata, in order to amend the tax. The result of these negotiations was the MRRT, which taxed mining operations for twenty-two and a half percent of their total profits; rather than taxing them for forty percent of their total profits, like the RSPT. Even then, the MRRT only taxed coal and iron ore mining operations which made more than seventy-five million dollars annually, rather than all mining operations (“Australian Government Repeals…”). While the RSPT was projected to generate twelve billion dollars in its first four years, the MRRT only generated 480 million dollars in the two years before it was repealed, less than a tenth of a percent of the Australian national budget in 2012 and 2013 (Critchlow). The MRRT’s failure can largely be attributed to the immense influence that Australian mining behemoths had on the development of the tax. Their influence hindered the MRRT’s ability to produce any real government revenue which helped preserve as much corporate profit as possible.

The MRRT was enacted on July 1, 2012, but was repealed just two years later by Gillard’s replacement, Prime Minister Tony Abbott, on September 2, 2014. Abbott’s repeal of the tax was largely thanks to the Palmer United Party – Australian oil tycoon Clive Palmer’s conservative, pro-industry political party – controlling the senate vote to repeal the MRRT (“Australia’s Mining Tax Repealed”). Shortly after the repealing of the tax, Chief Executive of Australia’s Business Council, Jennifer Westacott, claimed that “The Senate’s vote to repeal the [MRRT removed] an unnecessary weight [from] Australia’s economic growth and competitiveness … [improving] Australia’s reputation as an attractive investment destination … [ensuring] a strong, growing resources industry into the future.” This claim was proven to be true, as many other nations welcomed the repealing of the tax, and were ready and willing to invest in Australian resource industries (“Australian Government Repeals…”). This exemplified the positive effects that the repeal of the MRRT benefited Australia’s economy, in the long run. Despite these benefits, there were still naysayers to the repeal of the MRRT, arguing that the revenue generated by the tax could be used to strengthen Australian communities and infrastructure (Gaille, “Eight Mining Tax…”).

While Ditchburn’s cartoon was created two years before the MRRT was repealed, it accurately portrays many of the elements of the mining tax controversy around the time of its creation. Abbott standing atop an elephant labeled “Mining Industry” shows that he was working with Australia’s mining corporations in order to repeal the MRRT. Additionally, Abbott is shown shirtless, baring his hairy chest. This is a humorous commentary on the sexist, and borderline misogynistic, comments he made during his campaign for Prime Minister, which contributed to his feud with Gillard (Badham, “Why Some Australian…”). The mining industry being represented by a massive elephant shows the massive power that the mining corporations wielded in Australian politics at the time. This immense influence of the mining corporations is represented by the elephant stomping Gillard into an elephant-foot-shaped hole – along with her “Mining Tax” paper, representing the MRRT. This is representative of the way that the mining corporations essentially neutered the RSPT, turning it into the non-functional, ineffective MRRT. Overall, the cartoon’s various features humorously depict the ways that Australian mining corporations, along with Abbott, stunted the development and implementation of the MRRT, removing its effectiveness; leaving Gillard to wonder what went wrong with the tax.

Australia’s mining tax controversy of the early 2010s is very reminiscent of the debate surrounding increasing taxes on the Texas sulphur industry of the late 1930s. This debate was touched on in John Knott’s 1937 cartoon, “Legislator with the Sales Tax Complex” (Knott) and its accompanying editorial “Taxing Natural Resources.” In both Australia’s debate – touched on by Ditchburn – and Texas’s debate – touched on by Knott – the debate was centered around whether government revenues or industrial development should be prioritized, and in both cases, industrial development was prioritized. Additionally, both debates were set against the backdrops of horrible economic depressions, significantly impacting the debates and their outcomes. Even the two cartoon’s compositions are strikingly reminiscent of one another. In Ditchburn’s cartoon, Australian mining industries are depicted as a massive elephant trampling an attempt at taxation (Ditchburn). In Knott’s cartoon, Texas mining industries are depicted as the towering “Old Man Texas” (“Knott, John Francis”) threatening an attempt at taxation with a powerful resistance (Knott).

Australian mining corporations warping the RSPT into the MRRT in order to support their own development and the eventual repeal of the MRRT to invite foreign investment in Australia’s resource sector is shockingly reminiscent of Texas’s 1937 debate regarding taxation of natural resource industries. In both cases, the mining industry’s long-term growth and development were prioritized over short-term revenue gains for the government. Whether by the influence of mining conglomerates or by the government’s own choice, it seems that industrial development is prioritized very highly in politics. Through these historical examples, we can learn that history very often does repeat itself, and that by learning from our past, we can better understand our present.

Works Cited:

“Australian Government Repeals Controversial Super Profits Mining Tax.” Allen & Overy, Allen & Overy, 9 Sept. 2014, www.allenovery.com/publications/en-gb/Pages/Australian-Government-repeals-controv rsial-super-profits-mining-tax.aspx.

“Australia’s Mining Tax Repealed.” BBC News, BBC, 2 Sept. 2014, www.bbc.com/news/business-29009479.

Badham, Van. “Why Some Australian Women Loathe Tony Abbott.” The Telegraph, Telegraph Media Group, 16 Sept. 2013, www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-politics/10313055/Why-some-Australian-women-oathe-Tony-Abbott-especially-now.html.

Critchlow, Andrew. “Australia Abandons Mining Tax as China’s Resource Demand Weakens.” The Telegraph, Telegraph Media Group, 2 Sept. 14, www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/commodities/11069343/Australia-abandons-mining-tax-a Chinas-resource-demand-weakens.html.’

Davies, Justine. “Global Financial Crisis.” Canstar, Canstar, 18 Sept. 2017, www.canstar.com.au/home-loans/global-financial-crisis/.

Ditchburn, John. “Where Gillard and Abbott Stand on the Mining Tax.” Inkcinct Cartoons Australia, Inkcinct Cartoons, 20 Mar. 2012, www.inkcinct.com.au/web-pages/australian/political/2012–political.htm.

Gaille, Brandon. “Eight Mining Tax Pros and Cons.” Brandon Gaille: Marketing ExpertBrandon Gaille, 15 Mar. 2016, brandongaille.com/8-mining-tax-pros-and-cons/.

Knott, John F. “Legislator With the Sales Tax Complex.” Dallas Morning News, 24 Mar. 1937, p. 2. Web. 26 Sept. 2017.

“Knott, John Francis.” Texas State Historical Association, 15 June 2010, shaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fkn05.

Phillips, Keri. “The Mining Boom That Changed Australia.” ABC Radio National, ABC, 13 Apr. 2016, www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/rearvision/the-mining-boom-that-changed-austrlia/7319586.

To Tax, or Not To Tax?

KnottCartoon
A small legislator is attempting to hang a “Sales Tax Token” on “Old Man Texas,” representing Texas’s 1937 debate regarding taxation of natural resource industries.

 

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Texas’s natural resource industries were booming. Texas oil industries had been slowly on the rise since the late nineteenth century, and were super-charged on January 10, 1901, when the Spindletop oil field was discovered (Wooster, “Spindletop Oil Field”). The discovery of Spindletop completely revolutionized Texas industry, producing around 100,000 barrels of oil a day (Wooster)! This caused Texas industry to explode and begin to focus on petroleum and mining in 1937, however, backdropped by the Great Depression and FDR’s New Deal programs, sales taxes on natural resources were being created and increased – sometimes even doubling – to tax industry and create government revenues to fund new ventures for the Texas government.

John Knott’s political cartoon “Legislator With the Sales Tax Complex,” published on March 24, 1937, depicts a small legislator holding a weight labeled “Sales Tax Token” which he is attempting to hang on a much larger man labeled “Texas.” The old man was a popular political cartoon character of Knott’s, known as “Old Man Texas:” a hardy old man created in 1906 that “[symbolized] rural Texas, [its] honesty in government, [its] low taxes, and [its] property ownership” (“Knott, John Francis”). In the cartoon, “Old Man Texas” is walking out of the frame, and the legislator is closely following him – tiptoeing in an attempt not to be noticed – trying to hang the weight on “Old Man Texas,” who shouts, “Don’t you hang that thing on me!” when he realizes what the legislator is attempting to do (Knott). In the editorial accompanying Knott’s cartoon, “Taxing Natural Resources,” a new sales tax on sulfur is described, which would provide the Texas government with increased revenues for new ventures. This new sales tax, however, would drastically increase production costs in the sulfur industry and significantly damage its ability to produce profits (“Taxing Natural Resources”). The cartoon and its accompanying editorial express that increasing sales taxes on industries’ natural resources will benefit the state in the short-term, but harm its long-term development.

Much like petroleum drilling, sulfur mining had slowly been on the rise in the late 1800s, thanks to new mining methods like the Frasch process, where superheated water was pumped into previously drilled wells, melting the sulfur and forcing molten sulfur to the surface. Unfortunately, the Frasch process proved to be impractical and very expensive, which led to its eventual discontinuation (Kleiner, “Sulfur Industry”). Sulfur was (and still is) a valuable natural resource in the production of matches, gunpowder, insecticides, skin treatments, and glass (“Sulfur Mining & Processing”), and during the mid to late 1930s its demand was rising (Wasson, “Solons Rap Business…”). Fortunately, the discovery of Spindletop not only ignited a new oil and gas industry in Texas, but breathed new life into the sulfur industry as well. The expensive, inefficient Frasch Process was replaced with a much more cost-effective method: using the newly affordable, abundant oil supply in the state as fuel for extracting sulfur from the ground. Additionally, sulfur deposits were being found more frequently, due to the growing oil and gas industry, because sulfur deposits were typically located in the same salt domes that miners explored for oil (Kleiner). These changes led to Texas producing around eighty percent of the United States’ sulfur supply (Kleiner).

Around 1937, Texas’s industries were booming; however, many industries related to natural resources were becoming the subjects of increasingly expensive sales taxes on natural resources. These taxes were being levied to help generate government revenue for Texas to fund health care reforms for those with disabilities such as deafness and blindness, expand schooling and educational systems within the state, and other governmental obligations (“Legislature Told By Allred…”). Since the early 1920s, the sulfur industry had been the target of increasing taxes, and until the mid-1930s, the taxes had been causing increased revenue for the state government. In 1923, taxes on the sulfur industry produced $73,900 of government revenue; in 1924, they produced $244,796; in 1929, they produced $901,125; and in 1931, they produced $1,237,701. Moving into the mid-1930s, however, the government tripled the sales tax on sulfur, which led to a decrease of almost half a million dollars in government revenue, providing only $764,532 in 1932 (Wasson, “Solons Rap Business…”). This sudden decrease in revenue was due to the increasing sulfur tax hindering sulfur industries to the point that they could no longer generate as high a profit as they used to, on account of higher operating costs. This led to a net decrease in tax revenue.

The editorial accompanying the cartoon uses the sulfur industry as a lens through which to shed light on the effect of these increasing taxes on natural resource production, arguing that setting the sales tax on sulfur at $1.28 per ton – an increase of almost seventy-five cents from past rates (Wasson) – the government is “[gouging] for revenue” rather than “[encouraging] development” of industry (“Taxing Natural Resources”). In doing so, the editorial argues that while it may seem a conservative adjustment in the sulfur tax, the increased government revenue isn’t really needed, and the state is too focused on its own short-term benefit to consider long-term growth of Texas industry – which will provide much more for the state in the long run. The editorial also argues that conservative policy in regards to taxing industry would be wise, as it would allow industries to grow and continue to support Texas more in the long run – moving towards an “era of industrial development,” rather than “killing the goose that lays the golden eggs” (“Taxing Natural Resources”).

The aforementioned ideas are all embedded in Knott’s “Legislator with the Sales Tax Complex” cartoon: Texas and its industries being represented by “Old Man Texas,” the increasing sales taxes on those industries being represented by the “Sales Tax Token,” and the Texas government being represented in the small and impish legislator (Knott). In the cartoon, “Old Man Texas” is pictured walking out of frame. He is twice as tall as the legislator, towering over him with his massive fist clenched, yelling “Don’t you hang that thing on me!” “Old Man Texas” represents Texas and its industries, not only because of how massive, powerful and willing to fight for their development they were, but also because he is walking out of frame, towards an “era of industrial development” which Texas industries were progressing towards (“Taxing Natural Resources”). The “Sales Tax Token” in the cartoon is a heavy weight plate, which, if hung on “Old Man Texas,” would impede his progress towards his “era of industrial development.” The legislator is described as having a “sales tax complex,” because he is obsessed with hanging the “Sales Tax Token” on “Old Man Texas,” a metaphor for Texas government being fixated on taxing natural resource industries in the late 1930s. This is why he is portrayed as small and impish, because he is selfish, on account of only being focused on the short-term benefits of hanging the weight on “Old Man Texas,” or taxing industries; rather than the long-term gains of allowing “Old Man Texas” to move toward his goal, and allowing Texas industries to grow.

In 1935, the Connally Hot Oil Act was created in to combat independent oil distributors from driving industries’ profits down. The act was scheduled to expire on June 15, 1937; however, on January 14, 1937, the act was extended and written into permanent law (Goodwin, “Connally Bill Gets Approval for Extension”). The Connally Act and other legislation continued to support industrial growth in in the late 1930s, showing that in the end, industrial development was prioritized by the government, as advocated in the cartoon and accompanying editorial. Even in today’s society, the debate of prioritizing governmental revenue versus prioritizing industrial development still rages on, shown by the Australian Mining Tax controversy. This tax was introduced in 2012 and would take thirty percent of Australian mining profits, for government revenue. Much like the Texas government of the late 1930s, the Australian government also supported industrial development, later repealing the mining tax in 2014 (“Australia’s Mining Tax Repealed”). As they say: history truly does repeat itself.

Works Cited:

“Australia’s Mining Tax Repealed.” BBC News, BBC, 2 Sept. 2014, www.bbc.com/news/business-29009479. Goodwin, Mark L.

“Connally Bill Gets Approval For Extension.” Dallas Morning News, 15 Jan. 1937, p. 9., phw02.newsbank.com/cache/ean/fullsize/pl_010162017_2314_26789_194.pdf. Web. 15 Oct. 2017.

Kleiner, Diana J. “Sulfur Industry” Texas State Historical Association, 14 June 2010, tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/dks04. Web. 9 Oct. 2017.

Knott, John F. “Legislator With the Sales Tax Complex.” Dallas Morning News, 24 Mar. 1937, p. 2. Web. 26 Sept. 2017.

“Knott, John Francis.” Texas State Historical Association, 15 June 2010, shaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fkn05.

“Legislature Told By Allred to Halt Its Tax Remission” Dallas Morning News, 25 Mar. 1937, p. 2., http://phw01.newsbank.com/cache/ean/fullsize/pl_010162017_2121_48289_672.pdf. Web. 13 Oct. 2017.

“Sulfur Mining & Processing: What to Know.” General Kinematics, 17 Sept. 2014, www.generalkinematics.com/blog/sulfur-mining-processing-know/. Web. 10 Oct. 2017.

“Taxing Natural Resources.” Editorial. Dallas Morning News, 24 Mar. 1937, p. 2. Web. 26 Sept. 2017.

Wasson, Dean. “Solons Rap Business With One Hand, Then Invite It With Other” Dallas Morning News, 25 Mar. 1937, p. 3., http://phw01.newsbank.com/cache/ean/fullsize/pl_010102017_0211_29652_4.pdf. Web. 9 Oct. 2017.

Wooster, Robert, and Christine Moor Sanders. “Spindletop Oil Field.” Texas State Historical Association, 15 June 2010, tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/dos03. Web. 15 Oct. 2017.

 

Vacancy Cycle

An elephant representing the Grand Old Party (GOP) refuses to confirm Supreme Court vacancies until a Republican president is elected.

The relationship between the Supreme Court and the other branches of government has always been complex, but only in several instances has it been manifested greatly. For example,  in 1937 Franklin Delano Roosevelt proposed of the Judicial Procedures Reform Act of 1937, prompting a conflict between the presidential power to attempt to control a historically nonpartisan institution: the Supreme Court. More recently, the conflict between the United States Senate and President Barack Obama over the nomination of a Supreme Court Justice to fill the vacancy left by Justice’s Antonin Scalia’s sudden death in February of 2016 represented a similar anticipation of disaster and destruction of convention. Particularly, the threat of a problematic cycle which would undermine the political institution in some way was satirized in the same way be the respective medias of each time, as explored through a Mike Luckovich cartoon and a Politco article describing the tension in attempting to secure the Supreme Court vacancy.

In the final months of Barack Obama’s second term as president, he tried to secure a Supreme Court nomination to fill the seat left behind by Antonin Scalia in his death. However, due to a political interest in nominating a Supreme Court Justice who would represent the values of the GOP rather than Obama’s Democratic party, the Senate refused to approve the nominations proposed by Obama. The conflict of failing to secure a nomination to fill the vacancy created anxiety amongst the American public and press. We care about the courts because, the final say is the supreme court, all this can be in the intro, they are there for life,

This anxiety is illustrated in a March 11, 2016 cartoon by Mike Luckovich called “The Court”. The two-panel cartoon depicts the strategy being held by the Senate, Mitch at the time. In the first panel, an elephant wearing a suit, which represents the GOP, states “I’ll ignore the Constitution and block filling the Supreme Court vacancies until there’s a GOP President…” The second panel of the cartoon shows the same elephant standing in a court room, and the bench labeled “Supreme Court”, is completely vacant with spider webs between the vacant seats. The calendar on the wall has the year “2036”, on it, and the elephant has his finger’s crossed and eyes closed, saying “…C’mon 2040…”. The cobwebs also suggest that this stubbornness will inhibit the nomination of not only the vacancy that existed in 2016, but all other vacancies which would eventually present themselves over the course of 20 years. The cartoon therefore suggests that the refusal of the Senate to confirm a nomination in 2016 would continue into 2036 and onwards until a GOP president is elected to nominate a viable judge.

This viewpoint is also articulated in a Politco article from March 29, 2016 called “The Supreme Court: The Nightmare Scenario”. In it, Richard Primus describes the threat of a devolution of political convention with the stagnancy of filling the Supreme Court vacancy. He states:

“That bigger threat is this: The stalemate isn’t time-limited and it isn’t stable. It could last a lot longer than the present election cycle, and if it does, the conflict over Justice Scalia’s successor could escalate far beyond its current dimensions. This is because the Supreme Court’s role in American government rests on a set of conventions for avoiding all-out political conflict—and once those conventions start to crumble, there’s no way to tell how it will end,” (Primus).

Specifically, a nightmare scenario would in theory be possible, though not necessarily probable, where the Republican Senate would continue to refuse to confirm a Democratic nomination from Hillary Clinton if she ario does not occur exactly, the threat of the destruction of political conventions by escalating a conflict in attempting to control the courts is made visible both by the article and the cartoon.

There are some interesting parallels between FDR and the Republican Senate in their respective conflicts. Specifically, both the Luckovich and Knott cartoons satirized a very immediate and visible result of the respective breaches in power. While the Knott cartoon emphasized that the expansion of FDR’s power would manifest itself through unprecedented third term ambitions, the Luckovich cartoon suggests an eternal vacancy in the Supreme Court due to the stubbornness of a GOP Senate. The most important difference between the two cartoons, however, is the accuracy of their respective predictions. FDR did end up running for and winning a third term, but the GOP did not have to wait until past 2036 for a Republican president: Donald Trump was elected in 2016.

The difference between the Dallas Morning News editorial and the Politico article is the opposite of what occurred between the two cartoons. The 2016 article was a better descriptor of long term implications of the Senate refusal to confirm a Supreme Court vacancy than the editorial was in articulating the long-term implications of “The Judicial Procedures Reforms Bill of 1937”. The editorial suggested that the bill represented a descent into totalitarianism, and today it is known that FDR’s passage of the New Deal did not totally undermine American democracy. However, the observation that the GOP Senate’s behavior represented an escalation which would manifest into the issues of checks and balances beyond 2016 was more accurate. The failure to confirm a Supreme Court Justice nomination did leave only 8 Justices, allowing for 4-4 deadlock votes to occur. For example, the deadlocked vote for United States v. Texas, No. 15-674 allowed for Obama’s executive order to retain over 5 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. to stand without official support from the Supreme Court (Supreme Court Justice 212).

The disruption caused by the actions by the Senate alluded to the abilities for political branches to manipulate the processes of the Supreme Court. Unlike the historians who observe FDR’s actions in 1937, contemporaries can only wait to understand the full contribution to political procedures the Supreme Court vacancy of 2016 had to the American separation of powers.

 

 

Works Cited

Primus, Richard. “The Supreme Court: The Nightmare Scenario.” POLITICO Magazine, 29 Mar. 2016, www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/03/the-supreme-court-the-nightmare-scenario-213776.

“Supreme Court Justice.” American Law Yearbook 2016A Guide to the Year’s Major Legal Cases and Developments, Gale, 2017, pp. 208-212. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CCX3633800087&it=r&asid=2c6733a6ed017fe3cf7720b2457fb9fc. Accessed 15 Nov. 2017.