Cartoonist John Knott foreshadows the demise of the NRA regarding the opposition from some industries and companies.
The political cartoon, “What’s the Next Play Going to Be?” by John Knott for the Dallas Morning News published October 28th, 1933, portrays a football team huddled together with “NRA” written on the back of their pants. The field goal in the back has a sign that reads, “’Nobody’s goin to tell us how to run our business,’” (Knott 2) and the opposing team is standing in front of the goal in tackling stances with angry looks on their faces. The men huddled in the group are slouched over as if they are defeated and don’t have a strategy to continue while the team in the back look ready to attack and finish the game. Knott’s cartoon demonstrates the opposition between businesses and the NRA, which was established by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933 amongst his other New Deal propositions to cure the economy through industrial self-government.
The accompanying editorial, “A Test for the NRA,” provides context for the cartoon regarding Henry Ford and steel companies that oppose the National Recovery Administration. The steel companies wanted to run their own businesses, hence the sign hanging from the field goal, and to not be controlled by the government or by codification that moderated how the businesses ran. There were a select few Ford dealers who had accepted the blue eagle, but there were also others who opposed it, leaving the NRA at a predicament on whether to punish the steel companies or not. There was also a section of the National Industrial Recovery Act, a law passed by Franklin D. Roosevelt to authorize him to regulate production, that stated that companies must recognize work unions, but the steel companies did not recognize the United Mine Workers of America, a labor union. Although the strikers were not recognized, they still refused to go to work despite the President’s demands. Furthermore, the NRA was having difficulties being in charge and keeping industries in check due to the clashing temperaments within the steel companies, which foreshadowed its own demise.
In 1929, the stock market crashed due to a decline in consumer spending and increase in unsold goods during World War I, leading to the Great Depression. When Franklin D. Roosevelt got elected in 1933, he enacted the New Deal in an attempt to hasten recovery from the Depression. The National Industrial Recovery Act was a part of Roosevelt’s New Deal program, and it authorized the President’s right to regulate production. The NIRA attempted to end the Depression through industrial self-government in which industries and businesses would draft codes of fair labor practices, such as set wages, maximum hours, and the right to withhold unions.
Along with the NIRA came the National Recovery Administration, which approved the codes of business. Hugh S. Johnson was in charge of the NRA, but he was not fit for the job due to his submissive character. He was afraid that the Supreme Court would rule out the NRA, so he depended on businesses to voluntarily cooperate with the codification and establish set wages and hours within their workplace. These codes meant change; unfortunately, prosperous companies, such as steel and automobile companies, were not happy with these conditions and refused to comply with them. They had their own successful methods and were not willing to change them as the NRA prompted to do so. Because the Depression was affecting the nation atrociously, production and jobs were necessary to keep the people alive, and the NRA allowed businesses to uphold restrictive policies that hindered the road to recovery. The NRA soon created a voluntary blanket code, in which set wages and hours were provided for businesses to expedite codification. Those who agreed to the blanket code were given a placard with a Blue Eagle, the symbol of the NRA, with the words “We Do Our Part,” that was to be placed on their windows, and consumers were only permitted to give their business to those who adhered to the blanket code.
The irony behind the cartoon lies within the players. Football is known to be in an intense sport in which the players put up a fight no matter the circumstance. However, the players huddled up in the center look worn out and ready to quit due to their inability to think of a “game plan” or solution. The “NRA” players aren’t living up to their expectations as football players; instead, they look like they do not belong in the game. Knott presents the NRA this way to portray the NRA’s weakness and inefficiency and to foreshadow the loss they were about to experience. The NRA’s downfall began when Johnson became erratic and caused various conflicts with government officials and businessmen. Code compliance became a problem, and the NRA let bigger industries get away with code violations. The NRA became so unpopular that it was compared to fascism and was also called “No Recovery Allowed.” The ideas held by the NRA were naïve in that they believed society would look past their interests to work together and better the nation. Due to this, the Supreme Court shut down the NRA and declared that the NIRA was an unconstitutional assignment of power to the president.
“What’s the Next Play Going to Be?” by John Knott reflects the conflict between the NRA and steel companies during the 1930’s. Steel companies were independently successful and did not want interference from administrations that were forcing new workplace conditions down their throat. However, not all steel companies were unanimous in their decision to adhere to or decline the blanket code, stressing the NRA as depicted in the editorial. The NRA was unsure of what they’d do, for they feared hurting the business of those who adhered to the blanket code. Because of the NRA’s inability to resolve conflict and take charge, the “NRA” team depicted in the cartoon is slumped over and defeated just as they were in reality.
Knott, John. “What’s the Next Play Going to Be?” Cartoon. Dallas Morning News [Dallas, Texas] 28 Oct. 1933, sec. 11: 2. Print
“A Test for NRA.” Editorial. Dallas Morning News [Dallas, Texas] 28 Oct. 1933, sec 11:2. Print.
OHL, JOHN KENNEDY. “National Recovery Administration (NRA).” Encyclopedia of the Great Depression, edited by Robert S. McElvaine, vol. 2, Macmillan Reference USA, 2004, pp. 683-688. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Accessed 28 Nov. 2016.