Tag Archives: Donald Trump

NATO and U.S. Debt

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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







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


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


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


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


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


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


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



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


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


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


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


The Tariffs that Broke the Camel’s Back

Gary Cohn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Works Cited

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will Trump’s Anti-Mexicans Plan Stand?

Donald Trump holds up a dividing wall, the “Anti-Mexican Plan,” to prevent trucks from crossing the border and to keep Mexicans out of the USA.
Donald Trump holds up a dividing wall, the “Anti-Mexican Plan,” to prevent trucks from crossing the border and to keep Mexicans out of the USA.


Mexican-American relations have always experienced ups and downs. However, with the election of the 45th U.S. President, Donald J. Trump, Mexican-American relations are at a dangerously low point due to his unique governing style. When Trump announced his presidential bid, he infamously claimed that Mexico is “not sending their best,” but they are sending “people that have lots of problems” (“The Most Controversial Quotes from Trump’s Campaign”). Furthermore, he argued that Mexicans crossing the border were “bringing drugs” and “bringing crime” (“The Most Controversial Quotes from Trump’s Campaign”). Thus, bilateral relations between Mexico and America have become rocky once again, due to Trump’s rhetoric. He insists on building a wall — funded by Mexico — between the USA and Mexico to create a physical divide and separate the two countries. Under the Trump Administration and through executive orders, the Department of Homeland Security has taken steps to restrict and reduce immigration — i.e. announcing the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, terminating Temporary Protected Status, and enhancing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Bernal). Multiple issues — i.e. disagreement over trade agreement rules; trade between the two countries; and environment protections — have been exacerbated by Trump’s degrading campaign rhetoric and hardline policies towards people of Mexican heritage.

All of these contentious diplomatic topics are depicted in Nath Parish’s political cartoon, “Mexico/USA: The Wall of Contention” (Parish). The cartoon illustrates the border between Mexico and America. Donald Trump is holding up a wall that reads “ANTI-MEXICAN PLAN” and stopping the trucks behind him from crossing the border. The trucks behind Trump represent political subjects currently causing tensions between Mexico and America.

An article, “How Mexico Deals with Trump” published by The New Yorker in 2017 further describes the feeling of mutual prejudice between America and Mexico. The article explains that, “Trump’s insults and threats have made him a figure of loathing” considering “rants about Mexico were… a regular feature of is campaign events” (Anderson). When Trump announced that he would be running for President he “began his assault of Mexico” (Anderson). Despite Trump’s degrading comments toward Hispanic people, President Enrique Peña Nieto made the decision “to invite Trump to Mexico” (Anderson). However, after returning to the United States, Trump “humiliated his host by promising at a rally that he still planned to build the wall and to have Mexico pay for it” (Anderson). Mexico was furious after they heard Trump’s remarks and retaliated with a protest. The Mexican citizens had posters that read “Mexico Deserves Respect” and chanted “Make America Hate Again” (Anderson).

Mexican-American issues in the past have stemmed from a dynamic in which “Americans didn’t know how to listen and Mexicans didn’t know how to speak up” (Sarukhan). Trump’s openly  negative view of Mexico along with his “‘my way or the highway’ approach” (Sarukhan) has increased rocky bilateral relations between the two countries. With Trump’s demanding tactics of governing, this idea of listening and understanding has been disregarded leading to “President Enrique Peña Nieto cancel[ing] of his trip to initiate talks with Trump” (Sarukhan).

With no regard for the long term political implications of his words and actions, Trump continues to use scare tactics during speeches and reelection rallies that harm relations with neighboring countries. He has allowed Mexican-American bilateral relations to disintegrate throughout the course of his campaign and his presidency. Trump’s stubborn leadership tactics have led to problems involving trade agreement rules, commerce between the two countries, and environmental protections.

In Parish’s political cartoon the first point of contention that is written on a truck trying to cross the border is World Trade Organization rules. WTO is a “trade related entity” that “pertains to the whole globe” while the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement is a “trade related entity” that is just related to the “North American region” (“Difference Between”). Therefore, the USA and Mexico are monitored by both the WTO and NAFTA. Trump wants to renegotiate NAFTA and raise the border adjustment tax “about 20 percent on Mexican imports” (Afesorgbor). However, this implementation of a tariff “will contravene WTO principles that stipulate non-discrimination between WTO member countries” (Afesorgbor). Therefore, Trump’s plan to raise tariffs on Mexico will probably not be feasible. The issue of money and reorganizing NAFTA is creating a bigger wedge between the two countries as Trump tries to build up America by taking advantage of Mexico.

An additional problem illustrated in the modern political cartoon is commerce. Trade between Mexico and the United States “totaled an estimated $616.6 billion in 2017” (“U.S.-Mexico Trade Facts”). Yet, Donald Trump wants to renegotiate trade agreements in order to further benefit the United States. Although Mexico is the United State’s “3rd largest goods trading partner,” (“U.S.-Mexico Trade Facts”) talk of building a wall has pushed Mexico to start “pivoting away from a highly-dependent trading relationship with the United States” (Mills). Mexico has began to pull away from the U.S. and make a Plan B meeting with “European Union officials, with both sides eager to accelerate trade talks” (Mills). As Trump tries to better the American economy, he is driving a larger wedge between the United States and Mexico impacting the overall relationship between the two countries.

Yet another problem that contributes to the tenuous relationship between Mexico and America is the lackluster environmental protection offered by President Trump. Trump’s renegotiation of NAFTA is clearly impacted by the failed Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement and by putting “multinational corporations’ narrow interests first” (Warren) while neglecting family farms and the environment. TPP was a trade agreement that “aimed to deepen economic ties between these nations, slashing tariffs and fostering trade to boost growth” (“TPP: What Is It and Why Does It Matter?”). While Trump focuses on factors that the TPP focused on he “intend[s] to curb environmental, climate, and other important regulations” (Warren) causing issues with the government’s role of creating environmental protection tactics. Trump’s stance of trade negotiation is heavily based on the United States, therefore, again neglecting Mexico’s needs, creating a bigger gap between the two countries.

Trump campaigned on the construction of a massive wall separating the United States from Mexico. However, he still faces a major problem of gaining funds in order to build this wall. By Trump promising “Mexico will pay for his wall,” (Caldwell) he has created deep-seated animosity between the two countries along with polarizing colleagues in Congress. Further conflict can be seen when Trump starts a “call-and-response exchange with the audience” at a rally in Vermont (“Trump: ‘Who’s Gonna Pay for the Wall?”). Trump calls out asking who will build the wall with the audience responding “Mexico!” This action created a larger divide not only between the individual governments, but also between the citizens of each country.

Furthermore, the way Trump has handled bilateral relations is extremely different and unprofessional compared to past Presidents. Contrary to past President, Trump has implemented new ways of dealing with bilateral relations that have caused an increase in friction between Mexico and the United States. Although Trump is on one extreme end of the spectrum, there have been Presidents such as George W. Bush, who believed Mexican-American relations were extremely important. George W. Bush was on the opposite side of the spectrum from Trump and was known for having a strong relationship with Mexico. President Bush had a “network of personal relationships [with Mexican politicians] that [was] unusual for an American President” (Sullivan).

Historically, there often have been highs and lows in the Mexican-American relationship, but there have also been stretches of time that were relatively uneventful — periods of calm between the two countries that were made possible,  due in part, to successful diplomacy. One such period of calm between Mexico and America occurred during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency, when he implemented the Good Neighbor Policy. The Good Neighbor Policy is a foreign policy that “opposes any armed intervention in Latin America and aims to reassure the region that the United States will not pursue interventionist policies” (“Timeline: U.S.-Mexico Relations”). Ultimately, the Good Neighbor Policy was constructed based on the diplomatic skills of Dwight W. Morrow, the ambassador to Mexico from 1927 to 1930.

The “Dwight W. Morrow” editorial accompanying the “New International Bridge” cartoon in the Dallas Morning News emphasized how Morrow’s “good-will and understanding” were what caused positive relations between the two countries. Dwight W. Morrow wanted to gain peace through understanding the other country. Morrow goes on to state, “we can best defend the rights of our own country when we understand the rights of other countries” (“Dwight W. Morrow”). Trump’s governing tactics are completely opposite from the political tactics illustrated in John Knott’s 1930 cartoon, “New International Bridge.” Morrow’s efforts are symbolic of the bridge that crosses over the Rio Grande as he reconnects the two countries. On the other hand, Trump does not show interest in steadying relations with Mexico as he tries to create a larger divide between the two countries by building a wall.

Overall, Donald Trump has seriously damaged the symbiotic relationship between Mexico and America due to his negative, insulting comments and hard-line policies towards Mexico. Trump’s blatant bias towards Mexico sets him apart from most previous U.S. Presidents, but not in a good way. Americans will likely be reaping the ill effects from this presidency for years to come, leaving future leaders the challenging task of reestablishing good relations that were hard fought victories exemplified in the 1930s “New International Bridge” cartoon and “Dwight W. Morrow” editorial.


Works Cited

Afesorgbor, Sylvanus Kwaku. “What If Trump Kills NAFTA? Remedies for Canada and Mexico.” The Conversation, 6 Apr. 2018, theconversation.com/what-if-trump-kills-nafta-remedies-for-canada-and-mexico-91129.

Anderson, Jon Lee. “How Mexico Deals with Trump.” The New Yorker, The New Yorker, 2 Oct. 2017, www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/10/09/mexico-in-the-age-of-trump.

Bernal, Rafael. “Five Ways Trump Is Restricting Immigration.” TheHill, The Hill, 1 Apr. 2018, thehill.com/latino/381103-five-ways-trump-is-restricting-immigration.

Caldwell, Alicia. “Trump’s Border Wall With Mexico Faces All Kinds of Obstacles.” U.S.News & World Report, U.S. News & World Report, www.usnews.com/news/politics/articles/2017-03-27/trumps-border-wall-with-mexico-faces-all-kinds-of-obstacles.

“Difference Between.” Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects, 12 Oct.2011, www.differencebetween.net/business/difference-between-wto-and-nafta/.

“Dwight W. Morrow.” Dallas Morning News, 19 September 1930. Newspaper. 17 April 2018.

Knott, John. “New International Bridge.” Cartoon. Dallas Morning News 19 September 1930. Newspaper. 17 April 2018.

Mills , Curt. “Mexico Pivots Away From U.S. on Trade.” U.S. News & World Report, U.S.News & World Report, 4 Apr. 2017, www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2017-04-04/mexico-pivots-away-from-trump-us-on-trade.

Nelson, Louis. “Trump Attacks Canada and Mexico over Trade.” POLITICO, 5 Mar.2018, www.politico.com/story/2018/03/05/trump-canada-mexico-nafta-trade-435820.

Paresh, Nath. “Mexico/USA: The Wall of Contention” Cartoon. The Khaleej Times[Inde/India] 30 January 2017. Cagle Cartoons. Web. 18 April 2018. http://caglecartoons.com/viewimage.asp?ID=%7B3B1644DC-6731-4E32-978F-6361B704DA84%7D

Sarukhan, Arturo. “Opinion | The U.S.-Mexico Relationship Is Dangerously on the Edge.”The Washington Post, WP Company, 31 Jan. 2017, www.washingtonpost.com/news/global-opinions/wp/2017/01/31/the-u-s-mexico-relationship-is-dangerously-on-the-edge/?utm_term=.0fcf401c16d7.

Sullivan, Kevin. “Bush’s Relations With Mexico Rooted in Symbols, Friendship.” TheWashington Post, WP Company, 13 Feb. 2001, www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/2001/02/13/bushs-relations-with-mexico-rooted-in-symbols-friendship/50ccbc3c-f778-411e-944d-be0009206548/?utm_term=.38dc7a65ce1c.

“The Most Controversial Quotes from Trump’s Campaign.” Newsday, Newsday, 20 Jan. 2017,www.newsday.com/news/nation/donald-trump-speech-debates-and-campaign-quotes-1.11206532.

“Timeline: U.S.-Mexico Relations.” Council on Foreign Relations, Council on Foreign Relations, www.cfr.org/timeline/us-mexico-relations.

“TPP: What Is It and Why Does It Matter?” BBC News, BBC, 23 Jan.2017, www.bbc.com/news/business-32498715.

“Trump: ‘Who’s Gonna Pay for the Wall?’.” MSNBC, NBCUniversal News Group, 7 Jan.2016,www.msnbc.com/msnbc/watch/trump-whos-gonna-pay-for-the-wall-598086723533.

“U.S.-Mexico Trade Facts.” Mexico | United States Trade Representative, ustr.gov/countries-regions/americas/mexico.

Warren, William. “NAFTA Renegotiation Threatens Family Farmers and the Environment • Friends of the Earth.” Friends of the Earth, 28 Nov. 2017, foe.org/nafta-renegotiation-threatens-family-farmers-environment/.



An Unexpected Champion

The media prematurely pronounces Hillary Clinton victorious in the political fight for “Champion of the Middle Class” against a generic Republican candidate during the 2016 presidential election.
The media prematurely pronounces Hillary Clinton victorious in the political fight for “Champion of the Middle Class” against a generic Republican candidate during the 2016 presidential election.

Michael Ramirez depicts the fight for the votes of the middle class in the 2016 presidential election in his cartoon, “Champion,” published in the Chicago Tribune. The two candidates for the election were Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and Republican nominee, Donald Trump. The 2016 presidential election was historically significant for women because it brought us closer to seeing a woman elected to the Office of President of the United States. Hillary Clinton was one of the most famous women in politics. Clinton came from a prominent political family with years of political experience. By contrast, Trump had little political experience, which made the pundits think that Hillary was sure to win the presidential election. In June of 2016, an article, “The 2016 Election is Already Decided,” was published in the Washington Post and discussed how, “the 2016 election is already decided. History says Hillary Clinton wins,” based onthe historical patterns of elections and the unpopularity of the GOP nominee, Donald Trump (Sosnik, “The 2016 Election is Already Decided”). Although she eventually went on to face defeat, her presidential campaign was a stride for women in the fight to see a woman elected to the office of President.

Hillary Clinton was born in 1947 in Chicago, Illinois. In 1975, she married her husband, Bill Clinton who served as President of the United States from 1993-2001. As First Lady of the United States, Clinton began her own political career. After her time as First Lady, she went on to serve as a two-term Senator from New York from 2001-2009 (Kelso, “Clinton, Hillary”). She then continued on to become the candidate for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States in 2008. After facing defeat in that election, she was chosen as the 67thSecretary of State under President Barack Obama from 2009-2013 (Kelso, “Clinton, Hillary”). Clinton’s vast political experience led her to run for President again in the 2016 presidential election.

Donald Trump, the Republican nominee, was born in 1946 in New York City. Trump spent his life building a real estate empire and starring on the reality television show The Celebrity Apprentice, which resulted in him becoming a billionaire and a public figure. However, he greatly lacked the political experience that was characteristic of past presidential nominees, which made his run for the Republican nominee seem like nothing more than a joke to many. However, on July 21, 2016, Trump accepted the presidential nomination at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland (“Donald Trump”).

The presidential election of 2016 was one of the most controversial and unusual elections in the history of the United States. Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, put up a strong fight against Donald Trump, the Republican nominee. The campaigns of both candidates were plagued by controversies and scandals. However, many viewed the campaign of Trump as a joke because of his lack of political experience compared to Clinton. Many people thought that Clinton would easily win the presidential election. This view became even more popular when the Clinton campaign office released their financial statistics. Clinton had raised more than $45 million during the first quarter of the campaign, shattering the previous record (Hassanzade Ajiri, “Hillary Clinton Has Raised $45 Million…”). In addition, 90% of the donations were less than $100, revealing Clinton’s popularity among Middle Class Americans (Hassanzade Ajiri, “Hillary Clinton Has Raised $45 Million…”).

In the final stretch of the election, both candidates made their final pleas to the American people and expressed the major platforms of their campaigns. Trump addressed the American people by saying that, “Today is the day that the working class strikes back,” (America Decides, “Hillary Clinton made a Dramatic…”). Clinton took a different approach by saying, “We have to bridge the divides in this country and love trumps hate,” (America Decides, “Hillary Clinton made a Dramatic…”). Clinton had spent previous weeks trying to attack the Trump campaign but shifted her address to stress national unity in the final days. At one of her final rallies in Philadelphia, she was joined by her husband as well as President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama (America Decides, “Hillary Clinton made a Dramatic…”). It looked as though Clinton would take this controversial election.

Yet on November 8, 2016, the results of the election began to come in, and many people could not believe it. Trump ended up receiving 306 electoral votes and Clinton received 232, giving Trump the election (“US Elections 2016 Results). However, Clinton went on to receive 48% of the popular vote and Trump only received 45.9% (“US Elections 2016 Results). Very few people expected this outcome, especially because of the unconventional nature of the Trump campaign. Clinton called Trump and conceded but did not give a concession speech to the public that night (“Roberts, “Trump wins Presidential Election”).

The fight for “Champion of the Middle Class” is illustrated in Ramirez’s cartoon through the characters of Clinton, the GOP nominee, and the media. The character of Clinton has her hand raised over her head in victory by the character representing the. The elephant character, representative of the GOP nominee, has a look of annoyance and says, “You know the match hasn’t started yet, right?”. They are in a boxing ring that represents the election for the champion of the middle class. This illustration is representative of the prevailing thought by the media that Clinton had already won the election before it even started. In the cartoon as in real life however, the GOP nominee was not ready to concede the fight before it started and eventually went on to win the election.

The elements and surprises of the 2016 presidential election are further outlined in the editorial “Hillary, how can this be? Isn’t the race over?” published in the Chicago Tribune on September 6, 2016. The author describes the weeks leading up to the election as a time that Clinton’s staff eagerly anticipated restoring the White House to make it their new home (Kass “Hillary, How Can This Be? Isn’t the Race over?”). He then explains that in the last few days the polls revealed that the race had tightened, and Clinton’s lead had shrunk drastically. He goes on to say that the race is not over, although many people thought that it was long ago (Kass “Hillary, How Can This Be? Isn’t the Race over?”).

Similar themes are conveyed in a cartoon published more than 85 years earlier in the Dallas Morning News. In John Knott’s cartoon, “It Was That Kind of Fight”, a similar political battle is illustrated. Ruth Hanna McCormick is depicted with her arm raised in victory over her male competitor, Charles Deneen, in the Illinois state senatorial primary election of 1930. McCormick came from a prominent political family, and both her father and first husband served on the Senate. She also was an advocate for the suffragette movement, making her an influential public figure. Similar to Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, many thought that because of McCormick’s vast political experience and background, she was sure to go on and win the general election. In the end, however, both women faced defeat in the general elections. Although Clinton and McCormick were not elected, both of them made important strides for women in the fight for gender equality.

Although women have made immense progress in the fight for gender equality since receiving the right to vote in 1920, the recent election proved that there is still a lot left to fight for. We have yet to see a woman be elected President of the United States. Even though we were not able to elect a woman to the Office of President, the election of 2016 proved that we are closer to seeing this goal come to completion.


Works Cited

AMERICA DECIDES. “HILLARY CLINTON Made a Dramatic […].” Evening Standard, 08 Nov. 2016, p. 1. EBSCOhost, ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nfh&AN=119310937&site=ehost-live.

Ramirez, Michael. “Champion.” Chicago Tribune.

Cogan, Brian, and Tony Kelso. “Clinton, Hillary.” Encyclopedia of Politics, the Media, and Popular Culture, Greenwood Press, 2009, pp. 222-223. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/CX2444000063/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=5c9fc4ca. Accessed 17 Apr. 2018.

“Donald Trump.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 2 May 2018, www.biography.com/people/donald-trump-9511238.

Guardian US interactive, et al. “US Elections 2016 Results: Track Who Won, County by County.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, www.theguardian.com/us-news/ng-interactive/2016/nov/08/us-election-2016-results-live-clinton-trump?view=map&type=presidential.

Hassanzade Ajiri, Denise. “Hillary Clinton Has Raised $45 Million in Campaign Contributions so Far; .” The Christian Science Monitor, 1 July 2015.

Kass, John. “Hillary, How Can This Be? Isn’t the Race over?” Chicago Tribune, 7 Sept. 2016, www.chicagotribune.com/news/columnists/kass/ct-hillary-trump-election-kass–0907-20160906-column.html.

Lawless, Jennifer L. “U.S. Politics and Society: Women, Political Participation of.” The Encyclopedia of Political Science, edited by George Thomas Kurian, vol. 5, CQ Press, 2011, pp. 1709-1710. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/CX1671601454/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=505971b0. Accessed 17 Apr. 2018.

Roberts, Dan, et al. “Donald Trump Wins Presidential Election, Plunging US into Uncertain Future.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 9 Nov. 2016, www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/nov/09/donald-trump-wins-us-election-news.

Sosnik, Doug. “The 2016 Election Is Already Decided. History Says Hillary Clinton Wins.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 29 June 2016, www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-2016-election-is-already-decided-history-says-hillary-clinton-wins/2016/06/28/8c6e682e-3d49-11e6-80bc-d06711fd2125_story.html?utm_term=.7846d9002963.

“Economic Growth Seeds”

In a 2017 cartoon by Gary Varvel, President Donald Trump is depicted as Johnny Appleseed tossing around the "seeds" of tax cuts, while the Democratic Donkey questions the practicality of his actions.
In a 2017 cartoon by Gary Varvel, President Donald Trump is depicted as Johnny Appleseed tossing around the “seeds” of tax cuts, while the Democratic Donkey questions the practicality of his actions.

The issues of tax legislation and general economic ideology have dominated the political sphere of the United States throughout the nation’s history, and being central matters of debate and partisan disagreement they have carved out two primary sides of the argument over time. Today, President Donald Trump’s rhetoric regarding a tax revolution and the ensuing Legislative proposals offered by the Republican Party are characteristic of supply-side, or trickle-down, economic theory, in which business investment is stimulated by making funds more available to corporations and the wealthy, and as a result economic improvement occurs from the top-down. This policy was also a core component to the presidencies of both Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Others, however, have pushed for the style of Keynesian economics, or the theory that government spending is the key to economic stimulation, as seen by President Barack Obama’s economic policies. Both theories face the issue of finding sources of funding to supplement losses of government revenue that result either due to spending more or receiving less.

Gary Varvel, an opinion cartoonist for the Indianapolis Star Newspaper, published the cartoon, “Economic Growth Seeds,” on April 28, 2017 (Varvel). The cartoon refers to President Donald Trump’s adamant announcement of his plans for the “largest tax cut in our country’s history” (Walsh). Moreover, Varvel reveals a particular case of the ongoing argument of economic policy and the question of how the government is to maintain its revenue while implementing its policy. The cartoon shows the perspective of both sides of the Trump tax cut debate and its consistency with politics throughout history, and raises the issue that there lacks a decent means in which to respond to the funding question; usually the federal budget deficit takes the hit.

Varvel’s illustration consists of two characters: President Trump on the right and a personified donkey on the left, which symbolizes the Democratic Party (Makemson 256). Varvel doesn’t portray President Trump sporting his normal presidential suit and working the Oval Office, however. The cartoon instead depicts Trump as John Chapman — more widely known as the folk hero, “Johnny Appleseed” — tossing seeds into hills of plowed fields from a large bag labeled, “Tax Cut Seeds.” Chapman, born in Massachusetts in 1774, traveled throughout Pennsylvania and Ohio to harvest apple nurseries and sharing his knowledge with settlers on the American Frontier. In the cartoon, President Trump, or Mr. Appleseed, appears to be walking with a haughty and confident posture while carelessly throwing the seeds all around. In contrast to Varvel’s depiction, Chapman planted his apple seeds for strategic economic reasons (“Johnny Appleseed”).

Such an alteration of the Appleseed story conveys a dynamic of order in chaos present in the Trump tax plan, in which his idea is that his concept would distribute growth itself. This element of simplicity may be Varvel’s reason for referring to Johnny Appleseed, who left the growth of his apple trees to nature and the people along his path whom he taught how to tend to the trees. Similarly, Trump and the Republican tax cutters are relying on and trusting the natural process of economics for their “seeds” to grow and prosper.

The other character, the Donkey/Democratic Party, is standing behind Trump’s path of travel, leaning over with his hands extended outward toward the seeds on the ground in a gestural expression of disbelief as he questions with a dropped jaw, “How are you going to pay for this?” The face of Trump appears to be whistling and completely ignorant of the donkey’s concerns. This interaction reveals a common issue in politics, in which one side questions the other’s proposal with the age-old dilemma of how to and who will pay for it; usually the party with their hands on the Congressional reigns simply ignores the opposition. Despite the cartoon’s original caption, which states, “Impatient Democrats seem not to understand the principle of sowing and reaping,” the Democrats do have a right to pose this question, especially because the idea behind Trump’s tax cuts has been seen in our country before (Varvel).

Specifically, this idea was featured in 1980’s America as supply-side economics rose to prominence. When Ronald Reagan became the 40th president of the United States in 1981, he faced a flurry of major economic issues. The country was still recovering from the Vietnam War, prices were increasing rapidly as a result of a Middle Eastern oil embargo, and a recession was well under way after a long period of stagflation in the 1970s. Thus was introduced “Reaganomics,” which consisted of supply-side economic policy — removing impediments to the supply of factors of production by implementing spending cuts to reduce the size of government and a monetary policy that controls inflation, eliminating federal regulation on businesses, simplifying the system of tax brackets and a broader base, and cutting income taxes across the board to encourage investment and allow for money to trickle down to the private sector (“Reaganomics”). The Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981 introduced a tax rate decrease from 70% to 50% for the top tax bracket and a drop from 14% to 11% for the lowest bracket (Schein 650). Soon after, the Tax Reform Act of 1986 implemented major changes to tax policy, including the simplification of income taxation to three brackets with the rates of 15%, 28% and 33%. The Reagan Tax Cuts aimed to stimulate the economy by allowing for more investment, and in broad respect succeeded in improving the economy (“Tax Reform Act of 1986”).

The Trump-backed 2017 Republican tax plan functions in a similar way, and would be the first massive tax overhaul since 1986 (Financial Advisor). It follows the supply side concept that has become a central component of the Republican Party since the Reagan Administration. Although still incomplete, Trump’s prospective bill sets out to simplify the income tax brackets for individuals and families from seven to three, solidifying rates at 12%, 25% and 35% (Bryan). However, due to criticism there will most likely be an added fourth bracket at the top (“Trump Discusses”). As a result of the proposal, more of the middle class in Trump’s plan will be paying what is currently the rate for only the lowest middle class bracket. Additionally, the plan introduces the “Zero Tax Bracket,” in which the standard deduction is expanded to nearly double what it is now, requiring that the first $12,000 of income for individuals and $24,000 for married couples be exempt from taxation. The plan also aims to lower the highest tax bracket from 39.5% to 35%. The greatest change, however, involves business tax rates. With the principle of supply-side economics at the heart of Trump’s political stance, his proposed tax reform will lower the corporate tax rate from 35% to 20% (Bryan). It would also lower the pass-through business tax rate — the rate of taxation of small business profits that go directly to individuals — from the top bracket level of 39.6% to the new middle level of 25% (Morgan).

The problem with Trump’s tax plan, and what ended up being the weakness with similar plans put in place previously, is the national budget deficit. The Reagan Tax Cuts — though not completely alone, as they were accompanied by Congress’s failure to cut domestic spending and the defense expense at the end of the Cold War — contributed widely to the $1 trillion federal deficit in the 1980s (“Reaganomics”). The Bush Tax Cuts in the early 2000s followed the same trend. H.W. Bush put in place measures to incentivize production, but while economic growth did occur, increased government spending in a time of the September 11th terrorist attacks in New York City and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan caused further depletion of the national revenue (Evans 17-19). In Trump’s and the Republican’s case, the new tax codes would cost the national revenue $4 to $6 trillion in the next 10 years, according to the Tax Foundation, and no substantial proposals have been put forth to offset this loss of revenue (Stewart). Some Republicans claim that new revenues will be gained from eliminating tax loopholes and — as per the Johnny Appleseed concept — the economy will take care of itself if investment is allowed to increase (Morgan). The tax plan will also eliminate most itemized deductions and the state and local tax deduction, which are both potential sources of revenue (Bryan).

Ultimately, the main claim of both Varvel, Trump and many Republicans is that the tax cuts alone are the seeds of economic growth; although there may be a slight deficit as the seeds solidify their presence in the ground and establish their roots, in time they will sprout and the economy will grow on its own. However, in an interview with House Speaker Paul Ryan in September of 2017, he did not promise the tax overhaul would not increase the federal deficit, and said the primary goal was to “bolster economic growth” (“The Latest”). The question of how the government plans to balance the upcoming loss of revenue is still up in the air.

Varvel’s cartoon bears several parallels with John Knott’s March 26, 1937 cartoon entitled, “The Tax Expert,” which referred to a tax remission bill proposed in the Texas House of Representatives — a topic of controversy in the state in the 1930’s (Knott). First, the bill Knott portrayed was fueled by the same idea behind Trump’s proposed tax cuts, ultimately aiming to provide the same kind of economic relief in a time of financial difficulty for citizens. While Trump today faces decade-old remnants of the Great Recession of 2008, the Texas Legislature in 1937 was caught up in the distress of the Great Depression of the 1930’s. The 1937 tax remission proposal intended to provide a tax rebate to all Texas counties, which could then use the money as they pleased to improve the conditions of their respective areas. In the same way, Trump’s plan maintains a large focus on cutting taxes for businesses with the thought that if there was more money available to be spent at the corporate level, investment would increase and thus “[extend] economic opportunities to American workers, small business, and middle-income families” (Bryan). Essentially, the overall goal of both measures was and is to to establish a fairer and more evenly distributed method of taxation by getting the money out of the hands of the government and into the control of smaller units — Texas counties and United States businesses — and trusting the basics of economics to guide the money into the hands of the people at every level below.

In regard to balancing the government revenue with the release of funds in the form of tax remission or tax cuts, both cartoons emphasize the uncertainty that comes with such measures. In Varvel’s cartoon, the donkey asks the obvious question about the course of action in place to make a tax cut feasible in terms of the federal budget. The fact that the donkey is empty-handed and Trump is only holding the tax cut seeds and no other economic measures proposes that there is not a good, tangible method made available as an offset to the revenue that will be lost as a result of the cuts, and Democratic Party is skeptical of the Republican claim that the cuts themselves will consequentially refill the revenue by means of the trickle-down model. Opponents of the Trump tax reform believe that it is likely that there really isn’t a decent way to pay for the plan and therefore a large federal budget deficit would ensue (Stewart). Knott’s cartoon displayed the same sort of doubtfulness, suggesting that the passage of the tax remission bill could not in reality stand alone without some way to balance the budget. In Knott’s view and the view of the democratic governor at the time, James Allred, the likely result of large-scale tax remission would be higher taxes for the regular taxpayer, as depicted by the legislators hand reaching into the pocket of Old Man Texas for money (“Tax Remission”).

The opposition — primarily the Democratic Party — has historically offered a different solution on the other end of the spectrum of economic policy. The concept of Keynesian economics has been the dominant force of Democratic legislation since President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s utilization of the theory in the New Deal after the onset of the Great Depression of the 1930’s, and the large amount of government spending required by World War II that proved to improve the United States economy (May 540-541). Despite being opposed to the Trump tax cuts on the basis that they will cause the deficit to bubble to an unhealthy level because there is no other source of revenue as a part of the plan, Democratic policy has been characterized by the same problem. Responding to the 2008 Recession, Obama implemented the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which largely increased the government’s spending while reducing its revenue-raising options (Sahadi). Thus, the roles of Varvel’s cartoon were reversed, as members of the Republican Party, concerned about a ballooning deficit themselves, criticized the policy with an argument similar to that of the Democratic Party in response to Trump’s plan.

Both cartoons highlight that it is extremely difficult to come up with a balanced fiscal policy. No matter the side — republican, democratic, conservative, liberal, or any other party or ideology — there will be opponents claiming that there is no way to pay for the proposed plan. As seen in both 1937 and 2017, the fight over the government’s role in the economy and ensuing impact on the federal or state budget deficit has remained fundamentally the same. The cases of Knott and Varvel portray the concept of the government placing control over money in the hands of the governed to improve their financial situation and ultimately the economy as a whole, and the opposing argument that there exists no viable source to provide those funds to the people. Yet the two sides can easily be switched when the government spends excessively. In general, the major economic ideologies of supply-side economics and Keynesian economics differ only in who is put in charge of spending — either the people or the government, respectively — but both lead to the same problem of balance. As we move forward, it is important to realize that the same problem may have many different methods for solving it, and while the economy is a massive enigma, by working together we can begin to progress toward better and better reform.


Works Cited

Bryan, Bob. “IT’S HERE: All the Details of Trump’s Massive Tax Plan.” Business Insider, Axel Springer, 27 Sept. 2017, www.businessinsider.com/trump-tax-plan-details-corporate-rate-individual-brackets-deductions-cuts-2017-9.

Evans, Kim Masters. “The U.S. Economy: Historical Overview.” The American Economy, 2009 ed., Gale, 2009, pp. 1-19. Information Plus Reference Series. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CCX1838100007&it=r&asid=78f00a60eadedfbfc5226bf27aab3d10. Accessed 23 Oct. 2017.

“Johnny Appleseed: A Pioneer Hero.” Environmental Issues: Essential Primary Sources, edited by Brenda Wilmoth Lerner and K. Lee Lerner, Gale, 2006, pp. 21-23. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CCX3456400021&it=r&asid=8d11bf000834a204e8cd2134997295ad. Accessed 12 Nov. 2017.

Knott, John Francis. “The Tax Expert.” The Dallas Morning News, No. 17 ed., 26 Mar. 1937, p. 4.

Makemson, Harlen. “Cartoonists, Political.” Encyclopedia of Journalism, edited by Christopher H. Sterling, vol. 1, SAGE Reference, 2009, pp. 253-261. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CCX3202300070&asid=0be6461c4df61d0480aca18fc13115d5. Accessed 14 Nov. 2017.

MAY, DEAN L. “Keynesian Economics.” Encyclopedia of the Great Depression, edited by Robert S. McElvaine, vol. 1, Macmillan Reference USA, 2004, pp. 539-541. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CCX3404500304&it=r&asid=55eeb9551783fd782464aa2fc29212f7. Accessed 12 Nov. 2017.

Morgan, David, and Richard Cowan. “Trump’s Plan Calls For 25% Rate On Pass-Through Entities.” Financial Advisor, Reuters, 27 Sept. 2017, www.fa-mag.com/news/trump-s-plan-calls-for-slashing-taxes-on-businesses–the-wealthy-34898.html?section=3&page=2.

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