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“And the Echo Answers: Where!”

The Agricultural Marketing Act of 1929 proved to be detrimental to the American agricultural industry. While the bill began with good intentions to help farmers, abuse soon became rampant and the U.S. Federal Government, specifically the Federal Farm Board, couldn’t keep up with increasing crop production. The 1929 law soon proved to be too much for the Government to handle when it came to subsidizing farmers across the United States.

This cartoon, titled “And Echo Answers: ‘Where!’”, by cartoonist John Knott, first appeared in the Dallas Morning Newson June 26, 1930. The cartoon, which was published during the early months of the infamous Great Depression, was in response to the Federal Farm Board. The Board, which was within the Herbert Hoover administration, was unable to rectify the declining markets for cotton and wheat. The two crops had fallen to a 7-year low just one year after enacting the Farm Bill. When Black Tuesday hit in 1929, the falling stock in cotton and wheat excelled at a rapid pace.

In the cartoon, we see a drowning farmer with “wheat” and “cotton” being “flooded” by low prices. It is raining heavily, signaling that the prices will seemingly decrease and the product demand will suffer even more. The farmer is asking where the relief for farms is because President Hoover, Congress and the Farm Board were largely unable to help them.

That is not to say, however, that President Hoover and Washington DC didn’t try. Several months before the market crashed, Hoover signed the “Agricultural Marketing Act of 1929.” The law was meant to address falling prices by allowing the Federal Government to purchase, sell and store excess crops from farmers and lend money to farmers in need. The revolving money allocated, approximately $150,000,000 , was intended to be loaned to farmers for buying seed, food and livestock to help maintain their livelihood should they fall on hard times (Joy).

Hoover didn’t necessarily intend to lend the money to farmers directly as he feared this would create dependence on the government. Instead, the Federal Farm Board lent money to co-operatives. Co-Operatives were established to be groups of farmers who pooled their resources together (Sibley 453).

The law, however, had a large loophole. When stocks were being dumped at alarming rates at the end of 1929 and beginning of 1930, the Federal Farm Board was unable to keep up with production (Sibley 454). Farmers were aware that the law never put in place a stipulation on how much the government would be forced to buy from them. Therefore, with no production limit, farmers overproduced to ensure that they would be paid. Farmers across the country, who still needed to provide for themselves, knew if they couldn’t see their crops privately, the government would still cut them a check. The law was designed specifically for a prosperous economy, not a failing one (Sibley 456).

Foreign trade was also declining across the globe due to the effects of the 1929 Stock Market crash. The government had to deal with the excess production issue domestically. While the government did have the right to sell the crops that they had bought, consumer spending in the United States was also in a steep decline. As well, wheat likely suffered due to Prohibition, the ban on manufacturing and sale of recreational alcohol. Eventually, the Farm Board ran out of money and the program had to be abolished.

One of the other contributing factors to economic decline was the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, enacted in 1930. The legislation put forward was an attempt to keep American farmers afloat and decrease foreign trade competitors during the agricultural issues during the end of the 1920’s (Riggs 1219). This tariff raised import taxes by approximately 20 percent and spiraled into an international trade war. This trade war was considered to be one of the leading factors that spiraled America into the Great Depression, all while decreasing trade by 66 percent within a five year period of its enactment (Riggs 1219).

Along with a declining import market, this also lead to declining export from the US agricultural industry. When Smoot-Hawley was actually signed into law, Great Britain, Canada and France – among others – immediately reduced exports. This subsequently negated anticipated gains, sales, revenues and in the end, profits (Beaudreau 300).

The Dust Bowl, which occurred during the mid-late 1930s, was also a problem that came later. It is believed to have been caused by years of low rainfall and unusually high temperatures (Schubert 1856). The combination of the poor farm conditions prior to the Agricultural Marketing Act, the onset of the great depression and the lack of trade caused by the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act led to an unimaginable crisis. Farmers likely didn’t expect agricultural economy to get worse than it was in 1929, but it did within less than a decade (Schubert 1856).

The humor element in Knott’s cartoon is evoked using “Where’s farm relief?” which is asked by the farmer who is drowning. As well, the title draws attention for its use of an “echo answer.” An echo answer is when the verb in a question is restated, or echoed, in the response. The Depression era farmers were consistently asking “Where is farm relief?”. For most, there were no answer and the farmers echoed their anger as if to say “Yeah! WHERE is farm relief?”

While farmers were aware of the passage of the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1929, they were seemingly unaware at the massive failure occurring. As recently as 2008, agriculture continues to be a flaw in Government regulation due to overproduction and falling trade. The 16 farm bills that have been passed between 1929 and 2008 are a continued cyclical of an ongoing agricultural problem.

By: David Rubin

Works Cited

Beaudreau, B.C. Int Adv Econ Res (2017) 23: 295. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11294-017-9642-z

Joy, Mark S. “Agricultural Marketing Act of 1929.” The 1920s in America, edited by Carl Rollyson, Salem, 2012. Salem Online.

Knott, John. “And Echo Answers: ‘Where!”.” Dallas Morning News, 29 June 1930.

McElvaine, Robert S. Encyclopedia of the Great Depression. Gale, Cengage Learning, 2004. Gale Virtual Reference Library. EBSCOhost, ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=100381&site=ehost-live.

Schubert, Siegfried D., et al. “On the Cause of the 1930s Dust Bowl.” Science, vol. 303, no. 5665, 2004, pp. 1855–1859. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/3836515.

Sibley, Katherine A. S. “The Worsening of the Great Depression.” John Wiley & Sons, Inc, Hoboken, NJ, 2014.

“Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act (1930).” Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History, edited by Thomas Riggs, 2nd ed., vol. 3, Gale, 2015, p. 1219. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/CX3611000828/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=117ab699. Accessed 16 Apr. 2018.

François Hollande’s Rhine Journey

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In “François Hollande’s Rhine Journey” the economic competition between France and Germany in 2015 is depicted through Dave Simmonds cartoon.

 

Corporate instability dominated the French economic agenda in 2015 as the President of France, François Hollande, sought to achieve labor reform and decrease unemployment. With unemployment rates double that of its German counterpart, France has struggled to compete financially. In Dave Simonds’ combined editorial and political cartoon “François Hollande’s Rhine Journey,” Hollande is depicted repairing his dirty, beaten-down tricycle, while a muscular three-man team of Germans race past with zest (Simonds [Page 1]). Simonds’ illustration suggested that France’s economic competitiveness could not compare to that of its European neighbors, specifically Germany.

Fourteen years prior, the French and German unemployment rates were equal at eight percent. In 2015, however, the French unemployment rate was ten percent compared to Germany’s at five percent. The economic gap between France and Germany in 2015 was caused by a decrease in hours worked and an increase in the number of young adults not seeking employment, education, or training in France (Simonds [Page 1]). The French hoped that significant labor reforms would open up more employment opportunities, but the French Labor Code was 3,800 pages and very hard to adjust (Simonds [Page 2]). Unfortunately this meant that instead of a major reform, the French witnessed a series of smaller reforms aimed at improving their economic condition over time. Due to this the French fell behind in productivity causing their economy to react by increasing the price of exports, which in turn, led to a sharp fall in exports (Tully).

This lack of economic competitiveness was exemplified in Simonds’ cartoon as the French President struggled to ride his small tricycle with French citizens standing nearby looking weak and helpless. This is in contrast to the German cycling team depicted as muscular and strong, whizzing by on a sturdy and reliable bike, further emphasizing their economic dominance over France. In addition, Simonds cartoon separates the two countries with the Rhine River. The Rhine River is the boundary of West Germany and France, and one of Europe’s leading transport routes for trading. As a river that represented high levels of exports, in the cartoon it serves not only as the physical boundary for Germany and France, but also as the boundary of economic competitiveness as Germany far exceeded France in exports (Mutton). Humor is found in the type of ‘bicycle,’ or economy, that each country has. France, with its tricycle, a beginner bicycle typically used by children, suggests that their economic condition is immature and underdeveloped to that of the Germans who ride on a large, sleek, professional bike. The cartoon illustrates the differences in French and German competitiveness and ultimately sheds light on the weak economic condition of France.

The lack of economic control and competitiveness revealed in Simonds’ 2015 cartoon resonates with many of the economic issues displayed in “The Sunken Road” illustrated by Joseph Knott in 1933, and accompanied by the editorial, “Too Many Factions” as it lays out the struggles that troubled Prime Minister Albert Sarraut during the Great Depression. For example, both Prime Minister Sarraut and President Hollande ruled in periods of economic instability and were restricted by the French law as to how they could improve the economy (Deen). In the depression era, Sarraut ruled while France was still tied to the Gold Standard. The Gold Standard did not allow much room for monetary intervention, and because of this Sarraut struggled to adjust the economy, ultimately making matters worse and further hindering economic progress (“Too Many Factions” [Page 2]). In 2015, Hollande was restricted by the labor code causing widespread unemployment and loss of exports in France proving that without large improvements in the structure of the French economy he could potentially face the same fate of Sarraut in 1933 (Simonds [Page 1]). Both 1933 and 2015 were times of economic hardship where France struggled to keep up with its competitive neighbors.

German similarities and differences with French political relations can also be analyzed in 1933 and in 2015. In 1933 Nazi Germany had one faction, one ruler, and total control over its people under the dictatorial rule of Adolf Hitler. By contrast, in 1933, France had many factions and little control as Sarraut struggled to gain support and combat the Great Depression. Despite no longer being under the dictatorial rule of Hitler in 2015, the trend of successful German control held true as the German government was stronger than the French with a highly competitive economy. However, contrasting the countries separate economies in1933, both France and Germany formally integrated their economies as they joined the Eurozone, a group of European countries whose national currency is the Euro, France in 1999, followed by Germany in 2002 (Rosenberg). Because of this, France and Germany were dependent on each other to uphold the economy as the downfall of one country could have widespread harmful affects within the Eurozone. France, without large provisions in its labor code would not see an decrease in unemployment or an increase in exports and could ultimately lead to an economic downfall not only for themselves, but for the mass of countries participating in the Eurozone (Simonds [Page 2]). Simond’s cartoon sheds light on the economic struggles associated with a lack of competitiveness by the French, implying that France needs to improve its fiscal condition in order to rejoin the economic competition with Germany.

Works Cited:

Elkins, Thomas Henry. “France | History – Geography.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica. Web. 29 Nov. 2015.

Deen, Mark. “French CEOs Sharpen Calls for Labor Market Reform.” Bloomberg.com. Bloomberg. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.

Hannon, Paul. “Eurozone Economy Slows as Exports Weaken.” WSJ. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.

Mutton, Alice. “Rhine River | River, Europe.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.

Pabst, Sabrina. “France’s Flailing Economy Endangering the Eurozone” DW.COM. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.

Simonds, Dave. “François Hollandes Rhine Journey.” The Economist 25 Apr. 2015: n. pag. Print.<http://www.economist.com/news/europe/21649471-french-president-tries-belatedly-catch-up-other-more-competitive-countries-his?zid=295&ah=0bca374e65f2354d553956ea65f756e0>.

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

Tully, Shawn. “The Euro Crisis No One Is Talking About: France Is in Free Fall.” Fortune. 9 Jan. 2013. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.