Tag Archives: roosevelt

Daily Dose of Government

A man in the labor union  is protesting while a woman is trying to reach President Roosevelt on the phone.
A man in the labor union is protesting  via sit-down strike while a woman is trying to reach President Roosevelt on the phone.

 

John Knott depicts the United States crisis regarding labor unions and striking in a cartoon titled “Chronic Disease” for the Dallas Morning News published on March 23, 1937.  The image shows a man sitting hunched over with his hands on either side of his face.  He appears very burly and very defeated. He has the word “labor” printed across his shirt sleeve. Behind him is a woman wearing an apron. She is on the telephone and has the word “public” printed on her apron. She is speaking into the telephone.  Her quotation bubble reads, “Is this Dr. Roosevelt?” The cartoon demonstrates the disparity between government action and the labor unions.

 

In the United States history, the Great Depression is regarded as one of the worst economic crisis the country had ever seen. The Great Depression spanned from 1929 with the stock market crash until about 1939. Within these ten years,1937-1938 featured a massive spike of unemployment rates and a decline of industrial production rates (Auerbach, “The General Motors Strike”). These declines were greatly related to the labor unions and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (Rosswurm, “Congress of Industrial Organizations”).

 

The Congress for Industrial Organization (CIO) was formed in November 1935 (Rosswurm, “Congress of Industrial Organizations”) due to an utter need. Companies were overworking and underpaying their employees. (Terrell). Workers congregated into unions and began to fight for a better work environment and more benefits. John L. Lewis along with many others formed the CIO to “organiz[e] framework for [workers’] mobilization and unionization” (Rosswurm, “Congress of Industrial Organizations”). The organization campaigned against employers with strikes and picket lines.

 

One of the most notable movements that the organization pursued was the sit-down strike movement. A sit-down strike is when workers spontaneously and simultaneously stop working and sit down. The first recorded sit-down strike was in November of 1935 (Smith, “The sit-down strikes”). Because of the strike, the workers involved received what they asked for from their management: higher wages. Other workers noting the success began to partake in the sit-down strike movement. (Smith, “The sit-down strikes”). By the end of 1937, over half a million workers were involved in sit-down strikes. In 1936 and 1937 over 1000 strikes were recorded (Smith, “The sit-down strikes”). These massive strikes stretched for hours at a time and caused loss of production in completely unprecedented ways (Jones, “Labor and politics”). This began to affect the United States as a whole. Trade levels were decreasing and the country was faced with a lot more than simple unemployment.

 

As a result, President Roosevelt knew that he could not simply allow for the country to self-destruct. He began to implement laws to ban these sit-down strikes and hopefully cause the country to get back on its feet. President Roosevelt received enormous support from the public (Jones, “Labor and politics”). According to author Thomas Jones’ extensive research, the public saw the strikers as “‘housebreakers’ and elected officials [as] ‘policemen’ who ‘should protect [their] rights’”(Jones. “Labor and politics”).

 

This is very clearly demonstrated in John Knott’s cartoon. The labor unions (represented by the man) are upset because sit-down strikes are forbidden and the general public (represented by the woman) are pleased because government officials are taking action against the labor unions. The woman is speaking into a telephone and is asking if “Doctor Roosevelt” is there. The public is very pleased with Roosevelt’s actions and  thus they call him doctor. This title is highly respected and alludes to the fact that doctors prescribe medicine. The allusion is made that Roosevelt is prescribing laws and policies to these “sick and insane” strikers.

 

The general public’s true feelings are displayed even further in an editorial published in the Dallas Morning News in conjunction with Knott’s cartoon. The editorial titled “General Strike Threat” gives a specific example of a sit down strike that took place in Detroit. The author comments on this strike as “the spread of [an]…epidemic” (“General Strike Threat”). Not only that, the author notes that the continuation of sit down strikes will certainly lead to a “condition of anarchy” (“General Strike Threat”) in the United States. The author further addresses the ‘epidemic’ by writing about foreign countries’ approaches to striking (“General Strike Threat”). These examples of foreign countries are used to exemplify the perceived excellence in President Roosevelt’s action towards the United States sit down strikes.

 

John Knott analyzes two sides in his cartoon. He looks at how the labor unions felt towards the sit-down strikes and showcases that with the slumped over union worker and looks at how the general public feels and showcases that with the woman calling ‘Doctor Roosevelt.’

 

 

Auerbach, Jerold S. “Sit-Down: The General Motors Strike of 1936–1937. By Fine Sidney. Ann Arbor, The University of Michigan Press, 1969. Pp. Ix 448. $12.50.” Business History Review, vol. 44, no. 2, 1970, pp. 259–260., doi:10.2307/3112371

Rosswurm, Steve. “Congress of Industrial Organizations.” Encyclopedia.Chicagohistory. 2005, http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/326.html

“General Strike Threat.” Dallas Morning News. 23 Mar., 1937, http://infoweb.newsbank.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/iw-search/we/HistArchive/?p_product=EANX&p_theme=ahnp&p_nbid=R5CW51LFMTUxMTMyNzczNi45NjUwMDk6MToxMjoxMjguODMuNjMuMjA&p_docref=image%2Fv2:0F99DDB671832188@EANX-10425AEFA0793BDD@2428616-10425AF05B18162F@17-10425AF4CA9CAABC

Greene, Julia, and Julie Greene. “International Labor and Working-Class History.” International Labor and Working-Class History, no. 48, 1995, pp. 206–209. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/27672271.

Jones, T. L. (1999). Labor and politics: The Detroit municipal election of 1937 (Order No. 9929854). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (304516286). Retrieved from http://ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/304516286?accountid=7118

Smith, Sharon. “The sit-down strikes.” Socialistworker. 10 June, 2011, https://socialistworker.org/2011/06/10/the-sit-down-strikes

 

 

 

Roosevelt’s Cotton Tariff

A good customer threatens to walk out

A Good Customer Threatens to Walk Out is a political cartoon by John Knott seeking to give immediacy and perspective to the problem of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s new tariff on cotton goods during a fragile time in the history of the United States of America: The Great Depression. The cartoon depicts the two parties affected by the tariff – The Japanese and American textile departments. Although the “Raw Cotton for Export” is plentiful, and “Japan’s Textile Industry” is readily available, trade cannot occur because of the piece of paper that is sitting between the Japanese and American characters – the tariff on Japan’s cotton goods. The editorial accompanying this cartoon, “Cotton Blunder,” tells the story that explains the visible tension in the scene. Effective June 20th, 1936, President Roosevelt decided to raise taxes on Japanese cotton by 42 per cent. “The new tariff action will give [Japan] an excuse to retaliate by buying less raw cotton from America and more from other countries” (“Cotton Blunder” 9). Although Roosevelt was trying to help American textile companies by placing a tariff on Japanese imported textiles, it only angered Japan and threatened to perpetuate the Great Depression even further due to its implications.

After the devastating stock market crash of 1929, America’s economy had started a seemingly unstoppable downward spiral. Herbert Hoover was the standing president at the time, and although it was not his fault the American economy had crashed, it was his fault it had gotten worse. One of the worst decisions he made as president was passing the notorious “Smoot-Hawley” Tariff Act which imposed 20,000 record-high taxes on imported goods. As if facing increased inflation and skyrocketing prices for common goods was not bad enough, now people were expected to pay extra money for foreign goods (Henderson). Though it was supposed to stimulate domestic economy, it only closed the metaphorical Pandora’s box of American economics before hope could escape. This tariff hurt other nations’ economies as well, since the U.S. was previously a prominent trade partner for many countries. Now, however, their goods were not selling in the U.S. so the immediate reaction from affected countries was to enact tariffs of their own in response. Consequentially, the “Smoot-Hawley” Tariff Act set off a chain of trade blockades in the global marketplace until the world had become divided into economic blocks; effectively making the Great Depression a worldwide event.

The “Smoot-Hawley” Tariff Act was not only the downfall of the Herbert Hoover administration; it was also a catalyst for the rise of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt administration. In his campaign for president, FDR told the American people that he would lower tariffs during his presidency. True to his word, after he was elected, FDR passed the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act in 1934. (Koyama) This act allowed Roosevelt to negotiate reciprocal trade agreements with other nations. However, in 1936, Roosevelt was faced with a dilemma: Northern American textile companies were pushing for government intervention in their competition with the increasingly successful Japanese textile market. “The immediate effects of this tremendous increase in imports from Japan, irrespective of the relation of their total volume to the total American production and consumption, were the ever-present threat to the American price structure and the resultant uncertainty and instability which had marked the American market since the influx began” (Murchison 273). But as wary as Roosevelt was about this problem of a weakened domestic industry, he was also reserved about implementing tariffs. He sought a gentleman’s agreement with Japan to set a quota that would limit shipments to about 45,000,000 square yards of cotton annually in order to regulate the influx of foreign goods. Unfortunately, talks for this agreement suddenly collapsed in May, and as a result, Roosevelt passed a 42% tariff on Japanese cotton goods.

Textile interests expressed satisfaction today over the president’s proclamation raising tariff walls in an effort to halt a sharp increase in shipments of cotton cloth from Japan to this country. President Roosevelt acted after the tariff commission reported importations of Japanese cotton goods rose rapidly during the first quarter of this year following failure to effect a “gentlemen’s agreement” with the island empire to restrict cotton textile exports to the United States. By proclamation issued yesterday under the 1930 flexible tariff act, the president increased tariffs approximately 42%, effective June 20. The higher rates will apply to the types of cotton cloth of which Japan supplies about 90% of this country’s imports, the remainder coming from Great Britain and Switzerland. The proclamation followed recommendations of the tariff commission, which investigated costs of domestic and foreign cotton cloths last year. (Tariff Hiked on Japanese Cotton Goods)

This article came out about the same time that the Dallas Morning News editorial came out. As Knott’s cartoon points out, southern cotton producers and middle men had benefitted from Japan’s increasing presence in the marketplace since Japan bought raw cotton from American manufacturers; a fact overlooked by the Roosevelt administration when making the decision to implant the tariff. In trying to stimulate the northern cotton textile companies, he effectively killed southern ones. This wasn’t the only problem Roosevelt now faced; he had also started a trade war with the Japanese. There are two ways they could retaliate now; either by implementing a counter-tariff on American goods in Japan, or by simply halting trade with the U.S. therefore Japan appears to be an unhappy customer in the cartoon, verbally threatening to take his trading business elsewhere. A frightened Uncle Sam is seen to the right, frantically asking for someone to call for Mr. Hull, the current secretary of state. After this cartoon was published, it was Mr. Hull that, with cooperation from the Japanese Embassy at Washington, could peacefully end this potentially disastrous tariff (Woolner).

This cartoon is comedic due to its use of visual humor. The Japanese man appears angry, slamming his fist on the counter, anyone’s natural response upon learning that they have been betrayed. The way the man is drawn is also a source of humor, since features like big teeth and large, circular glasses give a stereotypical American view of the Japanese at that time.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt made a big mistake by raising tariffs; a mistake that he should have avoided after seeing the negative effects raising tariffs had on the country under Herbert Hoover’s administration. He would have started a trade war with Japan and worsened the Great Depression if not for the efforts of the secretary of state at that time, Cordell Hull. In the end, Japan and America made a compromise in trade and America survived this “cotton blunder.” The lesson learned was that what may be a good idea in theory can backfire when a president’s vision fails to reach further than his own borders.

Bibliography

Balio, Tino. “Surviving the Great Depression.” Grand Design: Hollywood as a Modern Business Enterprise, 1930-1939. Ed. Charles Harpole. Vol. 5. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1993. 13-36. History of the American Cinema 5. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 24 Oct. 2016.

Berglund, Abraham. “The Tariff Act of 1930.” The American Economic Review, vol. 20, no. 3, 1930, pp. 467–479.

“Cotton Blunder.” The Dallas Morning News 26 May 1936: 2. Print.

Henderson, David R. “Hoover’s Economic Policies.” The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics. Indianapolis, IN: Liberty Fund, 2008. Print.

Koyama, Kumiko. “The Passage of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act: Why Did the President Sign the Bill?” Journal of Policy History 21.2 (2009): 163–186. Web.

Murchison, Claudius T. “American-Japanese Cotton Goods Agreement.” Journal of Marketing, vol. 2, no. 4, 1938, pp. 272–277.

“Tariff Hiked On Japanese Goods.” Newspapers.com. The Lincoln Star, n.d. Web. 24 Oct. 2016.

Woolner, David B. “Hull, Cordell.” Encyclopedia of the Great Depression. Ed. Robert S. McElvaine. Vol. 1. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2004. 485-486. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 24 Oct. 2016.

Zeiler, Thomas W. “Tariff Policy.” Encyclopedia of American Foreign Policy. Ed. Richard Dean Burns, Alexander DeConde, and Fredrik Logevall. 2nd ed. Vol. 3. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2002. 531-546. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 24 Oct. 2016.

The Campaign is On!

Cartoonist John Knott provides his audience with a glimpse of various points of views on New Deal policies implemented by the Roosevelt Administration prior to the 1936 presidential election.
Cartoonist John Knott provides his audience with a glimpse of various points of views on New Deal policies implemented by the Roosevelt Administration prior to the 1936 presidential election.

The Campaign is On! is a political cartoon by John Francis Knott displaying the partisan views of New Deal policies as a solution to the Great Depression preceding the 1936 presidential election. It shows Franklin D. Roosevelt, the incumbent president and democratic nominee, holding up a sign with the words “MORE FOOD AND BETTER HOMES”, both promises of his New Deal policies. It also shows two men walking directly beside him, one labeled as a farmer and the other as a city worker. The cartoon then depicts a frustrated-looking elephant, symbolizing the Republican party, wearing a coat with the words “ANTI-NEW DEAL” and holding a sign that asks “WHO’S GOING TO PAY FOR THEM?” (Knott 2) This cartoon suggests that Franklin Roosevelt, farmers, city workers and the Democratic party wish to continue on with the New Deal as the solution for the depression, while it displays the Republican party’s skepticism and disapproval of such a measure.

The editorial “The Roosevelt address”, which the cartoon was paired with, described Roosevelt’s speech at the National Democratic Dinner in 1936. It explained that this particular speech was utilized by Roosevelt to launch his campaign for his second term in office. The writer also asserted how the two main points of his speech left him vulnerable to economic criticism. The first of Roosevelt’s claims being that the national income had increased dramatically during his presidency from 1932 to 1936, which the writer explained did not take into account the devaluation the dollar underwent during his first term in office. Roosevelt’s second claim expressed his disagreement with the Republican ideology that simply lowering manufacturing costs would lead to economic recovery. He believed it instead would result in either the displacement of workers by machinery or a decrease in wages while hours on the clock increased for workers. The writer of the editorial then followed up with citing Henry Ford’s manufacturing model which gave worker’s fair pay scales while still lowering manufacturing and sell cost (“The Roosevelt Address” 2).

In the late 1920s and the 1930s the worst economic depression the nation had ever endured took place. This infamous period is known as the Great Depression. Prior to total economic collapse, the country had already been trending towards a recession, however, a notable start to the depression took place on October 29, 1929 when the stock market crashed (McElvaine 151). This event alone was not the sole cause of the Great Depression, but it did spark a general reluctance of the population to invest in stocks. From 1929 to 1933, the overall “consumption levels declined by 18 percent and investment levels declined by 98 percent.” (Lawson 61) As a result of this, one-quarter of the available labor force was unemployed. The streets began to fill with homeless and breadlines began to grow. It became clearer and clearer that government intervention was required. Herbert Hoover, Roosevelt’s predecessor and a Republican, implemented some measures to combat the economic downturn, although not much was done under his administration. An honest effort by the government to relieve the economic pains of the Great Depression was not put into motion until Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency.

During his first term in the White House, Roosevelt implemented a series of programs and agencies, which became known as the New Deal, to combat the damage being done by the Great Depression. The Federal Emergency Relief Administration, the Civil Works Administration, the National Recovery Administration and the Agricultural Adjustment Administration were the first of many programs created under the banner of the New Deal to help control “prices, wages, trading practices, and production.” (Savage 845) The second major wave of New Deal legislation came in the form of the Social Security Act, the Wagner Act, and the Works Progress Administration. These measures aimed to increase consumption and decrease unemployment and also added “new social welfare benefits, such as retirement pensions and unemployment insurance.” (Savage 846) When the 1936 presidential election and the illustration of Knott’s cartoon came about, the country needed to decide whether to continue with such policies and reelect Roosevelt or to abandon the New Deal and bring in a Republican presidential elect.

Before the Great Depression was in full swing, the nation’s agricultural sector began to suffer in the 1920s. World War I had brought a large amount of agricultural growth to the United States. However, following the conclusion of the war, there began to be an overproduction of crops that flooded the market and impeded the farmers’ ability to make a profit (Lawson 62). Many of the country’s farms, particularly the ones at a larger scale, were being held afloat by New Deal policies such as the Agricultural Adjustment Administration. This measure aimed to limit the production of crops in order to raise prices to profitable levels. This straightforward plan by the Roosevelt Administration, as well as many incentives from the government, may have swayed many farmers of the time to align with the implementation of the New Deal. This is evident in a 1936 election report by the Los Angeles Times titled the “Vote of the Drought States” that shows major agricultural states of the Midwest displaying a majority of party votes for Roosevelt (“Vote of Drought States” 14).

Major cities in the United States, such as Los Angeles, Akron, and Detroit, experienced a rapid growth in population during the 1920s because of the increase in the number of industrial jobs, as well as the retail and service industries. The occurrence of the stock market crash of 1929 and the persistent economic decline that followed proved to be a challenge for the ill-equipped city governments to combat. This resulted in a decrease in the consumption of products which led to a surplus in the goods being produced. In reaction, industry began to cut production and commit massive layoffs of its workers. These now unemployed city workers could no longer afford to pay their mortgages and rents, this is lead to an increase in the presence of homelessness of these major industrial centers (Flanagan 311). This put these people in a position where government aid was a necessity and the Roosevelt administration up until the 1936 election had a demonstrated a willingness to do so. The New Deal policy, the Federal Relief Act, provided monetary aid to state funded unemployment compensation programs. Also the Civilian Conservation Corps provided work for thousands of jobless young men on federal oriented projects, such as reforestation, road building, and flood control (Kennedy 430). Through agencies, such as the National Recovery Administration (NRA), Roosevelt aimed to “secure the agreement of major industries to government-backed codes designed the to stop the downward slide of payrolls, prices, and production.” (Kennedy 431) Those specific measures might have proven to be ineffective because even after their implementation the economy still “remained sickly.” (Kennedy 432) However, these and many other policies displayed to city working voters a clear effort by the Roosevelt administration to provide assistance to a suffering demographic of the United States’ population. This is possibly what coerced many wage earning voters to side with Roosevelt during the 1936 election. This is displayed when an article that was published in the New York Times following the election stated that “the wage-earner votes might easily account for the landslide” Roosevelt victory (Huston E4).

The Republican party during the 1936 presidential election was firmly against the measures implemented by the Roosevelt Administration and as a result were “anti-New Deal”, as Knott’s cartoon suggests. During the Republican Convention of 1936 in Cleveland, Ohio, the party’s platform began with the sentence, “America is in peril” and “focused on the alleged threat of New Deal policies to American Constitutional government.” (“1936 Conventions” 117) Essentially the Republicans wished to place the majority of the burden of unemployment relief back into local and state governments. They also wanted to restrict the federal government from placing production regulations on agriculture and industry, which was done by the National Relief Administration and the Agricultural Adjustment Administration. Alfred M. Landon, the Republican candidate, and the Republican party as a whole believed the New Deal had slowed the recovery of the economy by placing unnecessary obstacles in the way of private enterprise and industry (Merz E3).

The Democratic party during the 1936 presidential election was prepared to back Roosevelt and his New Deal policies. The Democratic Party Convention of 1936 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania “was one of the most harmonious in party history.” (“1936 Conventions” 117) The party’s platform “supported the continuation of the extensive federal programs undertaken by the Roosevelt Administration” and expressed a necessary collaboration between federal and state governments to handle the issues brought about by the Great Depression (“1936 Conventions” 118). In an article published by the New York Times it is expressed that Roosevelt wished to divide the cost of relief between the national and state governments. Also Roosevelt expressed that the policies implemented by his administration did not slow down economic recovery, but instead brought “the return of confidence and the advance of business.” (Merz E3)

The Campaign is On! by John Francis Knott provides the viewer with a snapshot of various points of views on New Deal policies leading into the 1936 presidential election. Farmers at the time experienced a substantial loss in profit as a result of crop overproduction and the Great Depression. This group tended to side with Roosevelt and his New Deal policies for regulation and guaranteed profit. City workers began to struggle as a result of massive layoffs that took place in response to a rise in the surplus of goods. Wage-earners sided with the Roosevelt because of the measures taken in the form of industrial regulations and social projects implemented by his administration. Republicans at the time called for the abandonment of the New Deal, believing that it violated the United States’ Constitution and slowed down economic recovery. On the other hand, the Democrats and Roosevelt vouched for the continuation of the New Deal arguing that it had led to apparent improvements in the economy during his first term as president.

Works Cited

Flanagan, Richard. “Great Depression and Cities.” Encyclopedia of American Urban History. Ed. David Goldfield. Vol. 1. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Reference, 2007. 311-313. Print.

 

Huston, Luther A. “Labor and Farm Groups Big Factors in Voting: Credit for Outcome Shared by Small Cities and Large, Negroes and Whites, New Voters and Old.” New York Times, 8     Nov. 1936, p. E4.

 

Kennedy, David M. “Franklin D. Roosevelt.” Presidents: A Reference History. Ed. Henry F. Graff. 3rd ed. Detroit: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2002. 427-443. Print.

 

Lawson, Russel M. and Benjamin A. Lawson. “Great Depression.” Poverty in America: An Encyclopedia. Westport, Ct: Greenwood Press, 2008. 61-65. Print.

 

McElvaine, Robert S. “Causes of the Great Depression.” Encyclopedia of the Great Depression. Ed. Robert S. McElvaine. Vol. 1. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2004. 151-156. Print.

 

Merz, Charles. “Issues the Campaign Has Brought to the Fore: With President Roosevelt Himself as the Chief Issue, These are Also Vital.” New York Times, 1 Nov. 1936, p. E3.

 

Savage, Sean J. “Roosevelt, Franklin D.” Encyclopedia of the Great Depression. Ed. Robert S. McElvaine. Vol. 1. New York: Macmillan Reference, 2004. 838-849. Print.

 

“Vote of Drought States.” Los Angeles Times, 9 Aug. 1936, p. 14.

 

“1936 Conventions.” National Party Conventions 1831-2008. Washington DC: CQ Press, 2010. 116-118. Print.