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Disarmament: Knott’s Knot

A "Sincere Desire to Disarm" is the sword that could cut the metaphoric "Gordian Knot" binding exhausted taxpayers to the economic burdens of world armaments.
A “Sincere Desire to Disarm” is the sword that could cut the metaphoric “Gordian Knot” binding exhausted taxpayers to the economic burdens of world armaments.

At the end of World War I, a large portion of the globe was in shambles. The United States as well as other victors of the war gained immense power and enjoyed economic growth, that was very short lived. In the late 1920’s, the stock market crashed causing the United States and the world to fall into the longest economic crisis, the Great Depression (“The Great Depression”). The cartoon by John Knott, “Sword is Needed,” was published in the Dallas Morning News on October 29, 1932 to raise awareness about the political and economic problems that arose as different nations strived for a compromise on the specific terms for world disarmament as well as the high price that taxpayers paid in order to maintain national arsenals.  Accompanying the cartoon was an editorial, “Disarmament Again,” that discussed the obstacles to reaching a compromise on arms limitations at the upcoming Geneva Conference in November of 1932.

After World War I, “a general disarmament conference had first been proposed for 1925, but it did not actually meet until 1932 due to a lack of enthusiasm,” (“Disarmament”). The Geneva Conference of 1932 was about the limitation of arms, which ironically aroused diplomatic tensions across the globe. While non-attendance was one issue, once at the meeting many nations could not agree on the details requirements of arms limitations. No country would act, unless a different nation agreed to specific terms.

For example, the French Premier had prepared a plan that opposed the amount of drastic reductions on arms limitation that would be presented during the convention, while the United States and United Kingdom had held confidential negotiations on naval limitations (“Disarmament Again”). Although the United States and United Kingdom were the main superpowers to call for disarmament, the US threatened to build up the maximum amount of weaponry as a precaution because the UK was the strongest naval power. Italy had announced its willingness to cooperate on the limitations; Russia, on the other hand, had offered plans for complete disarmament (“Disarmament Again”). Meanwhile, Japan had declared itself to be compliant – but still demanded the necessity of naval defenses in order to protect its home waters against problems in the Far East. Germany, however, denounced limitations and demanded release from any limitations on arms. In short, so many different rivalries and points of friction, no one was willing to compromise, and there was no easy way to reach an agreement.

Understood against this historical backdrop, in Kott’s cartoon the large tank – labelled “World’s Armaments”—is a significant object—a point also emphasized in the editorial. The weight of the tank symbolizes the burden of armaments on each nation involved in the Geneva Conference. The utter size of the looming tank, even in the background, represents the scale and difficulties of reaching widely agreed terms for disarmament. Its massiveness represents the complex problems of national armaments and military budgets funded by the average taxpaying citizen.

In the foreground, a small man is tethered to the big tank. He is dragging the heavy burden of the “world’s armaments.” This beleaguered man represented taxpayers. As previously mentioned, this cartoon was drawn during the Great Depression. People in the United States, as well as abroad, were suffering from the stock market crash and barely had enough money to get by. The lone man representing exhausted taxpayers worldwide, slavishly drags the tank. He has no control over how his money will be spent, for arms rather than a prosperous economic future.

While dragging his burden, the taxpayer walks over an array of failed attempts at disarmament. The volume of scattered papers represents the many previous failures at compromise on numerous aspects of arms limitations (e.g., “Plan for Disarmament,” “Conference for Armament,” “Plan for Arms Limitation”).  This complex issue had been long discussed with little or no result. In Knott’s cartoon, the difficulties of previous disarmament conferences are captured in the paper titled, “Plan for Untying the Gordian Knot.”

Disarmament deals are like a metaphorical knot with different ends being pulled in different directions. This metaphor is very important to the cartoon. In the middle of the illustration, there is a giant, complex knot—a Gordian Knot—that binds the taxpayers to the tank. “Gordian Knot,” a proverbial term used to describe a complex problem that is solved through bold action (The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica). The origin of the term is traced back to Alexander the Great’s march through Anatolia to the city of Gordium (The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica). In order to conquer Asia, Alexander the Great had to untie the complicated knot. Unlike his predecessors who had failed, with a swift move of his sword, Alexander cut the knot. John Knott’s cartoon implies that similarly bold action was required to achieve disarmament at the Geneva Conference. The complicated puzzle, or knot, of trying to please every nation and honor their preferences for arms limitations could only be achieved if every country attending the conference had the “sincere desire to disarm.”

 

Works Cited

“Disarmament.” Europe since 1914: Encyclopedia of the Age of War and Reconstruction, edited by John Merriam and Jay Winter, vol. 2, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2006, pp. 854-863. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/apps/doc/CX3447000280/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GRVL&xid=e4c44852. Accessed 27 Mar. 2018

“Disarmament Again.” Dallas Morning News, 29 Oct. 1932, p. 2. America’s Historical Newspaper, infoweb.newsbank.com/iw-search/we/HistArchive/?p_product=EANX&p_theme=ahnp&p_nbid=P75K5CDYMTUyMjA4ODk3NS4zNDQ0OTg6MToxMzoxMjguNjIuMjUuMTgy&p_docref=v2:0F99DDB671832188@EANX-10483DD48E0961E6@2427010-10483DD50169304E@17.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Gordian Knot.” Encyclopedia Britannica, Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 2 Jan. 2018, www.britannica.com/topic/Gordian-knot

“The Great Depression.” Ushistory.org, Independence Hall Association, www.ushistory.org/us/48.asp

Knott, John. “Sword Is Needed.” Dallas Morning News, 29th ed., 29 Oct.1932, p.2.

Patch, Buel W. “World Disarmament Conference of 1932.” Editorial Research Reports 1932, vol. I, CQ Press, 1932, pp.1-20. CQ Researcher, 28 Mar. 2018 library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre1932010500.

Nice Work!

The United States’ economy took a hard strike in 1929. Since that devastating moment in history and throughout the time frame of economic struggle, the active presidents did what they could, in their opinion, to help the economy from self destructing. The Dallas Morning News’ November 25, 1933 editorial visits one of the methods used to succor the nation in times of hardship. In addition, John Knott’s political cartoon accompanies the editorial depicting Lewis Douglas, the director of the Bureau of Budget and Planning during Fredrick D. Roosevelt’s term in office, trying to cut down the national budget to save the economy. The Bureau of Budget and Planning director primarily inspects government activities, coordinate fiscal estimates, and generally control expenditures. The editorial and political cartoon render an illustration of the vigorous attempt to rescue the United States from its state of penury.

On October 29, 1929, also known as Black Tuesday, the United States fell into the worst economic period of the twentieth century when the American stock market crashed. Due to the Great Depression, banks failed, the nation’s money supply diminished, companies went bankrupt causing them to fire their workers in flocks. President Herbert Hoover urged patience and self reliance and claimed that it was not the government’s job to try and resolve the issue. Thus, 1932 was  the blackest year of the Great Depression with one-fourth of the work force unemployed. Once Franklin D. Roosevelt became the nation’s thirty-second president, he acted swiftly to try and stabilize the economy and provide jobs and relief to those suffering. As it turns out, Roosevelt actually created more problems for the government in his attempt to help and by creating the New Deal. Although, not in the beginning. At first, when Lewis Douglas was chosen as the Director of the Bureau of Budget, the nation was contempt with his plans. Douglas was an advocate of balanced budgets and limited government expenditures.

The $2,600,000,000 Budget editorial that is paired with the cartoon voices Lewis Douglas’ plan for the nation. He set a goal of two billion six hundred million dollars for normal annual expenditure by the government. This plan cuts off twenty-five percent in the figure for the fiscal year. The article also mentions how the budget director would have to deal with Congress. Since Douglas’ budget was undoubtedly astray from the normal budget, congress decided to proceed with caution as far as permitting this plan. In contrast, the article articulates that the nation’s taxpayers would love Douglas, for the budget required drastic reductions in pension programs and also economy in all offices. The budget director would not be popular in Washington, but would be worshipped by the tax-bearing citizens.

The political cartoon, Nice Work! by John Knott, a rather rugged man is shown chopping off a portion of a tree log, while another more comfortable looking man is shown sitting on the opposite end of the log. The tree log laid out on the ground is labeled ‘National Budget’ and is already partially cut through. The man holding the ax in the air getting ready to continue chopping the log is Lewis Douglas. His arm is labeled ‘Douglas’ and he is not wearing a coat and has his sleeves rolled up. Douglas is illustrated with a sweaty, frustrated, yet determined face. This portrays how Douglas was hard at work to cut down the national budget. The taxpayer sitting on the end of the log has his hand up and his mouth open as if he is alarmed by what Douglas is doing. Although the taxpayer is not showing any sign of stopping him. Taxpayers are alarmed by this proclamation that the director of budgetary is suggesting because the nation has never seen this done and they are not sure if this will necessarily help their current economy’s issues. The cartoon is ironic since the taxpayer should actually be cheering Douglas on for cutting down their taxes, rather than what Roosevelt has in store for them. The government is the one who should be worrying about this new plan when their salary will be cut down just like the tree log.

In the long run, Lewis Douglas was only awarded with a short term in the spotlight. Roosevelt later downplayed efforts to cut costs and balance the budget causing Douglas’ role to diminish. A month after signing the Economy Act on March 20, 1933 to fulfill Douglas’s expectations, Roosevelt restricted gold imports, signaling his turn toward inflationary measures. Given Roosevelt’s new change in direction for the economy, the government needed more funding than what was available so they increased taxes. The monetary extraction from hardworking America prolonged the depression. Lewis Douglas resigned which magnified the increasing divergence between what Frederick D. Roosevelt had promised during a 1932 presidential campaign and what played out to be even more problems for the economy.

Works Cited

Dickinson, Matthew J. “The BoB and Other Institutional Staff Agencies.”Bitter Harvest: FDR, Presidential Power, and the Growth of the Presidential Branch. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1996. 59-62. Print.

Hazlitt, Henry. “Lewis Douglas Dissects The New Deal: The Former Director of the Budget Thinks We Are Heading Toward Collectivism.”The New York Times 28 July 1935, The Liberal Tradition sec.: BR4. Print.

Patton, Mike. “A Brief History Of The Individual And Corporate Income Tax.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 31 Oct. 2015. Web. 06 Nov. 2015.

History.com Staff. “New Deal.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, 2009. Web. 06 Nov. 2015.

Knott, John. “Nice Job!” Cartoon. Dallas Morning News 25 Nov. 1933, 2nd ed. Print.

“$2,600,000,000 Budget” Editorial. Dallas Morning News 25 Nov. 1933, 2nd ed., sec. 2: 2. Print.

Lets cut back on spending by a ‘sprinkle’ percent!

Obama, as an ice cream server, "cutting back" on government spending by withholding the sprinkles.
Obama, as an ice cream server, “cutting back” on government spending by withholding the sprinkles.

In late January, President Barack Obama presents a federal budget proposal that would exceed restricted spending caps mandated by congress four years ago. This proposal includes new capital gains, bank taxes, and a new tax on american companies competing in world markets. The political cartoon was posted on January 2nd, 2015, prior to the announcement on Obama’s budget proposal, titled Bloated Government. It is shown and predicted by the cartoon artist, Steve Breen, that Obama voices his want to cut back on government spending but those are not his actions. Barack’s new proposal could cause the government to become further bloated, untiqued, and unresponsive to taxpayers, and that is exactly what the GOP would like to avoid. The cartoon strongly and correctly predicted that Obama would spend more rather than cut back on government spending, just as was seen previously through FDR’s term in office.

President Barack was never actually known for cutting back on costs. In his plans to cut taxes, extend unemployment benefits, fund job-creating public works projects, and increase defense spending, he added $6.167 trillion to the national debt, which is a fifty-three percent increase, in only six years. So far the national debt is building up like an enormous snowball. Today’s taxpayers and future generations face massive indebtedness, while congressional democrats and current administration(Obama) block every attempt to turn things around.

In Steve Breen’s cartoon, Bloated Government, there is a rather large, and heavy set man sitting on the left side of the counter, concluded to be the customer. This obese man is labeled “gov’t” to symbolize the nation’s government currently and how bloated it is. On the counter there is a large bowl, uncommonly huge for the size for a regular bowl of ice cream. The bowl is filled with more than eight bananas, dozens of ice cream scoops of assorted flavors, all drizzled in chocolate, foamed over with tons of whipped cream, and a cherry to top it off. Not your average cup of tea, or rather, bowl of ice cream. This bowl happens to be labeled “spending” to symbolize how great the national government’s spending is and common it has become for it to be that much. On the right side of the counter there are two thin men dressed as the ice cream servers. One man symbolizes Barack Obama, having the same characteristics. “You need to cut back so we withheld the sprinkles,” Obama says in the cartoon. All, put Steve Breen is depicting in his illustration that Obama says he wants the government to cut back on spending but in his actions he does not show that. All that government spending might anger, or already is angering taxpayers, republicans, and congress.

Although Barack’s proposal was likely to get prevented from making progress in congressional opposition, he did not give up. The budget is down to pre-financial crisis levels, and the president will seek approval to break through spending caps. This will play out to be more spending and more debt. After hearing the proposal Senate Orrin G. Hatch says, “He is the most liberal, fiscally irresponsible president we’ve had in history. I don’t know why he doesn’t see it. You’re facing a debt crisis not because Americans are taxed too little but because the government spends too much.” Obama’s plans represent roughly seven percent increase in 2016 government spending. To his credibility, Obama basically inherited a terrible financial crisis that was the worst that our economy has sustained since The Great Depression. Looking in the past, because of his policies the economy has come roaring back.

The resemblance is existent between President Obama term and FDR’s, just as the likeness of Steve Breen’s political cartoon and John Knott’s. Knott’s cartoon, Nice Work!, portrays the Director of the Bureau of Budgetary, Lewis Douglas, as a hard working man trying to cut down the national budget. In Breen’s cartoon, Bloated Government, Obama is seen “trying” to cut back on government spending. During FDR’s term in office, Lewis Douglas worked hard to cut down the national budget so that the government would not spend as much and taxpayers would remain contempt. FDR went along with Douglas’ plans until he showed his true colors and downplayed efforts to cut costs and balance the budget causing Douglas’ role to diminish. Likewise with Obama, he himself voiced that he needed to cut back on government spending. Not only did he go over the projected budget, but his proposal requests to spend even more. Unlike FDR, Obama worked with congress in order to help the economy. Congress on October 21st, 2015, moved a step closer to clearing a bipartisan budget deal that would boost spending for domestic and defense programs over two years while suspending the debt limit into 2017. The agreement would essentially end the ongoing budget battles between congressional republicans and President Obama by pushing the next round of fiscal decision making past the 2016 election when there will be a new congress and White House occupant. Obama and FDR have both set up the national budget situation for the president to come and take over. The next president will then also have political cartoons to be depicted in during their term.

 

Works Cited

Snell, Kelsey. “House Passes Budget Deal; Senate Expected to Act Soon.”The Washington Post. N.p., 29 Oct. 2015. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.

Mufson, Steven, and Juliet Eilperin. “Obama Budget Proposal Would Boost Spending beyond ‘Sequestration’ Caps.” The Washington Post 29 Jan. 2015, Business sec. Fred Ryan. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.

Mervis, Jeffrey. “Budget for 2016 Accentuates the Practical.” Science Mag 6 Feb. 2015: 599-601. Print.

Amadeo, Kimberly. “Which President Added Most to the U.S. Debt?”About.com News & Issues. Neil Vogel, 14 July 2014. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.

Amadeo, Kimberly. “Which President Added Most to the U.S. Debt?”About.com News & Issues. Neil Vogel, 14 July 2014. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.

Crew, Clyde. “Obama’s 2016 Federal Budget And Middle Class Economics.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 2 Feb. 2015. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.

Breen, Steve. San Diego Union-Tribune 2 Jan. 2015: n. pag. Print.

Knott, John. “Nice Job!” Cartoon. Dallas Morning News 25 Nov. 1933, 2nd ed. Print.