In the spring of 2017, the tension was growing between the United States and various other nations. The US was still considering whether or not to remain part of the Paris Agreement, an accord within the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) aimed “to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change … [and] to strengthen the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change” (UNFCCC page on the Paris Agreement). According to Trump, “Compliance with the terms of the Paris Accord and the onerous energy restrictions it has placed on the United States could cost America as much as $2.7 million lost jobs by 2025” (NPR). For many Americans, this was an extremely unattractive prospect. When running for office, Donald Trump promised to back out the Paris Agreement if it failed to meet the needs of the US. The outlook for the US remaining bound by the agreement was dim. Due to this, many nations lowered their opinions of not only President Trump but of the United States as a whole.
Donald Trump spoke to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) on May 25th, 2017. NATO, an international alliance founded in April of 1949, is designed to mitigate both political and military disputes. Notable members of NATO include the United States, Germany, France, and Italy. The United States is a large proponent of NATO’s funding and, as one of the world’s leading powers, it is a key member of the organization. However, due to tensions that arose as a result of the Paris Accords, many other nations within NATO looked down on the US.
Consequently, when Trump spoke to the NATO saying that, “Massive amounts of money were owed,” the reception was not pleasant (BBC). According to NATO’s report in 2016, the number of countries who had reached the target 2% spending on defense was only five. The President remarked that “[It] is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States, and many of these nations owe massive amounts of money from past years and [from] not paying in those past years” (BBC). While the goal for countries involved with NATO is 2% spending on defense, “NATO states’ contributions are voluntary and a target of spending 2% of GDP on defense is only a guideline” (BBC). Many United States citizens, including some high ranking government officials, believe this number to be a hard line. Eventually, the US did withdraw from the Paris Agreement on June 1st, 2017.
In Mike Lester’s political cartoon, Trump Tells NATO: Pay Up, a woman lounges in a backyard pool while a man nearby reads the newspaper. The front of the newspaper reads: “Trump Tells Nato: Pay Up” in bold, black letters. Presumably reading the story, the man remarks: “Nice going Trump! Now the French are going to be even ruder to us…” Lester’s cartoon presents the thought that President Donald Trump’s actions with NATO are derogatory not only to the organization but to international relations, particularly with France.
Mike Lester adds a bit of humor to his cartoon, with the male reading the newspaper stating that: “Nice going, Trump! Now the French are going to be even ruder to us…” For many years, the stereotypical view of French people by Americans is that they are stuck up, snobby, and altogether impolite. They seem to look down on those from the US. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center (PRC), the approval ratings of the US President dropped 70% between the past two administrations. Trump’s demands have not only led the general public to loathe him but other entire countries as well, including France. Thus, the man in the cartoon reading the newspaper fully expects the French to remain stereotypically snobby, but to an even greater extent.
Due to the tensions in the Paris Accord and the US’s new “mandate” for countries to pay their fair share, international opinion of the United States is diminishing. The American government has chosen to maintain a hard position rather than work to compromise with NATO and the countries involved with the Paris Climate Agreement. This relates to John Knott’s political cartoon, Dirty Work, from the Dallas Morning Newspaper. The rigid position and the decision of countries to avoid compromise in the 1930s links the two cartoons. The struggle of each nation to fulfill its own agenda led to another world war. It seems similar to the US’s current actions: threatening to pull out of arguably globally beneficial agreements if its own agenda is not brought to fruition. The parallels between present day and the 1930’s are eerily similar. If nations, and more importantly, international organizations such as NATO, cannot function effectively to create agreements, then the consequences may be severe. If countries make the same unyielding demands as they did before World War II, then history may be destined to repeat itself.
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. “Status of Ratification.” The Paris Agreement – Main Page, 12 Oct. 2017, unfccc.int/paris_agreement/items/9485.php
Romo, Vanessa, and Miles Parks. “Confusion Continues: The United States’ Position On The Paris Climate Agreement.” NPR, NPR, 16 Sept. 2017, www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/09/16/551551083/u-s-still-out-of-paris-climate-agreement-after-conflicting-reports.
“Donald Trump Tells Nato Allies to Pay up at Brussels Talks.” BBC News, BBC, 25 May 2017, www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-40037776.
Wike, Richard, et al. “U.S. Image Suffers as Publics Around World Question Trump’s Leadership.” Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project, 26 June 2017, www.pewglobal.org/2017/06/26/u-s-image-suffers-as-publics-around-world-question-trumps-leadership/.
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.
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.
“Reaganomics.” Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History, edited by Thomas Carson and Mary Bonk, vol. 2, Gale, 2000, pp. 863-865. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CCX3406400794&it=r&asid=ae58407f5b57e4de68e6663b23ec3dd3. Accessed 23 Oct. 2017.
Sahadi, Jeanne. “Tax the Rich: How Obama Will Pay for His Stimulus Package.” CNN Money, Cable News Network, 12 Sept. 2011, 6:42 PM ET, money.cnn.com/2011/09/12/news/economy/stimulus_package/index.htm.
Schein, David D. “Economic Recovery Tax Act (ERTA).” Encyclopedia of Business Ethics and Society, edited by Robert W. Kolb, vol. 2, SAGE Publications, 2008, pp. 649-650. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CCX2660400267&it=r&asid=f225e93d831cfe85ea2d3ba30438de9b. Accessed 25 Oct. 2017.
Stewart, James B. “Economists Fear Trump’s Tax Plan Only Heightens a ‘Mountain of Debt’.” The New York Times, The New York Times Company, 27 Apr. 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/04/27/business/economy/trump-tax-plan-deficit-column.html.
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“The Latest: Ryan Opens Door to Tax Cuts Adding to Deficit.” US News, The Associated Press, 13 Sept. 2017, 5:31 p.m., www.businessinsider.com/trump-tax-plan-details-corporate-rate-individual-brackets-deductions-cuts-2017-9.
“Trump Discusses New Tax Plan, Texas And Florida Hit By Job Loss.” The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, 23 Oct. 2017, publicpolicy.wharton.upenn.edu/live/news/2177-trump-discusses-new-tax-plan-texas-and-florida-hit.
Varvel, Gary. “Cartoonist Gary Varvel: Economic Growth Seeds.” Indy Star, USA Today Network, 27 Apr. 2017, 4:09 p.m. ET, www.indystar.com/story/opinion/columnists/varvel/2017/04/27/cartoonist-gary-varvel-economic-growth-seeds/100989380/.
Walsh, Kenneth T. “The Path to a Deficit.” US News, US News & World Report L.P., 29 Sept. 2017, 6:00 a.m., www.usnews.com/news/the-report/articles/2017-09-29/trumps-tax-plan-could-lead-to-a-huge-deficit.
In recent decades, the American government has been harshly criticized for their increased military spending at the expense of other public benefits and programs. The 2004 Monte Wolverton cartoon titled “U.S. Military Spending”, mocks this issue, depicting a caricature of George Bush as president, obediently shoveling piles money into the gaping maw of a US military officer, entitled “U.S. Military Spending” that is demanding “FEED ME!” (Wolverton). While this cartoon takes a decisively negative stance on U.S. budget priorities, an argument can be made that it was necessary, as the heightened military spending is in response to a complex and precarious political balance, beginning near the turn of the millennium.
In the 1990’s, President Bill Clinton presided over an unexpected period of economic prosperity and budget surplus. While the United States had recently exited the Cold War, there were no prominent military conflicts, and it was at the height of its imperialistic power, and the nations’ influence was far-reaching and authoritative. However, during George Bush’s presidency, a tragedy occurred. The terrorist group, al-Qaeda coordinated and executed four catastrophic attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people and wounded over 6,000 others. Monetarily, they caused over 10 billion dollars in property damage and 3 trillion dollars in total cost to the United States (Bram 2). The September 11, 2001 attacks on the twin towers fundamentally changed the outlook and temperament of the nation. There was a palpable shift towards anxiety and paranoia in the mindset of the collective American citizenry, and a movement greater defense spending and heightened airline security. Even as early as early as 2016, the history of the culture and actions United States can be divided into ‘pre’ and ‘post’ 9/11 (Butler 4). At the time fear mongering and threats from Middle Eastern nations made it easy to convince the United States population that the military spending was imperative.
The resulting Afghanistan war was a response to the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, beginning in 2001 when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan. The purported goal was to remove al-Qaeda from a position of power, by eliminating the Taliban, a fundamentalist Islamic movement that wanted to implement Sharia law (Santos 148). To date, it remains the longest U.S. military conflict in its history (Kim 16). The following period was a time of strained political and societal tensions, characterized by an increase in government military spending. Following the conflict in Afghanistan, anti-Middle east sentiments carried over into the Iraq war, which began in 2003 with the invasion of Iraq and lasted the better part of the next decade as the U.S. remained in the country to destroy the government of Saddam Hussein and oppose the resulting insurgency. In 2003, approval ratings of the war with Iraq were high, as the attacks on the twin towers had renewed patriotism and nationalism, and the public was hungry for revenge. However, as the war dragged on, enthusiasm decreased, and the war, as well as president George Bush, faced widespread criticism. For some, the reasons for entering the war, the supposed existence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, were not sufficient (Santos 145). These arguments have merit, as the war was a significant military expenditure, with the total cost estimated to be $1.7 trillion dollars; however, the long term economic effects were estimated to be more than ten times this (Donovan 4).
The contemporary controversy over the U.S. military budget stems from different views about the purpose of the U.S. military. Some believe that our military serves a fundamentally different purpose from that of the armed forces of all other nations, such as that of China and Russia. They believe that the U.S. has and should take on the role of “world police”, that out military’s purpose is to fight terrorism and intervene on the behalf of our allies. For these people, the fact that the United States outpaces all other nations in military expenditures seems logical and necessary. Others however, believe that the U.S. should only enter conflict if it is a direct attack on the United States, by another nation.
In 1933, John Francis Knott, a historically famous political cartoonist published Militarist Nation, Coming and Going, in the Dallas Morning News (Knott). The drawing depicts the front and back of a French World War 1 soldier: the front of the uniform pristine and reading “Millions For Armaments”, while the back is tattered and worn, with patches which portray the problems that the unbalanced budget faces, such as “taxes” and “defaulted debts”. Knott satirizehe duality of the predicament that France faced at the time: having to maintain a facsimile of military strength, while facing economic crisis and outstanding war debts.
In comparing these two cartoons, it is evident that while they share the same subject matter, a criticism of a military overspending in a nations’ budget, the approach taken by each cartoonist is different, to better represent the nation at hand. In Knott’s cartoon, it can be inferred that the French have put up a façade of a strong military and keep their budget constraints and struggling economy under wraps, while the United States is almost unapologetically gluttonous in their military spending, even when the popular opinion it that it is entirely unnecessary. While the French soldier is depicted as strong and well kept, the commander in the Wolverton illustration is cartoonishly obese, implying that the French expenditure was costly, but necessary, while the United States spends out of greed and pride. The cartoon also implies that Bush is an obedient, mindless servant to the military-industrial complex. He simply is shoveling money into its “mouth”, without closely figuring out how much it would cost or paying any attention to balancing the budget. The Wolverton cartoon is more explicit in its intended point than the Knott cartoon, guiding readers towards the rhetorical question “Enough money left for everything else?”, while Knott assumes the reader has the relevant context and can correctly infer the point.
The implications of the French cartoon, as well as their political and economic situation at the time, are much further reaching than may initially be perceived. The French prewar period, prior to World War II, hallmarked by uncertainty and augmented military spending, can be compared to the period of political instability that currently threatens the United States. At the time, the French did not know for certain of the inevitability of the World War II, an event which justified their increased military budget during the interwar period. World War I was denominated “The War to End All Wars”, the worst war that had happened or will happen, and critics of the French budget priorities claimed nothing on this scale could ever happen again. Yet, within 20 years, Germany had once again become an aggressor, sparking the terrible conflict of World War II. The critiques of the current United States budget claim it is preparing for a conflict that will never happen. However, the contemporary United States doesn’t have the benefit of 80 years of hindsight to determine whether their unbalanced budget will be the most advantageous solution for the current predicament. Unprecedented military and cultural instability in the Middle East, as well as political conflict in Europe, is provoking a period of uncertainty, as there is no way to tell whether our nation is heading towards another ruinous global clash or total disarmament. It could also signify the loss of the United States’ status as the dominant global power, just as France lost its political status after the second World War.
Bram, Jason, James Orr, and Carol Rapaport. “Measuring the Effects of the September 11 Attack on New York City.” Economic Policy Review 8.2 (2002): n. pag. Social Science Research Network. 13 Sept. 2005. Web. 20 Nov. 2016.
Butler, Taryn. “The Media Construction of Terrorism Pre and Post-9/11.” McKendree University Scholars Journal 24 (2015): n. pag. Web. 11 Nov. 2016.
Donovan, Jerome Denis, Cheree Topple, Vik Naidoo, and Trenton Milner. “Strategic Interaction and the Iran-Iraq War: Lessons to Learn for Future Engagement?” Digest of Middle East Studies 24.2 (2015): 327-46. Web. 15 Nov. 2016.
Kim, Youngwan, and Peter Nunnenkamp. “Does It Pay for US-based NGOs to Go to War? Empirical Evidence for Afghanistan and Iraq.” Development and Change 46.3 (2015): 387-414. Web. 15 Nov. 2016.
Knott, John. “Militarist Nation, Coming and Going.” Dallas Morning News 19 Oct. 1933, 19th ed., sec. 2: 14. Print.
Santos, Maria Helena De Castro, and Ulysses Tavares Teixeira. “The Essential Role of Democracy in the Bush Doctrine: The Invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.” Revista Brasileira De Política Internacional Rev. Bras. Polít. Int. 56.2 (2013): 131-56. Web. 15 Nov. 2016.
John Knott’s political cartoon Come to Texas! provides an illustration of the decentralization of highly-centralized industries to Texas during the late 1930s. Depicting the decentralizing industries as a crowd of businessmen with briefcases marked “fair practices,” many highly-centralized businesses during this time were branching out, coming to Texas because of its better conditions towards the end of the Great Depression (Southwestern Industry). However, Texas was not content to accept just any company since a number of these industries were coming to Texas from a wealth of problems, leaving in their wake issues such as poor worker treatment (Gardner). The sign above the Texan’s head exemplifies this concern, cautioning against industries seeking to exploit Texas’ more-business-friendly economic climate in an effort to protect Texans. Texas is still happy to have the industries, hence the cartoon’s depiction of the Texan giving a warm welcome to the arriving industries; however, if the incoming industries wanted to employ Texans, they must first take care of Texans. The editorial entitled “Southwestern Industry” that accompanied Knott’s cartoon helps provide additional historical context for the events in the cartoon. It explains that while Texas had an abundance of raw resources, “relatively little progress [had] been made in the manufacturing of cotton and woolen cloth” (Southwestern Industry). This meant that many of Texas’ raw materials had to be shipped to industrial centers in other states to be processed, manufactured, and reimported once completed. The editorial goes on to advise that there “should be no welcome sign in Texas for the manufacturer who wants to get away from some other State merely because he is unwilling to pay fair taxes or reasonable wages” (Southwestern Industry). In a nutshell, the editorial maintains that increased manufacturing in Texas would be good for the state, but not at the cost of shoddy work practices coming to Texas with the intent of exploitation. Overall, Knott’s depiction of decentralizing industries coming to Texas provides an overview of the decentralization of jobs to Texas as well as Texas’ concerns with fair work practices.
Beginning in the mid-1930s, the unemployment rate dropped as the US started recovering from the Great Depression (“Miss Perkins Urges Job Security Plans”). Although the Great Depression didn’t completely end until the onset of World War II, Knott’s cartoon and the accompanying editorial were published in 1937 when the economic situation of the nation was starting to improve. While the highly industrialized and centralized areas of the US were only just starting to get back on their feet, Texas’ economy had fared better overall throughout the Depression (Hammons). The hardships faced by Detroit, Michigan, during the Great Depression provides a prime example of how dissimilar the conditions of industrialized and non-industrialized parts of country were. In the case of Detroit, all of the nation’s car production was centralized in a single area to allow the heads of business easy access to all of their production sites. However, when the economy took a sharp downturn in 1929, it became much harder for the average person to afford a car. When car sales tanked, that region crashed (Nystrom). Conversely, the lack of compact industries in Texas “helped to buffer Dallas from the worst of the Depression” (Hammons). Because Texas wasn’t as industrialized, it wasn’t hit as hard. The Depression was still crippling, but comparatively speaking, Texas fared marginally better.
In order to combat the troubles of highly-centralized production, centralized industries began to spread out, decentralizing production to other areas of the country (Southwestern Industry). According to the International Encyclopedia of Social Sciences, decentralization “signifies the disbursement of power from the top down… lead[ing] to higher levels of efficiency” (Decentralization 250). To put it in layman’s terms, a centralized company branches out, setting up production in other places to take advantage of the different locations’ benefits, such as cheaper production, looser regulatory laws, cheaper labor, and closer proximity to resources. In this particular time period, decentralization was primarily used to diversify in response to the problems of highly centralized industries during the Depression (Bowman). Highly centralized industries began because of big-name tycoons, such as Ford or Rockefeller, because it was easier for management to oversee all of their productions by having them nearby (Jahn). However, just like the saying ‘having all one’s eggs in the same basket,’ the Depression hit those highly-industrialized areas the hardest, causing the highly-centralized companies to crash. Decentralization was harder on management since moving industries from Chicago to Texas meant no longer having immediate access to all nearby production; however, it was much better for the industries overall. The cheaper production costs and delegation of smaller tasks to other areas let management focus on the bigger picture instead of trivialities of day-to-day production (Jahn).
Due to its abundance of raw resources and available labor source, Texas made for a very promising-looking market for highly-centralized industries looking to decentralize. An especially alluring factor was Texas’ rapidly-growing market, meaning more workers in production and more buyers of finished products (Texas 822). In addition, by relocating branches of industry to Texas, companies didn’t have to pay such high transportation costs to import the raw resources and then ship the finished product from the North-East back to the South. Although Texas had an abundance of natural resources, such as cotton, wheat, wool, and cattle, it lacked the industries needed to process the raw materials, especially in the textile department (Southwestern Industry). By allowing industries centralized in other states to decentralize to Texas, Texas would also gain jobs and a boost to its economy. However, despite all the advantages the added industrial boost posed, both the editorial and Knott’s cartoon stressed the fact that there remained a number of possible drawbacks in allowing out-of-state industries to set up production in Texas.
That is the exactly the argument Knott’s cartoon presents. While the Texan depicted in the cartoon is happily receiving the incoming industries with his arms outstretched in welcome, the sign above the Texan’s head expresses the concern “No exploiters of cheap labor, tax dodgers or fly-by-night industries wanted” (Knott). The meaning drawn from Knott’s cartoon paints a picture of a state that wanted the benefits of industrialization – just not at the cost of adopting the problems that some of the industries brought with them. In looking at poor work practices in other areas of the country during the same time period, namely the case of the Radium Gals, the concern depicted in Knott’s cartoon becomes even more apparent. The Radium Gals were a group of women hired during the 20s and 30s to work at the Radium Dial company painting watch faces with a special radium paint (Suppan). Exploited by the company they worked for, these women were paid far lower wages than men and were slowly poisoned and killed by the radiation from the radium paint (Suppan). With such adverse publicity surrounding cases such as the Radium Gals, the editorial and Knott cartoon cautioned against accepting decentralizing industries that were seeking to exploit laborers or exercise dubious business practices (Gardner). Since companies that utilized shifty work practices were seen as “author of the general misery, … cutter[s] of wages, … and the tax-dodging embodiment of the general irresponsibility that pervades the American business community,” Texas was not keen on hosting industries that were going to exploit Texas’ market and workers (Castranovo 61).
In summation, Come to Texas! is a political cartoon by John Knott that provides commentary on the decentralization of industries to Texas towards the end of the Great Depression. Despite the fact that decentralizing industries presented numerous advantages to Texas, both the editorial and the Knott cartoon emphasize how important it was for Texas to be wary of allowing just any industry to relocate, stressing that if the decentralizing industries wanted to employ Texans, they had to take care of Texans.
Bowman, Joel. “The Great Decentralization.” Non-Dollar Report. Non-Dollar Report, 20 Nov. 2014. Web. 29 Nov. 2016. <http://nondollarreport.com/2014/11/economic-evolution-the-great-decentralization/>.
Castronovo, David. “The Artist as a Young Reporter.” Edmund Wilson Revisited. New York: Twayne, 1988. 51-71. Twayne’s United States Authors Ser. 695. Twayne’s Authors on GVRL. Web. 23 Oct. 2016.
“Decentralization.” International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, edited by William A. Darity, Jr., 2nd ed., vol. 2, Macmillan Reference USA, 2008, pp. 250-251. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CCX3045300532&asid=c07ec128b7f5c795f9358d1289944f66. Accessed 29 Nov. 2016.
Hammond, Carlyn. “The Great Depression and World War II – Texas Our Texas.” Texas Our Texas. Texas PBS, n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2016. <http://texasourtexas.texaspbs.org/the-eras-of-texas/great-depression-ww2/>.
Knott, John. “Come to Texas!” Cartoon. Dallas Morning News. 27 March 1937. Sec 2: 2. Print.
“MISS PERKINS URGES JOB SECURITY PLANS.” New York Times (1923-Current file): 11. Jan 01 1937. ProQuest. Web. 17 Nov. 2016 .
Nystrom, M. A. “Second Great Depression in Detroit.” Second Great Depression in Detroit | M.A. Nystrom | Safehaven.com. SafeHaven, 3 June 2008. Web. 29 Nov. 2016. <http://www.safehaven.com/article/10420/second-great-depression-in-detroit>.
“Southwestern Industry.” Editorial. Dallas Morning News 29 Mar. 1937, sec. 2: 2. Print.
Suppan, Heinz-Dietrich. Marking Time: The Radium Girls of Ottawa. N.p.: Outskirts, 2016. Print.
“Texas.” Worldmark Encyclopedia of the States. Ed. Timothy L. Gall. 7th ed. Vol. 2. Detroit: Gale, 2007. 803-31. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 23 Oct. 2016.
If They Would Exchange Presents is a political cartoon by John Francis Knott mocking the predicament of U.S. and European relations post-World War I. It depicts “Europe” giving the gift of disarmament to the U.S., represented by Uncle Sam, in exchange for war debt revisions. The cartoon implies that Europe would disarm if the U.S. would revise, or essentially decrease, European war debt; likewise, the cartoon suggests that the U.S. would gladly decrease European war debt if Europe were to disarm first (Knott 2). The accompanying editorial titled “The Reparations Problem” summarizes the context of the cartoon. It explains that by the end of 1931, the U.S. Congress finally gave approval for a one-year postponement of German reparations, acknowledging a proposal made in the previous year by then President Herbert Hoover. The U.S. Congress did not want to cancel war repayments, as it strongly indicated to the International Committee on Reparations, but instead wanted to suspend payments. The reason for Germany’s inability to pay was that it could only pay from borrowed money that it was no longer able to obtain or from money made off of exports that were heavily tariffed (“The Reparations Problem” 2).
The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria by Serbian nationalists in 1914 catapulted Europe into the First World War. The assassination set off a domino effect, causing country after country to get involved in the escalating conflict that eventually developed into World War I. What ensued after the war was the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, a meeting that established the terms of peace after the war, and during this conference the Treaty of Versailles was established (Cochran). The reparation clauses of the Treaty of Versailles stated that Germany was to take responsibility for the damages caused by World War I and that it must adhere to a payment schedule to pay back the cost of those damages. The mindset of the United States and its allies was that they were essentially dragged into the war out of obligation, and therefore should be repaid for everything lost in the war. However, it was known that Germany could not pay the entire costs of the war and that it was nearly impossible to create a realistic repayment schedule in 1919, the year that the treaty was signed. The Treaty of Versailles did not have a definitive reparation settlement (Merriman and Winter 2207). Therefore, naturally, Germany wanted debt revisions. Germany, however, wasn’t the only European country in debt. For example, in 1934, Britain still owed the US $4.4 billion of World War I debt (Rohrer). For this reason, Knott’s cartoon depicts “Europe” in need of war debt revision and not just Germany.
The disarmament portion of the cartoon pertains to the U.S.’s insistence on worldwide disarmament, highlighted in President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points peace proposal that said, “All countries should reduce their armed forces to the lowest possible levels (Multilateral disarmament.)” (Fuller). The Treaty of Versailles initiated the notion of disarmament by targeting Germany in particular, forcing them to take full blame for World War I and to disarm. “The German army was to be limited to 100,000 men and conscription proscribed; the treaty restricted the Navy to vessels under 100,000 tons, with a ban on the acquisition or maintenance of a submarine fleet. Moreover, Germany was forbidden to maintain an air force” (“Treaty of Versailles, 1919″). The Treaty’s main concern was the disarmament of Germany. Politicians, journalists, and academics argued at the time that the naval race for arms was one of the major causes of the war. Based on this idea, the victors of the war decided to force Germany to disarm due to its previous invasion attempts toward France. It was thought that by forcing its disarmament, Germany was being stripped of its power to wage war (Merriman and Winter 856). Soon, this philosophy was expanded to include all European nations. “Following the atrocities of World War I, both nations [the U.S. and Great Britain] hoped to avoid any future conflicts, and both faced difficult economic times that restricted military spending. As a consequence, the two governments were willing to consider serious limits on offensive weapons” (World History Encyclopedia 593).
Reduction of conflict, however, wasn’t the only motivation behind disarmament. The Great Depression diverted attention from the issue of disarmament to debt and unemployment. In 1932, everyone owed America money, but because of the depression, few countries could repay their loans. The U.S. decided that if nations didn’t spend money on arms, they would be able to repay the United States; therefore, the U.S. called for worldwide disarmament (Bradley 38).
Knott’s cartoon represents a very circular predicament. The two entities were at a stalemate. The U.S. was the world’s major creditor nation, and in order to get paid back, it insisted on worldwide disarmament so that funds could be redirected to debt repayment. Europe, however, would only disarm if war debts were lowered and revised first. It was as though this political stalemate could only be resolved by some miracle.
That is exactly the point Knott wants to impress upon his audience. The illustration of the Christmas tree, along with the fact that the cartoon was being published on Christmas Eve, gives the cartoon an air of Christmas spirit. The term “Christmas Miracle” is typically used to emphasize how unlikely an event is to occur, and that seems to be what Knott is implying as the only solution to this conflict – a Christmas Miracle – given how unlikely a compromise seemed in 1931. What is also humorous is how nonchalant the gift exchange is, almost trivializing the damages and lives lost in the war. It is as if there is no rivalry or conflict of interest between the two parties; it’s not as aggressive, or desperate, or even as somber as one would expect. It is definitely not a gift exchange of good will either; Christmas is regarded as a time of selfless generosity and community, a time of giving rather than receiving without the expectation of anything in return. However this is a very self-interested exchange, defying the traditional, selfless ideals of Christmas. These contradictions serve as indirect attacks on the U.S. and Europe’s inability to reach an agreement.
If They Would Exchange Presents is a political cartoon by John Knott that focused attention on and mocked the diplomatic gridlock between the U.S. and Europe. It uses the setting and themes of Christmas to criticize the two sides’ uncompromising stances toward disarmament and war debt revisions, comparing the successful exchange of “presents” to a Christmas Miracle. The cartoon serves as political commentary on post-World War I negotiations and ranks as one of Knott’s many politically motivated cartoons.
Knott, John. “If They Would Exchange Presents.” Cartoon. Dallas Morning News [Dallas, Texas] 24 Dec. 1931, sec. 2: 10. Print.
Merriman, John, and Jay Winter. “Disarmament.” Child Care to Futurism. Detroit: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2006. 855. Print. Vol. 2 of Europe since 1914: Encyclopedia of the Age of War and Reconstruction.
Merriman, John, and Jay Winter. “Reparations.” Nagy to Switzerland. Detroit: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2006. 2206. Print. Vol. 4 of Europe since 1914: Encyclopedia of the Age of War and Reconstruction.
“The Reparations Problem.” Editorial. Dallas Morning News [Dallas, Texas] 24 Dec. 1931, 85th ed., sec. 2: 2. Print.
The political cartoon Japan-China Island Dispute, created by Patrick Chappatte and published in The New York Times on September 20, 2012, depicts an island lying in-between two naval ships rushing towards each other. One of the ships displays Japan’s national flag, while the other displays China’s national flag. A man who resembles Uncle Sam is tied to an anchor that is being dragged behind the Japanese ship. Uncle Sam is holding up a hand to signal “stop” (Chappatte). The cartoon conveys the conflict between China and Japan over disputed islands and America’s role in this complex foreign issue.
The island in the political cartoon represents a set of eight uninhabited islands that are called “Senkaku” islands by the Japanese, “Diaoyudao” islands by the Chinese, and “Diaoyutai” islands by Taiwan (Yu). The Senkaku/Diaoyudao/Diaoyutai islands are located northeast of Taiwan and consist of seven square kilometers in total area. Their importance lies in their proximity to nearby shipping lanes, rich fish-filled waters, nearby (possible) oil and gas reserves, and strategic military location for dominance within the Asia-Pacific region (“How Uninhabited Islands Soured China-Japan Ties”). These islands are located on the East China Sea and should not be confused with another set of disputed islands between China, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam in the South China Sea (McKirdy and Hunt).
In some ways the disputes over these islands resemble events in Asia before, during, and after World War II, when nations were in conflict over territory and colonization (“The Mukden Incident of 1931 and the Stimson Doctrine”). The current Disputed Islands Conflict holds relevance to our lives because the countries in these territorial disagreements are the same major political players who were at odds immediately before and during the Second World War and also because the failure to satisfactorily resolve earlier territorial disagreements is now the source of renewed geo-political tension and potential conflict. This is worrisome; for as George Santayana would once wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it” (Santayana 284).
In Chappatte’s cartoon, the two colliding battle ships represent Japan and China and their this territorial dispute over the Senkaku/Diaoyudao/Diaoyutai islands. Japan claims it originally surveyed the islands, found them uninhabited, and officially made them part of Japan’s territory on January 14, 1895. According to the 1951 Treaty of San Francisco, however, Japan had to give up some of its islands to China, although these disputed lands were not a part of the treaty. The Senkaku/Diaoyudao/Diaoyutai islands remained under US trusteeship until they were returned to Japan in 1971. Meanwhile, China contends that the islands have been apart of China since before Japan’s nineteenth century survey and therefore should have been given to China under the Treaty of San Francisco (“How Uninhabited Islands Soured China-Japan Ties”).
Not mentioned in the political cartoon but equally important is Taiwan’s involvement in this conflict. Taiwan argues that the islands belong to them. The Senkaku/Diaoyudao/Diaoyutai islands are crucial fishing areas for the Taiwanese economy and food supply. Japan offered a diplomatic solution to Taiwan by allowing them to fish in the area in exchange for naval assistance in surveillance of the islands (Chiu Bi-Whei). This strategic move not only gave Japan a neighboring ally in this matter but also bolstered the division between China and Taiwan.
In Chappatte’s political cartoon, Uncle Sam represents America’s involvement on the side of Japan in this dispute. After its loss in World War II, Japan’s constitution was rewritten by U.S. General Douglas MacArthur (“Bringing Democracy to Japan”). Under Article Nine of the new constitution, Japan was to disband all military forces. After the formal U.S. Occupation ended, Japan was only able to operate a defensive military Self-Defense Force (“Article 9 and the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty”). Not having any military whatsoever would have left Japan crippled if foreign affairs were to turn violent. To resolve this pressing matter, in 1952 the two countries signed the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty. Under this treaty, America was allowed to station U.S. military bases in Japan; in exchange, Japan would receive U.S. military aide if they were to experience foreign conflicts (“Article 9 and the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty”).
The current discord between Japan and China is reminiscent of tensions between the two nations during the early 1930’s and leading up to World War II. The tense situation over the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyudao/Diaoyutai islands in the East China Sea revelas a continuous, unresolved source of friction between China and Japan. In order to maintain open international ocean trade routes as well as overall peace in the Asia-Pacific region, America has given support to Japan in this complex foreign dispute. If violent conflict were to erupt, the damage would not only be felt by Japanese and Chinese citizens and others in the region, but also by the American people here at home due to our alliance with Japan and our obligations to provide military support under the terms of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty.
“Article 9 and the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty.” Asia for Educators. Columbia University, n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.
“Bringing Democracy to Japan.” Crf-usa.org. Constitutional Rights Foundation, n.d. Web. 6 Dec. 2015.
Chappatte, Patrick. “Japan-China Island Dispute.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 19 Sept. 2012. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.
Chiu Bi-Whei. “Taiwan Wants a Say in Senkaku Talks.” DW.COM. Made for Minds, 09 Sept. 2013. Web. 8 Dec. 2015.
“How Uninhabited Islands Soured China-Japan Ties – BBC News.” BBC News. BBC, 10 Nov. 2014. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.
McKirdy, Euan, and Katie Hunt. “Showdown in the South China Sea: How Did We Get Here? – CNN.com.” CNN. Cable News Network, 28 Oct. 2015. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.
Santayana, George. The Life of Reason, Or, The Phases of Human Progress. New York: Scribner, 1954. Print.
“The Mukden Incident of 1931 and the Stimson Doctrine.” History.state.gov. U.S. Department of State Office of the Historian, n.d. Web. 4 Dec. 2015.
Yu, Miles. “Taiwan’s First President Ignites Firestorm with Claim That Disputed Islands Belong to Japan.” Washington Times. The Washington Times, 6 Aug. 2015. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.
In the midst of a cold winter, a fast approaching holiday season, a sixteen percent unemployment rate, and the Great Depression; December of 1931 was a troubling time for a lot of people (“Unemployment”). On November 19, 1931 John Knott illustrated to humorously interpret what was occurring at that time in history in Dallas, Texas. The political cartoon accompanied an article published on the same page of the paper titled “A Disposition to Work.” The cartoon depicts Uncle Sam facing a young boy with “Congress” on his shirt, . Knott used the cartoon to educate people about current events and also to poke fun at politics.
On October 24, 1929, Wall Street saw disaster strike. The Stock Market came down, and brought thousands of people’s investments down with it. The initial crash set the course for the next several years, which would be filled with hardship and suffering for citizens all over the country (“The Sock Market”). Within the next year, twelve million people would lose their jobs and fifty million would fall into poverty. It became clear that government action was necessary to relieve these dire circumstances (“The Hungry Years”). It was in the middle of these trying times – accurately coined the “Great Depression”- that Knott worked at the Dallas Morning News illustrating cartoons paired with editorials about the current events of the time.
In 1931 Congress had their work set out for them. As the cartoon illustrates, immense pressure to pass relief efforts was placed on Congress by the citizens of the US. This is depicted by the Uncle Sam figure (the American public) looking at the little boy (Congress).The President at the time, Herbert Hoover, believed that relief efforts should be the responsibility of individuals and the states; however, many people believed the national government should play a role (“Financing”).
In Knott’s cartoon the boy has obviously been chopping wood, and working hard at it. Amongst the chopped wood are the words “moratorium” and “relief measures”, clearly suggesting that these things were also a product of Congress’ work. The moratorium referred to was proposed by Hoover to postpone paying debts for a year to encourage economic growth (Kennedy). By December 1931, the moratorium had gained support and was ready to be debated on the floor, one step closer to being passed (“A Disposition”). The boy asks Uncle Sam, “Is there any more wood you would like me to split, Paw?” Knott clearly believed that Congress had been hard at work for the country and was willing to do even more.
Knott was not alone in his optimistic view of the work Congress had done in the winter of 1931. Accompanying with his political cartoon, a separate editorial titled “A Disposition to Work” was published on page two section two of the Dallas Morning News. The opinion piece defended Congress and explained how the moratorium and relief efforts were important in order to move the country in the direction it wanted to go. At the time, President Hoover believed that the government should not be involved in relief efforts, however the author of editorial makes it clear that Congress was expected ones to lead the effort to relieve poverty, hunger and unemployment, and they had successfully done their job The article took an optimistic view that the members of Congress were willing to fight and work hard to bring relief to their fellow countrymen. It claimed that “patriotism is not dead under the dome of the capitol” (“A Disposition”).
Knott used his illustration to promote humor during the political battle between Hoover and Congress involving relief efforts. The wood acted as a simile for the work done by the legislature; this is made clear by the words strewn about in the logs. As its title suggests, the cartoon was appeared “just before Christmas” when it was cold out. Many people, especially those who were impoverished and without adequate shelter, had to split wood in order to have fire to keep them warm throughout the night. Because Congress would not be in session during the holidays, they needed to get their work done before it was time to go home; and at that time there was a lot of work to be done so that their suffering constituents could make it through those difficult times.. The moratorium and relief efforts were the wood that would keep everyone warm throughout the break. The immense size of the woodpile was Knott’s way of humorously exaggerating how much work Congress had to do, and just how large America’s problems were.
Knott’s ability to take the grim state of the country and turn it into a funny and optimistic cartoon is something truly exceptional. Both the editorial and the cartoon used their media outlet to focus on positives in a time of overwhelming negatives. Knott took serious daily concerns, such as the upcoming holiday and the struggle to stay warm, and highlighted their connection to politics. It is important that individuals stay in touch with current events no matter their social status or situation. Knott made it easier for people to get in touch with what was going on by making it relatable and light hearted. This still rings true today. Many people keep up with current events through comedic outlets. While the Great Depression was inarguably one of the most traumatic times in America’s History, Knott kept his spirits high, and worked to put a smile on the faces of those who needed it most.
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.
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.
World War I was an enormous global conflict that completely altered the geopolitical landscape and changed the way the world thought about war. Many societies, including the United States, were astonished by the unprecedented death toll that occurred due to advances in weapons, machines, and trench warfare. The introduction of tanks, the automatic gun, and use of chemical weapons, such as tear gas, led to horrors that had never been seen before. With a generation of young men killed and injured due to the Great War, society was left changed, and the United States’s view of the contributing factors and aftermath of this war were broadcast throughout the nation in newspapers. In the political cartoon There Ain’t No Such Animal, by John Knott from the December 28, 1931 issue of the Dallas Morning News, we see a satirical and politically biting interpretation of the controversial war reparations brought upon Germany by the Allied powers.
Following World War I, at the Paris Peace conferences, the Allied powers had to decide what punishments to divvy out to the Central powers. The Allied powers decided to force the defeated Central powers to pay reparations. However, the other Central powers could not pay reparations because many countries were bankrupt and their governments had broken apart, such as the dissolution of Austro-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire. Therefore, Germany was forced to take sole responsibility for World War I and for the reparations. Many countries recognized there were other contributing factors to World War I and believed the reparations would be too harsh, which would lead to geo-political and economic consequences in the future (Webb, 786). However, France believed Germany deserved to pay all these reparations due to France’s destruction at the hands of German troops. The debate over reparations was a point of contention throughout the Paris peace conferences. Germany had to pay thirty-three billion US dollars to the Allied powers in 1931, which is the equivalent of five hundred and sixteen billion dollars in 2015 (Webb, 793-4). The Allied powers should have had the foresight to see that these penalties were too harsh and would ultimately lead to further tragedy, such as World War II.
In the political cartoon, There Ain’t No Such Animal, we see Uncle Sam passing a store front acknowledging, yet walking away from the ‘Germanese twins’. The title of the cartoon alludes to the idea that this colossal amount of debt and reparations had never been seen before because no war resolution had ever resulted in such large reparations directed at one country. As we see Uncle Sam peering into a window, in shock at the two fat twins, and he is trying to wave at them. Yet, the twins look back angrily through the window. Germany was angry because America was one of the countries that contributed to the reparations, and the German people believed the reparations were unfair and humiliating to their country. The twin’s size illustrates that Germany had a large war debt. Uncle Sam’s facial reaction alludes to the American people’s guilt of Germany’s financial situation. The ‘Germanese twins’ represent the massive war debts and the one hundred and thirty-two billion gold marks of war reparations that Germany had to pay (Taussig, 37-8). Knott employs the use of humor through his characterizations of the two global superpowers. The emblem of Uncle Sam is supposed to demonstrate American military heroism, yet here Uncle Sam shies away from his own actions. The large size of the twins and their angry expressions are literal in demonstrating Germany’s large debts and reparations and their anger about said debts and reparations, and Knott illustrates the humiliation and reduction of Germany as a country by placing the twins behind a glass window. The glass window allows others to ignore their plight and their accountability.
The Basel Report opinion article that is paired with the cartoon explains the economic consequences of Germany’s war debts and reparations. The article states that economists in over eleven nations believed that Germany was unable to pay these reparations due to their “declining business, departures from the gold standard, tariff bars, and heavy interest charges on loans and credits” (The Basel Report). Another issue set forth in the article is that taxes could not be raised to pay the reparations. There was growing fear that Germany’s economic crisis could start a global economic decline. In the cartoon, we see Uncle Sam shying away from the twins, but also staring at them in fear of what troubles they could bring. The issue that the war debts and reparations were part of the same issue and could not be separated is demonstrated in the cartoon by representing them as twins. Basel asks, “If war debts due us cannot be met in full, they should be reduced. Why worry over the loss of driblets, when billions of dollars are being lost annually through the continuance of hard times and unemployment?” (The Basel Report). Clearly the reparations were not the answer to global economic repair, and many people found the reparations to be ridiculous and humiliating, as the cartoon illustrates.
Ultimately, these reparations were unjust and shortsighted because they forced Germany into a financial crisis from which they could not recover. As world renowned economist John Keynes said this was a ‘Carthinagian’ solution that ultimately led to the complete destruction of Germany’s economy and political system. The economic collapse and degradation of the ineffective Weimar Republic led to poor quality of life, rampant poverty, and desperation in Germany that ultimately led the German people to alternatives like the Nazi party to save the country from total disaster.
Bradley, Megan. “Reparations.” The Encyclopedia of Political Science. Ed. George Thomas Kurian. Vol. 5. Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2011. 1459-1460. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 5 Nov. 2015.
Knott, John. “There Ain’t No Such Animal.” Cartoon. Dallas Morning News 28 Dec. 1931, 89th ed. Print.
Taussig, F. W.. “Germany’s Reparation Payments”. The American Economic Review 10.1 (1920): 33–49.
“The Basel Report.” Editorial. Dallas Morning News 28 Dec. 1931, 89th ed., sec. 1: 4. Print.
Webb, Steven B.. “Fiscal News and Inflationary Expectations in Germany After World War I”. The Journal of Economic History 46.3 (1986): 769–794.
Economic turmoil created heavy doubt in civil servants in 1930’s Dallas. Political scandals didn’t help the federal government’s case when trying to win over the good hearted people of Dallas, Texas. The Dallas Morning News’ 1933 editorial “Civil Service Needed” is an outcry against the job buying problem in political machines. Knott’s political cartoon, “Caveat Emptor,” perfectly captures political bosses ripping off Congressmen in a back alley deal. Knott’s humorous insight and the Dallas Morning News sheds light on corruption at the federal level.There are many factors that prelude to the punchline in Knott’s cartoon. Political machines created problems long before 1933, such as the Tweed Ring of the late 19th century (Kennedy 473). Progressive legislation from the Theodore Roosevelt Administration simmered down political machines (Jackson); however, with FDR’s New Deals creating about three million empty jobs at the state and local levels (Kelber), the system began to pick up some more momentum. Traditionally with this form of corruption, people at the lower rung of the machine would give funds and votes to a certain candidate. A newly elected and corrupted official would then rig legislation to give jobs and contracts to contributors to his campaign, cutting out the poor souls who believed in hard work over money. Now with such a large increase in government owned jobs in Depression era America, who was to determine the allocations of these jobs? Enter newly surcharged political machines, ready to give out jobs to the highest bidder.
The good folks of Dallas, Texas weren’t so keen on government handouts made by the political machines. An November 3rd 1933 editorial in the Dallas Morning News titled, “Civil Service Needed” strongly urges, “the wider need of civil service in state employment” The editorial serves as a response to new revelations of campaign solicitation within the Treasury Department (Dallas Morning News 18), which slides perfectly into the definition of political machines. According to the Editorial, corruption can’t be eliminated until change has been brought at the highest level, a burning need for legislation that penalizes political machines higher and higher. It’s also pretty safe to say the, “evil revelation” of job buying is also shared by the mass majority of Americans, a time where nobody found new jobs in a broken economy.
Knott’s cartoon repeats this message against job solicitation, but allows the audience to laugh at the powerful individuals involved. The young man with his hand in his deep pocket portrays congress. His happy-go-lucky face clearly describes he has no idea what is going on. His counterpart to his left has a better idea of a bigger picture. The cigar, large gut, and authoritative demeanor of the man to the left makes him literally large-and-in-charge in the transaction. Cigar man can easily be related to the political bosses who ran the machines, holding a parchment titled state jobs. He’s not the only boss, the next guy behind him is expecting the same treatment and handout from congress on the right. The fence in the background makes the action in the foreground very wrong, like some back alley drug deal. So clearly Knott is saying political machines are shady, and this process is happening again and again. What’s humorous comes from the relationship between the two parties. In a political machine, the representative is meant to be seen as the guy in charge, as he is the one giving the jobs to the highest bidder. Though the other guys look more aware of what’s going on, after all, “the job buyer is no less guilty of political corruption than the job seller” (Dallas Morning News 18). Very much akin to the image of the communist spy in the war room in Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove; two parties who think they have the upper hand, but in the end are still the loser.Knott flips that around because the bosses are ripping off the corrupt congress, instead of politicians apparently selling to the highest bidder.
Can there be any benefits to job distribution? Or does Knott’s cartoon serve as the ultimate warning to corrupt politicians? The cartoon title, “Caveat Emptor” translates from Latin to “Let the buyer’s beware” Although, the machines weren’t so wary against they’re actions, they believed corruption was in the right. The political machines did manage to benefit those who were a part of it, and they were the only way to, “ultimately provide stable and reliable government,” in an already corrupt system (Ehrenhalt). Take Mayor Daley’s Chicago in the 1950s, where his political machine built many jobs in and around the city (Ehrenhalt). So to some Americans, and I guess some politicians, in order to move forward as a nation, jobs must be bought, and loyalty must be seized, and men must appear with big guts and cigars behind fences. There are definitely men such as Mayor Daley who oppose Knott’s opinions, saying he’s just Knott funny. According to machine supporters, if you corrupt an already corrupt system, then two wrongs can make a right.
Political Machines bought and sold jobs like hot commodities during the Great Depression. The desperate American people and general apathetic feelings toward government allowed corruption to spread. Nevertheless, the people at the Dallas Morning News weren’t afraid to show their true colors. Knott’s cartoon made politicians look like the fools that they are, creating humor in an otherwise dark subject. The impact of the article at the time may have been small, but in today’s world of information, the archives help show how Americans thought in 1930s Texas. Knott was a forefather in political satire, a sign of not only more mistakes made by politicians, but great satirists such as Stanley Kubrick. Both the editorial and Knott’s cartoon make America’s voice heard in an otherwise silenced nation, crying against any form of political corruption, and making fun of those who do.
Ehrenhalt, Alan. “Why Political Machines Were Good for Government.” Why Political Machines Were Good for Government. Governing, July 2015. Web. 03 Nov. 2015. <http://www.governing.com/columns/assessments/gov-political-machines-positives.html>.
Kelber, Harry. “How the New Deal Created Millions of Jobs To Lift the American People from Depression.” How the New Deal Created Millions of Jobs To Lift the American People from Depression. The Labor Educator, 9 May 2008. Web. 26 Oct. 2015. <http://www.laboreducator.org/newdeal2.htm>.
Jackson, Bill. “Political Machines.” Political Machines. The Social Studies Help Center, 2015. Web. 26 Oct. 2015.
Kennedy, Robert C. “Nast, Thomas (1840–1902).” Encyclopedia of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era. Ed. John D. Buenker and Joseph Buenker. Armonk, NY: Sharpe Reference, 2013. 473-474. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 5 Nov. 2015.
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