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TALKING RACE | PANEL DISCUSSION

New (Raw) Deal

March 13, 2005|Joel Pett | Joel Pett is the Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist of the Lexington Herald-Leader. His work also appears in USA Today.

When the Chicago Tribune's John McCutcheon won a Pulitzer Prize in 1932 for the image at left, Social Security was barely a cartoon lightbulb above the head of Franklin D. Roosevelt, and scores of editorial cartoonists were working at U.S. newspapers.

Seventy-three years later, both the original safety net and the political cartoonist's trade are facing forced retirement.

Like Social Security's fiscal future, the current cartooning numbers draw a bleak picture. During the New Deal, there were several hundred editorial cartoonists in the United States, many of them published on the front pages. Our ranks have dwindled to about 90 today, halved in just the last two decades.

Social Security has been called the "third rail" of politics, and rail we do. For Chip Bok and Tony Auth, the Social Security ruckus is about demographics and demagogues. For Clay Bennett, the overarching reaction is alarm. The rest of us are saving our best ideas for a rainy day.

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