We're now passed the 30-day mark in the Trump administration's second shutdown. Federal workers are going without pay, which isn't exactly the greatest economic boost. The question isn't if they'll get paid. They will. The government owes them, just like it owes various other parties. The question is, of course, whether they can survive until that pay comes. A housing loan lender doesn't necessarily care if you can't pay right now because your employer isn't cutting checks this month, even if your employer is the federal government. Disease doesn't press the pause button and wait until your surely forthcoming government pay check can carry the weight of your medical care. The issue isn't how much we owe our workers. The question is whether they can afford to continue being in our employ much longer.
This panel owes its existence to the DCN's Managing Editor Russ Mitchell, as do several. Every once in awhile, newsroom discussions lead to phrases or images which lend themselves well to the realm of cartooning. Those ideas get jotted down on a post-it note stuck to my monitor. If I recall, Russ actually said "A pox on both your houses" (a common rephrasing of the Shakespearean quote) while attempting to keep a balance on the opinion page of the DCN leading up to the general election. Both parties were regularly explaining to him why the opposition was undeserving or abusive of their say in the publicly-authored page (for the record, there is an established procedure to alternate publishing letters between the two most vocal authors in the letter to the editor section).
This particular panel was meant to be paired with my column, which also used the phrase. In fact, the whole package probably started more as the column than the cartoon. It's not the first time I've delved into Shakespeare for the purposes of opinion writing (both Romeo and Juliet as it turns out), and I've found it effective both times. The trouble comes in the visual, as one might expect. In the progress animation below, you'll see a blip of a sketch that I didn't use during the hearings for Justice Kavanaugh. I redressed the partisan mascots in Elizabethan garb to drive the point home, but didn't like it in the end. I wanted to at least come close to bridging "both your houses" with "Houses of Congress." That landed me on another centrally-heavy composition. I had also intended Uncle Sam's hand to be covering a wound, as a more clear reference to Mercutio's character and his fate, but it seemed too graphic no matter how I went about it. I toned it down with the piles of cash, and slipped one under his hand so it didn't look like he was performing a sort of lazy dab. It's a dance move among the young people (and some not so young people too...enter Betty White).
I put a few last touches on the shading after the weekend. Sometimes it helps to come at a work with fresh eyes. In the end, the cartoon took a little more than two hours to create.
Thanks for reading.