Herb Block believed that Ronald Reagan’s policies of government deregulation, unimpeded spending, and readiness to undo social programs made a shambles of the country. Reagan appalled Block in a way that only Joseph McCarthy and Richard Nixon had done before. The “tangled web” of foreign policy—especially the Iran-Contra affair—that deceived the American people, angered him. He wrote, “Ronald Reagan had not only run against the federal government when he first campaigned for the presidency; he continued to run against it while heading it. So there might be considered a certain logic to his efforts to get around government rules and restrictions when they interfered with what he and his band of performers wanted to do.” Block spent eight years reminding Americans of what had transpired and attacked what he perceived as the unmitigated greed of the Reagan Administration.

“Strange How Some Choose to Live Like That . . .”

Depicting President Ronald Reagan and counselor Edwin Meese riding in a limousine, Herblock castigates the disregard and insensitivity Reagan had expressed the day before in an interview regarding the disastrous impact of his economic policies on the nation’s homeless and poor. Large tax cuts for the wealthy and major cuts in government-funded social programs formed the basis of “Reaganomics,” or supply-side economics. Herblock gives visible form to the acute deprivation resulting from policies favoring the “well supplied.”

“Strange How Some Choose to Live Like That Instead of Choosing to Be Rich Like Us,” 1984. Graphite, porous point pen, ink, and opaque white over blue pencil underdrawing. Published in the Washington Post, February 2, 1984. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (58.00.00). LC-DIG-ppmsca-21953

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“Poor Kid—We Want to Give You Something”

William Bennett, secretary of education under Ronald Reagan, introduced The Equity and Choice Act (TEACH) of 1985 to give underprivileged children vouchers to attend private school. Catholic and other private religious schools lauded the legislation because they had the opportunity to collect federal funds for students they had already enrolled. Herblock viewed it as a direct attack on the public education system. The bill died in committee in 1986, although some cities and states enacted a voucher system.

“Poor Kid—We Want to Give You Something,” 1985. Graphite, porous point pen, ink, overlays, and opaque white over blue pencil underdrawing. Published in the Washington Post, December 6, 1985. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (59.00.00). LC-DIG-ppmsca-21954

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“I Don’t Think We’re Gonna Make It Another Four”

In a parody of Grant Wood’s painting American Gothic, an image often shown to extol the nation’s hardworking farmers, Herblock deplores their sorry plight. Farmers gave President Ronald Reagan ninety-two percent of their vote in his bid for re-election, despite the record rise in farm foreclosures during his first term. The couple’s dismayed expressions, the title forecasting foreclosure, and the large campaign button symbolic of misplaced support all underscore the betrayal of farmers’ hopes during Reagan’s second term.

“I Don’t Think We’re Gonna Make It Another Four,” 1985. Graphite, porous point pen, ink, opaque white, and overlays over blue pencil underdrawing. Published in the Washington Post, January 31, 1985. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (60.00.00). LC-DIG-ppmsca-21955

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“Joy to the World”

Scientists questioned the viability of Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative, popularly dubbed “Star Wars.” At the time, Herblock portrayed Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger as Santa Claus. Herblock explained, “I have shown the secretary of defense wearing the $640 toilet seat as a kind of collar. This not only represents the small items priced at a markup of several hundred percent, but it is symbolic of the billions of dollars that have been flushed down the drain in the name of defense.”

“Joy to the World,” 1985. Graphite, ink, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing. Published in the Washington Post, December 17, 1985. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (61.00.00). LC-DIG-ppmsca-21957

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“It Didn’t Happen”

Herblock lampoons the Iran-Contra affair, the most publicized scandal of President Ronald Reagan’s tenure. In panels that mimic multiple takes on a movie set, he chronicles Reagan’s non-responses to queries about the illegal sale in 1985 of arms to Iran, a nation harboring terrorists, in hopes of gaining release of American hostages in Lebanon. Herblock indignantly asserts that this deal engineered by the Reagan administration “could have been called the Amnesia Scandal.”

“It Didn’t Happen,” 1987. Graphite, porous point pen, ink, opaque white, and overlays over blue pencil underdrawing. Published in the Washington Post, May 21, 1987. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (62.00.00). LC-DIG-ppmsca-21958

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“See How Much Better Things Are . . .”

By 1988, it became clear that undermining the regulations put into place from the 1930s to the 1970s to control the airline industry, banking, television, and telephones had created chaos. Ronald Reagan had campaigned to get government off the backs of the people. Although Reagan did not abolish any government agencies, Herblock thought that both the president and Congress had undone the codes that had been established to the point that overwhelming debt and decay burdened American citizens.

“See How Much Better Things Are Without the Heavy Hand of Government?” 1988. Graphite, porous point pen, ink, overlays, and opaque white over blue pencil underdrawing. Published in the Washington Post, December 22, 1988. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (63.00.00). LC-DIG-ppmsca-21960

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The Disposable Society

Herblock attacks society’s wastefulness and over-consumption in this cartoon of planet Earth resting in a garbage can trailing ugly flotsam. He indicates the tangible, negative effects of such behavior—overcrowded landfills and pollution of Earth’s atmosphere and outer space. Over decades Herblock’s work manifested strong concern for the environment in cartoons that decried unchecked pollution, unsafe disposal of toxic wastes, and unlimited logging. His first daily cartoon, in fact, lamented the destruction of forests by clear-cutting.

The Disposable Society, 1988. Graphite, porous point pen, ink, opaque white, and overlays over blue pencil underdrawing. Published in the Washington Post, August 21, 1988. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (64.00.00). LC-DIG-ppmsca-21961

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“You Don’t Hear Much About Liberalism Lately . . .”

Ronald Reagan, a self-proclaimed enemy of “Big Government,” left what was the largest national debt in American history when he left office in 1988. As his second term came to a close, it was clear that the Treasury coffers had been emptied. Despite the fact that the government was overspent, during the 1988 presidential election Democrats could not overcome Reagan’s long-term battle against liberalism. Republican George H.W. Bush won easily against Democrat Michael Dukakis.

“You Don't Hear Much About Liberalism Lately—We’re Not Leaving Anything to be Liberal With,” 1988. Graphite, porous point pen, ink, overlays, and opaque white over blue pencil underdrawing. Published in the Washington Post, August 25, 1988. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (65.00.00). LC-DIG-ppmsca-21962

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