Cartoon: Billionaires Discuss Economics

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However the Democratic primary turns out, I’m grateful to both Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders for making increasing taxes on the wealthy a more prominent issue.

This one was fun to draw. The biggest drawing problem this strip presented was that three characters who had only been seen once each by the readers, would have to be recognizable as the same characters in the final panel. So a lot of thought went into the character design; each character had to have very distinctive head shapes and clothing, so that (hopefully) readers will be able to see that they’re the same characters in the final panel.

The last panel was especially fun to draw. Honestly, cartoony people freaking out is always fun to draw. (Bulge those eyeballs! Unhinge that jaw!) I also really enjoyed drawing the flowers in panel one, because they’re not the sort of thing I usually draw, and they came out well. (Drawing is always more fun when things come out well).

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This cartoon has five panels, plus a small “kicker” panel below the bottom of the final panel.


This is a title panel, showing a sedate arrangement of flowers in front of a vase. That’s all just the background for the lettering, which says: “Another edifying episode of… Billionaires discuss Economics”


A middle aged-man sits in a high-backed desk chair; there is a desk in front of him, with a laptop and a cup of coffee on a saucer. He’s reading a magazine called “Tax Dodge Monthly.” But at this moment he’s looked up from the magazine to address the viewer, smiling.

SEATED MAN: Giving poor people handouts creates a culture of dependency, so the best way to help is to give them nothing.


A younger man, wearing glasses and a Yale tee shirt, stands on a tennis court, holding a tennis racket over one shoulder. He speaks to the reader, looking friendly.

TENNIS: My great-great-grandfather made a fortune busting unions and paying workers a pittance. And eventually I inherited that fortune! Why can’t poor people just do that?


A middle-aged man, balding, with a neat, pointy beard just on his chin, speaks sternly to the readers, one forefinger raised as if making a point. He’s wearing a double-breasted blazer and a necktie. Next to him, his dog looks up at him calmly. Behind him is an enormous mansion with big pillars surrounding the door.

BEARD: I’m sorry some people can’t afford health care, but we can’t help everyone with every little problem. People need to toughen up.


The three characters from the previous three panels are all in this panel, looking frightened and panicked.

SITTING MAN: A small tax increase on income over fifty million dollars? It’s highway robbery!

TENNIS: Where’s their compassion?

BEARD: Why don’t they care what happens to us?


The “Beard” character from panel four is chewing out Barry, the cartoonist.

BEARD: This cartoon is yet another example of pervasive anti-billionaire bigotry!

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3 Responses to Cartoon: Billionaires Discuss Economics

  1. 1
    RonF says:

    “A small tax increase on income over fifty million dollars?”

    Is this a reference to Sen. Warren’s “wealth tax” proposal? If so, I thought her proposal was for taxing wealth over $50 million, not income. And if that should make it to the Democratic platform it will be interesting to see the public debate on it. It took the 16th Amendment to make the income tax legal and it’s specific to incomes, not wealth. I find the arguments against it’s constitutionality most convincing, and as I never expect to have $50 million in the bank I have no dog in the hunt.

  2. 2
    Ampersand says:

    It was inspired by Warren’s proposal, but I changed it to an income tax because I like my cartoons to not be too much about any specific passing news story. With hindsight, I should have changed it more than just that.

    I haven’t yet looked into the arguments about if a Federal wealth tax is constitutional. There seem to be well-informed people on both sides of that debate. Ron, is there a single article or post that you found particular convincing, that I could read?

  3. 3
    RonF says:

    Here’s one from the New York Times.

    It seems to me that Amendment XVI is pretty specific. It seems to me that for the Court to hold that the wealth tax is Constitutional it would have to hold that Pollock v. Farmer’s Loan and Trust Co. is no longer a valid precedent and that Amendment XVI was unnecessary and is a dead letter. That would be a pretty unusual thing for the Court to do.

    In the interest of balance, here is an article from the ABA’s web site arguing the opposite. But I don’t find it convincing because it seems based on the premise that since a wealth tax is necessary, forbidding it’s imposition via the Constitution is an unacceptable limitation on the Federal government’s power, and also Pollock sucks. But there’s certainly room for the Federal government to raise taxes by other means (90% on income over ‘x’ dollars, for example), and rightly or wrongly Pollock exists. Historically SCOTUS tends to not overturn precedent if the government has another course of action open to it to pursue their objective.

    Again, note that it would not break my heart if someone with over $50 million in capital had to pay extra taxes, and I certainly never expect to have that kind of money myself.