Cartoon: Self-Made Billionaire

This feels like a very old-fashioned lefty cartoon to me; it’s super-didactic, reliant on labels, has no real punchline, and it’s less about telling a joke then it is about trying to illustrate a basic principal of lefty economics. Other than the drawing style, it could be a pro-union cartoon from the 1920s. Not my usual approach, and honestly I wouldn’t want to do cartoons this didactic all the time, but an occasional trip outside my usual ballpark can be nice.

The principle being illustrated, of course is that there’s no such thing as a self-made rich person. Rich people may work hard (some of them work incredibly hard, others hardly work at all), but their  work wouldn’t be nearly as profitable – or might be entirely impossible – without the systems and infrastructure around them.

This is even more true when we’re talking about the ultra rich. Even if Elon Musk is smart, well-connected to reality and a hard worker (and if he is any of that is debatable), it would be impossible for him to have been productive enough to earn (“earn” as in “deserve”) 244 billion dollars, which is his net worth as I write this. (Or it’s what Google thinks his net worth is, at least.)

At least Musk didn’t inherit a fortune, like Donald Trump did. And yet, Trump has repeatedly painted himself as a self-made man (give or take a million dollars):

“It has not been easy for me,” Trump, as a presidential candidate, said at a town hall in New Hampshire in October 2015. “I started off in Brooklyn. My father gave me a small loan of a million dollars. I came into Manhattan, and I had to pay him back, and I had to pay him back with interest. But I came into Manhattan and I started buying properties, and I did great.”

According to the Times’ reporting, Fred Trump loaned his son at least $140 million in today’s dollars. Most of it was never repaid.

Man, I feel like spent forever drawing (very very simplistic) dollar bills. I really need to learn how to make specialty brushes that do things like piles of dollar bills.

But the most challenging thing was definitely that “publicly funded infrastructure” panel. I really tried to think of an alterative to illustrating “infrastructure” other than cars on a bridge, but nothing came to mind, and eventually I had to give up and draw this. As I’ve mentioned to y’all perhaps too often, I struggle drawing cars. But this one came out okay. I think drawing the cars so tiny may have helped; it’s harder to freak out over getting any details right when the drawings are this small.


This cartoon has six panels. There’s an enormous main panel, the size of the whole cartoon, and then there are five small “inset” panels floating at different angles on top of the main panel.


The main panel shows a smiling, self-satisfied looking white man, wearing casual-but-nice clothes – a long sleeved short shirt tucked into brown pants, with a light blue suit jacket worn on top. He’s holding the lapels of his jacket as he speaks. The last three words of his dialog are printed in much larger lettering, acting as the title of the comic strip.

He is standing thigh-deep in an enormous pile of green dollar bills (presumably of high denominations, although my drawing isn’t detailed enough to show that). Each of the small panels has dollars pouring out of the panel and falling to join the big money pile at the bottom of the cartoon.



CAPTION: Government Subsidies

A very traditionally-drawn Uncle Sam, grinning, is holding a bucket upside down, and money is pouring out of the bucket.


CAPTION: Inherited Wealth

A baby in a onesie is napping blissfully on a big pile of brown bags with a “$” printed on each bag.


CAPTION: Tax Loopholes

A sort of organic-looking hole tunnels into an abstract surface. Money is shooting out of the hole and falling out of the panel, towards the big money pile.

I originally tried drawing this panel as a more literal loophole, made of thread, but somehow that seemed to illustrate the concept less well than a totally abstract approach.


CAPTION: Publicly Funded Infrastructure

A highway overpass is passing over a lower highway overpass. Cars and trucks are driving on both levels of overpasses, including a large truck with its rear doors open; money is flowing out of the rear doors towards the big money pile.


This is the final inset panel of the cartoon.

CAPTION: Exploited Workers.

Two workers – one wearing a blue vest over a white shirt, and an orange cap, the other wearing a polo shirt and carrying a large cardboard box, look irritated. Money is flying out of their pockets to join the big money pile.

Self-Made Billionaire | Patreon

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