While most comic books deal with spandex-suited superheroes saving the day, the protagonists in New York Public Interest Research Group's (NYPIRG) "Blood from a Stone: A Cartoon Guide to Tax Reform," published in 1977, are the everyday taxpayers who are getting shafted by a tax code increasingly riddled with loopholes that directly benefit the rich. The only full-fledged, full-length comic book we know of that’s dedicated to the issue of tax reform, "Blood from a Stone” offers a concise and witty introduction to the history of taxation and the need for progressive tax reform in the United States.
While the comic is now over 36 years old, it remains strikingly prescient considering that tax reform has once again become one of the dominant topics of debate in Washington. In fact, many of the specific tax breaks called out as in need of reform in the comic, such as the preferential rate for capital gains or accelerated depreciation, are on the top of the list of the breaks that still need to go!
We are proud to pluck this comic from its obscurity and to post, for the first time since its original release, a digitized copy of this fascinating comic in its entirety. We do so with gratitude and permission from the comic's original authors Larry Gonick and Steve Atlas. Enjoy!
This chapter traces the historic role and origins of taxation from the Assyrians in 700 BC through to modern day America. It highlights the considerable importance of taxation in the American Revolution – it’s true, our anti-tax roots run deep – and the origin of the income tax in America. Did you know Abraham Lincoln instituted the first income tax in the US?
This chapter explains the principle of progressive taxation and explores how a series of loopholes undermine the progressiveness of the tax code. Not only that, it turns out one of those loopholes, the special low rate on capital gains, for example, cost the U.S. Treasury $6 billion – and that was back in 1977. And it’s still the costliest break in the tax code.
Chapter 3: What's Wrong with Loopholes
This chapter dives deeper into how loopholes undermine the equity of the tax system, are economically inefficient, and have grown to huge proportions in recent years. Building on this, the chapter notes how the beneficiaries of these special preferences have used advertising, lobbying, and campaign contributions to keep them. It's a surprise to see that Exxon Mobil was among the groups called out for lobbying for special preferences, just as it still is today.
Chapter 4: Reform
This is the what-can-we-do chapter and it covers how concerned taxpayers can advocate for a tax reform bill that wipes away loopholes and improves the equity of our tax system. The chapter ends with a call for you to get informed and rock the boat, and we couldn't agree more!
The appendix is an archival document in its own right. It lists the most relevant tax reform groups in 1977, the comic's bibliography, the relevant members of Congress in 1977, NY PIRG publications in 1977, and information about NYPIRG. We're happy to see that the list includes Public Citizen's Tax Reform Research Group, where our Director Bob McIntyre was working at the time.
Complete Comic (PDF 8.1 MB)