Elon Musk is very likely the best-known CEO of any modern automaker, and I’m even counting Datuk Zainal Abidin Ahmad of Perodua in that assessment. Part of why this is the case is that Musk is a pretty uninhibited user of social media, and is more than willing to make his thoughts known on a variety of subjects. Sometimes those thoughts include the grave injustice of having to pay taxes as a absurdly rich person, and also pretending like he thought Bernie Sanders was dead. This is all kind of stupid, so, you know, hang on.
There’s actually a few tweets from Musk, the CEO some cousin of yours at Thanksgiving is going to never shut up about, that have made enough of a splash to merit discussion, so let’s start with the big one:
I keep forgetting that you’re still alive
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 14, 2021
OK, here we are. Bernie Sanders, whom you likely know as the United States Senator from Vermont and mitten enthusiast, suggested via tweet that “the extremely wealthy” pay their “fair share.” Maybe it’s the use of the word “fair” in there, but I think that sounds pretty, well, fair to me.
Musk, seemingly quite offended by this idea, as an extremely wealthy person (that may be a protected class of citizen, I’ll have to look that up) decided the best response to this radical suggestion that he, one of the richest people on the planet, should pay their share in taxes, was to suggest that he maybe thought Sanders, a lifelong old cranky man, was already dead.
I do not believe Elon Musk actually forgot Sanders remained among the living, and I’m going to go so far to say that Elon’s goal was to hurt Sanders for suggesting he pay his fair share, by reminding Sanders that he is, in fact, old, and could die in the near future.
Say what you will about Elon’s motivations for this reply, but I really don’t think it’s news to Bernie that he’s old as shit. Bernie’s 80. Based on photographic evidence, I think he’s been 80 for at least the last 20 years. I don’t think Bernie gives two hard-to-eject shits about if Elon thinks he’s alive or not.
Still, even though I don’t think Bernie cared at all about the comment, it is, objectively, a shitty thing to say.
Plus, this sort of desperate, angry response to being asked to pay your fair share is pretty telling. Musk seems to really dislike the very idea of paying taxes to the government, though he is refreshingly open to accepting help from the government when needed.
There was that low-interest loan to Tesla way back in 2010 for $US465 (A$633) million dollars that helped the company get off the ground. Now, that wasn’t a gift, and Tesla did pay back the loan many years early, and I think everyone benefited from that transaction, but it’s not like a nearly half-billion dollar loan is something you can ignore.
I can’t even get a loan for one-ten-thousanth of that amount from a bank, and I own my Yugo outright.
There’s more: Tesla’s Austin factory is getting $US14.7 (A$20) million in tax breaks, the company got substantial help in the form of payroll “benefits” as part of government Coronavirus stimulus, multiple states offer incentives for EV and solar equipment purchases which effectively subsidizes the cost of Teslas to buyers, and Musk’s companies like SpaceX and Solar City have also benefited from many government subsidies and contracts.
Now, I don’t really have a problem with much of this — it’s good for the government to help get businesses like Tesla started, it’s good to encourage the use of renewable energy, and I’m a huge fan of space exploration. That’s all fine.
But when you’ve benefited so dramatically from this help — again, dude’s the richest guy in the world — pay your damn share.
Like a toddler flopping on the ground so everyone understands the crippling pain of existence and how poorly they’re being treated, Musk made a big public show of how he was going to pay his taxes on his unrealized gains (you know, kind of like how you have to pay taxes on the value of your property even if you haven’t sold it) by asking the Peoples Of Twitter if he should sell some of his Tesla stock, of which he owns, technically, a metric shitload:
Much is made lately of unrealized gains being a means of tax avoidance, so I propose selling 10% of my Tesla stock.
Do you support this?
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 6, 2021
So, the people said yes and sell stocks he did — almost seven billion dollars’ worth.
The idea that he did this all based on a Twitter poll isn’t really accurate, though. Musk was already planning to sell a lot of those stocks, and we know this because he said so, back in September:
“I have a bunch of options that are expiring early next year, so … a huge block of options will sell in Q4 — because I have to or they’ll expire.”
The stock sale seems to be less about grudging — we can’t really call it altruism, because this isn’t charity, they’re taxes — responsibility than it is about the fact that his options were going to expire for a big chunk of his stock, and he’d need to sell.
And while, sure a 50 per cent tax rate is a lot, I don’t think Elon is going to be forced to eat dog food anytime soon, unless he chooses to, in which case, good for him, because, as always, I don’t kink-shame.
He’s the richest man in the world and if anyone feels even remotely bad that he has to pay taxes, then those people are fools. He’s going to get by, somehow. I know he lives in that little pre-fab house by the factory, but come on — he doesn’t have to do that. That’s a stunt. He’s a frugality tourist.
I know Elon Musk has many fans out there, shy, demure, understanding people who are, of course, not creepy, dead-eyed, cultish minions singularly focused on one very wealthy man. Those fans may think that responding to a U.S. Senator by feigning surprise he still has a pulse is just fine, even a healthy interchange of ideas.
I would ask those fans to help me see the upside of this exchange, where the U.S. Senator from Oregon noted that maybe the wealthiest man on Earth shouldn’t use a Twitter poll to decide if he should pay taxes, and Elon responded by wondering if the Senator’s profile pic was taken moments after the Senator’s engorged penis ejaculated semen, perhaps as the result of the conclusion of a sexual encounter:
Why does ur pp look like u just came?
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 7, 2021
It’s not immediately clear how Musk’s inquiry relates to the fundamental question of someone astoundingly wealthy paying their share of taxes back into a system that has, by any accounts, treated them unusually well.
Also, I do wonder what references Musk has of Wyden’s ejaculatory facial expression to even consider that as a possibility in the first place. Has he seen the Senator ejaculate previously, and recognised the subtle play of emotion on the Senator’s face that immediately suggested that very particular state of immediate post-coital bliss?
Looking at the Senator’s profile picture (abbreviated by Musk as “pp,” a homonym for a word favoured by young children describing the act of urination) I really don’t think this looks like the visage of a man who, in Musk’s parlance “just came.”
Then again, what do I know? Elon’s the genius, not me.