Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Elon Musk

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, drew condemnation from economic justice groups on Thursday over his opposition to a wealth tax that would help fund social supports in the Build Back Better Act. (Photo: Daniel Oberhaus/Flickr/cc)

'Too Bad We Can't Tax Egos': Elon Musk Blasted for Attack on Billionaire Tax

"This country made him rich," said one critic. "He owes us."

Julia Conley

SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk drew outrage Thursday after publicly complaining that his vast wealth would be further taxed under a new proposal by Sen. Ron Wyden, aimed at raising revenue to pay for social supports under the Build Back Better Act.
 
As Democrats continued debating what would be included in the plan—which the majority of party members want to provide paid family leave to workers, far-reaching climate action and green jobs, Medicare reforms to allow the federal government to negotiate drug prices, and other provisions—Musk tweeted about Wyden's proposal.
 
"Eventually, they run out of other people's money and then they come for you," he said earlier this week, adding on Wednesday evening that "spending is the real problem" contributing to the national debt, rather than the failure of corporations and the richest Americans to pay a fair tax rate.
 
 
Musk's comments caught the attention of economic justice advocates including Patriotic Millionaires—the coalition of wealthy Americans who believe they should be taxed at a much higher rate to help narrow the wealth gap—which noted the Tesla founder himself relied on "other people's money" to build his empire.

"Millions of hard-working people who do their part for the country every day, while entitled 'technokings' like Elon Musk shirk their most basic responsibilities."

 
"Elon Musk was born with an emerald spoon in his mouth, and when he needed more money for his various schemes, he turned to U.S. taxpayers for billions of dollars of subsidies and direct handouts," said Erica Payne, president and founder of Patriotic Millionaires.
 
Musk's companies—Tesla, SolarCity Corp., and SpaceX—received an estimated $4.9 billion in federal funding as of 2015 via subsidies and direct grants from the Treasury Department.
 
"Government support is a theme of all three of these companies, and without it none of them would be around," hedge fund manager Mark Spiegel, whose firm shorted Tesla's stock, told the Los Angeles Times in 2015.
 
Musk's companies also "rely on a workforce educated by public tax dollars and a physical, legal and economic infrastructure built, maintained, and paid for by American taxpayers," Payne said.
 
"It's too bad we can't tax egos," she added. "We could pay off the entire federal debt with a miniscule tax on this guy's overblown opinion of himself."
 
Payne's disdain was echoed by political observers.
 
Musk's opposition to Wyden's Billionaires' Income Tax—which would apply to about 700 taxpayers with over $1 billion in assets or more than $100 million in income for three consecutive years, and would impose an annual tax on tradable assets, whether or not they are sold—shows why the proposal is needed, wrote Greg Sargent at The Washington Post.
 
The billionaires' tax would also address glaring flaws in our tax code that deserve attention in their own right: They've driven soaring inequality and badly unbalanced our political economy. Fixing these would itself confer major benefits, irrespective of helping "pay for" Democratic investments.
 
Musk's opposition helps illustrate this. Like many other rich people, his extreme wealth is partly the creation of government investment undertaken for the public good. But he's also perfectly happy to protect that wealth from fair taxation in ways that deprive the government of revenue for other socially beneficial investments, just as many other billionaires are.
 
On Twitter, Sargent wrote that according to Musk, government investments in companies like his own are "good and visionary" while investing in an expanded child tax credit, paid family leave, and other anti-poverty initiatives are equal to "bad taking" of public resources.
 
In response to Musk's comments, as Democrats continued their negotiations on Thursday, Patriotic Millionaires sent a mobile billboard around Capitol Hill, displaying an image of Musk and the text: "Elon Musk: 300 billion more reasons to tax the rich."
 
The billboard also mocked what the group called Musk's "baffling decision to change his title at Tesla to 'Technoking'," displaying an image of the billionaire with the text "Techno 'Mooch' King."
 
Billboard showing Elon Musk, displayed by Patriotic Millionaires on Capitol Hill Thursday.
 
"Musk paid a 3.27% tax rate on $13.9 billion in gains between 2014 and 2018. Since then, Musk has earned over a hundred billion dollars more, and paid even less on those gains," said Payne. "Someone earning just $25,000 a year in income pays a top rate of 12%, almost four times what he paid. Millions of hard-working people who do their part for the country every day, while entitled 'technokings' like Elon Musk shirk their most basic responsibilities."
 
"This country made him rich," she added. "He owes us."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Russian, Belarusian, and Ukrainian Rights Activists Awarded Nobel Peace Prize

The shared prize, said the Norwegian Nobel Committee, is going to "three outstanding champions of human rights, democracy, and peaceful co-existence in the neighbor countries Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine."

Jake Johnson ·


Demands for Peace Talks Intensify as Biden Says Putin Nuclear Threats Risk 'Armageddon'

Anti-war groups called on the U.S. president to urgently pursue a diplomatic "off-ramp" to avert a nuclear catastrophe.

Jake Johnson ·


Democrats Push to Lift Ban on Student Loan Bankruptcy Relief

"Modernizing and clarifying the consumer bankruptcy system is long overdue," said a leader at Public Citizen, one of many groups backing the bill.

Jessica Corbett ·


Fetterman Calls Biden Marijuana Pardons and Reforms a 'BFD'

"Too many lives—and lives of Black and Brown Americans in particular—have been derailed by this criminalization of this plant," the progressive Democratic U.S. Senate candidate and Pennsylvania asserted.

Brett Wilkins ·


Judge's Ruling Puts New York Gun Control Efforts on Path Back to Supreme Court

"Judges award themselves maximal protection against guns and then tell parents around the country that they have no power to keep guns out of daycare," said one critic.

Julia Conley ·

Common Dreams Logo