Last week on Twitter, Elon Musk shared his thoughts about UBI and how our government pretty much mismanaged stimulus/relief for the coronavirus economic shutdowns. “Yeah, would have been way better just to send everyone $6K,” Elon replied to a tweet by Ash Ola who did the math regarding the economic stimulus bill: $2 trillion divided by $330 million would have been enough for every American to receive around $6,000. Instead, most Americans (emphasis on most because I know some people who still haven’t gotten theirs yet) received $1,200. So, what happened to all the rest?
As someone who admires Bernie Sanders, it’s kind of sad to see that he didn’t fully research what Elon was trying to say here. This is the entire three-tweet thread:
Bernie would have agreed with most of that, if not all of it in the right context.
“What a hypocrite. Elon Musk has received billions in corporate welfare from U.S. taxpayers. Now he wants to stop 30 million Americans who lost jobs from receiving $600 a week in unemployment benefits while his wealth has gone up by $46.7 billion over the past 4 months. Pathetic,” Senator Sanders tweeted. Or, at least, one of his staff members did.
What a hypocrite. Elon Musk has received billions in corporate welfare from U.S. taxpayers. Now he wants to stop 30 million Americans who lost jobs from receiving $600 a week in unemployment benefits, while his wealth has gone up by $46.7 billion over the past 4 months. Pathetic. https://t.co/hECaTul3ZI
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) July 24, 2020
Before I dive into how much we give to fossil fuel companies — companies that have intentionally spread misinformation on the health impacts of their products — let me nip one quick thing in the bud with this question:
What exactly did Elon Musk say about unemployment? He didn’t say anything about it, actually. He didn’t even address unemployment. His thoughts were on the stimulus package and addressed the fact that taxpayers gave billions of dollars to special interests. Without a doubt, Sanders also didn’t like the stimulus package being stuffed with extraneous goodies for the Trump administration, other members of Congress, and their friends. Sanders almost definitely would have chosen a straight check for $6,000 for all Americans. Unfortunately, it appears that Bernie did not see Elon’s tweets following the initial one.
Tesla & Its Subsidies
Yes, Tesla does receive subsidies. Many corporations do. In fact, other automakers and the oil and gas industry — Tesla’s top competitors — also receive subsidies. Should Tesla not receive subsidies when its competitors do?
Also, remember that Tesla creates products that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Emissions are an externality that costs society and are not adequately price by the market. Since we don’t have a price on those emissions, a good alternative is to incentives companies or products that reduce those emissions. It’s another way of trying to account for the societal cost of pollution.
Of note, this makes the EV and clean energy company a threat to the fossil fuel industry. Perhaps, then, it’s no wonder that fossil fuel companies have political interests and gain when popular politicians bash Elon Musk on Twitter for being rich.
The Fossil Fuel Industry Receives At Least $400 Billion In Subsidies Annually
The International Energy Agency shared that, in 2018, new data showed that there was an increase in fossil fuel consumption subsidies to over $400 billion around the world. Another report, this one from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), found that the United States has spent $649 billion in 2015 on fossil fuel subsidies if you more broadly looked at externalities. Direct and indirect subsidies for coal, oil, and gas in the U.S reached $649 billion, while the Pentagon spent $599 billion. Think about that for a moment. In America, we are spending more on fossil fuel subsidies than we are on defense. Why?
Globally, the IMF noted that the world spent $4.7 trillion in 2015 to subsidize the use of fossil fuels. It estimated that figure rose to $5.2 trillion in 2017. The U.S. is the world’s second-largest subsidizer of fossil fuels. If you break down the cost of these fossil fuels to U.S. taxpayers to every man, woman, and child, that is $2,028 that we are paying in fossil fuel subsidies — $169 per month.
The American Government Is Addicted To Fossil Fuels
In regards to Joe Biden’s stance against fossil fuels, Vice President Mike Pence recently said this:
“Joe Biden would destroy our fossil fuel industry, return to the war on coal, prevent the development of America’s immense energy reserves, and impose a regime of climate change regulations on literally every new building in the United States — every home, every business — that would drastically increase the cost of living for families — and the cost of business, at the cost of jobs.”
The current administration is so intertwined with its love for the fossil fuel industry that it has actually taken money from American taxpayers and used it to bail out fossil fuel companies. War on coal? Coal is dying because of the free market, and the Trump administration has been funneling our money to them as well as the oil and gas industry so that they can surf on the backs of American taxpayers a bit longer.
Trump’s EPA told Native and State Tribes that they couldn’t stop corporations from dumping pollution in their water. Trump gutted auto emissions standards. These are just a few things that our current administration has done in favor of the fossil fuel industry, while doing nothing to support Tesla. In fact, the US federal tax credit for Tesla buyers ran out, while buyers of electric cars from other companies — including non-US companies — can still get a $7500 tax credit. Tesla is the most disadvantaged company in its core sector when it comes to subsidies!
Elon Musk Is An Ally, Not A Billionaire Stealing Wealth From The Poor American Taxpayer
Bernie Sanders has a strong stance against the fossil fuel industry, and against that ancient industry getting “government handouts.” Sanders and Ilhan Omar even introduced a new bill that would stop giving stimulus money to fossil fuel companies. Basically, they wanted to do a bit of what Elon Musk was advocating — keep the stimulus money from going to wasteful beneficiaries who don’t need it. In a statement to HuffPo, Omar said,
“It’s past time we end the billions of taxpayer subsidies to fossil-fuel companies. Our focus right now needs to be on getting the American people through this difficult, unprecedented time, not providing giveaways to polluters.”
Elon Musk’s stance on fossil fuels aligns with Sanders’. During SXSW in 2018, Elon Musk made a powerful statement that may have angered those who are in the pockets of the fossil fuels industry. He spoke to Jonathan Nolan, co-creator of the HBO show Westworld, and explained that sustainable energy is “obviously really important” to humanity’s future. He believes that clean energy solutions have reached a point where they are technologically viable. Yet the thing that is holding them back is distorted market conditions.
“The core technologies are there with wind, solar, with batteries. The fundamental problem is there’s an unpriced externality in the cost of CO2,” he said. “The market economics work very well if things are priced correctly. But when things are not priced correctly and something that has a real cost has zero cost, then that’s where you get distortions in the market that inhibit the progress of other technologies.”
Many on the far left refuse to even acknowledge Elon Musk’s work in the clean energy sector. By far left, I mean those who lean toward the extreme and refuse to do research into Tesla’s mission and history just because it’s a successful company and Musk is now a billionaire, sort of like some extreme conservatives who think one is going to hell for not wearing a skirt because of something in the Bible (I’ve actually been told before that I’m going to hell because I was wearing pants, not a skirt — a long time ago). There are extreme opinions on both sides.
The left wants social justice and clean energy. However, some often put aside those desires when it comes to bashing an evil billionaire just for being rich — and thus “the enemy.” Elon’s existence must be oppressing us because of something to do with emeralds (something his father cashed in on after his mother took the kids and fled a domestically abusive situation). The truth is, this just goes to show how far people are easily manipulated into hating someone. The question is, who is really doing the manipulation? My advice, follow the money.
Editor’s note: This article was written and pending before today — actually, for days. Since it was written, I think a few thing have happened:
- More miscommunication has ensued.
- People have jumped to conclusions on all sides.
- All of that has been fueled by an enormous number of trolls and bots (which I think are often the fuel of Twitter).
- And the key human parties (on both core sides) have become ever more entrenched in misunderstandings and combative positions based on deep feelings of pain and fear.
I am not a fan of Twitter. It is where nuance and context go to die.