Elon Musk called on the Biden administration to “can” the Build Back Better bill because it adds to the deficit, but he has other motivations that he didn't mention.
The House of Representatives waited for the Congressional Budget Office to weigh in on how the Build Back Better Act would affect the deficit, before ultimately passing President Biden’s signature legislative package. The Senate is reportedly holding out now until they can sit down with the Senate parliamentarian and determine what can actually be in the bill. But let’s be real, all of that is just killing time until the most important voice in the room — Elon Musk — speaks on the matter.
On Monday night, during an appearance at a Wall Street Journal conference, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX did his best Emperor Commodus impression and gave a thumbs down to the Build Back Better Actl. “Honestly, I would just can this whole bill,” Musk said. “Don’t pass it. That’s my recommendation.”
The proclamation might come as a surprise. After all, the Build Back Better Act has been hailed as the most meaningful piece of climate-related legislation that the country has ever seen, offering record levels of investment to transition to clean energy and ditch fossil fuels. Musk allegedly cares very deeply about climate change: He’s said that “climate change is the biggest threat that humanity faces this century,” and he’s warned that if left unaddressed, the devastation caused by climate change could “cause more destruction than all the wars in history combined.”
So why doesn’t Musk want the government to pass a bill that represents the best possible shot at actually, y’know, avoiding all of that? Well, it adds a little bit to the federal deficit, and apparently that simply won’t do. “We’ve spent so much money, the federal budget deficit is insane,” he said. “We’re running this incredible deficit. Something’s got to give.”
Were it left up to Musk, he’d like to see the government save by ending “all subsidies,” including the many included in the Build Back Better Act and accompanying Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal that would directly benefit electric vehicle manufacturers by rapidly expanding charging infrastructure around the country and offering tax credits for the purchase of electric vehicles.
That ought to be right up Musk’s alley seeing as he runs the company that, by his own accounting, has made about two-thirds of all EVs in the U.S. Instead, that’s exactly why Musk opposes additional subsidies.
Elon Musk has one driving principle: Make Elon Musk money.
Here’s what is unsaid in Musk’s little rant against deficit spending and government subsidies: He’s a major recipient of them. Musk’s companies, including Tesla, received an estimated $4.9 billion in government subsidies. That includes a major investment from the Department of Energy to build its first models of electric cars and Obama-era tax credits that incentivized people to buy said cars. Tesla owned the market then, so it benefited the most. Now there are competitors on the come-up, and suddenly Musk is worried about deficit spending.
Just take a look at how things have been going in Europe for Tesla. Tesla dominated the electric car market across the continent for years, until governments started cracking down on emissions. More car manufacturers started making electric alternatives, and Tesla’s share of the market has shrunk considerably. Its lead is ready to evaporate back in the U.S., too, if other manufacturers are offered the same benefits that Tesla once got.
Musk is also maybe bummed out that the Build Back Better Act provides additional subsidies for electric vehicles made by unionized workforces, something that Tesla’s CEO has very actively attempted to stomp out inside his company. He illegally fired a worker involved in union organizing, threatened workers with the loss of stock options if they chose to form a union, and posted anti-union tweets. Meanwhile, Tesla has intentionally obfuscated information about employee injuries, ignored worker complaints about the stressful and physically taxing labor, and fired workers for staying home rather than returning to work during a pandemic. Seems like those union drives may have some validity, eh?
None of this should be surprising from Musk. On the surface, he makes it seem as though he has ideals and will defend them at all costs. The reality is that he’s a self-interested goober who will do and say anything that benefits himself. He buddied up to Donald Trump, despite Trump denying the reality of climate change, which Musk calls the greatest threat humanity faces. He’s poured money into the coffers of Republican politicians who have fought tooth and nail to prevent action on climate change, because he wanted favorable treatment from them in his business dealings — the same reason he gives dough to Democrats.
Elon Musk has one driving principle: Make Elon Musk money. Anything else that resembles a principled stance, like opposition to deficit spending or government subsidies, can change at a moment’s notice.