US Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) greets journalists as he arrives for a poll at the US Capitol in Washington, DC on November 1, 2021.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters
Tesla and SpaceX chief Elon Musk sparred with Senator Bernie Sanders over tax policy this weekend on Twitter, trying to provoke him again Monday morning.
According to his website, the independent senator (who generally holds caucus with Democrats) is an advocate for converting the US energy system to renewable energy sources, by giving $ 200 billion to a green climate fund and other environmental guidelines that will serve Tesla well.
But he is also an advocate for raising taxes for the super-rich, as is Oregon Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, whom Musk reached out to on Twitter in a similar exchange earlier in November. Musk, which has the highest net worth in the world today, is strongly opposed to a so-called “billionaire tax”[ads1];.
Last week, Musk sold shares worth around $ 6.9 billion. (As of Monday morning, Musk still has more than 166 million shares in the company.) In recent weeks, sales from Musk and other insiders have put pressure on Tesla shares. Last week, Tesla shares fell 15.4%, marking the company’s worst one-week performance in 20 months, and its worst week ever, excluding declines in the first quarter of 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic caused markets to fall. Tesla fell another 3% in trading at the end of Monday.
As his sales continue, Musk will face a potentially massive tax bill. However, as ProPublica reported, Musk previously paid a true tax rate of 3.27%, or $ 455 million, on a fortune of $ 13.9 billion. Musk, which had an actual taxable income of $ 1.52 billion over the five-year period, paid no federal income tax in 2018, according to ProPublica.
On Twitter, Sanders has gathered a following of more than 15 million, and Musk has gathered a following of 63.8 million.
The leap begins
On Saturday, the 80-year-old Vermont senator wrote in a tweet: “We must demand that the extremely wealthy pay their fair share. Dot.”
Musk replied the next day, “I still forget you’re still alive.” Musk also asked Sanders on Sunday, “Do you want me to sell more shares, Bernie? Just say the word.” Then the CEO mocked the senator and said, “Bernie is a taker, not a maker.”
Musk tried to engage Sanders once again on Monday.
He asked, “Okay, how much do you think is fair? Does 53% seem reasonable?”
When Sanders did not respond to him, a Musk fan noted that the senator generally does not respond to followers on Twitter. Musk asked, “How do we know he has not been kidnapped by aliens !?” Musk continued to persevere on Twitter, discussing tax policy preferences with fans and followers, including promoters of bitcoin and Tesla.
In his tweet exchanges, Musk revealed that he would support a property tax and tax on what he called extravagant consumption.
The CEO also said that he currently owns around 20% of Tesla’s shares.
Senator Sanders and Tesla did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
In 2020, Musk put his California mansions on the market while sparring with state health authorities about Covid-19 restrictions affecting the Tesla plant in Fremont. He then moved to Austin, Texas, near the site of a new Tesla plant under construction.
This year, Tesla also moved its headquarters from Palo Alto, California, to Austin, Texas.
Moving from California, with the highest state income tax in the country, to Texas, which has no state income tax, could save Musk billions of dollars based on his compensation package awarded in 2018.