Elon Musk Should Pay Taxes | Opinion

It's become apparent that Elon Musk uses Twitter way too much, often to his own financial gain. The world's richest man has spent the last few weeks on the social media app explaining why his hoarding of over $230 billion—which is more than the annual budget of over 200 countries—is better kept in his hands than redistributed to those in need. Musk, along with all billionaires, must be fairly taxed to address the growing wealth inequality in the United States.

Musk's recent Twitter rant began recently when opposing President Joe Biden's proposal to increase taxes on billionaires, which was eventually scuttled by Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). The multi-billionaire questioned the government's financial bureaucracy by arguing that it is "Who is best at capital allocation — government or entrepreneurs — is indeed what it comes down to." Musk happily spent over $90 million to launch a $100,000 sports car into space—money that could have been invested in infrastructure, health care or combating climate change.

The Tesla CEO later set his sights on the United Nations World Food Programme after the organization's CEO David Beasley suggested that 2 percent of Musk's wealth could solve world hunger. Pointing toward corruption dotted across the U.N., Musk replied, "If WFP can describe on this Twitter thread exactly how $6B will solve world hunger, I will sell Tesla stock right now and do it."

Using various arguments, Musk vocally opposed parting from any of his colossal wealth. He opposed donating to the WFP by highlighting how U.N. workers have allegedly sexually abused people in the past, overlooking Tesla's own record with alleged sexual harassment and racism.

The tirade against billionaires paying taxes concluded last weekend with Musk creating a Twitter poll, asking his followers if he should sell 10 percent of his Tesla stock in order to pay taxes. What he failed to mention was that he already has a looming $15 billion tax bill, which is the likely reason he offered to sell his stock. There is also evidence that the 50-year-old billionaire planned to offload his shares back in September.

Elon Musk poses
SpaceX owner and Tesla CEO Elon Musk poses on the red carpet of the Axel Springer Award 2020 on Dec. 1, 2020, in Berlin, Germany. Britta Pedersen-Pool/Getty Images

The avoidance to pay taxes by billionaires like Elon Musk and others is inexcusable considering their wealth has often been reliant on public funds. Tesla was built on the back of a $4.9 billion government subsidy. Earlier this year, Musk's SpaceX won a $2.9 billion contract from NASA, piggybacking off nearly $1 billion in government subsidies. Musk's solar power venture, SolarCity, has also been one of the country's largest recipients of government subsidies. It is clear that Musk's quibble with taxation is in part related to his reluctance to reduce his growing wealth especially as he has been more than willing to accept assistance provided by government funds.

Of the $13.5 trillion in new U.S. household wealth added in 2020, over 70 percent was consolidated among the top fifth of earners. In a growing trend of upward redistribution, it was found that last year the top 1 percent of Americans took $50 trillion from the bottom 90 percent. This inequality has become a global problem also, where nearly 2,000 billionaires have more wealth than 4.6 billion people combined. Conflated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the growing struggle for the world's poorest must be addressed through adequate taxation and redistribution of wealth. The burden falls on the government to sufficiently target the country's richest, especially after President Biden's proposed infrastructure plan was stripped back due to insufficient funds.

It is not solely the billionaires at fault, but largely the financial system, which has allowed for unregulated wealth accumulation by individuals amid a growing homelessness crisis across America. Senator Rob Wyden (D-Ore.) reiterated that, "Whether or not the world's wealthiest man pays any taxes at all shouldn't depend on the results of a Twitter poll. It's time for the Billionaires Income Tax."

With a growing wealth gap in America, it is unfair that the foot of the bill is placed on the country's lower- and middle classes. Even undocumented migrants in the U.S. are paying more in taxes than billionaires. The burden for creating a more just society should be placed on the rich elite who have, for too long, managed to evade paying their fair share.

Ahmed Twaij is a freelance journalist and filmmaker focusing mainly on U.S. politics, social justice and the Middle East. His Twitter is @twaiji.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.