Elon Musk is not happy about Biden's billionaire taxes

Musk claims SpaceX and Tesla wouldn't have flourished under them in 2008.
Chris Young
Elon Musk in 2013 (left) and SpaceX's Demo-2 launch (right).1, 2

Elon Musk is at it again on Twitter, this time taking shots at the White House's plan to impose a "billionaires' tax" in the U.S.

Musk agreed with another tweeter's statement by writing "SpaceX & Tesla would probably have died," if there was a similar tax initiative in 2008, as "both narrowly escaped bankruptcy in 2008."

Elon Musk could pay an additional $50 billion in taxes

The White House's "Billionaire Minimum Income Tax", included in Biden's fiscal budget proposal for 2023, outlines a 20 percent minimum tax on any U.S. households that are worth more than $100 million. Importantly, the plan targets unrealized capital gains as well as stated income.

According to calculations by University of California Berkeley economist Gabriel Zucman, Musk would pay an additional $50 billion in taxes if the new proposal comes into effect, while Jeff Bezos would pay an extra $35 billion.

Though Biden's proposal highlights this extra tax income as a source of revenue for vast social spending programs, American Enterprise Institute fellow James Pethokoukis, who wrote a blog on the subject, believes the benefits are outweighed by the damage it can cause businesses and the knock-on effect that can have for the economy.

In his message, Musk responded to a Pethokoukis' blog post, which details University of Chicago economist Steven Kaplan's argument that both SpaceX and Tesla would have failed in 2008 if Elon Musk had had to pay out $60 million due to an equivalent billionaires' tax.

At the time of writing, Elon Musk has a personal net worth of close to $300 billion. According to a study released last week by Tipalti Approve, the SpaceX and Tesla CEO is on course to be the world's first trillionaire by 2024.

Things weren't always going so smoothly. In 2008, Musk was struggling to keep Tesla and SpaceX afloat after having invested all of the $180 million in proceeds he had earned from the sale of PayPal into the two companies.

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Musk says he paid "more than any other American" in taxes last year

While Musk is the richest man in the world, he's one of roughly 600 billionaires in the U.S., and not every billionaire is on a personal quest to mobilize the electric vehicle industry and make humans multi-planetary.

Still, arguably too much of the discourse around Biden's proposal is focused on Musk, even from those in favor. One staunch critic of the SpaceX CEO, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, said this week in an interview on CNBC, "I'm happy to celebrate success, but let’s remember, Elon Musk didn’t make it on his own. He got huge investments from the government, from taxpayers, from those public school teachers and those minimum wage workers who've been paying their taxes all along to get that business up and running and help see it through rough times."

Musk countered this during a Twitter exchange with Warren last year, explaining that he was set to pay more than $11 billion in taxes, which he said was "more than any other American."