Bill Gates and Elon Musk are both entrepreneurs and billionaires. They both used their vision to capitalize on technology the market was lacking. Bill Gates founded Microsoft. Elon Musk founded PayPal, then later started SpaceX, Tesla and SolarCity. The biggest difference between these two men is that Bill Gates uses his own money to grow his company, while Elon Musk snatches money from taxpayers to build his empire.
In 1975, Bill Gates and Paul Allen started a company called Microsoft and never looked back. In the ensuing years, Gates and Allen focused their time and effort on building computers and working to get a personal computer in every home. Attempting to avoid the nonsense of Washington, D.C. politics, Microsoft focused on building better operating systems for computers. The Windows operating system would become the standard for billions of computer users.
Elon Musk took a different path. While Musk used money earned from PayPal to begin new companies, he soon turned to political influence and taxpayer dollars to build SpaceX in 2002, Tesla Motors in 2003 and SolarCity in 2006. SpaceX is a private space launch company that contracts with the federal government to launch missiles and spacecraft. The company has taken more than $5.5 billion from federal taxpayers for services such as delivering supplies to the International Space Station. Shockingly, even with this colossal price tag, SpaceX may actually exploit taxpayers less than Musk‚??s other ventures, Tesla and SolarCity.
After developing SpaceX, next came Tesla Motors, a high-end electric sports car manufacturer, for Musk. In addition to a $465 million taxpayer-backed loan from the Department of Energy, Tesla owners also snagged a tax break from the federal government. Phil Kerpen of American Commitment writes in National Review Online that, ‚??The direct subsidies for purchasers, to encourage them to buy ‚??clean-energy‚?? vehicles, are fairly well-known: a $7,500 federal tax credit and a wide variety of state-level incentive programs.‚?Ě ‚??Less well-known,‚?Ě says Kerpen, ‚??are the hidden subsidies that flow directly to Tesla, thanks to ‚??zero-emission vehicle‚?? credits.‚?Ě
Last, and worst of all for taxpayers, is SolarCity, which calls itself, ‚??the leader in full-service solar power systems for homes, businesses and governments providing custom design, financing, installation and monitoring.‚?Ě It may also be the leader in subsides. According to the Washington Post, in 2014, SolarCity received $800 million in subsidies from taxpayers at the state and federal level.
SolarCity‚??s main lifeline has been the Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), a federal income tax credit worth 30 percent of the entire solar system installed. The ITC is due to expire on December 31, 2016, which will surely send Musk scurrying back to Capitol Hill to beg for more taxpayer-funded handouts and other special treatment from federal lawmakers.
A June 1, 2015 Los Angeles Times article noted that, ‚??Tesla Motors Inc., SolarCity Corp. and Space Exploration Technologies Corp., known as SpaceX, together have benefited from an estimated $4.9 billion in government [taxpayer] support‚?¶‚?Ě In response to that article, Musk claimed in a CNBC article that “none of the incentives are necessary, but they are all helpful.”
Sure, the subsidies may be helpful to Musk who gets to pocket the money generated off of the backs of taxpayers. But the handouts certainly aren‚??t helpful to everyday Americans who work hard to provide for their families just to have the government give a chunk of their paychecks to a well-connected billionaire.
Elon Musk is often praised as a Gen X version of Bill Gates for his ability to grow ideas into huge companies. In reality, however, that‚??s an offensive comparison.
Gates is a true entrepreneur who was able to build a computer empire without taxpayer subsidies. Musk is little more than a welfare king, preying on taxpayers to build his bank account.
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