Saturday, May 16, 2015

I’m Already Sick Of Elon Musk

Once upon a time, there was a planet drowning in bullshit and fraud. Then, one day, Elon Musk came along at saved it all with lithium batteries, or so his press agents said.

I know very little about Elon Musk and care even less. Is he the one who sky dives and rides around in a hot air balloon over the Himalayas, dreaming about space flight, or is that the other asshole? I forget. So many tedious billionaires, so little time. I do know that this bold capitalist wheedled one fine deal with Big Guvmn't in Nevada to build his "gigafactory" outside Reno:

$725 million in sales tax abatements over 20 years, which is equal to about 80 percent of the total sales tax revenue state government receives in a year.

$332 million in real and personal property tax abatements over 10 years—an amount equaling two and a half times the amount of property tax revenue Washoe County receives in a year.

$195 million in transferable tax credits, which other Nevada companies will be able to buy from Tesla in order to reduce their own tax liabilities to the state.

$27 million in payroll tax abatements over 10 years.

$8 million in electricity rate discounts over eight years.
Basically, Tesla is operating tax free for ten years and gets a discount on the electric bill. That’s the invisible hand of capitalism in action.

That’s the way our world works and there’s no use complaining about it. You and I would take the same deal, but just don’t give me all this jive about free markets, pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, and welfare moochers and looters. The government picks winners and losers, and it’s done so since Alexander Hamilton ran the Treasury, so let’s drop all of the Milton Friedman, University of Chicago free market bullshit.

And please stop telling me that Elon Musk is some kind of visionary. Is he is bad as the Wall Street parasites who are eating our colons from the inside out? No. He’s actually making something. But just because he builds electric cars doesn’t mean he’s Leonardo da Vinci. Stop telling me all of his quirks and personality flaws are symptoms of genius. He seems to me like a full-fledged creature of the modern age: a media savvy techno geek with a Gordon Gekko attitude. Forgive me if I don’t get wet.

What bothers me is the notion that change only comes through actions of billionaire businessmen. The rest of us are conditioned to sit back and wait, passively, until some slick sharpy with money decides we should do something different. Then it’s American Exceptionalism time, baby!They will create jobs and carry the rest of us to a new paradise.

It’s a version of the aristocratic principle: nothing can be done until one of our betters decides it is profitable to do it. Collective action is not necessary. The John Galts will take care of everything and see us through, even if they have to destroy unions and lower living standards to do it, which Elon Musk, hero of late stage crony capitalism, will do.

The very idea that we get everything from the generosity of individual billionaires is a serious revision of American history. Enlightened rich men did not end slavery or Jim Crow, or give women the vote, or give workers a forty hour week, a pension, and a minimum wage. These were gained from the bottom up. The notion that everything comes from entrepreneurs is a dangerous fallacy.

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