Elon Musk is trolling again on Twitter, and this time his target is Sen. Bernie Sanders.
I keep forgetting you’re still Alive – Elon Musk targets Bernie Sanders over Tax:
Elon Musk waded into yet another Twitter controversy on Sunday, the Tesla owner and world’s richest person responding to a tweet about tax from Senator Bernie Sanders by writing:
“I keep forgetting that you’re still alive.”
Sanders, 80, wrote:
“We must demand that the extremely wealthy pay their fair share. Period.”
Musk, 50, is also the owner of SpaceX and has a personal worth estimated at around $271bn, making him by some counts the richest person ever.
He also tweeted:
“Want me to sell more stock, Bernie? Just say the word …”
Sanders did not immediately respond. Melissa Byrne, a progressive activist and former Sanders staffer, tweeted:
“Folks, quit buying Tesla. Don’t reward abusive men.”
Musk certainly qualifies under Sander’s description of “the extremely wealthy“, he’s the world’s richest person, having a net worth of $285 billion, according to Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index.
Musk asked the Twitterverse last week if he should sell 10% of his Tesla holdings to pay taxes – 58% of voters in his poll responded yes.
Who is Bernie Sanders?
Sanders is a democratic socialist independent from Vermont who caucuses Democrats in the Senate. He rose to global prominence with strong runs for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016 and 2020, losing out to Hillary Clinton and then Joe Biden.
As chair of the Senate budget committee and a champion of fairness in taxation, Sanders is pushing for Biden’s Build Back Better package of spending on health and social care and climate crisis mitigation to make it out of Congress and into law.
Build Back Better would be funded by tax increases on corporations and the very wealthy. The billionaire’s tax is not part of the package but its chief proponent, Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, condemned Musk’s Twitter stunt last week.
Saying he wanted to “ensure billionaires pay tax every year, just like working Americans”, Wyden added: “Whether or not the world’s wealthiest man pays any taxes at all shouldn’t depend on the results of a Twitter poll.”
Bernie Sanders goes after billionaires on Twitter, Elon Musk snaps back:
Musk sold nearly $7bn of stock after controversial Twitter poll
This week, Musk sold nearly $7bn of shares in Tesla, more than $5bn after asking Twitter followers to vote on whether he should do so and more than $1bn on Friday.
Musk ended the week selling a grand total of $6.9 billion worth of Tesla shares. That only amounted to less than 4% of the shares he holds directly, and less than 3% including all the options he owns to buy additional shares.
Jason Benowitz, senior portfolio manager at Roosevelt Investment Group in New York, told Reuters:
“We expect the share sales will continue, as Musk holds millions of options worth billions of dollars that would otherwise expire worthlessly, and he has also prearranged share sales.”
Taxing extreme wealth is a big part of Sander’s platform. As the chair of the Senate’s budget committee, Sanders has proposed an annual tax on the top 0.1 per cent of US households, which he claims will raise about $4.35 trillion over the next decade and cut the wealth of billionaires in half over 15 years. He also wants to implement key enforcement policies on the proposed wealth taxes.
Democrats had tried to impose a billionaires tax to fund President Joe Biden’s sweeping social safety net plan.
“Whether or not the world’s wealthiest man pays any taxes at all shouldn’t depend on the results of a Twitter poll,” Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon tweeted in response to Musk’s Twitter poll. “It’s time for the Billionaires Income Tax.”
Tesla’s share price fell after Musk’s Twitter followers said he should sell stock. But the shares remain hugely valuable.
Tesla stock continues to dip after Elon Musk tweets at Bernie Sanders:
Musk staged the Twitter poll to make a point about a “billionaires tax” proposed by Democrats in Congress, saying:
“Note, I do not take a cash salary or bonus from anywhere. I only have stock, thus the only way for me to pay taxes personally is to sell stock.”
Proponents of the billionaire’s tax say they want to target “unrealised capital gains”, meaning rises in the value of stocks owned by ultra-rich Americans who currently pay very little in tax.
However, it’s doubtful that the results of the Twitter poll were the main motivation for last week’s stock sale. Musk faces a looming tax bill that will be triggered by his need to exercise 22.9 million options to purchase shares before next August. That bill would be nearly $10 billion at current market prices.
He could also owe state income tax to California, which has a top tax rate of 13.3%. Even though he has moved to Texas, which has no state income tax, he conceded in a recent tweet that he’ll still owe California state income taxes because he still spends a lot of time working in the state.
Musk has a history of controversial – and sometimes costly – behaviour on social media. In October, he responded to Wyden’s tax proposals with a tweet.
“Eventually they run out of other people’s money and then they come for you.”
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