By James Sweet III | United States
The mainstream media were whipped into a feeding frenzy this week when they discovered that Elon Musk was a major donor for “Protect the House”, a National Republican Political Action Committee. Chelsea Handler, among other celebrities, lashed out against Musk on Twitter and article headlines went as far as proclaiming that “Elon Musk’s Donation Keeps Republicans in Control of Congress“.
Progressives, Democrats, and other critics of the Republican Party were disappointed in Musk, but a look at his donation history would reveal that he has supported plenty of Democratic groups, Political Action Committees, campaigns, and politicians, as well as their Republican counterparts. Musk, like any businessman, cares more about his businesses than politics, and merely pays who he has to in an attempt to keep his companies alive.
Musk’s political donation history mainly lists his occupation as CEO and Founder of SpaceX, but his position as CEO of Tesla Motors also appear in the list. The earliest records show a $2,000 donation to then-President George W. Bush in 2003. SpaceX, founded the year before, was a young company looking to for opportunities to expand. In the year following Musk’s donation, NASA began the Commercial Orbital Transport Services (COTS), and Space X became one of the first corporations to receive a contract with NASA for the project, earning the company a whopping 396 million dollars by the end of the project.
Musk continued to donate to many different politicians, parties, and organizations, most notably Hillary Clinton, Dianne Feinstein, Barack Obama, Cory Booker, Bill Nelson, and the Democratic Midterm Victory Fund. On the Republican aisle, he has donated to politicians and organizations like Dana Rohrabacher, Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham, and Kevin McCarthy. These politicians all support one of many things, whether it is protecting the environment, subsidies, or clean energy.
The Los Angeles Times reported in 2015 that Musk’s Tesla Motors, SpaceX, and SolarCity have benefited from a grand total of $4.9 billion in “government support”. This includes grants, tax breaks, factory construction, discounted loans and environmental credits, as well as tax credits and rebates to buyers of solar panels and electric cars. Tesla had a net loss of $709.6 million within the first quarter of the year, giving reason behind the need for subsidies.
Musk isn’t the only one that benefits from subsidies, and with the state of modern American politics being dominated by corporate interests, it shouldn’t be a shock that innovators and businessmen are supportive of financial aid from the government to support an idea that may not be popular. The lack of tolerance to republican celebrities in today’s society may be the reason that he received a harsh backlash to his donation, despite his history of supporting all kinds of candidates and organizations.
Musk is an innovator, and innovators are known to create things and to improve upon their previous creations. However, in a free-market system, an innovator’s products needs to appeal to the consumers in an attempt to gain a profit and excite investors to invest into the next idea. In 2018, only 20% of the American population is willing to buy electric cars as their next vehicle. For an ambitious innovator like Elon Musk, 20% is not enough to sustain a corporation. In a free-market system free of subsidies, Tesla Motors might sink by burning through money and remaining unappealing to the mainstream American consumer.
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