Is it fair that the world’s wealthiest people pay such low tax rates? That people who have so much contribute so little in proportion to their huge riches in an era of tremendous inequality? These are the questions that have prompted US Democratic Senator Ron Wyden to propose for additional billionaire taxes.
Is it reasonable that the democracy in which I live has some expectations of me? How can I demonstrate that I’m a tad jittery and unconcerned by the thought of paying more tax?
These are the issues that appear to be inspiring Elon Musk, who responded to a tweet from Senator Ron Wyden by wondering why the senator’s profile picture makes him look like he’s just orgasmed.
Why does ur pp look like u just came?
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 7, 2021
Musk’s scathing post caps an eventful weekend for the world’s richest man, who didn’t appear to receive the response he was looking for when polling the internet on the subject of wealth.
Musk asked his 63 million Twitter followers on Saturday whether he should sell 10% of his Tesla stock. The question is essential since Musk isn’t taxed on the major source of his large fortune (he owns roughly 17 percent of Tesla shares, which is now valued around $200 billion) unless he sells stock.
This is the condition that Wyden and other legislators hoped to change with a plan to tax unsold assets such as stocks owned by the US’ wealthiest residents — approximately 700 billionaires (albeit Wyden’s plans have previously been rejected).
As Musk put it in a separate tweet: “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.”
Much is made lately of unrealized gains being a means of tax avoidance, so I propose selling 10% of my Tesla stock.
Do you support this?
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 6, 2021
Musk’s Twitter followers, on the other hand, were unanimous: Elon should sell his stock, with 57.9% of 3.5 million people voting “yes” on the poll. To put it another way, Musk should be paying more taxes than he does now. (Interestingly, regardless of the outcome of any Twitter vote, Musk is likely owed a significant tax payment due to the way his Tesla stock options are structured.)
Musk hasn’t commented directly on the poll’s outcome, while promising to “abide by the results of this poll, whichever way it goes.” Instead, after Wyden pointed out that “whether or not the world’s wealthiest man pays any taxes at all shouldn’t depend on the results of a Twitter poll,” he elected to send his tweet to him.
It was this stunning idea — that important public issues like billionaires’ tax rates may be resolved outside of Musk’s Twitter feed — that Elon reportedly couldn’t take. He’s probably too preoccupied with completing the appropriate paperwork to follow through on his pledge and sell his stock to respond more articulately.