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Bernie Sanders and Elon Musk got into a tiny tussle on Twitter Friday over "socialism."
Sanders on Thursday introduced a bill that would place a 60% tax on the wealth gained during the coronavirus crisis by billionaires including Musk and use the money raised to pay all American's out-of-pocket healthcare expenses for a year.
In response to an article about the bill, Musk tweeted out a meme that essentially criticized Sanders for spending other people's money to fund "free government programs."
Sanders hit back at Musk, calling him out for criticizing programs that help the vast majority of Americans when he and his companies had benefited from billions of dollars in government assistance.
Bernie Sanders showed Friday he isn't afraid to call out hypocrisy — particularly when it comes from someone like Tesla CEO Elon Musk.
Musk on Friday tweeted out a meme critical of Sanders and his brand of socialism. The tweet was in response to an article about a bill Sanders introduced Thursday that would place a 60% tax on the wealth gained by billionaires such as Musk during the coronavirus pandemic. The meme, dubbed the "Official Bernie Sanders drinking game!" showed a picture of Sanders along with the text: "Every time the Bernster mentions a free government program, chug somebody else's beer."
—Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 7, 2020
Sanders, who's no neophyte when it comes to defending his leftist views and programs, wasn't about to back down from such criticism. In a tweeted response, he called out Musk for benefiting to the tune of billions of dollars from government subsidies and linked to an article from The Los Angeles Times that detailed the assistance Musk and his companies have received.
"Every time Elon Musk pokes fun at government assistance for the 99%, remember that he would be worth nothing without $4.9 billion in corporate welfare," Sanders wrote. "Oh, Elon just l-o-v-e-s corporate socialism for himself, rugged capitalism for everyone else."
—Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) August 7, 2020
According to The Los Angeles Times article, Musk and his companies — Tesla, SolarCity, which is now owned by Tesla, and SpaceX — had received an estimated $4.9 billion in government support through May 2015. That assistance came in a variety of forms, including grants, tax breaks, subsidies for construction, environmental credits, and discounted loans.
The amount of that assistance has only gone up since then. For example, Tesla garnered $428 million from selling regulatory credits in its most recent quarter. The company receives those credits from California for selling electric cars and sells them to other automakers who don't sell enough to meet the state's requirements.
Sanders' bill would raise billions from billionaires
Sanders' bill was cosponsored by senators Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY. The bill would tax any wealth gained by any of the 467 billionaires in the US between March 18 and January 1 of next year and use the amount raised from the tax to pay for the out-of-pocket health expenses of every American for a year.
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Millions of US residents have lost their health coverage during the pandemic after losing their jobs. Even those with insurance have sometimes faced steep bills after contracting the coronavirus.
The co-sponsors estimated that those billionaires had seen their wealth increase by $731.8 billion between March 18 and Aug. 5. Musk, according to a fact sheet from them, had seen his own wealth go from $24.6 billion to $70.5 billion. He would face a tax bill of $27.5 billion under the measure
Much of the wealth gains cited by the bill's sponsors are a result of soaring prices. In order to pay such tax bills, the billionaires would almost certainly have to sell large numbers of shares which could undermine their companies' stock prices — and their wealth.
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