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Elon Musk takes shots at Biden, SEC anti-nuclear sentiment at Code


Elon Musk, Tesla CEO, stands in the foundry of the Tesla Gigafactory during a press event. Year.

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SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk expressed his displeasure with President Joe Biden on Tuesday, deeming his administration “biased” against Tesla and saying it was “controlled” by unions during a speech on stage at the Code Conference in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Musk, in his typically irreverent form, also repeated several of his prior taunts against federal financial regulators at the SEC, reiterated his support for cryptocurrency and nuclear energy, and said he is optimistic about Tesla and tech in China despite recent antitrust and cryptocurrency crackdowns there.

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Beef with Biden

Code host and Recode editor-at-large Kara Swisher asked Musk to explain recent tweets where he chided President Joe Biden.

Musk sighed. Biden hosted this EV summit, but didn’t invite Tesla. Invited GM, Ford and Chrysler as well UAW. A White House EV Summit! Musk didn’t mention Tesla one time, and he praised GM (and Ford) for being the leaders of the EV revolution.

Musk said, “Does that sound biased?” You know what? It isn’t the friendliest government. As far as I know, it seems to be controlled and controlled by the unions.

Swisher asked him if he was waiting to re-elect former President Trump or to become president.

Taxes and tweets

Swisher asked Musk — who is currently the wealthiest person in the world, according to Bloomberg — to respond to criticism that while his companies have received a good deal of government contracts and subsidies, the CEO has avoided paying some taxes personally in the US through creative, if legal, accounting practices.

ProPublica published a report on Musk’s tax bill, as part of its massive investigation of the finances of billionaires. They found that Musk’s income tax bill amounted to zero in 2018.

Musk called ProPublica’s reporting “tricky” & “misleading”. Musk called ProPublica’s reporting “tricky” and “misleading.”

He said then that the figure was low because he doesn’t draw a salary and his cash compensation is virtually zero. Musk uses stock options to vest his money over the long-term, instead of borrowing it.

He said that as Musk has accumulated more shares in Tesla, SpaceX, and other companies, it has not been “really bothersome” to sell any stakes. Musk recalls that the success of SpaceX was not certain. They have been through bankruptcy numerous times. They tried many times to avoid bankruptcy. But, I didn’t try to take any money. Now, this is being turned around to make it worse.

Tesla was not publicly traded and did not notify shareholders of its imminent bankruptcy.

Musk stated that when his stock options at Tesla expire, his marginal rate of tax will exceed 50 percent. I have several options expiring in the early part of next year, so… there will be a large block of options to sell during Q4. They’ll either expire or I will have to.

Swisher stated, “So you’ll eventually have to pay lots of taxes?”

Musk stated, “Massive. Yes. Musk stated, “Massive, yeah.”

Musk said critics might believe wealthy individuals borrowing against stocks is a way to get around paying taxes. Musk stressed however that borrowing against stock is not unusual and could be risky. It’s all fun and games to borrow against stocks until there is a recession. The margin calls are then made and the stock price drops to zero, which occurs almost every recession.

His reply was, “I have definitely stated that I believe our stock price to be too high and it did not stop its rise.” The result is… So… “I’m not responsible for it going up! The laughter was infectious.

It’s worth noting that my tax rate actually stands at 53 percent. He continued, “They’re making it seem like I paid very low taxes. In fact, my taxes are very expensive. A large amount will have to be paid over the next three month because of expiring options.”

Swisher was also curious about the chief executive’s frequent, often combative use of Twitter. Swisher asked, “Walk me through how you tweet.”

Musk responded in a lighthearted tone to Swisher.

It’s a topic I have been thinking about for many hours. He laughed along with his audience. He laughed with the audience. You’re gone! I’m going to shoot you in your foot. I’ll now take a picture of myself on the foot. That is how some of my tweets look.

After Musk’s tweet that he had been considering privatizing Tesla at $420 per shares and secured financing, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed suit against Musk and Tesla.

In the end, they settled the lawsuit. Musk and Tesla paid $20 million each to the feds. Musk was also relieved of his chairmanship at Tesla. Musk was also required to submit his tweets for review by Tesla compliance officers prior to posting them.

Are you concerned about the SEC getting involved in your tweets moving forward? Swisher was curious.

Musk replied, “What does it stand for?” While I understand the word Elon’s, I don’t know what the rest of the words are.

He was urged to take her seriously. You should not be worried that they will say Elon. Tweeting

Musk asked, “Are we talking about the shortseller-enrichment commission?”

Both remarks were in reference to insults Musk had made on Twitter at the financial regulator in 2020 and 2018.

Crypto and China

Tesla made waves when it purchased about $1.5 billion worth of bitcoin. The price of bitcoin shot up after it revealed its holdings. When Musk said on Twitter that Tesla would stop accepting bitcoin as a payment for its electric cars, the price of bitcoin plummeted.

When Musk tweets an endorsement of a particular coin — as he has done with dogecoin — its price tends to increase at least temporarily.

Swisher inquired about regulation of cryptocurrency. Musk responded that the SEC had to back off.

“Just let it fly,” He suggested.

According to the People’s Bank of China, all activities involving virtual currencies were declared illegal. Swisher asked Musk about any concerns about work in China and if there were any issues with U.S.-China relations.

Musk expressed his appreciation for Tesla’s people and its vehicle assembly facility in Shanghai. Musk predicts that trust levels in China will “start moving in a positive direction” as the pandemic subsides, which would allow for a return to a culture where people can meet in person.

Musk indicated that China is not likely to embrace cryptocurrency because there are electricity shortages in China and the large amount of electricity necessary for bitcoin mining. However, he noted that cryptocurrency could reduce the power of central governments.

Swisher pointed out that Musk can change the share price of cryptocurrency in his own way, which he also acknowledged. It was an interesting thing, she asked. He said, “If the price goes up, I believe it is.”

Space and energy

Swisher and Musk discussed SpaceX, its competitors, plans to expand Starlink (a satellite internet service) and ambitions to make humanity a “multi-planet species” at length.

During the course of their SpaceX discussion, Musk took the occasion to mock the phallic shape of Blue Origin’s rocket, and berate Jeff Bezos for his aerospace company’s litigiousness.

Swisher asked, “Can you explain from a technological point of view why it’s that shape?” Musk, a characteristically arrogant man, replied, “If your only going to do sub-orbital, then your rocket could be kind of shorter.”

Musk specified that he doesn’t really speak with the Amazon founder, but instead subtweets him — meaning he posts tweets about Bezos without addressing him directly.

When asked about SpaceX creating light pollution that has interfered with astronomers’ work, Musk said “We take great pains to make sure our satellites do not interfere with their telescopes.” Musk said that SpaceX might launch new telescopes with the Starship vehicle. This would be ten times more resolution than the Hubble. Musk said that SpaceX is only being criticized by amateur astronomers today.

One audience member inquired if Musk was concerned that utilities might not be able generate enough electricity to drive electric cars as these vehicles become more common.

Musk estimates that electric vehicle demand could double as more people switch to electric vehicles from gasoline-powered cars.

He said, “This will create many challenges with the grid.” He believed the demand would not be met unless there was significant local generation, such as through solar panels for homes.

He said that solar panels on roofs are not enough. We need “large and sustainable power generation development primarily wind or solar” in order to increase the reliability of renewable energy.

Musk added, as a closing thought:

“I’m also kind of pro-nuclear. It’s surprising that so many people are against nuclear. It’s not my intention to say we shouldn’t build new nuclear reactors. However, I do not believe we should close down existing safe ones. This was done in Germany, and they had to build a lot of power plants. I think this wasn’t the best decision.