Time magazine’s decision to make Tesla founder and billionaire Elon Musk its person of the year for 2021 has been criticized because of his attitude towards taxing billionaires, his opposition to unions, and a history of playing down the dangers of Covid.
Musk, who is also the founder and chief executive of space exploration company SpaceX, recently passed Amazon founder Jeff Bezos as the world’s wealthiest person as the rising price of Tesla shares pushed his net worth to around $300b.
The surprise announcement drew sharp criticism in the US, where Musk is a controversial figure because he, along with other prominent super-wealthy people, paid only small tax rates relative to the significant increase in his total wealth between 2014 and 2018 according to a ProPublica investigation this year, with Musk paying a “real” rate of 3.27%. While legal, the rates expose the failures of America’s tax laws to levy increases in wealth derived from assets in the way wages – the prime source of income for most Americans – are taxed.
Elon Musk calling Elizabeth Warren "Senator Karen" after she suggested he pay taxes isn't even the most immature thing he's done today.
Shut up and pay your taxes, Elon!
— Mike Sarzo 🏳️🌈 (@mikesarzo) December 14, 2021
Describing him as a “clown, genius, edgelord, visionary, industrialist, showman”, Time cited several of Musk’s endeavors, from his founding of SpaceX in 2002 to his help in creating the alternative energy company SolarCity in addition to Tesla, the most valuable car company in the world.
Wealth of Elon Musk
Wealth of Jeff Bezos
Wealth of Mark Zuckerberg
U.S. Minimum Wage
Three words: tax the rich.
— Andrea Junker (@Strandjunker) December 13, 2021
The magazine emphasized that its annual acknowledgment was not an award, but rather, “recognition of the person who had the most influence on the events of the year, for good or for ill”. The award has previously been bestowed to popes, Ebola healthcare workers, and Greta Thunberg, but also Hitler and Stalin, who received it twice. In 1982, it went to “The Computer”.
— TIME (@TIME) December 14, 2021
— Tara Dublin (Taylor's Version) (@taradublinrocks) December 13, 2021
Musk also bombed earlier this year when his hosting stint on “Saturday Night Live” brought the show catastrophically low ratings.
what has elon musk done this year besides hosting one of the shittiest snl episodes ever https://t.co/Ce1c0Xlvtw
— MY BIRTHDAY BASH (@chalametfiIms) December 13, 2021
Robert Reich, who served as labor secretary in the Clinton administration, said the announcement was a good time to remind people that he “illegally threatened to take away stock options if employees unionized”, an apparent reference to a 2019 National Labour Relations Board finding regarding a tweet in which Musk wrote: “Why pay union dues & give up stock options for nothing?”
Elon Musk had no problem collecting billions in government subsidies to get Tesla off the ground. Or receiving tax cuts. Or paying $0 in federal income taxes in 2018.
But when it comes to supporting working families and the planet, it's suddenly time to worry about the deficit. https://t.co/JanQQxhcVw
— Robert Reich (@RBReich) December 7, 2021
Senator Elizabeth Warren tweeted that the Time decision highlighted the need for the tax code to be reformed “so the person of the year will actually pay taxes and stop freeloading off everyone else”. Musk responded by calling her “Senator Karen.”
Let’s change the rigged tax code so The Person of the Year will actually pay taxes and stop freeloading off everyone else. https://t.co/jqQxL9Run6
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) December 13, 2021
Please don’t call the manager on me, Senator Karen 🙏
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 14, 2021
That didn’t sit well with Twitter users, either.
congrats to elon musk on being time's person of the year. pic unrelated pic.twitter.com/0iZCE4Ss6p
— ☀️👀 (@zei_squirrel) December 13, 2021
— 💫 Margaret Sullivan (@Sulliview) December 13, 2021