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Fox News says becoming a billionaire 'should be something we aspire to'

Fox News claimed Tesla CEO Elon Musk — whose father reportedly owned an emerald mine, a yacht, and a private jet — built his fortune ‘from scratch.’

By Oliver Willis - October 26, 2021
Elon Musk

Fox News hosts balked at Democrats’ proposal to raise taxes for billionaires on Tuesday.

“Fox & Friends” host Brian Kilmeade said billionaire status “should be something we aspire to.”

Fox Business host Stuart Varney added that increasing taxes for the wealthiest people in the world is “just not the way America should go.”

The Senate is considering including a tax on unrealized capital gains for billionaires in the spending package currently under negotiation. The tax would reportedly only affect people who own $1 billion or more in assets or who have earned $100 million or more in income for three consecutive years. The revenue would be used to fund the investments in the budget package, including climate, health care, and human infrastructure.

Democrats “want to make billionaires bad, but they should be something we aspire to,” Kilmeade said.

“We’re taking on the European point of view: Wealth is bad, rich is bad. That’s just not the way America should go,” Varney added.

Varney went on to argue that Democrats’ proposal to tax billionaires would lead down a slippery slope to increased taxes for everyone.

“It’ll be billionaires now, maybe then millionaires, and then you’ve got a couple hundred thousand — down it comes because they are desperate for your money,” Varney said.

Varney has a history of attacking the poor while arguing against increased taxes for the rich. In 2011, while discussing attempts to help poor people, Varney said, “Many of them have things — what they lack is the richness of spirit.” In 2014, Varney said programs to help the poor were a government attempt at “buying votes.”

To prove that billionaires shouldn’t have their taxes raised, Varney cited businessman Elon Musk, whom he described as building his wealth “from scratch.” Forbes ranks Musk — who also criticized Democrats’ tax proposal on Monday — as the second-wealthiest person in the world, with an estimated net worth of over $250 billion.

Despite what Fox News claimed Tuesday, Musk did not build his own fortune “from scratch.” His father, Errol Musk, was reportedly the part-owner of a Zambian emerald mine and “owned thoroughbred horses, a yacht, several houses and a Cessna” when his son lived with him in South Africa as a child.

In addition to being born to a wealthy father, Musk’s companies Tesla and SpaceX have been the beneficiaries of billions of dollars in taxpayer funds.

In 2010, Tesla received a $465 million dollar loan from the federal government as part of clean energy initiatives. Musk used funds from the loan to build Tesla’s car manufacturing facilities in Fremont, California, and to transition from producing sports cars for high-end consumers to producing mass-market cars for average consumers. Two years after receiving the loan, Tesla launched its Model S sedan.

In a 2017 story for the Washington Post, Michelle Krebs, an analyst for Autotrader, said the government loan “helped move [Tesla] to the next step.”

The company paid off the loan and has since grown from a market capitalization under $2 billion in 2010 to a current capitalization of over $880 billion.

SolarCity, Musk’s company involved in solar energy, benefited from at least $2.5 billion in government funds, consisting of payments from the state of New York and tax credits from Oregon. The company was later absorbed into Tesla.

SpaceX, Musk’s aerospace company, began in 2002 and received at least $20 million in subsidies from the state of Texas and local municipalities to attract the company. In April, NASA announced that SpaceX had been awarded a $2.9 billion contract to construct a moon lander.

Musk’s current wealth is directly tied to government spending, despite his criticism of taxing the ultra-wealthy.

Varney additionally complained about a proposal from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) to tax the wealth of the super-rich. According to the Fox host, Warren’s proposal would “take billions and billions of dollars from very productive people.”

During her 2020 presidential campaign, Warren first proposed a tax on the assets of the very rich and large corporations. Instead of just assessing income, Warren’s proposal would have been paid on the assets of billionaires as well.

Warren, along with Democratic Reps. Pramila Jayapal of Washington and Brendan Boyle of Pennsylvania, reintroduced the bill in March as the Ultra-Millionaire Tax Act, which would raise taxes on the wealth of the wealthiest 100,000 households to generate at least $3 trillion in revenue over a 10-year period.

The funds would go to programs to benefit the public at large, including a single-payer health care system that would benefit millions of people.

A 2019 analysis of Warren’s proposal by the New York Times found that while the plan would erode some of the wealth of billionaires, they would still be extremely wealthy. In one example, the newspaper noted that if Warren’s plan had been in effect since 1982, Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates would be worth $13.9 billion instead of the $97 billion he was worth in 2018.

The median net worth of the average American household, by contrast, is $121,700.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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