I'm sure you heard the story. Elizabeth Warren tweeted, “Let’s change the rigged tax code so The Person of the Year will actually pay taxes and stop freeloading off everyone else,” Warren tweeted.
Later, Musk famously called her "Senator Karen" and made fun of her.
What he's talking about is that this transpired at almost at the same moment stories were breaking that he was about to pay more in taxes than anyone in history. We get some numbers from John Miltimore at The Foundation for Economic Education, FEE.
Is the claim true? Only the IRS knows for certain who the largest taxpayer in US history is, but Forbes says Musk appears to be right.
“The eccentric billionaire (and the world’s richest person) likely owes the federal government at least $8.3 billion for 2021,” Forbes reports.
Business Insider projects Musk’s tax bill is even higher when state taxes are included.
“Taxes on his stock, nearly a billion in Net Investment Income Tax, and the billions he likely owes California could add up to about $12 billion in total,” report Jason Lalljee and Andy Kiersz.
CNBC, meanwhile, figured Musk’s total tax bill was even higher—$15 billion.
The bulk of Musk’s tax bill stems from the nearly $13 billion in Tesla stock sold as of December 13, which is even larger than the record $10.2 billion worth of Amazon stock Jeff Bezos sold last year.
Personally, I think it's everybody's moral duty to pay the legal minimum they owe in taxes and it doesn't bother me how much he pays this year or any year. Think of the Milton Friedman quote, “If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in 5 years there'd be a shortage of sand.” Paying more tax than the legally required minimum can be thought of as encouraging that behavior. Look at those last few paragraphs, though. If he sold $13 billion in Tesla stock, and is looking at 12 to $15 billion in taxes, they're implying a tax rate that's over 100%.
But reading Musk's Twitter thread is eye-popping. It's amazing how many people think they're entitled to other people's money, and his in particular. The more you read, the more you sense that the problem here isn't someone's taxes, it's envy. One of the original seven deadly sins identified by Pope Gregory 1 around the year 600 AD, those are commonly listed as pride, greed, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony and sloth although the order seems to vary. Note the definitive list is not one Bible verse but that these are scattered throughout Proverbs and other books.
Envy is considered one of the Seven Deadly Sins, and for good reason. It’s a corrosive disposition that harms both individuals and societies. The celebrated philosopher Immanuel Kant described envy as,
“…a propensity to view the well-being of others with distress, even though it does not detract from one’s own. [It is] a reluctance to see our own well-being overshadowed by another’s because the standard we use to see how well off we are is not the intrinsic worth of our own well-being but how it compares with that of others. [It] aims, at least in terms of one’s wishes, at destroying others’ good fortune.”
The pre-Socratic philosopher Democritus (c. 460 BC – c. 370 BC)—in a wonderfully libertarian quote—once warned of the danger of envy and purpose of the law.
“[Just] laws would not prevent each man from living according to his inclination, unless individuals harmed each other; for envy creates the beginning of strife,” he wrote.
Being envious of someone is like being angry at them; it gives them control over your emotions. Envy makes sense for Elizabeth Warren, as a well-established socialist. After all, to borrow from Winston Churchill, “Socialism is the philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy.” Envy is being preached at Warren's church.