It is rare for someone to publicly admit they are breaking the law, but for Elon Musk that’s just another afternoon tweet.
On Monday, via Twitter the controversial billionaire announced his Tesla plant in Fremont, California would be reopening despite county and state lockdowns. In addition to being on the “front line,” Musk requested if anybody were to be arrested, it should be him.
In re-opening the plant and bringing back furloughed workers, Musk caps off a dramatic stand-off and online tantrum where he threatened to relocate his Tesla factory to Nevada or Texas. While most would ignore these threats as the rants of a temperamental billionaire, several Texas lawmakers urged Musk to carry through. While it’s aggravating, but not surprising, to see our Governor stooping to such a level, it’s positively embarrassing to see respected Democrats join in.
It’s also a little ironic since Texas is one of a handful of states that has banned Tesla’s direct-to-buyer model. (Car dealerships are one of the most powerful lobbying groups in Texas.) But perhaps folks like the Attorney General or State Senator James Hughes are willing to re-negotiate.
Musk has been adroit at keeping himself in the headlines with tabloid fodder, which has obscured some of his very serious legal cases. While he is currently the CEO of Tesla, he had to resign the role of Chairman after a deal with the Securities and Exchange and Commission. (Though Musk is often referred to as Tesla’s founder, it was actually incorporated by Martin Everhard and Marc Tarpenning).
Last year was a legally busy year for Musk. In addition to the SEC ruling, in a separate case a federal judge ruled that Tesla violated U.S. labor laws. Many California state leaders have taken issue with Tesla’s union-busting reputation and have called out the company for exploiting low-wage workers. In December, Musk was given a judicial reprieve after he was cleared by a jury of defamation after he called a diver attempting to rescue stranded Thai children in a cave a “pedo guy.”
With COVID-19, Musk once again found himself in the news. He was one of the first and most vocal public figures to downplay any threat of the virus. He also said there would be close to zero deaths by the end of April. In early May he tweeted “Tesla stock price too high imo” and predictably the stock price fell 12 percent.
Now with the possibility of Tesla actually relocating to Texas, it’s time for progressives to stop the foolishness, not encourage it. Musk is erratic (to put it mildly). Tesla has violated labor laws. And Wednesday it was revealed that workers fearful of returning to the factory amid a pandemic were told they will lose their unemployment benefits.
This state likes to tout its business savvy. But there’s no reason to believe Tesla wouldn’t even make financial sense.
Last year in my home city, local officials made a fanfare of Uber declaring Dallas its newest major hub. The city council approved unanimously over $9 million in economic incentives and a five-year tax break. The 2,500 new hires that Uber promised the city has since been delayed to 2025.
Though nobody could have predicted a global pandemic would completely upend the ridesharing business, Uber was probably not the wisest investment to begin with. In 2019 the company lost $8.5 billion. Financial analysts are still puzzling as to when the company could begin to see any profit. Last year, Uber also had to pay $4.4 million into a fund settling sexual harassment claims. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that the company had “engaged in a culture of sexual harassment and retaliation.”
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. This state has spent enough money bailing out foolish projects like fatality-in-waiting water parks, flopped golf courses, and highways that make it harder for commuters.
There’s nothing we can do about Republicans clamoring for Musk’s attention. But we can hold progressives accountable to the very values that got them elected in the first place. No Texas Democrat should even think for a moment in trusting Elon Musk.
If Musk wants to leave California, there’s Mars. Although I hope for his sake by the time that happens, Tesla technology is actually indestructible.
Photo: Daniel Oberhaus/ Wikimedia Commons