As nearly a million Americans died of COVID during the pandemic, Elon Musk’s wealth skyrocketed — opening the door for him to be able to make offers like buying Twitter for $43 billion, as he did on Thursday.
As Americans for Tax Fairness documented on Thursday, Musk’s wealth has shot up by a whopping 1,080 percent during the pandemic. On March 18, 2020, Musk was worth an already towering $24.6 billion; now, he’s worth $290 billion. In other words, he has gained over $265 billion in two years, the vast majority of which he accumulated tax-free.
This is an absurd amount of money, unfathomable likely even to the Tesla and SpaceX owner himself. His current net worth is roughly 1.2 percent of the entire U.S. gross domestic product of $24 trillion. This is more money than a single person could spend in a lifetime — unless they wanted to buy Twitter, one of the world’s most heavily visited websites, at far over its current valuation nearly 7 times over.
Indeed, Musk took a step toward buying Twitter on Thursday at $54.20 a share, higher than its current share price of roughly $45.50. This would bring the total to $43 billion, which Musk called his “best and final offer.”
Though the pandemic was ruinous for millions of Americans and the world, it was a huge boon to Musk, now the richest man on Earth. If he wanted to buy Twitter before the pandemic at this price, he would have had to sell all of his assets — and even then, he would have come up short by about $18.4 billion.
“Workers pay tax on their income all year, every year. Simple justice demands that billionaires do the same,” Frank Clemente, executive director of Americans for Tax Fairness, said in a statement provided to Truthout. “Instead, our current system allows billionaires like Musk to accumulate vast amounts of wealth without ever contributing a fair share into the tax system like working families do.”
BREAKING: America’s billionaires have officially gotten $2 TRILLION richer during the pandemic, largely tax-free
Elon Musk’s wealth alone shot up by 1,080%
Workers struggling to afford gas, groceries, healthcare are paying their fair share this Tax Day. Billionaires should too. pic.twitter.com/LxjlezphpM
— Americans For Tax Fairness (@4TaxFairness) April 14, 2022
Last week, Musk bought a 9 percent stake in Twitter, making him the largest shareholder in the company. The company offered to make him a board member, contingent on a background check, but he refused.
In his filing this week, he said that simply being a board member wouldn’t have given him enough power over the company. “I don’t have confidence in management,” he said, citing the website’s “potential.”
It’s unclear what Musk wants to change about the site, but he has a reputation for firing Tesla employees who disagree with him. He and Tesla have also been disciplined by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for illegally firing a union organizer and posting an anti-union tweet in 2018.
He has also landed himself in legal hot water for his tweets; in 2018, he tweeted that he was considering making the company private, a “joke” that earned him a lawsuit from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and a $20 million fine. Stocks are often rocked after Musk tweets about his financial moves; last year, for instance, he tweeted a poll about whether or not to sell 10 percent of his stock in Tesla, causing shares to tumble. In 2020, for no apparent reason, he tweeted that Tesla share prices were “too high,” also causing the price to drop.
Media experts have raised concerns about the consequences for Twitter and the internet if Musk buys the website. Despite his history of censoring his workers, Musk recently described himself as a “free speech absolutist” after saying that he refused to block Russian news sources from accessing SpaceX’s satellite communication system, Starlink; it’s unclear how these principles would extend to Twitter.
“Regardless of Musk’s dubious principles, any move to relax content moderation standards warrants legitimate concern,” wrote University of Pennsylvania media policy professor Victor Pickard for The Nation. “For example, changing the policies by which Twitter restricts or suspends accounts that cause social harm could yield more harassment, hate speech, incitement to violence, and dangerous misinformation about voting and vaccines.”
“Twitter’s uneven adherence to its own rules has been rightly criticized, but having no rules would be a troll’s paradise,” Pickard continued, “a Hobbesian hellscape of all against all, with the most vulnerable having the most to lose.”
Musk currently also faces a series of scandals related to his businesses and finances. When he made his huge Twitter stock buy, he filed the disclosure 11 days late, netting him an extra $156 million.
The SEC requires people to publicly announce when they have reached a 5 percent stake in a company, which Musk appeared to have reached on March 14. But he kept buying stock at about $39 per share until he reached 9.2 percent in secret; then, after his announcement, shares rose about 30 percent to above $50 a share.
Investors have sued over Musk’s late disclosure, saying that they may have missed out on gains because of this move.
Musk’s companies are also facing scrutiny from three separate government agencies, including over allegations that management at Tesla’s manufacturing plant in California have segregated the shop floor by race, and that Black employees suffer rampant racism. One worker reported hearing racial slurs as often as 50 to 100 times a day, and seeing slurs written as graffiti in the bathroom at work.