Grandpa Is Right, Screw Space (For Now)

Illustration for article titled Grandpa Is Right, Screw Space (For Now)
Image: Stefani Reynolds (AP)

Nothing is certain but beef over Space X and taxes.

On Sunday, Senator Bernie Sanders delivered a scathing Twitter reply to billionaire mogul Elon Musk, after Musk defended his immense wealth by noting his supposedly humanitarian commitment to plopping humans on other planets—a venture that granted his famed SpaceX a $74 billion valuation and nearly $1 billion in funding just last month.

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Last week, Sanders tweeted, “We are in a moment in American history where two guys — Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos — own more wealth than the bottom 40% of people in this country. That level of greed and inequality is not only immoral. It is unsustainable.”

Zachary Shahan of CleanTechnica, a news site focused on clean technology and sustainable energy, took issue with Sanders’s description of Musk, insisting that Musk isn’t “greedy” and is simply rich because “people see his companies as being so important to the future of our society.” Musk, of course agreed with the notion, and on Sunday he responded to Shahan’s piece, tweeting, “I am accumulating resources to help make life multiplanetary & extend the light of consciousness to the stars.”

Sanders called bullshit. He replied, “Space travel is an exciting idea, but right now we need to focus on Earth and create a progressive tax system so that children don’t go hungry, people are not homeless and all Americans have healthcare.”

Electric vehicles are great, I like hearing Saweetie say “is that my bestie in an a Tessie?” as much as the next guy, and space exploration is responsible for the many creature comforts we take for granted. But prioritizing human life on other planets is little more than a cute idea when people are struggling to make ends meet on this one. Regardless of whatever supposed good Musk is doing for us plebs, most Americans support a wealth tax that would require billionaires like Musk to fork up extra cash to support public programs. Using a high-profile figure like Musk as an example of the inequities of a tax system that benefits billionaires might be provocative (and anger Musk’s stan army), but it’s not unfair.

The reasons why Musk is so wealthy, generational wealth included, don’t make him any less complicit in the harms of inequality. A billionaire who saves the rainforest is still a billionaire. Asking that a portion of their wealth should be reallocated to the larger society via taxes is not a big ask.

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Despite being lauded for his so-called humanitarian efforts, Musk’s current brand of futurism favors the rich: SpaceX largely comes across as a vanity project, and “Tessie” may be electric, but it remains unaffordable for most car-driving Americans (though it’s heavily subsidized by taxpayers.) I won’t even touch his approach to “public transit,” which reeks of Silicone Valley brain worms.

Whatever. Sanders and Musk can continue a back and forth Twitter all they want (it has happened before!) but former presidential candidate and crystal advocate Marianne Williamson had the best response to all of this:

Staff writer, mint chocolate hater.

DISCUSSION

I can’t believe the people legitimately out here saying that we shouldn’t tax Musk fairly (because, be honest, that’s what’s at stake here) just because this billionaire shithead wants to put people in indentured servitude on Mars. Like, that’s literally what he has said—if people can’t afford his space travel, they can be placed into indentured servitude to pay for their escape from Earth.

The idea of allowing a billionaire like Musk to name the terms of Earth’s survival in the face of approaching climate apocalypse is indefensible and deranged. And that is explicitly what he’s trying to do! He wants to escape Earth and establish a Mars colony to preserve the human race in the face of climate collapse, and he wants to do it exclusively on his own terms. He is already using it to enrich himself—and I don’t know why we would expect otherwise from a guy whose generational wealth comes from Apartheid emerald mines—and he will continue using it to enrich himself. It’s dystopian to the point of self-parody.

You can die on Earth because we couldn’t enact protections to save ourselves as a direct consequence of Musk and his fellow billionaires campaigning against the taxes needed to fund an escape from climate collapse. Or you can pay him (in indentured servitude) to survive the circumstances he has helped engineer. It’s not just villainy, it’s full-on cartoon villainy. This is less dignified and more nonsensical than fucking Skeletor.