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Elon Musk says federal government should ‘get rid of all subsidies’—despite Tesla receiving billions in support

December 7, 2021, 3:21 AM UTC

Maybe it was today’s news that the Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating Tesla, but Elon Musk was in no mood on Monday to praise the federal government and its latest infrastructure spending plan.

The Tesla CEO expressed his opposition to the Biden administration’s inclusion of $7.5 billion for new electric vehicle charging stations in its recently passed, $1 trillion infrastructure bill. Going a step further, Musk said that “no one at Tesla” was thinking about the bill’s potential impact on the electric automaker’s business, and instead suggested that the government’s overall spending has gone too far.

“I think if this bill happened or didn’t happen—we don’t think about it at all really,” he said at the Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council summit in Washington, D.C. Referring to the even larger Build Back Better Act currently being deliberated in Congress, Musk added: “Honestly, it might be better if the bill doesn’t pass. We’ve spent so much money, the federal budget deficit is insane… We’re running this incredible deficit, something’s got to give.”

While he pointed to the need to improve highways and reduce traffic congestion, Musk struck a familiar government-skeptical tone in discussing some of the transportation initiatives and incentives pursued by the Biden administration. He deemed the infrastructure bill’s investment in electric charging stations as “unnecessary”—adding that he would like to see the government “get rid of all subsidies,” including those for the oil and gas industries.

Tesla, of course, has benefited from billions of dollars in government subsidies in recent years. Noting the criticism about the help, Musk said the company no longer benefits from electric vehicle tax credits that were previously granted to its buyers, unlike more recent entrants into the EV sector. Part of Musk’s discontent with such government programs may also stem from the fact that the Build Back Better Act proposes an additional $4,500 in tax credits for buyers of electric cars assembled in the U.S. with union labor; Tesla is the only major American automaker whose workforce is not unionized.

As a result, Musk has had a considerably frostier relationship with the current White House than its predecessors. He’s previously labeled the Biden administration as being “controlled by unions,” and when asked on Monday what he would say if he received a call from the president, he deemed such a hypothetical as “unlikely.”

Musk’s frostiness about the federal government may also have something to do with reports that Tesla is once again in the SEC’s crosshairs. On Monday, Reuters reported that the federal securities regulator is investigating the automaker over a whistleblower complaint about the safety of its cars’ solar panel systems.

Musk was not asked about and did not comment on the reported inquiry on Monday evening. Nor did he broach a separate article on Monday by the New York Times, which criticized the safety practices of Tesla’s autonomous vehicles program. He did mention, however, that autonomous cars are “absolutely coming, and will be one of the biggest transformations ever in human civilization.”

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