Tesla chief executive Elon Musk lambasted a signature Biden administration legislative proposal in an interview Monday with the Wall Street Journal, suggesting "it might be better" if the "Build Back Better" agenda doesn't pass.
Musk took aim at the White House's expensive spending bill—now waiting for the Senate's vote—that would boost incentives for buying battery-powered cars, including subsidies intending to support the adoption of electric vehicles.
Amid federal efforts to combat China's increasing power on the world stage, the House has passed a monstrous $2 trillion social spending and climate bill championed by President Joe Biden that would afford consumers a tax credit of as much as $12,500 for an electric vehicle assembled by union workers using American-built batteries. Vehicles made in nonunion factories, such as Tesla's, would qualify for a smaller credit, the Wall Street Journal reported.
"Honestly, I would just can this whole bill," Musk said during Monday's virtual appearance at the Wall Street Journal's CEO Council Summit, which gathered prominent leaders at the intersection of business and politics to discuss how corporate executives can "best navigate the current political and economic climate."
The infrastructure package that Biden signed into law last month includes $7.5 billion to expand the nation's network of electric-vehicle charging stations.
"Do we need support for gas stations? We don't," Musk said, speaking from a factory Tesla is building in the Austin, Texas, area. "Delete it," he added.
The industry tycoon said there are many individuals in the Chinese government who grew up with the country "being a small economy and maybe who feel like China was pushed around a lot." He said those Beijing officials "haven't fully appreciated the fact that China really is going to be the big kid on the block."
Musk pointed to how Tesla maintains a strong relationship with China, home to the company's largest vehicle factory by output. "I don't mean to endorse everything China does any more than I would, say, endorse everything the United States does, or any country," clarified Musk, who is often critical of authority.
The tech icon said the pending reconciliation bill should be scrapped, further declaring that federal investment in building out car-charging facilities was unnecessary. Musk called for the Senate to kill the bill, citing Tesla's sales that dominate two-thirds of all battery-electric vehicles in the United States and have been doing so without access to the tax credit over the last two years.
Musk noted that Tesla has been selling its electric cars for a lengthy period in the United States without the $7,500 federal tax credit or suffering a demand hit. Most other automakers, except for General Motors, are still eligible for the tax credit.
"We don't need the $7,500 tax credit. I would say … can the whole bill," Musk quipped at the conference. "Don't pass it. That's my recommendation."
Musk's main concern appears to be an expected federal deficit when it comes to the Biden administration's long-awaited Build Back Better bill:
"Honestly, it might be better if the bill doesn't pass," the billionaire entrepreneur stated. "We've spent so much money. The federal budget deficit is insane. It's like $3 trillion. Federal expenditures are $7 trillion. Federal revenues are $3 trillion. If it was a company, it would be a $3 trillion-dollar loss. I don't know we should be adding to that loss. Something gotta give. You can't just spend $3 trillion more than you own every year and don't expect something bad to happen."
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, also speaking at the summit, defended federal funding for electric-vehicle charging after Musk criticized the Biden administration's plans, arguing that investing billions of dollars in electric vehicle-charging networks would help speed a transition away from fossil fuels.
Buttigieg said the charging networks are needed to accelerate electric-vehicle adoption to meet targets for reducing tailpipe emissions and that federal tax credits would make it possible for consumers to afford the higher cost of EVs.
Rural and low-income urban residents who drive cars will benefit the most from a switch to electric vehicles, the Cabinet member said Tuesday, "but they can only capture those benefits if they can afford to buy in in the first place."
Buttigieg also defended the provision to provide larger tax credits for union-made electric cars. "Of course we believe in the benefits of union jobs," Biden's transportation secretary said. "These are things that don't happen on their own."
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