Government props up free market

A reader comment on Sheila Leslie’s column last week on Telsa begins, “It’s an interesting environment to live in when an entrepreneur [Tesla CEO Elon Musk] who has built successful ventures like PayPal and SpaceX gets a pile of vitriol from the left when he successfully makes a deal to expand his ‘green’ business. This is the difficulty with statist philosophy.”

Hardly. If there is a statist in this situation, it is Musk. As a car maker, he was invented by corporate welfare. He owes his life to statism. Otherwise, why are free enterprisers across the nation—Breitbart, Forbes, Human Events, Fox, Wall Street Journal, Business Insider—scoffing at what Tesla and Nevada did to Nevadans?

Tesla is kind of an artificial corporation, less free enterprise and more a government agency—unprofitable and funded by government. Both the federal government and California pay customers big to buy its cars, taxpayers paying the tab. It has been kept afloat by taxpayer subsidies of various types from the federal government, California, Illinois and now Nevada. Nevada taxpayers are now privileged to be burdened by the welfare tab at both state and federal tax levels. And it will linger on for a generation.

Tesla would not exist if it weren’t for government, to the point that Forbes magazine has suggested the public would benefit most if Tesla would stop selling cars. “Tesla didn’t generate a profit by selling sexy cars, but rather by selling sleazy emissions ’credits,’ mandated by the state of California’s electric vehicle requirements,” the magazine observes. Nevada is now in on this scam.

“The bill for last quarter was $68 million,” the magazine went on. “Absent this shakedown of potential car buyers, Tesla would have lost $57 million, or $11,400 per car.”

In an editorial titled “Nevada gets Musked,” the Wall Street Journal observed, “Tesla will be exempt from property taxes for 10 years and sales taxes for 20 years at a cost of $1.1 billion to taxpayers. Tesla will also get $195 million in transferable tax credits that it can sell to other businesses. Since Nevada has no personal or corporate income tax, Tesla will effectively operate tax-free in the state. … Not so smart are the Nevada politicians who seem to have no idea how thoroughly they’ve been fleeced.” How bad does corporate welfare have to be when the Wall Street Journal finds it offensive?

Then there is our Great Basin, a precious Western resource. The moment the California Legislature adjourned this month without providing Musk relief from environmental protection, Musk turned to Nevada government, which knows something about how to abuse the land.

Gov. Brian Sandoval has become the Merv Griffin of governors. In his last years, Griffin spent his fortune buying properties at outlandish prices, as when he bought Paradise Island from the wily Donald Trump for more than three times its value. Tesla wanted half a billion dollars. Sandoval gave them twice that, and then added another $300 million for good measure. The cost of each of those 6,500 Storey County jobs, if they develop (Tesla only promised “up to” 6,500) to taxpayers is in the neighborhood of $150,000 each. Guess who’ll pay? One Las Vegas columnist said Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California dodged an expensive bullet.

The worst player in this whole mess is Nevada journalism, which so swooned for Musk and Tesla that it reversed Finley Peter Dunne’s famed description of journalism’s mission. For months, our calling in Northern Nevada has comforted the comfortable and afflicted the afflicted.