- - Wednesday, December 7, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION

Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin had his Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times reporter Walter Duranty to cover-up his genocidal crimes.

Cuban dictator Fidel Castro had his New York Times reporter Herbert Matthews to deny his Communist fanaticism.

And Elon Musk has his New York Times reporter Andrew Ross Sorkin to whitewash his job-killing, crony-capitalist, multi-billion dollar plunder of American taxpayers. Mr. Sorkin’s treacly Dec. 6 article — “Want More Jobs, Mr. Trump? Consider Calling Elon Musk”— is proof enough. It clumsily portrays the multi-billionaire knave as a public-spirited business genius. An easier task would have been to disguise Mephistopheles as God.

Mr. Sorkin urges President-elect Donald Trump to summon Mr. Musk to advise him on how to create manufacturing jobs faster than rabbits breed. Mr. Musk, he contends, has earned a spot on the Mount Rushmore of business giants along with Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan, Robert Iger of Disney and Mary Barra of General Motors. Cosseted with $4.9 billion in government support according to The Los Angeles Times, Mr. Musk enjoyed a 200-mile-per-hour tail wind in starting Tesla, the electric car company; SolarCity, the solar power provider; and SpaceX, the rocket company. But according to Mr. Sorkin, Mr. Musk is a modern-day self-made Horatio Alger hero ready, willing and able to give the nation a new birth of manufacturing strength. Mr. Sorokin maintains that Musk “has created nearly 35,000 jobs among his various enterprises….” But that is because he balks at the required math. It shows that Elon Musk received $140,000 in government assistance for every job he created. Even a business dolt could have performed as well.

Moreover, Mr. Musk caused a net loss of manufacturing jobs. Suppose the $4.9 billion he wrested from the government had instead been distributed to the private business community through lower taxes. The annual average cost of a manufacturing job in the United States, including pay and benefits, approximates $81,300. That means private businesses would have created approximately 60,000 manufacturing jobs if they had received the same financial support government showered on Mr. Musk. His three lavishly subsidized businesses have thus caused a net loss of 25,000 manufacturing jobs. Sorkin’s effusive praise of Musk as “a prime example of everything we want our business leaders to be” is nonsense on stilts.

At a recent Tesla shareholder meeting, Mr. Musk insisted, “Ironically, if all incentives and subsidies were removed from Tesla, Tesla’s competitive position would increase, not decrease. We do believe there should be government incentives for electric vehicles, but we believe they should be there for the good of the industry and to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport—not because Tesla needs them.” Musk added: “Let’s say the new President erased all incentives. Tesla’s competitive position would be better.”

These assertions by Musk are industrial scale lies.

If Tesla does not need incentives and subsidies to stay afloat, then why doesn’t Musk refuse them? No business can be compelled to accept government assistance.

If Tesla would benefit vis-à-vis its competitors by a termination of all incentives, why isn’t Musk lobbying Congress or the Executive Branch to do that?

After touting Elon Musk as the Michael Jordan of long-headed business innovators, Mr. Sorkin descends back to earth to acknowledge that, “[w]hether Mr. Musk’s various businesses will succeed…remains an open question.” In other words, they could all go bankrupt. The 35,000 jobs they created could be lost. And the billions they received in government assistance could end up wasted.

Accordingly, Mr. Sorkin’s apotheosis of Mr. Musk as the savior of United States manufacturing before the viability of his three heavily subsidized marquee businesses has been proven is like voting a Major league Baseball player into the Hall of Fame before he has hit even one home run. Mr. Musk’s boastful words are not accomplishments. Shakespeare makes the point masterfully by analogy through the following exchange between Glendower and Hotspur in “King Henry IV, Part 1”:

Glendower: I can call spirits from the vast deep.

Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man; But will they come when you do call for them?


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