Elon Musk’s business acumen, ethics, and technological ingenuity have the potential to be invaluable in addressing one of the most politically charged issues in recent years: job creation in the U.S. Indeed, his company Tesla already constitutes a dynamic and growing part of the American economy. For example, Tesla is developing a 5.5-million-square-foot lithium-ion battery factory in Nevada, where it expects to employ approximately 6,500 full-time workers with a variety of skills – all of whom would be paid over $22 per hour. This would, of course, be in addition to all the jobs and innovations involved with Tesla’s other projects and Musk’s other pursuits, including aeronautically oriented SpaceX and solar energy company SolarCity.
Despite Musk’s contributions both to technological innovation and to creating American jobs and infrastructure, he has been the target of many criticisms from conservative groups and politicians. Columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin describes numerous examples in an article for The New York Times. He describes how the CEO of the largest privately own coal company, Robert E. Murray, called Musk a fraud for accepting $2 billion in subsidies from the government for Tesla. Indeed, many have criticized Tesla for having gotten wealth through corrupt political support for his interests in green energy.
At the same time that he is criticized for being a conniving capitalist benefiting from unjust political support, Musk seems to exemplify what a benevolent and productive business leader ought to do. He creates jobs, pays workers well, promotes green energy, and creates innovations in space exploration. Sorkin captures the utter dissimilarity between Musk and classic caricatures of corrupt business leaders by asking:
What other chief executive do you know who takes only $1 a year in salary and has never sold a share of Tesla except to pay taxes? Yes, he pays taxes — to the tune of some $600 million in just the past year.
Few citizens contribute more to the American economy than Elon Musk. Given President Trump’s repeated calls for creating more American jobs throughout his campaign trail, then, it may well be prudent for him to look to Musk both as a symbol and as a source of information on how to create promising and competitive American jobs while also invigorating the economy. Certainly, Musk is open to it. When Andrew Sorkin wrote to him asking if he would be willing to engage with the President on such issues, Musk replied, “I’d be happy to talk to Trump.” Here’s hoping they get a chance to have this meeting with meaningful result.