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Can Elon Musk Be Weaned Off Government Support? (thehill.com) 270

mi shares an opinion piece written by Jenny Beth Martin via The Hill: A study published in 2015 by The Los Angeles Times revealed that just three of Musk's ventures -- SolarCity Corp. (which manufactured and installed solar energy systems before its 2016 merger with Tesla Motors Inc.), Tesla Motors Inc. (which manufactures electric vehicles), and Space Exploration Technologies Corp., known as SpaceX (which builds rocket ships) -- had received $4.9 billion in government subsidies to that point in time. By now, Musk's various ventures have sucked well over $5 billion from government coffers. Worse: in order to induce car buyers to spend their money on electric vehicles, the federal government offers a $7,500 rebate on the purchase price. Some states enhance that rebate with rebates of their own. In California, for instance, purchasers of electric vehicles get a state-funded rebate of $2,500 more.

Slashdot reader mi asks: "Why are you and I subsidizing Elon Musk's products and when will his businesses be able to compete on their own?"

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Can Elon Musk Be Weaned Off Government Support?

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    • Editors.

      . . . well, considering what Detroit did to DeLorean . . . Musk should be scared . . . I sense a "drug/terrorist" conspiracy coming against him . . . really soon . . .

    • by porges ( 58715 )

      OK, at least they're paying attention! Thanks. (For the latecomers, the headline used to say "weened".)

  • Slashdot user mi (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 07, 2017 @06:42PM (#54959227)

    is an idiot. Many companies receive subsidies from the US Government.

    • By their definition, all companies do.
    • Re:Slashdot user mi (Score:5, Informative)

      by Rei ( 128717 ) on Monday August 07, 2017 @07:24PM (#54959571) Homepage

      This is one of the dumbest articles I've ever seen on Slashdot, and that's saying a lot.

      1) SpaceX has been saving the US government a huge amount of money versus its formerly monopolistic competitor, ULA, which even still gets paid even when it doesn't launch anything. SpaceX charges a tiny fraction as much per launch as ULA does, and this before they get to widespread rocket reuse.

      2) The federal EV credits were basically designed by GM, for the Volt. The credit is per-kWh and maxes out precisely at the pack capacity of the Volt (gee, what are the odds of that?). Furthermore, it expires on a per-manufacturer basis. This has the perverse effect that manufacturers of popular EVs - such as Tesla - get no credits (Tesla's phaseout starts next year), but their competitors who make less popular EVs will continue to be subsidized for years to come.

      3) Tesla's reservations are in place despite the fact that its US customers know that most of them will be getting a partially-phased-out credit if any at all. That's because even without credits and without accounting for savings in energy and maintenance costs [electrek.co], the Model 3 outcompetes other vehicles in its class (BMW 3-Series, Audi A4, etc) on performance and features for its price point.

      (Cue the Slashdotters rushing to pretend that there's no difference between standard features and performance in a midrange sedan and, say, a base-model Yaris. Because that's what these conversations usually devolve to ;) )

      4) Tesla Motors did get - like the Big Three - government loans during the auto bailout. But unlike some of the Big Three, they paid theirs back 100% with interest - and more to the point, years before they were due.

      In large part, the subsidies that affect Tesla's products have had the perverse effect of hurting the company [forbes.com], giving them artificially supported competition. Musk frequently complains about them.

      • To your first point, does the government save more than they pay out in subsidies or tax credits? Even if that makes the result less impressive, competition itself is still going to be good.

        Otherwise, excellent points.
        • It's not even clear to me that SpaceX has ever received a government subsidy.

          People seem to get up in arms about the government spending money on SpaceX launches and think that it's a government subsidy, but they forget that the US government is the single biggest customer of space launch services in the world. Any rocket company who isn't selling to the US govt is missing out on a big piece of the pie.

          They have received commercial crew development contracts from NASA, which is similar to contracts paid by

          • SpaceX has received more than $5.5 billion in government contracts and grants from NASA and the U.S. Air Force. The delinination of how much of that is free grants and how much is contract is not very clear. SpaceX starting price for any launch is $56.5 million.

            • by ColaMan ( 37550 ) on Monday August 07, 2017 @10:52PM (#54960967) Homepage Journal

              The grants aren't "free money". They're money to develop stuff that might not work out. Eg. the USAF grants to develop a new rocket engine.

              You can't call them contracts, because the results aren't a fully delivered product with solid specs behind it. But there's R&D attached to them that is returned to whoever's handing out the money.

              And NASA / USAF / DOD and government in general does this all the time - they basically gamble a little bit of their budgets and spread it about in the commercial/academic world to try and advance the state of the art, because the payoff is that those advances make things cheaper in the long run for them.

              • You can't call them contracts, because the results aren't a fully delivered product with solid specs behind it. But there's R&D attached to them that is returned to whoever's handing out the money.

                And NASA / USAF / DOD and government in general does this all the time - they basically gamble a little bit of their budgets and spread it about in the commercial/academic world to try and advance the state of the art, because the payoff is that those advances make things cheaper in the long run for them.

                It depends on the agency - the gov't can and does do R&D contracts where the deliverable is demonstration of performance, sometimes on a best effort basis. Sometimes the only deliverable is a report on what they've done.

          • If somebody can't tell the difference between a purchase and a subsidy, but somehow they're already whining, don't bother explaining the details. They're not listening.

            Everybody that is listening has to wait until they know the details to even form an opinion, much less whine about their perception of if the world is doing what they want.

        • Re:Slashdot user mi (Score:5, Informative)

          by Areyoukiddingme ( 1289470 ) on Monday August 07, 2017 @09:07PM (#54960399)

          To your first point, does the government save more than they pay out in subsidies or tax credits?

          The US federal government gives neither tax credits nor subsidies for rockets. They buy launch services. There's a bunch of laws requiring it. A ULA launch costs $480 million. A SpaceX launch costs $62 million. Subtract the latter from the former and that's the straight up savings. SpaceX has already launched one national security payload, saving the US government in the form of the NRO hundreds of millions of dollars.

          If you're asking about saving money with SpaceX vs spending tax credits with Tesla, ultimately yes, the government will save money. As the post you replied to pointed out, Teslas will be ineligible for the federal tax credit very soon. Projections were Tesla would hit the ceiling late this year, with Model 3 production. If not, they'll definitely hit it next year. After that, no more tax credits for Tesla vehicle purchases in the US. Meanwhile, SpaceX will continue saving hundreds of millions of dollars with every single launch the government buys.

          NASA has booked no less than 26 resupply launches to the International Space Station with SpaceX. Every single one of those launches saves a fortune in tax money. Next year, NASA's contract with Russia for Soyuz launches of American astronauts to the ISS runs out. SpaceX is pushing hard to finish the Commercial Crew NASA contract, which would get them certified to take over from Russia late next year. That won't save quite as much money: Soyuz launches cost NASA $81.6 million per seat for six launches in three years. SpaceX will probably come in under that, but not by much. More importantly, that money will go to an American company with American employees, instead of a Russian "company".

          More abstractly, the existence of Tesla is making electric cars a reality. The usual suspects can no longer lie to Congress and say it's impossible for them to build a product acceptable to consumers because there's now a company doing it. Electric cars reduce emissions, move emissions, and change the nature of emissions. Rather than hundreds of millions of vehicles spewing toxic fumes from gasoline combustion at ground level everywhere people live, we'll have merely thousands of power plants spewing toxic fumes from coal combustion hundreds of feet into the air far outside of cities. It's not a great win (yet), but it's still a win. The net result will be fewer lung disorders Medicaid has to pay for, saving the government money.

          The Medicaid savings are a lot harder to quantify. Easier to just point to the rocket launch savings, which will add up to many many billions over time. Still, there will be more than just rocket launch savings from Elon Musk companies.

          • Rather than hundreds of millions of vehicles spewing toxic fumes from gasoline combustion at ground level everywhere people live, we'll have merely thousands of power plants spewing toxic fumes from coal combustion hundreds of feet into the air far outside of cities. It's not a great win (yet), but it's still a win.

            In California (where more people buy Teslas than anywhere else)I, it's a great win. Virtually none of California's power comes from coal. The dirtiest power we have is natural gas plants, and they're falling as a proportion of the total electricity generated at a pretty rapid rate. So Teslas are replacing dirty ICEs with, at worst, about one third renewable or hydro power.

      • by haruchai ( 17472 )

        "In large part, the subsidies that affect Tesla's products have had the perverse effect of hurting the company"

        Seems that's the case with California ZEV credits. Musk claims Tesla often can't find buyers & usually only gets 50 cents on the dollar whereas GM et al get to claim full price. However, I'm not sure how to calculate the value of a ZEV credit - what's one worth? Does it change from quarter to quarter, year to year?

        • Re:Slashdot user mi (Score:4, Informative)

          by MattskEE ( 925706 ) on Monday August 07, 2017 @08:28PM (#54960137)

          While California wanted more low-emission and zero-emission cars they didn't want to force manufacturers to make them. Therefore manufacturers who didn't meet requirements for percentages of low/zero emission vehicles are allowed to purchase credits from manufacturers (like Tesla) who exceeded the government's requirements so that the manufacturer doesn't need to pay a penalty.

          Because there is a free market for these credits the price varies, and the price is thus set by the supply and demand. Because of the slow ramp up of CA's emissions requirements the price is currently below what the cost of the penalty would be for a manufacturer to fail to meet the requirements (or buy credits).

      • by david_bonn ( 259998 ) <davidbonn@mCURIEac.com minus physicist> on Monday August 07, 2017 @08:52PM (#54960299) Homepage Journal

        All good points.

        I think the historical analogies have a lot of weight, though.

        Probably the most pertinent, and controversial at the time, was the enormous land grants given to transcontinental railroads. The land grants worked out to approximately ten square miles of land for every mile of track. That was on top of generous subsidies for actually laying the track. When the land grants were extended to mineral rights as well it became an even better deal for the Union Pacific. Plus, there was a requirement that these railroads be built with American steel -- which was a boon to Andrew Carnegie and others.

        A little bit later, the early electric lighting companies, most notably Edison's, were given generous contracts by local governments to provide lighting for their cities. Much later on, the federal government got into the game and subsidized a great local public power companies.

        Early development of aircraft was largely subsidized by nearly every government who could get into the game, Aside from the obvious military applications there was enormous demand for mail service and to a lesser extent for passenger service -- largely supported by governments.

        You could argue that the early (post WWII) computer industry was largely subsidized by the US government.

        I just have to conclude that the article referenced here sets some kind of world record for abysmal ignorance and willful blindness. It doesn't surprise me that thehill.com would publish such tripe.

      • by barc0001 ( 173002 ) on Monday August 07, 2017 @09:01PM (#54960359)

        https://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2017/aug/07/fossil-fuel-subsidies-are-a-staggering-5-tn-per-year

        According to new information compiled, 6.5% of the global GDP goes into fossil fuel subsidies. You want to stop subsidies? I agree. Let's stop ALL of them. Electric cars will be a no brainer when gas is $8 a gallon.

        • "Gas" is currently at an average of $5.50 in the UK, and has been as high as $8 recently - and it hasn't forced a significant number of people onto electric cars.

          The issue for a large proportion of the world isn't the price of petrol, its the difficulty with which charging an electric vehicle presents. In my "home" city of Norwich, most people live in terraced housing, have no off street parking, and indeed have no *designated* parking. Getting parked on the same street as your house is often a difficulty

          • Europe is a different market. Most people would probably consider a 30 mile commute one way to be utter insanity but that isn't too unusual in North America. Some people commute 60 miles or more. And with gas around $3 in the US, it jumping to $8 combined with those lengthy commutes would absolutely be the first horseman of the Apocalypse showing up.

            That said I live in Canada where we have been enjoying $1.20-$1.40 a liter gas for ages. That's one of the reasons I take transit to work.

            • I don't know about the rest of Europe, but the whole "short commutes only" thing is a bit of a myth here in the UK - I know plenty of people who commute 50 miles a day by car, each way.

      • by bareman ( 60518 ) on Monday August 07, 2017 @09:23PM (#54960491) Homepage Journal

        This BeauHD user must be losing their ass on their short selling position. Their posts here today reek of desperation.

      • I just want to add on #2, that the credits were designed with both Nissan Leaf and GM Volt in mind. All the big manufacturers also asked that Toyota (Prius) not be given a credit because they were too far ahead in the field.

        And it does irk me when people look at market sector subsidies to encourage competition & adoption; they single out the one or two successful vendors and say they are getting an unfair advantage.

        If people looked at the histories of Ford, Lockheed, Chase Bank, etc... they would unde

  • by djbckr ( 673156 ) on Monday August 07, 2017 @06:44PM (#54959243)
    Why do we pay for Amtrak? Why do we pay for corn farms for ethanol? The list is a mile long... I don't have the answers, but I'm sure smarter people than me can chime in.
    • Re:Why Indeed... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Bodhammer ( 559311 ) on Monday August 07, 2017 @06:50PM (#54959291)
      I think the terms you are looking for are "graft", "corruption", and "crony capitalism"...
    • Why do we pay for corn farms for ethanol?

      Tastes better. Less filling.

    • Re:Why Indeed... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TiberiusKirk ( 2715549 ) on Monday August 07, 2017 @06:53PM (#54959325)
      Yes! Why did the government spend hundreds of BILLIONS on concrete pathways all across the fucking country? And hundreds of billions more to build the oil/gasoline infrastructure? My horse got along just fine without all that shit! Fucking morons.
      • Yes! Why did the government spend hundreds of BILLIONS on concrete pathways all across the fucking country?

        This is not aimed at you (I understood your snark), but at people who may not know...

        The reason behind the design and buildout of the US Interstate Highway System was not really to make it easier for cars to move around - it was intended to provide fast and easy movement for large numbers of military personnel and equipment, in case of war.

    • One could argue that those subsidies are for products that aren't sold to the rich like a $75k+ car and $20k+ solar power system. Most are perfectly fine with subsidies, subsidies for the rich on the other hand.
      • Re:Why Indeed... (Score:5, Informative)

        by Jeff DeMaagd ( 2015 ) on Monday August 07, 2017 @07:19PM (#54959527) Homepage Journal

        All car companies can access the subsidies for electric cars. You can say Elon benefits more since he's only building electric cars, most of the big automakers have only been building half-assed compliance cars. Because Elon didn't start out with a huge car company he couldn't start out building a cheap car because it takes an enormous amount of money to develop a vehicle and everything needed to build it. Roadster proved an electric car can be interesting. Model S & X was needed to help scale up and develop the next thing. Model 3 is not *cheap* but it's getting closer to what the "average person" can afford. I suspect whatever follows Model Y will be even more accessible. He needed the Gigafactory battery plant to help push the cost of batteries down faster.

        The article saying the same about SpaceX is pretty fuzzy if you're talking about subsidies. NASA contracted companies to ship cargo and (soon) people to the space station rather than developing it in house. The original commercial cargo contract was helpful for developing SpaceX's commercial satellite launch business. If it weren't for the Commercial Cargo & Commercial Crew programs, all the US ISS launch business would have gone to ULA's even more expensive rockets and Russia for expensive rides to the space station.

      • Re:Why Indeed... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Jeff DeMaagd ( 2015 ) on Monday August 07, 2017 @07:27PM (#54959601) Homepage Journal

        Also, I'll believe the author is earnest about killing subsidies, I would have expected a mention of the fossil fuel subsidies too, including sweetheart resource extraction deals on federal lands. Or say Ford's still-unpaid bailout loan from the US government. Or ULA's expensive military satellite launch business. It just strikes me as an easy hit piece rather than an honest means to do away with subsidies.

        Elon's gone on record several times saying he'll give up subsidies if everyone else gives up theirs.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Of all the recipients of corporate welfare, Musk's ventures fall into the better half. He's making some other people look bad, the resentment goes up, and so you get hit pieces like this.

        • by Topwiz ( 1470979 )

          Ford hasn't paid it back because it never took one.

    • by hord ( 5016115 )

      Men with guns threaten our freedom if we don't send a check in.

      • by dryeo ( 100693 )

        Oh bullshit, you're perfectly free to turn down the benefits from sending those checks in and never send another check.

    • by haruchai ( 17472 )

      "Why do we pay for corn farms for ethanol?"
      I'm pretty sure corn is heavily subsidized regardless of how much is used for ethanol

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 07, 2017 @06:45PM (#54959247)
    lol
  • By all means, let's bitch about companies that are doing useful and interesting things instead of selling a phone with a fancier camera and slightly faster processor.

  • by H3lldr0p ( 40304 ) on Monday August 07, 2017 @06:47PM (#54959267) Homepage

    Slashdot reader mi asks: "Why are you and I subsidizing Elon Musk's products and when will his businesses be able to compete on their own?"/

    Let's not get too pedantic here. There's not a multinational or national company that doesn't have some craveout or handout put into law. Those aren't going away because that's part of how modern governments build agenda and shape policy. Get over it.

    As for the rest, I'm okay with this state of affairs. Musk seems to have some good long term goals he's going for. Being able to learn from his mistakes is a good thing for the rest of us trying to figure out how to build and keep an industrial base in the 21st century. That it costs me a few dollars per year in my taxes is a fair price to pay for that knowledge.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 07, 2017 @06:49PM (#54959283)

    Do Oil companies need approx. $4Billion/year of tax payer dollars? When can we wean them off government support?

  • What a BS (Score:5, Informative)

    by Cyberax ( 705495 ) on Monday August 07, 2017 @06:49PM (#54959287)
    Tesla does not receive subsidies apart from zero-emission credits. Tesla's _customers_ receive them ($7500 federal tax rebate) until Tesla sells 100000 cars. Other automakers also receive them - I claimed it for my Chevy Volt, for example. And Tesla is going to do just fine without it.

    For SpaceX it's even more disingenuous - they counted governmental launch contracts as "subsidies".
    • Re:What a BS (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Monday August 07, 2017 @06:57PM (#54959353)

      For SpaceX it's even more disingenuous - they counted governmental launch contracts as "subsidies".

      Agreed. Author is doing the typical semantics game where they attempt to redefine common vocabulary to make you see just how bad it all is because they aren't contracts for goods and services, but really just SUBSIDIES - big ugly SUBSIDIES. Both left and right play this ridiculous game because they get no traction when they use regular language to describe things that people are pretty OK with. They want to stoke outrage.

      Anyway, these launch "subsidies" are saving the government quite a bit of money over the old ways, so I'm okay with these "subsidies".

      • "Author is doing the typical semantics game where they attempt to redefine common vocabulary" Well, what else did you expect from the co-founder and national coordinator of the Tea Party Patriots? Their idea of government is "if it didn't exist in 1773, we don't need it now"...
    • by swb ( 14022 )

      Any amount paid to a buyer to discount a seller's products is in effect a subsidy to the seller, since they are able to sell their product for a higher price than if it didn't have the subsidy.

      Who is actually getting $7500 in cash? Not the buyer, they are getting a tax rebate (paying less taxes). Tesla is the one taking in cash in this entire transaction, from buyer to seller.

      You might argue that a Model S is so unique that wealthy early adopters really don't care about the subsidy, but we also have no id

      • by Cyberax ( 705495 )
        Tesla doesn't see a cent out of these $7500, the buyer gets the subsidy. Other cars are also eligible, like GM Volt or LEAF - and it's a much more significant amount for them.
      • Is it worth it as a means of encouraging electric cars? I would say maybe, but personally I would have made the subsidy inversely proportional to the cost of the car to encourage affordable electric cars and to prevent it from becoming a tax break for the wealthy. I'm not sold on the idea that by making a luxury electric car we're somehow speeding electric car development.

        As others have noted elsewhere, the electric car tax credit was crafted by GM for the Volt. Tesla had nothing to do with it and benefits the least from it. Tesla has been clear about their market development strategy from the very beginning. First, electric cars have to be cool and sexy, to induce people to buy them. Second, they have to start with a niche market to accumulate enough capital and manufacturing capacity to expand into a larger market. The Bolt never would have been produced except to compete

    • There are a lot of people who short-sold Tesla and are going to lose big money if they can't drive the stock down. So, you're going to see a lot of propoganda. I would not be surprised if they were prompting the attempts at unionization and creating whatever other bad news they could.
  • Pull the plug...

  • by lpq ( 583377 ) on Monday August 07, 2017 @06:54PM (#54959327) Homepage Journal

    Can people/businesses get by with out any government handouts in the form of tax breaks (incentives, rebates, credits, etc).

    How about "non-profits", or government support of churches by not requiring religions to pay property tax on their holdings?

    If I don't go to a mainstream church, and worship in my home, why should the mainstream churches get tax breaks and not me?

    The government is always "meddling" by creating tax breaks for "behaviors" that it "desires". I.e. tax free donations, etc.

    In 2007-2008, Bush gave a huge government bailout to the Investment Banks -- should we ask if they could have survived w/o the handout?

    So Musk's companies are taking advantage of areas where the government offers tax benefits -- why is anyone asking about "Musk" (personally) or his company, when he's exercising the same tax benefits available to MANY other companies, organizations and people.

    Why not go after ALL the tax breaks for "everything" and not just single out "Musk" for his businesses benefiting from government policy?

    Many companies and businesses would FAIL bigtime without government financing. Think of the military industrial complex -- can they exist w/o government benefits?

    • by Jack9 ( 11421 )

      > should we ask if they could have survived w/o the handout?

      No need to ask. They would not. Neither would the rest of the country. The dollar would have collapsed and the outcome, while uncertain, would not have been positive for most people across the US and many abroad.

      The inevitable dollar crash was only postponed, again, by the visible hand of the federal reserve. Neither congressmen nor POTUS were directly involved in the decision, beyond choosing to publicly support it to maintain the status quo.

    • by Higaran ( 835598 )
      Considering that our current president didn't pay taxes for 20+ years, maybe we should have taken him off of government subsidies earlier.
  • For example, if we look at the burden on consumers from Trump bailouts, it dwarves that of Elon Musk.

    At least Musk makes stuff. The Russian comrade just stamps his logo on stuff built by shell companies he lets default on obligations for, and licenses his likeness for a 20-40 percent markup, without actually building anything.

  • by OFnow ( 1098151 ) on Monday August 07, 2017 @07:00PM (#54959377)
    You would think that 100 years of US Government support that the Oil companies could be weaned off of the billions in special tax and other benefits give them every single year. The benefits should go to companies taking us to the 21st century OFF of oil. Such as Tesla and Elon Musk's other ventures. Oops. DL;DR
    • by bareman ( 60518 )

      Big Oil has bilked the US taxpayers for Trillions.

      GM and Chrysler took many more billions than Tesla ever will.

      What I want to know is will $TSLA short-sellers ever been weaned off from spreading FUD?

  • by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Monday August 07, 2017 @07:11PM (#54959451) Journal
    ULA, a competitor to SX, gets 1B / year subsidy. Boeing recently got 4B to develop a human rated space craft and fly it 3x. SX got less than 3B for doing it AND flying it 6x. SX continues to under bid all other rocket launchers for NASA, and the DOD while having 2/3 to 3/4 of their flights be commercial work, not gov.
    So very little subsidy for SX, and massive ones for its competitors.

    Tesla got a .5B loan that they paid off early. In addition, customers get 7500 / EV that Tesla sells.
    GM, Ford, and Chrysler were bailed out by the gov partially with payoffs and partially with loans that STILL ARE NOT PAID OFF. All of the cars sold in America get 7500 for being hybrid or EV. In addition, back in 2008, America bought a large number of used cars to subsidize car sales for Ford, GM, and Chrysler. So, very little to no subsidy on Tesla's part, but HUGE ones for its competitors.
    Oil companies and coal are MASSIVELY subsidized. Worse yet, ICE vehicles are not paying anywhere close to what it takes to maintain the roads. We need to increase taxes on diesel and gas by another .25/gal MINIMUM.

    Then we have solar city. CONgress continues to push subsidies for Solar. Yet, SC has the LOWEST costs in America and are about to go even lower later this year.

    To read idiots that claim that Musk is living on subsidies is just a FUD POS from kock bros and other idiot far right wingies.
  • by gman003 ( 1693318 ) on Monday August 07, 2017 @07:14PM (#54959475)

    SpaceX's only current competitor for the large "national security payload" market is United Launch Alliance, which receives an annual payment on the order of $1B for "launch capability", supposedly to keep infrastructure maintained and keep production lines at full capacity even if no orders are placed, to allow for fast turnaround of time-sensitive payloads. Despite taking that money, ULA has declined to enter bids on several open-bid contracts that SpaceX bid on, preferring instead to bid on the many closed-bid contracts. SpaceX is consistently bidding lower than ULA, despite not receiving an annual subsidy and thus having to factor that cost into every launch.

    Restricting military/intelligence satellite launches to only American companies makes sense, I have no argument there as long as American companies aren't prevented from competing fairly. Paying fixed costs annually and then per-launch costs on a per-launch basis makes sense, but ought to be done consistently to allow fair competition. Either get rid of both of their handouts, or distribute them evenly.

    (Oh, and those Commercial Cargo/Crew Development contracts from NASA? Boeing, parent company to ULA, is part of those too, and is bafflingly getting paid more for the same goals and deadlines.)

    As for Tesla... did GM pay back its bailout loans yet? Tesla did. I find it hard to worry about $1,000 per car when $100,000,000,000 (rounding each to the nearest power of ten) was practically given to other companies to reward them for helping crash the economy.

  • "Why are you and I subsidizing Big Corn's products and when will their businesses be able to compete on their own?"

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

  • Anyone who qualifies for the subsidy can get it. It's just that there are very few companies in that space, which is why there's subsidies there in the first place, to help lower the barrier to entry.

    I didn't skim the article, but did they mention that Telsa repaid a half-billion dollar loan from the Government 9 years early, in 2013?

    http://money.cnn.com/2013/05/2... [cnn.com]

    I guess if the article does mention it, it'll grump about the fact that the government didn't get all the interest it was entitled to over the

  • by Anaerin ( 905998 ) on Monday August 07, 2017 @07:16PM (#54959501)

    Okay, so let's break this down.

    • General Motors receives $3.58 Billion in subsidies every year.
    • Royal Dutch Shell receives $2.04 Billion in subsidies every year
    • Blue Origin received $3.7 Million in subsidies

    On the other hand, from the text of the summary:

    [...]Had received $4.9 billion in government subsidies [by 2015]. By now, Musk's various ventures have sucked well over $5 billion from government coffers.

    So, in the 2 year gap between the 2015 article and now, Musk had received a further $10 Million ($0.1 Billion) in subsidies. That's really not all that much.

    The government rebates for buyers of EVs (which goes to the buyers, not Tesla) goes to all buyers of any EVs. Chevy Bolt, Mitsubishi iMIEV, BMW i3, you name it. It's also a fraction of the rebates received for buying larger vehicles.

  • I've said it before. Elon Musk is one of those people who actually get shit done to the benefit of the entire humanity. If he needs another 5 billion, give it to him, it's in good hands. Look at Space X and what they are doing. Look at the solar roof thing. And look at a Tesla and sit down in one. This guy and his crew are single-handedly decomissioning the IC engine! What a feat.

    He deserves all the billions he can lay his hands on, earned or subsidized makes no difference.

  • Worse? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HeckRuler ( 1369601 ) on Monday August 07, 2017 @07:22PM (#54959551)

    Worse: in order to induce car buyers to spend their money on electric vehicles, the federal government offers a $7,500 rebate on the purchase price.

    Is that bad? Because not too long ago our national security was at risk since OPEC had us by the balls over a resource that we depended upon but could not produce ourselves. And as gas prices rose and applies economic pressure on everyone it bust bubbles causing a massive financial econopocalypse. The sort that hadn't been seen since the great depression.

    We launched TRIllion dollar WARS over this shit.

    Last I checked, there was a temporary spike in US oil production as we squeeze the last few drops out of old wells via fracking, and unlocked some oil from shale. Yay technological improvement. But that doesn't change the fact that cars are running on fossil fuels and ultimately this is not sustainable.

    So what do we do? We encourage investment into alternatives. Like electric cars. Which can be powered off of grid power which can, in turn, be powered by renewable sources. So we subsidize electric cars. Would you rather we ban ice cars? Add an ice-tax? Tax fuel prices? Because raising fuel prices worked out so well for us last time.

    All that said. If a company specifically targets hoovering up government subsidies, that's generally a bad thing. And there WILL come a time when such encouraging subsidies go away. But you have to examine each program on it's merits or flaws rather than on the whole. Everyone likes to bitch about taxes until you start suggesting programs to cut to reduce them.

    • Are you saying that your President lied about why the US invaded Iraq and that it wasn't WMDs? I'm shocked, just shocked! /s

  • As a consumer you get a rebate for buying an electric car. Why? Because the government wants to encourage consumers to buy electric cars. It reduces the effective price of the Tesla. The Times says this "subsidizes" Tesla. Tesla may be able to sell more cars to people who otherwise will claim they cannot afford them, but that money is not free money to Tesla, which never sees it. The government also will give me (not Tesla, but ME) a 30% credit if I buy solar panels from Solar City. The Times counts that as a subsidy to Tesla. When Tesla really did get money from the government, that loan was repaid with interest, Romney to the contrary. The citizens made several million dollars on that deal, unlike Solandra, which failed. Is SpaceX subsidized? Excuse me, but when they launch a satellite or a capsule for NASA they expect to be paid, and their price is about half what ULA charges. Who is subsidized? SpaceX or ULA?

    The thing to understand about taxes is that they are confiscatory. The government sets a rate, and once in awhile they drop the rate to encourage growth. People immediately claim that's a "subsidy." Nonsense. They are just confiscating less. It's not THEIR money in the first place. It's OURS. They are like bank robbers giving a rebate to the bank for how much money they stole. And what the government does with this money is pay themselves a great deal, and give it away to people who don't produce anything.

    You have to ask yourself, do you want the jobs provided by a huge battery factory or not? Do you want well-paid employees in your state or not? Do you want to move us away from fossil fuels or not? Yes or no? Answer the questions. It's hypocritical to bitch and moan about climate change, then do everything in your power to prevent someone from doing something about it. So I'm fine with Musk's so-called "subsidies." I certainly don't see anyone else doing anything useful.

  • by l0n3s0m3phr34k ( 2613107 ) on Monday August 07, 2017 @07:37PM (#54959721)
    "Jenny Beth Martin is the co-founder and national coordinator of the Tea Party Patriots". So, I'm assuming she doesn't want any government subsidies for anything at all, and wants to reduce our government down to just doing "mutual defense" of the individual states. She also makes around 15K per month for "strategic consulting" and $272,000 salary as President of said Tea Party Patriots...for a total of over $450,000 a year. That's quite a bit of "tea".
    • So, I'm assuming she doesn't want any government subsidies for anything at all

      I think we should take all these free market idiots and give them a country of their own. Put them on some island in the middle of no where and let them build it up themselves. With a common ideology they shouldn't end up with a government redistributing wealth of driving any kind of policy.

      This is great if you're in a village of 20 people, but what we really need to do is put them ALL there. Make the population big enough until the disagreements start. I wonder if they will enjoy the government they end up

  • The People's teet (Score:5, Informative)

    by sdinfoserv ( 1793266 ) on Monday August 07, 2017 @07:50PM (#54959843) Homepage
    So what?
    The 5 richest people in the US (the Waltons, owners of Walmart), get 17% of every food stamp dollar
    Government aid to Farmers will be $23+ billion in 2017
    When Dick Cheney, the former CEO of Halliburton, convinced "W" to start a war in Iraq, Halliburton was awarded $8B in no bid contracts
    The oligarchy in the country have always enriched themselves with "the peoples money" - how do you think they got there?
  • Bullshit (Score:4, Insightful)

    by chill ( 34294 ) on Monday August 07, 2017 @07:51PM (#54959851) Journal

    Fake News at its best. The linked OPINION PIECE over at The Hill starts with a false premise -- that companies run by Elon Musk have gotten approximately $5 billion in taxpayer funds -- and runs blindly with it.

    Click thru to the original LA Times from May 2015 and you get this bit of clarity:

    The figure compiled by The Times comprises a variety of government incentives, including grants, tax breaks, factory construction, discounted loans and environmental credits that Tesla can sell. It also includes tax credits and rebates to buyers of solar panels and electric cars.

    Let's take that apart one piece at a time, starting with the easy ones: discounted loans, factory construction, and end-user rebates.

    Tesla's discounted loans were loans that were made by the Dept. of Energy only if Tesla could get matching funding from the private sector. They did. And then paid the loans back, plus interest, a full nine years before they were due [tesla.com].

    Yes, they paid them back with interest. That isn't "taking taxpayer money". They got it all back plus some. You know, like capitalism.

    How about "end user rebates"? Musk doesn't get those, they go to the person -- taxpayer -- purchasing the electric vehicle. You get them on Nissan Leafs and Chevy Volts as well. And they're only around until the manufacturer sells a certain number of vehicles. Claiming them as a "subsidy" for Musk is dishonest.

    Factory construction and tax breaks? State-level incentives made by California, New York, and Nevada because factories bring jobs and other revenue. This isn't unique to Musk or any of his companies. States, Counties, and Cities use tax incentives -- rebates, discounts, and waivers -- in order to lure all sorts of businesses, from Walmart to automotive manufacturers. Trying to call out Musk for this as if it is something special given to his companies, again, dishonest.

    Environmental tax credits and grants in general are because the pollution created by the fossil fuel industry is horrendous, and isn't something that individuals can deal with on their own. Large companies get their own subsidies by externalizing the environmental costs -- that is, sweeping the filth under the run and not paying to clean up.

    Corporations will shit [wikipedia.org] all [wikipedia.org] over everything [nj.com] if it can make them a buck. Individual who need jobs to survive aren't in a position to fight for even the basics -- that is one of the reasons we have governments.

    The environmental benefits of switching to electric vehicles and solar/wind power are massive, and greatly outweigh the downsides (when measured against the coal/oil yardstick).

    Yes, the government needs to actively encourage clean technologies. Yes, it is in the tax payers best interest to support these sorts of things. There are always people who will value short term profits over long term benefits, so no, the unregulated free market will not handle this better.

    Been there (Love Canal, NY & New Jersey in the 1970s), done that (tetra-ethyl lead, freon, asbestos), not going back for some Ayn Rand-worshiping fanatic who failed to study history or learn anything useful from it.

    • Also, as for the subsidies SpaceX has received, from that same article:

      "The state put up more than $15 million in subsidies and infrastructure spending to help SpaceX build a launch pad in rural Cameron County at the southern tip of Texas. Local governments contributed an additional $5 million."

      That's it. It's not even Federal money, or being handed directly to SpaceX...a lot of it is stuff like road improvements.

    • The tax credits are the only point here I disagree with you on. I think they actually are an effective subsidy, and they are effectively given to Tesla even though Tesla is not collecting them as profit. They are enabling Tesla to sell the car at a profitable price. Without the taxpayer footing the bill for those credits, Tesla would be losing [more] money, because the car would have to be priced lower to generate sales.

      If we're going to call stuff the government does for the oil companies with our money a

  • by meglon ( 1001833 ) on Monday August 07, 2017 @08:23PM (#54960101)
    if the right wing neo-nazi fascist wannabe's didn't post some conservative propaganda or lies. I guess last last weeks posting of a verified lie and conspiracy theory by Nunes didn't prompt "mi" to give a long hard look to his complete lack of morality or ethics.

    Why is it conservatives lie so fucking much?
  • This article was brought to you by BP, ConocoPhillips, Exxonmobil, and Shell.

  • Why are you and I subsidizing Elon Musk's products and when will his businesses be able to compete on their own?

    I do not subsidize this. One reason why you do subsidize is to make sure US tech has an edge over other countries (including mine) startups.

  • Answer the same question regarding the major oil companies while you're at it.
  • The GE nuclear plants under construction that are being halted due to severe cost overruns in South Carolina and Georgia will saddle the taxpayers with close to $10B in loan guarantees from the government. Crickets from the Conservatives on this, but...Gasp!...Solar or other Green (read: "Liberal") stuff? Noooooo!!!!
  • ...and never a peep from conservatives.

  • "Why are you and I subsidizing Elon Musk's products"

    Freaking excellent question.
    I suspect its the Tesla cars phone home/self-driving thing. The government LOVE the idea of more ways to spy on and removing any/all control from the people.

Your own mileage may vary.

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