Bernie Sanders Tells Elon Musk: 'We Need to Focus on Earth'

The progressive Vermont senator and the SpaceX billionaire recently traded tweets about wealth and taxation

Bernie Sanders, Elon Musk
Sen. Bernie Sanders (left) and Elon Musk. Photo: Miikka Skaffari/Getty; Pascal Le Segretain/Getty

Earth to Elon Musk: Bernie Sanders is calling.

The eccentric SpaceX and Tesla founder and the Vermont senator recently traded tweets about where their priorities should be: here on Earth or up above, in space.

The back-and-forth began last week when Sanders, 79, criticized what he called the "immoral" wealth of Musk, 49, and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

Sanders, the country's leading progressive, has long argued for increased taxation of the country's wealthiest people and said one of the biggest problems is income equality. (His free-market detractors insist his approach would strangle the economy.)

"We are in a moment in American history where two guys — Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos — own more wealth than the bottom 40% of people in this country," Sanders tweeted Thursday. "That level of greed and inequality is not only immoral. It is unsustainable."

That post prompted a tweet from a blog defending Musk and calling Sanders' criticism "ridiculous."

Musk then weighed in on Sunday, saying his money was being put to good use.

"I am accumulating resources to help make life multiplanetary & extend the light of consciousness to the stars," he tweeted, referring to SpaceX and its work toward space exploration.

"Space travel is an exciting idea," Sanders responded. "but right now we need to focus on Earth and create a progressive tax system so that children don't go hungry, people are not homeless and all Americans have healthcare."

"The level of inequality in America is obscene and a threat to our democracy," he added.

Bernie Sanders
Sen. Bernie Sanders. ANNA MONEYMAKER/POOL/AFP via Getty
Elon Musk
Elon Musk. Jeff Vespa/WireImage

Musk and Bezos, 57, are the two richest men in the world, according to a recent Forbes analysis. The two men have a combined net worth of $343 billion.

Their finances flourished during the COVID-19 pandemic, which greatly disrupted other parts of the economy and resulted in millions of job losses.

Musk and Bezos together increased their wealth by $200 billion in 2020, according to The Washington Post. (The newspaper, which is owned by Bezos, pointed out the estimated cost of ending the country's hunger problem would be roughly $25 billion.)

"What is money? It's an entry in a database," Musk quipped of a Tesla stock issuance at the end of last year.

Elsewhere last year, he expanded on his vision of SpaceX-backed rocket launches for "anyone" who wants to travel to Mars, where he pictured "a lot of jobs."

"I'll probably be long dead before Mars becomes self-sustaining," Musk told Ars Technica last March. "But I'd like to at least be around to see a bunch of ships land on Mars."

"Helping to pay for this is why I'm accumulating assets on Earth," Musk tweeted last January.

For his part, Sanders has long pushed for legislation aimed at balancing out the country's economy, he says, including a call for a "21st Century Economic Bill of Rights" to guarantee healthcare, housing and a living wage.

Last week, Sanders called for a corporate tax hike "on companies that pay their top executives at least 50 times more than the pay of a median worker."

"Enough is enough," he tweeted.

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