The combined net worth of Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos approached $500 billion on Wednesday; fueled by the unrelenting rally in Tesla Inc. shares and a broad surge in tech stocks that sent the Nasdaq 100 to an intraday record.
The value of the two fortunes — a sum bigger than the market value of Johnson & Johnson and about equal to that of America’s biggest bank; JPMorgan Chase & Co. — is yet another watershed moment in what’s shaping up to be a historic week for billionaires.
A groundbreaking proposal from Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden to tax billionaires on unrealized gains was released in detailed form Wednesday morning; only to be dropped in negotiations hours later.
Wyden insists the billionaires’ tax plan isn’t dead; but talks have instead moved on to a possible 3% surcharge — on top of the highest income tax rate — for those earning more than $10 million.
While such a plan would draw in a larger number of taxpayers than the billionaires’ tax; and help pay for a Democratic social-spending plan that could approach $2 trillion; it would take a far smaller bite from the wealthiest Americans, such as Musk and Bezos.
Under the billionaires’ tax proposal, Musk and Bezos collectively; would have been hit with a $100 billion one-time tax bill, payable over five years; if the proposal had been approved, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
The plan explicitly targeted appreciated public shareholdings; which have been a main driver of billionaires’ steep wealth gains in recent years.
Musk, co-founder of publicly traded Tesla and closely held rocket company SpaceX, has added $122.3 billion to his fortune this year; pushing his net worth to $292 billion, according to the Bloomberg index.
Amazon.com Inc. founder Bezos is worth $196.3 billion.
The 10 richest Americans, including Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg; are worth a total of $1.4 trillion, according to the index.
Musk was dismissive of Wyden’s plan, saying taxing billionaires would only make a “small dent” toward paying off the U.S. national debt.
“Spending is the real problem,” Musk said in a tweet that also included a link to an online clock that estimates the country’s debt. Even if the super-wealthy were taxed at “100%;” the government would need to turn to the “general public” in order to make for the short-fall, the Tesla Chief Executive said.
“This is basic math,” he said.
Musk’s wealth has ballooned partly because he hasn’t sold any of his Tesla stock for years; instead tapping banks for loans using his stake in the electric-vehicle maker as collateral.
Pledging shares is a way to monetize equity without actually selling it.
Musk has $515 million in personal loans from Morgan Stanley; Goldman Sachs Group Inc.; and Bank of America Corp., according to a regulatory filing from December 2020; the most recent one available with this information.
Musk has also said some of his shares in SpaceX are pledged; but hasn’t disclosed details about how many.