by Your friendly neighborhood tortoise™
This is Elon Musk:
Elon, recently named “the world’s richest person,” and man genuinely enthused about having just discovered opposable thumbs, is in possession of a net worth of $185 billion and a loyal cult (hey! this is a no-judgement space) whose members include Steve, your white-boy-who-tried-to-mansplain-bitcoin-to-you-but-secretly-has-a-bit-of-an-inferiority-complex™ neighbor.
I also want to take this moment to point out that Elon’s net worth in 2020 was “just” $24.6 billion. So in less than a year, his net worth has skyrocketed about 750% due to the explosive growth of Tesla’s stock. That’s its own little horrifying island of “reasons why American capitalism is on fire” and we don’t have time to go into that.
In honor of his recent accomplishment, I decided to do a little light digging into Elon’s charity work, which he accomplishes through the Musk Foundation. Yes, this has probably been done before. Yes, this provides me the catharsis I need to get through the second semester of senior year. Yes, I’m still doing it. I don’t need Red Bull; poring through the tax returns of powerful men is all the rush I need.
Alright, so first off, we’re going to visit the homepage of the foundation. I say homepage, like there’s more than just one page on the site.
This is it. This is literally it.
$185 billion dollars, and this is it? It’s so…empty.
What are you hiding, Mr. Musk?
After running the text through several decryption programs, holding it up to a mirror, and torching my computer to see if there was a hidden message in invisible ink, I’ve come to the disappointing conclusion that Elon may just be lazy. Of course, he says that it’s on purpose, but I recognize the warning signs. This is a classic case of senioritis-fueled procrastination.
Bad jokes aside, the lack of accessible transparency in billionaire philanthropy is a huge issue in holding the wealthy accountable, and it allows them to potentially donate to
slightly sketchy organizations without paying taxes.
Luckily for us, ProPublica has a Nonprofit Explorer that has a record of the Musk Foundation’s 990-PFs. The 990-PF is an IRS form that private foundations who want to claim tax-exempt status have to file each year. We’ll only be looking at the latest year for which records are available, 2018, because time is a fickle concept, and because I do not have enough stamina to look through hundreds of pages of grainy photocopied paper.
Even just looking at 2018, however, is going to take some time. The form is 24 pages long, so we’re going to take it several pages at a time. Here’s the plan (subject to change, depending on the powers that be):
- Part 1 (this article)
- Part 2: pages 1-8
- Part 3: pages 9-16
- Part 4: pages 17-24
- Part 5: summary
If your life feels unusually empty of useless frivolity, be on the lookout for part 2! Meanwhile, I’ll leave you with this cheerful quote from an article in Business Standard about the cult of Elon Musk: “This is usually the precursor stage of a cult, where powerful systems of self-rationalisation, self-preservation and hero worship insulate men from criticism and safeguard their ability to violate the rights of others.”
To the tune of Spiderman, Spiderman:
Elon Musk, Elon Musk
Msfkjdhfjhjfhsdjh … corn husks