Is Elon Musk Changing His Business Plan To Get Money From Trump?

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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President Donald Trump’s adviser Stephen Bannon believes Elon Musk’s ideas are the template the White House will use to grow American jobs, according to a Thursday report by Bloomberg News.

Bannon, who is a boogeyman in Democratic circles, told an associate that Musk and his companies are an embodiment of the kind of U.S.-based job growth Trump wants to create, said the report. The former Goldman Sachs banker’s comments likely won’t be well-received by Musk’s mostly Democratic fan-base.

Trump, for his part, campaigned on dramatically ratcheting up the country’s infrastructure spending, telling reporters he planned to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure projects.

Bannon made similar comments in November during the race for the White House.

“I’m the guy pushing a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan,” Bannon told reporters at the time. “With negative interest rates throughout the world, it’s the greatest opportunity to rebuild everything. Shipyards, ironworks, get them all jacked up.”

Musk, whose companies depend heavily on tax credits, was added to a business forum in December responsible for giving private sector industry input to Trump. The Tesla boss became a reliable foot solider for the former reality TV star over the objections of his liberal fan-base.

Musk received scorn after halfheartedly criticizing the president’s January decision to temporarily ban refugees. His initial tweet responding to Trump’s order clamping down on immigration went over like a lead balloon: “the blanket entry ban on citizens from certain primarily Muslim countries is not the best way to address the country’s problems,” Musk tweeted Jan. 28.

He received mostly negative feedback for failing to come out more directly against Trump’s ban, so Musk tried a more direct attack in later tweets. But Musk’s follow up tweets only further enraged his followers, reminding them of his connections to Trump.

The tech entrepreneur, who made opposition to fossil fuels a key component of his brand, also offered an endorsement of Trump secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson shortly before the former Exxon CEO underwent confirmation hearings. Musk told his Twitter followers the oilman “has the potential to be an excellent Sec of State.”

Musk continues to prop up Trump even as his fellow tech compatriot, Uber Technologies CEO Travis Kalanick, was forced to leave the White House business forum in February because of the president’s immigration executive order.

The relationship benefits Musk and Trump equally, Bloomberg’s report notes.  The connection gives the president cover for techie-types in Silicon Valley, many of whom consider Trump and anti-science dullard.

Musk, meanwhile, will likely need more government support to keep his many companies – including electric vehicle-maker Tesla and solar panel producer SolarCity – up and running.

One of his companies, SpaceX, has been the recipient of lucrative government contracts valued at more than $6.5 billion over the past eight years, mostly to delivering cargo to NASA’s primary space station. It’s also working on securing contracts from the Air Force valued at more than $100 million.

Tesla, for its part, also receives troves of government tax credits. The electric car-maker recently acquired SolarCity, which was created and directed by several members of Musk’s inner-circle and is propped up primarily by billions in taxpayer dollars.

Trump could also come in handy in other ways for Musk. He proposed building a maze of tunnels across the country in January to ease traffic congestion.

Musk wants to build a tunneling machine capable of digging thousands of miles, eventually erecting a giant underground network that includes as many as 30 levels of tunnels for cars and high-speed trains.

The Trump-Musk pipeline could pose a problem for the Tesla brand, analysts warn.

Musk needs to tread lightly when interacting with the current administration, because most of his wealthy loyalists are not Trump supporters, COO Salome Gvarmia of the tech investment firm Devonshire Research Group (DRG), told The Daily Caller News Foundation earlier this month.

“Musk’s followers are passionate for their cause, leading to the overwhelming support and brand strength for Tesla,” she said. “Musk’s followers can be single-handedly credited for maintaining Tesla’s share price at levels that are – based on any number of valuation metrics – egregiously high.”

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