In a controversial move, Time Magazine named Elon Musk its Person of the Year for 2021. It was a move that Musk critics quickly pounced on and his fans as quickly praised.
2021 was certainly a busy year for Musk. Tesla kept beating its own company records for quarterly deliveries of electric vehicles. Gigafactory Berlin is nearing completion despite issues with regulatory red tape and a suspected case of arson. Tesla moved its headquarters from California to Austin.
SpaceX is slated to have a total of 30 launches this year if none are delayed over the next couple of weeks. This includes the launch of two astronaut crews as part of the company’s Commercial Crew contract with NASA, which was recently expanded to include three more flights. NASA also awarded a high-profile contract to develop the Artemis lunar lander to SpaceX.
Critics were quick to lump on Musk for a variety of negatives that include alleged sexual and racial misconduct in Tesla’s workplaces. These cases may still be winding their way through the court system.
Elon Musk especially has a reputation as a notoriously tough boss. Recently leaked communications to his companies’ employees indicate that he strongly urged Tesla’s managers to execute his orders, explain why his orders are wrong, or resign.
Musk was characteristically quick to fire back at Elizabeth Warren’s accusation that he pays almost nothing in taxes. While he has managed to pay very little in federal taxes in past years, he likely paid a considerable amount of property taxes on Californian homes that he decided to unload this year. He will also pay $12 billion in capital gains taxes this year due to his selling of ten percent of his Tesla stock holdings.
Tesla stock did slide a little bit when he sold it off. Musk still remains the wealthiest person on Earth, however.
Naturally, Musk has his defenders. Inc.com tech columnist Jason Aten had this to say about Musk’s email to his managers:
“It … feels like it has a bit of an edge, as though Musk is responding to having sent out emails asking his team to do something, only to have them do nothing.”
Musk had also admitted that sometimes he’s wrong in the email, which Aten cited as something that an emotionally intelligent leader would do.
Others questioned whether the U.S. federal government would actually do anything worthwhile with any tax revenue they get from wealthy individuals like Elon Musk and reminded critics that Musk is paying more taxes than any other American taxpayer by hard dollar amount:
Of course, this did not satisfy any of the most vocal critics. Some of them resorted to insulting Musk’s defenders.
It is certainly not the first time that Time Magazine recognized a controversial or hated figure in world history. Time says that it gives its award to the most influential figures in any given year, for good or ill. This is the same magazine that gave the award, then known as “Man of the Year,” to Adolf Hitler in 1938. It also gave the award to Joseph Stalin in 1939 and 1942.