Wednesday, February 15, 2017

President Donald Trump may have made worse appointments than Elon Musk to his Business Advisory Council (BAC), but if he has, they do not readily come to mind.

Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, whom President Trump fired for refusing to defend his executive orders on refugees and immigration, was a Trump loyalist compared to Mr. Musk. Accordingly, the president should inform the crony capitalist that his appointment was a joke; and, that his talents would be more usefully employed at the imploding Clinton Foundation.

Mr. Musk in the Trump administration is the very definition of a fifth columnist. He was instrumental in making California the No. 1 state for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign fundraising. Before last November’s election, Mr. Musk told CNBC that Mr. Trump was “not the right guy” for the presidency; and, that the Republican presidential nominee “doesn’t seem to have the sort of character that reflects well on the United States.” As preached in Matthew 6: 24: “No man can serve two masters.” Do you think Mr. Musk wishes President Trump success stories to bolster his chances for re-election in 2020?

Like Ms. Yates, Mr. Musk balked at the President’s executive orders. He has raised climate change within the BAC. Musk has a perfect right to these views, even if at variance with Mr. Trump‘s. But it seems obtuse for the President to give a megaphone to a known opponent. Mr. Musk has ample funds to pay for his own megaphone.

President Trump was elected to drain the swamp of crony capitalists epitomized by Musk. His companies—Tesla Motors, SolarCity and SpaceX—are fueled more by political connections and favors than by skill, foresight, and industry. According to The Los Angeles Times, Musk has received a stupendous $4.9 billion in government subsidies. He is not building better mousetraps disciplined by the free market. He is building white elephants that are attractive to politicians who spend other people’s money. He does not have a business model. He has a political model. He chooses where to locate plants and what to promise geared more to eliciting government subsidies than to satisfying consumer demand.

But as Adam Smith taught in Wealth of Nations: “[C]onsumption is the sole end and purpose of all production; and the interest of the producer ought to be attended to only so far as it may be necessary for promoting that of the consumer…The maxim is so perfectly self-evident that it would be absurd to attempt to prove it.”

Crony capitalism is a malodorous disease that knows no ideology or political affiliation. It infects the defense contracting industry every bit as much or more than it infects the green industry. For every Solyndra or U.S. Synthetic Fuels Corporation you have Lockheed C-5A transport planes or Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter huge cost overruns. Congress funds weapons not based on military utility. It appropriates money based on the number of jobs defense contractors promise in the districts or states of members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees and Defense Appropriations Subcommittees.

Mr. Trump’s is perfuming crony capitalism by retaining Mr. Musk on his BAC. To the extent Musk stays, to that extend the swamp will remain undiminished.

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