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Lawmaker minces no words to tell Tesla what state is willing to do to business
Dennis Wyatt
Dennis Wyatt

Say what you want about Elon Musk but at least he’s a notch or two above California Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez.

She’s the latest person to use Twitter to take the quality of social discourse to a point even lower than the Marinas Trench.

Gonzalez decided to respond to Elon Musk’s threat to move Tesla’s headquarters out of California to break the glass ceiling and one up Donald Trump’s often crass use of the Twitter platform among politicians to sink to a new subterranean low. And she didn’t need 144 characters to do it.

What was Gonzalez’s tweet in response to Musk’s remarks? “F- - k Elon Musk.”

There is little doubt that Musk may have an oversized view of his capabilities but give the devil his due. Who would of thought they’d every be another automobile production line running in a state that has been hell-bent at driving out heavy manufacturing for the past half century and to do so with an electric car? Toss in the fact he’s leading the private sector drive to make space flight more affordable and you’ve got someone who arguably has genius and a unique business savvy although he too has a slightly unhealthy Twitter addiction.

Yes, it is true that Tesla’s success has been to a large degree based on tax credits the state has provided for green initiatives as well as the tax credits the state has provided to electrical vehicle buyers. The same goes for the federal government’s efforts in the same area of tax credits.

What has set Musk off is the little detail of stay-at-home orders tied to how government action dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic has  managed to compact the epic downward collapse of the economy from  1929 through 1931 all into a tidy seven-week stretch. That is not to dismiss the gravity of the pandemic. There is a serious question of whether the response was measured just as there is a serious question whether it came too late.

Musk kept the Fremont plant where all of his American production is concentrated open after the original Bay Area stay at home orders were issued ahead of the state before finally shutting it down. There happens to be 6,200 blue collar workers employed at Tesla in Fremont who make what good blue collar jobs once paid. By chance a good portion of them live on this side of the Altamont Pass and not a single one in San Diego that Gonzalez represents. A number also work at the Lathrop Tesla parts plant where production from the Fremont plant is temporarily parked before being delivered to buyers.

Musk on Saturday sued Alameda County for not allowing the Fremont plant to reopen even though Gov. Gavin Newsom’s new orders allows manufacturing plants such as Tesla to do so. State law allows counties to be more restrictive than the state but not less restrictive when it comes to the health emergency.

Musk could move his headquarters easily from Palo Alto to Nevada or Texas where he suggested he might go. He also threatened to eventually move the Tesla production line out of California as well. If you don’t think that’s a possibility then you don’t understand how the political class that Gonzalez is part of operates.

State-level politicians like Gonzalez in all 50 states use the tax code to transfer wealth and to select winners and losers in the private sector. Not only has California and other states done that to grab a piece of Musk’s enterprises but they have also used the tax code to entice potential buyers for Tesla vehicles by offering combined state-federal tax credits on an electric car purchase that at one time pushed $10,000 per vehicle. Don’t think for a second that there is not another state out there willing to do magic with their tax code to get Tesla to pull up stakes from Fremont and relocate there.

Perhaps Gonzalez is not a big fan of someone biting the hand that feeds them or someone that is successful and in a prominent enough position not to be dismissed as a looney tune to push back against what some see as government overreach.

Maybe she didn’t take to kindly to Musk’s Tweets of late slamming what he has called California’s “fascist” handling of the COVID-19 pandemic regarding to the closure of his factories and that of other businesses.

What is clear is what she thinks of someone that dare use the court system or social media to defy the government.

Nothing says California is willing to work with business than for a member of the state legislature to wade into a public debate about reopening the state’s only surviving auto assembly plant by making her first three words basically to tell one of the most high profile entrepreneurs in the world to essentially go to hell.

The inability of being unable to hold one’s tongue is no longer the biggest threat to decorum in this country. It is a social media platform that allows us to make instantaneous reptilian responses with our fingers whether we are seated in the Oval Office or beneath the Golden Dome in Sacramento that sets the tone for tackling problems by dropping the 144 character equivalent of napalm.

Musk can certainly sink to the occasion when he gets on Twitter. Gonzalez, though, has entered new territory even for a politician.

Those three words are priceless compared to millions of dollars other states have spent on ad blitzes aimed at either luring businesses out of California or to convince them not to come here in the first place. Both Nevada and Texas have used such advertising to try and convince decision makers at major employers that California isn’t business friendly.

Now a prominent Assembly member has removed all doubt about the perceived attitude state politicians have toward business.

None of this is to suggest California — or Alameda County for that matter — should roll over and play dead for Tesla.

But it is clear what members of the political ruling class think of the private sector that by far provides the bulk of jobs that are left in California.

On second thought, perhaps instead of being criticized for being rash, classless, or simply vulgar, Gonzalez should be praised for her honesty.

Nothing says what you really think of someone and what they represent by Tweeting to the  entire world the “f-word” followed by their name.

This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Ceres Courier or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.