As The Washington Post's Steven Mufson reported, Musk capitalized on Tesla's first-quarter profit, its first ever, to engineer a stock offering whose proceeds paid back the government.
That profit, however, was accounted for by $68 million from a California state government program for zero-emissions vehicles, funded by a de facto tax on Tesla's competitors.
Tesla has logged an additional $62 million in such credits since the first quarter. It's also gotten $20 million in grants from the California Energy Commission.
Tesla's income from credits is expected to decline to zero soon, but every Tesla car sold in the United States still qualifies for a $7,500 tax credit - more in states that have their own credits.
Tesla's biggest overseas market is the world's fourth-richest country, Norway, where buyers get an $11,000 tax break plus $8,200 per year in free tolls and other perks, according to Reuters.
Of course, jobs - "green jobs" - are supposed to square the ideological circle for liberals, making taxpayer "investment" in Tesla and other environmentally friendly firms a "win-win" for plutocrats and proletarians.
Tesla employs 2,000 people at good wages. But others would have used the same resources to employ people, perhaps more than 2,000, if the government had not funneled them into Tesla - both directly through loans, emissions credits and tax breaks and indirectly by encouraging private investors to buy stock in a government-favored company.
Tesla's market capitalization, more than $17 billion, represents not only a possible government-aided stock bubble but also a huge societal opportunity cost.
Tesla's Model S is, no doubt, a cool car. Whether it serves any public purpose commensurate with the public resources it has absorbed is another question.
For now, all we know is that Elon Musk, backed by Wall Street and Washington, has built a very efficient machine for the upward distribution of wealth and income.
Lane is a member of The Washington Post's editorial board.