“The number of U.S. citizens filing for unemployment increased to 38.6 million since March 18, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Over the same two months, the wealth of U.S. billionaires has surged $434 billion – an increase of 15 percent.” So says author Chuck Collins at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) on 5.21.2020.
That same article said, “The combined fortunes of Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg alone grew by nearly $60 billion during these two months, according to a new analysis, jointly released by Americans for Tax Fairness and the Institute for Policy Studies, which released Billionaire Bonanza 2020 in April to examine billionaire wealth during the first month of the pandemic.
Between March 18 and May 19, the total net worth of the 600-plus U.S. billionaires rose from $2.948 trillion to $3.382 trillion. In March, there were 614 billionaires on the Forbes list. There are 630 two months later, including newcomer Kanye West at $1.3 billion.
Among other COVID-19 victims are the more than 16 million Americans who have likely lost employer-provided healthcare coverage. Low-wage workers, people of color and women have suffered disproportionately in the combined medical and economic crises. Billionaires are overwhelmingly white men.”
According to the IPS website, “Chuck Collins directs the Program on Inequality and the Common Good at the Institute for Policy Studies.”
Analysis – Unpacking the IPS Report
First, it should be noted that the report illustrates a specific concern raised by MHProNews early in the market sell-off. Namely, that the pandemic would be a money grab, a massive transfer of wealth to some of the very people IPS identified. The IPS report underscores those prior concerns, as a brief review reflects.
On March 14, MHProNews published a report that signaled what was coming. Note that is a few days before the date that the IPS study uses as their starting point.
Illusions, Collusions – “Heads I Win, Tails You Lose” – “Never Let a Serious Crisis Go To Waste” – Gates, Buffett Massive Money Grabs?
Two weeks prior to that date, on February 28th, MHProNews proclaimed the following.
“Be Greedy When Others are Fearful” – Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Follow the Money, plus Manufactured Home Investing, Stock Updates
On March 26, MHProNews featured a Buffett/Berkshire investor, Bill Ackman who illustrated the concern raised in the reports above and linked further below.
“Hell is Coming” from COVID19, But Stocks Soar – Pershing Square’s Bill Ackman Outed by CNBC, plus Manufactured Home Investing, Stock Updates
On April 5, the Masthead reported that a former ambassador called this pandemic the “Crime of the Century.” Not that it was a phony virus, the contagion is real. But that the pandemic would be used as cover for a transfer of wealth scheme. In the strict sense, it doesn’t matter if the virus was accidental, natural, or a bio-weapon. The failure to of Communist China and the WHO – and likely others who knew – to warn the world weeks earlier made the novel coronavirus a de facto bio-weapon.
There was more, but that’s more than sufficient to make the point that this pandemic was, as performer Taylor Swift put it, “shameless greed” by “pandemic profiteers.”
In fairness to Buffett and Gates, CNBC made this observation about the IPS research. “Because the study timeline captures the stock market bottom and quick rebound, it creates a slightly sunnier picture for billionaires than the full year. For the year, Buffett’s wealth has declined by $20 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaire’s Index, while Gates is down by $4.3 billion. For the year, Jeff Bezos has gained $35.5 billion while Zuckerberg is up by $9 billion.”
That said, CNBC’s point in no way undermines the claims made by IPS’ research of the issue. There are several sources beyond MHProNews that believe that this is a ‘money grab’ as independent journalist Sharyl Attkisson put it early on.
The facts of their research noted, this IPS research is timely on several fronts. Let’s dig deeper into what a look at IPS and their work reveals.
Pulling Back the Veil
Influence Watch lists among the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) “Coalition Members” the “Green New Deal Coalition.” That same source lists among the donor organization “NoVo Foundation (Non-profit).” As detail-minded readers of MHProNews may recall, the NoVo Foundation was founded and funded by Warren Buffett, Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway.
Among the other IPS supporters listed by Influence Watch alphabetically are:
- American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) (Labor Union).
- American Postal Workers Union (Labor Union).
Ponder the notion that representative unions of federal employees are in part paying IPS – and other – nonprofits – to influence public policy discussions. Rephrased, federal tax dollars are being indirectly used to lobby federal policies. Does that sound like a conflict of interest?
Either way, that’s hardly new.
Yet tens of millions are unaware that this sort of thing occurs routinely in Washington. Problematic tactics aren’t limited to one side of the political aisle.
That noted, on the affordable manufactured home industry specific level, bear in mind that MHProNews and our MHLivingNews sister-site reported that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPD) during the Obama Administration was supporting CFED with grant money. CFED in turn was lobbying the CFPB on the application of Dodd-Frank rules with regard to manufactured housing. That revelation was published on 6.12.2015, almost 5 years ago. It was cheered by supporters of the Preserving Access to Manufactured Housing Act, and grudgingly confirmed by Doug Ryan.
CFED has since rebranded and is currently called Prosperity Now.
Prosperity Now in turn is tied to these “Related Profiles,” according to Influence Watch.
- National Manufactured Home Owners Association (NMHOA)
- The Indivisible Project (Indivisible).
Among Indivisible’s current activities, says Influence Watch, are the following.
“Indivisible may be best known for their effort to support the Women’s March in February 2017. The group and its local affiliates also organize gatherings like ResistFest in Santa Cruz, “Cardboard Congressmen” town halls in Republican-controlled Congressional districts, and local “Resist Trump Tuesday” weekly meetings.
These weekly meetings involve Indivisible chapters gathering together in state capitals to lobby legislators to oppose President Trump’s policies and promote liberal platforms. Sarah Dohl, Indivisible’s chief communications officer, has said, “It’s not a secret that we would like to move the Democratic Party further to the left.””
National Manufactured Home Owners Association (NMHOA)
NMHOA is well known among thousands of manufactured home community owners and professionals along with other manufactured housing industry professionals. NMHOA existed some years before MHAction came into being in 2016.
NMHOA’s website confirms the ties to Prosperity Now and others. Here is what the NMHOA says are their “partners.”
- Prosperity Now.
- I’M HOME, or Innovations in Manufactured Homes.
- National Consumer Law Center.
- ROC USA.
- Next Step® which specifically states on the NMHOA website that “Another strategic ally in this social enterprise is Clayton Homes, the leading home manufacturer and largest homebuilder in the nation. This unprecedented partnership creates a new market dynamic that will make it easier for more low-income families to achieve homeownership.”
- Consumer Federation of America (CFA).
Rephrased, the donor/dark money trail of NMHOA includes ties to Buffett, his ‘charities’ such as the Peter and Jennifer Buffett led NoVo Foundation, Berkshire Hathaway and Clayton Homes.
Are thinking people to believe that attorney Ishbel Dickens who was the director of the NMHOA for years didn’t know that some of NMHOA’s funding had ties to the very billionaire – Warren Buffett/Berkshire/Clayton – who were at times the very groups they claim to be fighting against on issues such as manufactured home consumer financing? See the example below, in Dicken’s own words to MHProNews. Dickens points the finger at Clayton Homes and their lender, they do so with MHI, but then they ‘partner’ with Clayton Homes?
Can you spot the ‘head fake?’ The arguably deceptive practices involved? Because the evidence reflects that they are funded by the same deep pockets. While it is public information, on one level, it is not information that most people would go looking for, nor might it be immediately understood if seen without connecting the dots as this fact-check and report is doing.
But why should that matter to consumers and/or manufactured home industry professionals, investors or others?
On the manufactured home financing side, the answer is obvious.
- Lower rates would benefit both consumers and the manufactured home independents who want to attract and sell more qualified home buyers. Lack of such financing is a widely acknowledged limitation on the industry’s sales.
On the manufactured home placement side, the answer should be logical and simple too.
- Because as Tim Sheahan of the NMHOA and Golden State Manufactured-Home Owners League (GSMOL) noted, it was when there was competition for residents that site fees were kept in check.
The inverse of Sheahan’s point is to recognize that with more competition comes more options for consumers for home sites. That would lead to lower site fees and more sales. Consumers and industry would both benefit. So too would investors and public officials whose budgets are constrained on affordable housing programs. The affordable housing crisis could, if the good laws that already exist that support manufactured housing were unleashed, could do much to help solve the affordable housing crisis. Who says? Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers who jointly studied the issues.
Because MHI reportedly ‘parachuted’ Danner into her role at HUD’s Office of Manufactured Housing Programs (OMHP) – despite a prior agreement with MHARR to place Vic DeRose into that role – and then MHI failed to stop Danner’s purported regulatory overreach, she arguably harmed the interests of both consumers and smaller businesses alike. As a relevant and timely aside, that’s the reason that Dana Wade’s pending return to HUD, where she is already there pending her confirmation, is welcomed by MHARR and other independents. Wade was present during the process that witnessed Danner’s removal.
Rephrasing the evidence above, Buffett/Berkshire money has flowed to both sides of key controversies in manufactured housing. The results? They have been harmful to manufactured housing independents, who in the communities side are routinely seen as more resident friendly and fair. It has also resulted in the steady consolidation of the industry. That in turn has profited the few at the expense of the many.
Then, organizations like NMHOA and MHAction are advocating – on the surface, perhaps understandably so – for ‘rent control.’ But as this CBC – a Canadian news source – video report makes clear, rent control may appear to have a short term benefit, but it has mid-to-longer term harm. Namely, it foils more new construction. Yet it is that new construction that is needed.
As Tim Sheahan, in a comments letter to the FHFA said, “Initially, stiff competition among various [mobile and manufactured home community] developers during the only time a true “free market” situation existed in these communities commonly led to very reasonable starting rents.”
Sheahan also colorfully noted that “As the communities filled with “im-mobile” homes, free market forces such as competition were lost and lot rents for captive homeowners skyrocketed in many areas of California.” His full statements to a federal agency are in the document linked here.
Those two pull quotes from Sheahan quickly underscore why there is a need to spur competition and the creation of more homesites.
Ironically, that’s what HUD Secretary Ben Carson has said in different words. The “White House Council on Eliminating Regulatory Barriers to Affordable Housing” listed several areas of concern. Barriers to creating more affordable housing was the predicate or foundation for the entire effort which has gone quiet during the COVID19 crisis. But Carson’s position, properly understood, is in keeping of both consumer and smaller business interests.
Carson noted in a Congressional hearing, without naming Danner, that the regulations she was pushing were “ridiculous.” That was cited by the Washington Post as well as MHLivingNews.
Summing up, while posturing being pro-consumer, HUD’s then OMHP Administator Danner was arguably harming their interests by not pushing for the full and proper implementation of the Manufactured Housing Improvement Act of 2000 and its “enhanced preemption” provision. Had Danner done so, the logical conclusion would be that more developing with affordable manufactured homes could occur.
Put differently, through a variety of ploys, ‘Buffett Bucks’ can be traced to both sides of several contentious issues in a fashion that has de facto restricted new competitors, harming consumers and smaller businesses alike. A key solution that already exists at law is not even mention on the NMHOA website on the date and time shown below. Prior OMHP administrator Bill Matchneer, J.D., and Mark Weiss, J.D, President and CEO of MHARR have both made it plain that “enhanced preemption” is a key legal tool that already exists but is for whatever reason not being routinely enforced by HUD. On paper, MHI has said similarly, although that bears the caveat shown further below.
So, why isn’t NMHOA pushing for enhanced preemption, along side MHARR and others?
The net result of this accidental and/or intentional failures to promote the best possible solutions that already exist in federal law is this. Residents and the majority of independents face more financial struggles and headwinds than they otherwise would. Dickens is an attorney. She served on HUD’s Manufactured Housing Consensus Committee (MHCC). She would have a hard time denying that she is aware of this aspect of federal law.
- But Dicken’s nevertheless didn’t see fit to have perhaps one of their best legal arguments readily available on the NMHOA website
- Why is it missing now from the MHI website, when in the pre-Berkshire era it used to be posted there, as the document below reflects?
More specific examples – using Buffett’s words and those arguably involved in the scheme – can be found in the recent report linked below. But it could be summed up like this. Numbers of the nonprofits engaged in manufactured housing industry issues fails to mention federal enhanced preemption. That tends to foster the consolidation or monopolization in manufactured housing. That in turn logically harms consumers and smaller businesses alike.
If that sounds underhanded and harmful to potentially millions of homeowners, affordable housing seekers, and independently owned firms, it is what it is.
Hold those thoughts, as we press on to unpack “Indivisible.”
The Indivisible Project
The Indivisible Project has the following ties, per Influence Watch.
Indivisible’s most prominent allies include the Democratic Socialists of America, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), MoveOn.org, Planned Parenthood, the Working Families Party, Tides Foundation, among others.
The Tides Foundation is a funding partner for the Indivisible Fund (now Indivisible Civics), the 501(c)(3) nonprofit arm of the organization. Founded in 1976, the Tides Foundation is a pass-through organization and a pillar of the Left.”
The relevance of that will be underscored, but it clearly ties into the same scheme previously noted of billionaire money trails that foster harm to consumers and smaller businesses, all while posturing that they are ‘doing good.’
Following Warren Buffett’s Money Trail
It would be a mistake to follow only Buffett’s money trail, because the billionaire has friends like Bill Gates, George Soros, Michael Bloomberg and others.
Put differently, there are ways to influence nonprofits and political candidates which in turn influence media and public policy that Buffett could be involved in without his having to directly give a dime. Trading favors with other billionaires interested in building or protecting their own ‘moat’ would be easy enough to do. As CNN put it, these guys – the uber billionaires – talk to each other all the time.
But for the moment, focusing on following Buffett’s money trail or that of Berkshire Hathaway and thus influence – often through so-called ‘dark money’ channels’ – he’s tied to the following. In no particular order of importance.
- Institute for Policy Studies.
- Urban Institute (see prior report linked here).
- Gates Foundation (see prior report above, further below the byline or one linked here).
- Tides Foundation and Tides Center.
- Indivisible Project.
- Prosperity Now.
- National Manufactured Home Owners Association (NMHOA).
- Sierra Club.
- Next Step.
- MH RV Hall of Fame.
- Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI).
The list can go on, but that is sufficient to make the following-evidence based points.
- Influences on manufactured housing industry connected policies, images, implementation, and lawmaking are in play.
- Buffett and Gates connections to mainstream media are numerous. It should be stressed that they can get on right-of-center Fox Business in a favorable fashion as easily as they do left-of-center CNBC or other media outlets across the left-right media divide.
As another example of how these billionaires have and can influence industry events is the following.
After efforts by the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR) helped stop the costly energy rules being advanced by the Department of Energy, Sierra Club initiated a lawsuit. Buffett and former New York City Mayor, billionaire and owner of Bloomberg media – Michael “Mike” Bloomberg – are among the funders of Sierra Club.
Specifically, the Sierra Club sued the Department of Energy (DOE) about the manufactured housing energy standards. In a complaint filed 12/18/2017, the “Sierra Club Sought to Compel Issuance of Long-Overdue Efficiency Standards for Manufactured Housing.” Why did the Sierra Club sue over an issue that could keep – per the NAHB priced out study, see the related report linked here – millions of more Americans out of affordable housing? How does that help renters to become affordable homeowners?
Among the points used to stop the DOE energy standards on manufactured housing was the fact that the payback period for the cost was often longer than many will own their manufactured home. Rephrased, the cost to buy was not offset by the energy savings. Upgraded energy standards are financially self-defeating, especially given the decline in energy prices that occurred in recent years.
While one certainly may want an energy saving home, there is a point where the investment in more energy efficiency – given recent energy costs – is simply not rewarded in terms of dollars saved. Those that want to pay more and can do so have that option. But those that can only afford the most basic home should not be denied the benefits of home ownership due to some perhaps well meaning, but nevertheless flawed artificial standard.
Robin Harding has said that Buffett is destroying capitalism. It isn’t just Buffett, is the implication, that uses these ‘sharks in the waters of the moat’ methods. Hasn’t Harding made numerous important points?
Tax policies advocated by IPS or other progressive groups are arguably a veiled maneuver by billionaires like Buffett, Gates and others. Make tax laws that are complex, give them tax breaks by funding nonprofits like IPS, Prosperity Now, Tides et al, and viola! You are adding to the ‘moat’ while posturing doing good. But in reality little changes. Who says? Buffett’s own son, Peter.
See the newest facts on that in the report linked below. It also has links to additional information on this specific part of the broader topic.
Ironically, the solution to several of these problems is summed up in these 2 bullets.
- Antitrust enforcement, using existing legal principles that are often pronounced by several Democrats and some Republicans – with some of those Democrats getting campaign donations from supported by several of these same billionaires.
- In general “enforce the law without favor or bias.” That would include the FHFA properly enforcing the Duty to Serve (DTS) manufactured housing and HUD full enforcing all of the aspects of the Manufactured Housing Improvement Act (MHIA) of 2000, including, but not limited to, the “enhanced preemption” provisions noted above.
The COVID19 pandemic is just one more example of what high profile public officials across the left-right spectrum have called a ‘rigged system.’ They offer different solutions to that ‘rigged system.’ But until existing laws are fully and properly enforced, is there any reason to think that the deceptively dishonest system will change?
By deep pockets funding both sides of several battles, everyone is kept busy, but little progress is made.
This bears public authorities to investigate and prosecute for violations where they are found formally, thoroughly and objectively. Otherwise, there is no reason to believe that things will change, save that billionaires who have ‘rigged the system’ will likely continue to get richer and more powerful.
There is a war on, Warren Buffett said so. There are people in China and America that have arguably attacked the American way of life. These are issues worthy of debate.
That’s a wrap on this installment of manufactured housing industry “News, Tips and Views Pros Can Use” © where “We Provide, You Decide.” © ## (Affordable housing, manufactured homes, reports, fact-checks, analysis, and commentary. Third-party images or content are provided under fair use guidelines for media.) (See Related Reports, further below. Text/image boxes often are hot-linked to other reports that can be access by clicking on them.)
By L.A. “Tony” Kovach – for MHLivingNews.com.
Tony earned a journalism scholarship and earned numerous awards in history and in manufactured housing. For example, he earned the prestigious Lottinville Award in history from the University of Oklahoma, where he studied history and business management. He’s a managing member and co-founder of LifeStyle Factory Homes, LLC, the parent company to MHProNews, and MHLivingNews.com. This article reflects the LLC’s and/or the writer’s position, and may or may not reflect the views of sponsors or supporters.
Connect on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/latonykovach
The text/image boxes below are linked to other reports, which can be accessed by clicking on them.