We all know by now that Elizabeth Warren is a champion for the little guy and wants big business and big money to stop trampling on hard working Americans. She tells us this on a nearly daily basis, so it must be true. And yet she’s chosen to join with two other Democratic senators in a rather ominous sounding investigation of Airbnb, one of the next generation tools which allows those same working class people to increase their income in a challenging job market. (Rare)
The three Democrats — Brian Schatz of Hawaii, Dianne Feinstein of California and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts — allege that Airbnb does not do enough to discourage commercial operators who put up multiple homes for rent. This supposedly allows them to operate illegal hotels and discourages affordable housing…
Airbnb released a statement defending the platform as enabling middle-income homeowners to earn extra money. “The vast majority of our hosts in Massachusetts, California, Hawaii and across the county are middle class people who depend on home sharing as a way to address economic inequality. According to a study conducted by former National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling, the typical Airbnb host makes approximately $7,530 by sharing their home 66 days per year,” the Airbnb spokesman said, according to The Hill.
This must be an embarassing episode for Warren because the senators note in their own letter precisely how good Airbnb is for average, working Americans. Here’s how they explain that:
On one hand, these firms have sparked innovation, increased competition, and have provided new means by which our constituents can earn extra income. On the other hand, we are concerned that short-term rentals may be exacerbating housing shortages and driving up the cost of housing in our communities. We have also read troubling reports of racial discrimination on some short-term rental platforms.
None of these excuses hold water under even cursory examination. How does the use of existing, occupied housing for short term rentals put pressure on housing availability or drive up prices beyond where they would be today anyway? If some of the people engaging in the service own more than one home, what of it? Even if they work in the real estate industry, these are still single homes and apartments being shared for a small fee. They aren’t replacing or driving out low income housing because Airbnb doesn’t involve the construction of new properties. And if there are allegations of racial bias in rentals, the individual users are the ones to be investigated, not Airbnb as a whole.
So why would Warren be going after the service? Let’s just say that one of the Democrats’ biggest Super PACs is probably involved. When New York recently made similar moves to crush Airbnb, I talked about the notable fact that the Hotel Trades Council was, shall we say, rather heavily involved with Democrats.
The full, proper name for the organization is the New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council, AFL-CIO. I wonder what sort of vested interest they have in wiping out the Airbnb business model? More to the point, why would politicians care what they want? As usual, all we really need to do is follow the money. Who did this group donate the most to? According to Open Secrets, their biggest beneficiary was (wait for it) … the New York State Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee. It’s a real mystery how Ms. Rosenthal, a Democratic member of the State Assembly, could have gotten onboard with the same effort, eh? We should call in Sherlock Holmes to suss this one out.
The bill now goes to the desk of Governor Andrew Cuomo. Perhaps he’ll show some common sense and break out the old veto pen. Then again, perhaps not. Who else was on the top five list of recipients of the largess of the New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council? A mysterious group listed only as… Cuomo 2018. But I’m sure that won’t affect his decision at all.
That case is specific to New York, but it applies around most of the country. The unions supporting hotel owners and workers hate Airbnb with a passion because they don’t care to see any competition move in on their highly lucrative turf. And they donate a lot of money to the Democrats so Warren and her friends will apparently need to dance to their tune. Still, it paints a very unpleasant picture of the potential Democratic VP pick since she’s made her name by being a supposed champion of the working class.