Contrary to his public image, we now know that militant free market capitalist Sean Hannity is in fact a big government socialist. The Trump propagandist, who spends every waking moment of his life trying to dismantle socialism for anyone not a millionaire or giant corporation has amassed significant amounts of wealth by leeching off taxpayers who have unwittingly helped to protect his real estate investments over the years. Reported the Guardian this week:
Hannity, 56, also amassed part of his property collection with support from the US Department for Housing and Urban Development (Hud), a fact he did not disclose when praising Ben Carson, the Hud secretary, on his television show last year…
The real estate holdings linked to Hannity are spread across more than 20 shell companies formed in Georgia. Each of the companies uses a variant of the same name, which combines the initials of Hannity’s children. Public records show the companies have bought up dozens of properties in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, New York, North Carolina, Texas and Vermont.
Among the most valuable are two large apartment complexes in Georgia that Hannity bought in 2014 for $22.7m. The developments are in the cities of Perry and Brunswick, which have higher poverty rates and lower median incomes than the US averages. One- and two-bedroom units in Hannity’s apartment complexes are available to rent for $735 to $1,065 per month, according to brochures.
While the media has been focusing on Hannity’s failure to disclose the fact that he took the money before hosting Hud secretary Ben Carson on his show, Hannity’s reliance on tax payer’s money to fund his real estate ambitions is the bigger story here.
According to the Guardian the Georgia properties were funded with mortgages obtained with help from the Department of Housing and Urban Development which insured the loans worth $17.9m as part of the National Housing Act. The Hud and programs associated with it have come under Republican attack for decades and derided as liberal “social engineering“, but when there is a profit to be made, conservatives don’t appear to have any qualms about taking advantage of free government money.
The Hud program Hannity took advantage of is designed to protect investors who buy rental apartment buildings. The government (read: taxpayer) promises to cover any losses incurred if borrowers default on their loans. Hannity would have had to have paid an insurance premium, but benefited from a bigger loan guarantees given the houses were for low-income families. In other words, real estate investors were promised the same benefits big banks got after the crash in 2008 — make money whether your investments collapse or not, all at the expense of the tax payer.
Of course conservatives like Sean Hannity don’t view this as socialism, because by definition, rich people cannot be socialists, even if they run to the government for bailouts and protection from the free market. It is the perfect ruse — lecture those who genuinely need government assistance to survive, attack anyone advocating “socialism”, then quietly go to the government for huge loan guarantees so that you can increase your multimillion dollar real estate portfolio. What could be more conservative than that?
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.