The U.S. Supreme Court ruled yesterday that the property you saved up for, mortgaged 15 - 30 years of your life on, invested in, raised your family in, built an emotional attachment to, and built a lifetime of memories in...is your property so long as a wealthy developer doesn't want it. At that point, you're screwed.
See, the city of New London, CT, had a neighborhood of residents that had the unmitigated gall to want to keep their homes for many of the aforementioned reasons you keep your homes. Most of these homes were Victorian era, and many had been homes handed down to generations as far back as 100 years. Well, some wealthy developer came in and wanted to turn it into commercial property. A handful of homeowners held out, not for bigger buyouts...but to actually keep living in their homes. The developer asked the city to eminent domain these homes. "How can we do that?" asked the city. "That pesky Constitution thingee says it needs to be for public use only!"
Well, with creative word parsing that would make Bill Clinton and liberal judicial activists proud, the developer had an idea that will forever shape property rights in this country. "Well, indirectly, this IS for public use! Granted, you're seizing private property from one owner and transferring the property to another private owner, BUT since I'm going to make it into property that will create jobs and generate more property taxes than those peons who live there, then the jobs and extra tax revenue WILL be a public benefit!"
Anybody other than me think that the Fifth Amendment's "public use" provision wasn't exactly talking about an office park? The Fifth Amendment to our Constitution restricts
) the government's right of eminent domain. The right of eminent domain was assumed as a basic part of English Common Law. The Fifth Amendment merely said that government could not exercise this right for a public use without paying for it: "nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation."
For hundreds of years the term "public use" was interpreted to mean use for something like a school, library, police or fire station, power transmission lines, roads, bridges or some other facility owned and operated by government for the benefit of the general population. As politicians became more and more impressed with their own power they started to expand this definition of public use.
Anyway, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that New London was well within its right to confiscate private property and turn it over to a private individual. Not surprisingly, the four liberals on the Court (Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, Breyer) ruled for excess and unbridled government power and scored yet another blow in the battle against individualism. However, the sometimes-liberal-sometimes-not-as-liberal Justice Kennedy (no doubt inspired by international law and Canadian opinion, I'm sure) sided with the libs. Stevens basically said that the "good of the community" could be considered when stealing property from less influential homeowners. Funny...that argument is made every day in Cuba, China, North Korea, etc. Oh, the company we now keep. Anyway, O'Connor said in her stinging dissent that this decision renders virtually all private property vulnerable to government confiscation.
To be fair, I acknowledge two points: (1) this is not always a Democrat-Republican thing, since land grabs have happened in places such as Alabaster, AL, that are run by Republicans who basically are looking for vote-buying dollars on the local level; and (2) many libs I spoke to yesterday were rightly outraged because they own homes, too, and realize that with the USSC's green light yesterday, they own their house only
as long as their local governments (and now the local business community) say they do.
However, what few defenders I've seen thus far definitely have tilted way
left! That doesn't mean they typify liberal opinion...only that the first impression is that what few people support this are more likely to be liberal than not.
Finally, the message is also that influence-peddling knows no party or ideology, and that the less well-to-do are much more likely to be screwed by this ruling. After all, a man with a million dollar home has enough clout to get the city council or county commission to back away from his palace. An elderly couple in their 80's don't have the resources to buy such influence or to fight such an infraction. They celebrated their wedding in that home. They raised their children in that home. They held their 50th wedding anniversary party in that home.
One of the many things that always separated this country from any other is the idea that your property is yours, and there can't be any Mugabe-like attempts by the government to take it away
. So much for that
freedom! Well, there is some good news: I just saved a bunch of money on my car insurance by switching to...oh, wait, that's not what I meant!
Oh, yeah...now I remember! There are eight states in the nation where the use of eminent domain for private development
is all but prohibited by law. Those states are Washington, Montana, Illinois, Kentucky, Arkansas, Maine, South Carolina and (thank God for my situation) Florida. That's four red states and three blue ones, proof that private property rights are generally
respected by all Americans.
I'm swamped at work today, so I'll post more about this and other topics later. But needless to say, I'm seething with rage and anger right now over this!