Many Americans are perplexed that it was the liberals on the U.S. Supreme Court, and not the conservatives, who voted 5-4 to affirm Kelo v. City of New London. The decision allows local governments to seize homes and businesses and hand them over to private developers. It shouldn't surprise. Liberals, like their socialist friends, have never been too keen on private property rights. It has been Conservatives that have historically looked out for the rights of the property owner and the taxpayer.
Indeed the liberal majority on the U.S. Supreme Court is so determined to give government more authority over its citizenry and more power to tax that it is willing to sacrifice the rights of the small home and business owner.
In his majority opinion Justice Stevens wrote, "Because [New London Development Corporation's] plan unquestionably serves a public purpose, the takings challenged here satisfy the Fifth Amendment....Promoting economic development is a traditional and long accepted governmental function, and there is no principled way of distinguishing it from the other public purposes the Court has recognized." In other words, possible economic development and in particular increased tax revenues trump private property rights. Some wealthy guy wants to build his home where yours currently sits, kiss your house goodbye. Some fly-by-night corporation wants to put up a shopping mall on 40 acres of your family farm, better start packing.
In fact, fly-by-night corporations are fine, the Court held, when it rejected the defendants' argument that for takings of this kind the Court should require a "reasonable certainty" that the expected public benefits will actually accrue.
In her dissent Justice Sandra Day O'Connor showed incredible foresight when she wrote, "The specter of condemnation hangs over all property. Nothing is to prevent the state from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall, or any farm with a factory.....Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random. The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms....As for the victims, the government now has license to transfer property from those with fewer resources to those with more. The Founders cannot have intended this perverse result."
Joining O'Connor in her dissent were Rehnquist, Scalia and Thomas. Stevens was joined in the majority by Ginsburg, Breyer, Kennedy, and Souter.
Mike Cristofaro, a working class homeowner whose family has owned property in Fort Trumbull for more than 30 years, will be one of the first victims of the Court-sanctioned land grab. "I'm astonished the Court would permit the government to throw out my family from their home so that private developers can make more money," he said shortly after the decision was announced. Apparently Mr. Cristofaro was until now unfamiliar with the liberal philosophy.
Far from being a slum, the Fort Trumbull neighborhood in New London was made up of average working-class homes, many with fine ocean-front views. That was the problem. The government felt the property was too nice for working-class folks. The liberals on the Supreme Court agreed. "We're pleased," the attorney for the New London Development Corporation told the Associated Press.
From now on no one's property is safe. Once liberals stood for the rights of the working man. Yesterday's ruling proves that that was all a sham. It is big government that liberals stand for, and anything that gives government more power and authority is fair game.
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