Trump touts his support for eminent domain
There has been a significant erosion of private property rights that predates the Obama administration and eminent domain is one of the major cultprits. The problem has accelerated over the last decade thanks to a Supreme Court decision in the matter of Kelo vs. New London, CT. In that case, the court ruled that eminent domain could be used to transfer private property from one private citizen to another. A group of homeowners whose property was being condemned by the city of New London to make way for a redvelopment scheme claimed that the use of eminent domain in this case violated the 5th and 14th. The high court disagreed and private property rights received a significant blow.
But Donald Trump doesn't see much wrong with that, and came out in favor of the practice at a rally yesterday.
With only eight days until voting, the Republican Party front-runner continued to back eminent domain -- the power of taking private land for public use -- before a crowd interspersed with locals from Pella and Oskaloosa as the two cities continue to push to build a regional airport by using the practice. Twice during the speech, Trump called the practice a "positive thing" while talking up the necessity of its use.
"I'm not in love with eminent domain, but eminent domain is a good thing. It's necessary," Trump said, adding later that "eminent domain is something that's a positive thing — not a negative thing. Yeah, sometimes cities will use it in order to do business."
"Let's say a person has a house or a person has a backyard and they're going to build a factory that's going to employ 5,000 people, and sometimes the city will use the power," Trump said. "And by the way, if you don't get that property, they're going to go to another city, and they're going to spend millions of dollars and they're going to build a factory there, they're going to employ 5,000 people — but not in your city. Eminent domain is a positive thing. It's got to be used judiciously."
"Without it, you wouldn't have any highways, you wouldn't have laws," Trump continued. "Did anyone know that that's how you build roads and thats how you build schools and that's how you build other things?"
Bob Owens, a 61-year-old resident of Pella, agreed partly with Trump's points, stating, "yeah, you've got to think about progress, and you've got to think about things that [Trump] was talking about. But when it gets to actual personal and talking about taking away your farm, then it gets to be a little bit of a different deal [who's against the airport.] We have a good airport. We have an airport that's functional. I just personally don't think there's a need for it."
Trump is using two different justifications to support eminent domain. Condemning someon'e property to build a road or a school is one thing. That clearly justifies the practice because the end result is for public use.
But what happens when a private contractor - a crony of a local politician - uses the practice of eminent domain to seize someone's land where the end result is to develop the land for personal profit? Does it matter that the development will create thousands of jobs, or pump significant income into a community? Many Americans would say "yes" - except for those whose property was in the gunsights of local government.
Clearly, eminent domain was intended by the founders to better the community as a whole. Whether that includes condemning property so that jobs and wealth are created while the principle of private property is eroded depends on your point of view.