Paul Jacob

It's like a bad dream, or a summer disaster movie. But this is real. We live under a regime that can and often does grab our homes and small businesses to create what politicians call "economic development." The process is simple: the government takes our property, pays us what it thinks the property's worth, and then hands our property ? in finely crafted "sweetheart deals" ? to developers and big corporations that will produce greater tax revenue.

The big government majority on the U.S. Supreme Court ? Stevens, Breyer, Souter, Ginsberg and Kennedy ? just gave eminent domain abuse the thumbs up in the case of Kelo et al, v. City of New London et al. The politicians of New London, Connecticut, sought to take Ms. Suzette Kelo's home, along with many others, to facilitate the building of a private retail and residential complex that would house a big research facility for Pfizer, a pharmaceutical company.

"The City has carefully formulated an economic development plan that it believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community," Justice John Paul Stevens wrote for the majority, "including ? but by no means limited to ? new jobs and increased tax revenue." [Emphasis added.]

Castle or Revenue Stream?
But what is the implication of the Kelo ruling? What message does it send to the financial wizards running local governments nationwide, slickers who have flocked to such schemes, sacrificing small businesses and the homes of poor and middle-class citizens for more tax revenue?

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor makes it very clear in her dissent: "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."

This is not an isolated case of politicians winning and the people losing in one small town in Connecticut. This is happening all across the nation. Local officials looking to boost their tax take through eminent domain like a vampire looks for fresh neck arteries.

Today, no homeowner is safe anywhere in America, because homes don't produce as many jobs or pay as much in taxes as businesses do.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.