[Trump:] I think eminent domain is wonderful, if you’re building a highway, and you need to build, as an example, a highway, and you’re going to be blocked by a holdout, or, in some cases, it’s a holdout—just so you understand, nobody knows this better than I do, because I built a lot of buildings in Manhattan, and you’ll have 12 sites and you’ll get 11 and you’ll have the one holdout and you end up building around them and everything else, okay? So, I know it better than anybody. I think eminent domain for massive projects, for instance, you’re going to create thousands of jobs, and you have somebody that’s in the way, and you pay that person far more—don’t forget, eminent domain, they get a lot of money, and you need a house in a certain location, because you’re going to build this massive development that’s going to employ thousands of people, or you’re going to build a factory, that without this little house, you can’t build the factory—I think eminent domain is fine…
Baier: Bernie Sanders, when the decision came out, he said, he spoke out against the Kelo case, he said, “The result of this decision will be that working families and poor people will see their property turned over to corporate interests and wealthy developers.”
Trump: It’s not right! It’s not right. Look, they get, the money—you know the way they talk, people would say “Oh, it’s turned over.” It’s turned over for four or five, six, 10 times sometimes what it’s worth! People pay them a fortune. But sometimes you have people that want to hold out just for the—most of the time, I will say, I’ve done a lot of outparcels, I call them outparcels. Most of the time, they just want money, okay? It’s very rarely that they say “I love my house. I love my house. It’s the greatest thing ever.” Because these people can go buy a house now that’s five times bigger, in a better location. So eminent domain, when it comes to jobs, roads, the public good, I think it’s a wonderful thing, I’ll be honest with you. And remember, you’re not taking property, you know, the way you asked the question, the way other people—you’re paying a fortune for that property. Those people can move two blocks away into a much nicer house.
The trouble for Trump is that ever since the Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that the city of New London could turn over private property to another private company in support of economic development, the Republican right has considered eminent domain heretical. And true to form, Trump’s conservative critics pounced on his comments.
The conflict over eminent domain is yet another challenge to Trump’s shaky alliance with the GOP grassroots, which is far more libertarian than the business-friendly wing that has an increasingly tenuous hold on the party’s leadership in Washington. Trump has sounded populist notes by railing against “hedge fund guys” and the GOP donor class, but just like the tax plan he released last month, his support for eminent domain is another reminder that he’s no enemy of corporate power.
“At least there’s a crucial issue that Trump hasn’t flip-flopped on,” said Doug Sachtleben, spokesman for the Club for Growth, the conservative group Trump has been warring with for months. “Trump hasn’t wavered in his support of the terrible Kelo decision, and he still applauds the idea of developers getting rich while private property owners are forced out of their homes and businesses. It’s just continued proof that Trump is not a conservative.”
i mean pick one or the other pic.twitter.com/0Jd2yIwyB3
— andy levy (@andylevy) October 6, 2015
The traditional use of eminent domain was that property could be seized if it were for a clear public use. That was generally understood to mean that it was required for the defense of the nation or to create a public work such as a dam that would provide something of inestimable value for an entire community or region. But the Kelo decision expanded that still troublesome if understandable application of government power to something far less defensible. In Kelo, Pfizer was allowed to destroy a perfectly good neighborhood merely in order to make it easier for them to make money and expand the tax base of a municipality. Instead of a working class area, the city wanted an upscale resort and conference center that would make Pfizer more comfortable investing in the area. And if some people who loved their homes didn’t like it, it was just too bad about them…
The problems with such an approach are obvious. The Constitution’s prime purpose was to provide a framework whereby individual liberty would be defended from the caprices of politicians and special interests. The Fifth Amendment’s “takings” clause allows government to seize property with just compensation but only when it is for “public use.” But when the term “public use” is expanded to allow it to mean that government can pick favorites in a property dispute between the powerful and the weak then the safeguards established by the Founders are rendered meaningless. The Kelo decision was significant precisely because it allowed government to seize property without a compelling public purpose beyond the business interests of a corporation and the desire of politicians to expand their revenue base. Kelo essentially trashed property rights and individual liberty and prompted a backlash in which many states correctly passed laws to ensure that such outrages would not be repeated. It is to be expected that liberals would defend eminent domain, but when someone pretending to be a conservative for the purpose of running for president does so, genuine conservatives should be up in arms…
For all of his big talk about “making America great again,” that’s the kind of transaction that Donald Trump believes in. Individual rights are for the “losers” and the “little people” he disdains as he publicly counts his wealth in order to buttress his fragile self-worth and to impress foolish voters.
It is true that victims of eminent domain get compensated by the government. But Trump’s claim that they get “a fortune” and can then “go buy a house now that’s five times bigger, in a better location” is, in the vast majority of cases, simply false. If it were true, people would be happy to have their homes condemned. It also isn’t true that victims of takings can usually just “move two blocks away into a much nicer house.” Since World War II, urban renewal takings and other condemnations for private development have forcibly displaced hundreds of thousands of people, most of whom were left far worse off than they were before.
In reality, owners of condemned property often don’t even get the “fair market value” that the government is required to pay them by law. And fair market value compensation (essentially, the price the property would bring if sold on the open market), itself often systematically undercompensates property owners, because it fails to account for the “subjective value” that many owners attach to their land. Homeowners, renters, and small business people often value their land above its market price because they benefit from the social ties, business connections, and other intangible advantages of living in a particular area. If they really did value the property at only its market price or less, they would likely have sold it long before Trump or some other developer lobbied the government to condemn it. For this reason, numerous economists and legal scholars across the political spectrum have argued that compensation for takings should be increased above market value. Some states have adopted this reform, but most so far have not.
Trump is also wrong to suggest that the use of eminent domain for private projects typically results in “massive development that’s going to employ thousands of people.” In reality, these projects are often pushed through on the basis of grossly inflated estimates of the economic benefits, which then fail to materialize. In the notorious condemnation project upheld by the Supreme Court in the famous case Kelo v. City of New London (2005), the only “development” on the condemned property so far consists of improvised shelters for the feral cats who have settled on the land.
“This guy’s a bully,” says David Boaz, executive vice president of the Cato Institute, a libertarian-leaning think tank in Washington, D.C. “Using the power of government to take a widow’s property is pretty much the definition of a bully.”
The widow in this story is Vera Coking. She had raised her family in a three-story house near the boardwalk in Atlantic City, N.J. Trump wanted the property to build a limousine parking lot for one of his casinos.
But Coking didn’t want to leave. “I didn’t want to sell because I was so close to the beach, and I love the place,” she told ABC’s 20/20.
Trump reportedly offered her $1 million. But Coking wouldn’t budge. So Trump’s allies at the state’s casino reinvestment authority tried to seize the property, pay her a fraction of what private developers had offered, and turn it over to Trump…
“Do you want to live in a city where you can’t build schools?” Trump asked. “Do you want to live in a city where you can’t build roads or highways?”
Charles Krauthammer observed the irony of this during the panel discussion that followed: Trump has politically positioned himself as a man of the people, yet he sides with big government and real estate developers over the little guy.
Hayes went on to note that “John Locke, the father of American political theory, believed there were three natural rights — life, liberty and property.”
My take: Inasmuch as American conservatism is about conserving these foundational rights, Trump’s record on life and property is demonstrably checkered (and I’m not so sure about his record on preserving individual liberty, either)…
[T]he GOP front runner continues to proudly stand in opposition to much of what constitutes modern American conservative philosophy. And it doesn’t seem to matter.
The conservative news media has always been somewhat conflicted over Mr. Trump, whose tax policies and positions on social issues do not entirely align with their causes. But for conservative commentators like Ann Coulter, who, like Mr. Trump, is focused almost entirely on stopping illegal immigration, the issue is not that Mr. Trump is losing the support of the conservative news media. It is that he never had unified support in this hugely influential space in the first place.
“I think he’s a schoolyard bully who does not reflect any of the values and principles that I see from Americans on both sides,” [Glenn] Beck said, expressing frustration that the anger Mr. Trump has tapped into is often associated with the Tea Party. “He’s not a Tea Party guy,” he said…
“The tide is turning in terms of sentiment, at least for Mr. Trump,” said Mohammad Hamid, co-founder and chief technology officer of the company. “Our data shows the bubble will burst. It’s just a matter of when.”
Trump laid out for the first time in detail the elements of what will be the second chapter of his 2016 bid, signaling an evolution toward a somewhat more traditional campaign. Trump is preparing his first television ads with a media firm that is new to politics. Melania, his wife, and Ivanka, his daughter, are planning public appearances highlighting women’s health issues to help close Trump’s empathy gap with female voters…
Trump, who is mostly self-funding his campaign, said he had originally budgeted up to $20 million through mid-September for television advertising. But so far, he has not spent anything to go on the airwaves since he is so often on them: “It’s been all Trump, all the time. . . . If you had an ad, people would O.D.”…
Central to the fall strategy is the release later this month of a book that will serve as a campaign manifesto. During the interview, Trump showed off the cover and title, “Crippled America,” and held up pages of the galleys, which he was editing by hand. “It’s actually the hardest I’ve worked on a book since ‘The Art of the Deal,’” he said, referring to his 1987 bestseller. “I don’t want to have a stupid statement in the book that people are going to say, ‘Hey, why did he say that?’ ”…
Asked if he had discussed an exit plan with Trump should the candidate slip in the polls, Lewandowski said he had not: “We’re going to the convention — that’s it. One delegate or 2,000 and change, we’re going to the convention, and there’s nobody who can get him out of the race.”