You may remember Kelo v. City of New London, the abysmal decision in which Justices Stevens, Souter, Kennedy, Ginsburg, and Breyer decided that the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment permitted the City of New London, Connecticut to condemn private property so that it could hand it over to private developers, on the theory that the private developers would develop things that would provide jobs and tax base and rainbows and unicorns, and New London would become like unto Shangri-La. The five justices' reasoning, to use the term generously, was that though the government cannot take property from citizens to benefit some private party, it may do so for any purported public purpose. That means your state and local government can take your property if it can come up with any half-assed scheme that meets the rational basis test, a low bar indeed.
The majority in Kelo waxed rhapsodic about New London's plan:
Those who govern the City were not confronted with the need to remove blight in the Fort Trumbull area, but their determination that the area was sufficiently distressed to justify a program of economic rejuvenation is entitled to our deference. The City has carefully formulated an economic development plan that it believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community, including–but by no means limited to–new jobs and increased tax revenue. As with other exercises in urban planning and development, the City is endeavoring to coordinate a variety of commercial, residential, and recreational uses of land, with the hope that they will form a whole greater than the sum of its parts.
Wow! That sounds great! So New London must be thriving now that SCOTUS shut down those whiny property owners and approved condemnation of their property, right?
Now, four years after that decision gave Susette Kelo's land to private developers for a project including a hotel and offices intended to enhance Pfizer Inc.'s nearby corporate facility, the pharmaceutical giant has announced it will close its research and development headquarters in New London, Connecticut.
The aftermath of Kelo is the latest example of the futility of using eminent domain as corporate welfare. While Ms. Kelo and her neighbors lost their homes, the city and the state spent some $78 million to bulldoze private property for high-end condos and other "desirable" elements. Instead, the wrecked and condemned neighborhood still stands vacant, without any of the touted tax benefits or job creation.
In other words, state and local government forced American citizens out of their homes so to help a ginormous corporation, hoping that the corporation would drop some crumbs to the locals, and even plowed $78 million in taxpayer money into a big heap of dirt, and was left with nothing.
This was completely unforeseeable. Unless, of course, you have any familiarity whatsoever with economic fluctuations, real estate markets, or state and local government — not to mention the sort of dimwitted sacks of protoplasm who tend to staff state and local government.
I avoid eliminationist rhetoric. I try to eschew overheated threats. But let me say this: the New London politicians who countenanced this face ought to end it twitching at the end of a rope.
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