In the days of the
old Republic, Americans lived secure in their homes safe in
the knowledge that the fundamental responsibility
of government was to protect their lives and property from anyone
who threatened them – no matter how rich, powerful or well-connected.
If a widow didn’t want to sell her home to a developer,
she didn’t have to.
That was the end of the matter, unless the developer sent in
thugs to beat her up. And government was there to protect her
from the thugs.
McClintock is an expert on matters of the State
budget and fiscal discipline. He is a Senator in
the California State Legislature and ran for Governor
in the 2003 recall election. His valuable website
is found at www.tommclintock.com [McClintock index]
Under the Kelo decision
of the U.S. Supreme Court, government has become the thug.
Americans’ property rights have been
eroded for many years, but Kelo represented the final collapse.
It is now entirely permissible for government to seize the home
of one person for pennies on the dollar to give it to another – not
for some vital over-arching public necessity, but simply because
the new owner can pay more taxes than the old.
The decision completes
the transition from the old America of individual rights to
a collectivist society where government
apportions property from those it doesn’t like to those
it does. Stripped of all its sophistries and euphemisms, that
is the underlying principle that has replaced the property protections
in the Bill of Rights.
It now falls to the
states to restore to their own citizens the fundamental right
to property that the federal government
has rescinded. In California, an amendment to the state constitution – SCA
15 – has been introduced in the state legislature with
the bipartisan support of 45 Senate and Assembly co-authors.
It restores the original property protections of the Bill of
Rights, and specifically prohibits the seizure of one person’s
property for the private gain of another.
The measure is opposed
by the “California Redevelopment
Association,” a group of local officials who are responsible
for an epidemic of abusive property seizures across California.
In Yolo County, for example, the Board of Supervisors has combined
with the Rumsey Indian tribe to seize 17,000 acres of private
land to be divvied up between the county and the tribe.
They argue additional
protections are unnecessary because California law already
requires that a property must be “blighted” before
government can seize it. But “blight” is so broadly
defined as to apply to any neighborhood in California.
Ask Mohammed Mohanna,
who came to America from Iran 35 years ago seeking the promise
of a free life in a free land. He became
a flag-waving American who has spent three decades purchasing
and remodeling small storefronts in downtown Sacramento with
the aim of ultimately consolidating them into a gleaming new
commercial complex. Recently a politically connected tycoon decided
upon the same goal – but rather than going to the trouble
of finding willing sellers the way Mr. Mohanna has done, he is
using his political influence to seize Mohanna’s painstakingly
assembled holdings instead.
Mohanna’s story is a common one. Governments today have
the power to take the property of ordinary citizens to give to
the rich and powerful – and are using that power. And thanks
to the Supreme Court, the Bill of Rights no longer stands in
SCA 15 still allows redevelopment officials to seize private
property for a genuine public use such as a road or a school
or a park.
It even allows them
to acquire private property to give to a Walmart or a developer.
The only difference is, in that case,
they’re no longer allowed to use a gun. They have to do
it the old-fashioned way, by negotiating a mutually agreeable
price without making threats.
What can you do? Start
by calling your local senator and assemblyman and find out
if they are co-sponsors of SCA 15, and then let
your friends and neighbors know. Because you can be sure of this:
any public official who has no moral compunction of stealing
your neighbor’s home or shop is also perfectly willing
to steal yours. CRO