One of the many, many areas where Donald Trump diverges from conservative thought and shows his roots and inclination as a doctrinaire northeast liberal Republicrat is in his love for eminent domain. On Sunday, in an interview by George Stephanopoulos on ABC News’s This Week, this is what Trump said about eminent domain.
STEPHANOPOULOS: A lot of conservatives skeptical of you. They look at the kilo decision, say you support taking private property away, giving it to real estate developers. They’re worried about that.
TRUMP: Let me tell you about that decision, you’re talking about eminent domain. Without that, you wouldn’t have roads. We wouldn’t have been able to get here this morning. You wouldn’t have roads, you wouldn’t have highways, you wouldn’t have schools, you wouldn’t have hospitals, you wouldn’t have anything.
You have to use eminent domain.
The pipeline, the Keystone Pipeline, they have pages devoted to eminent domain.
Now every conservative, and I’m a conservative, every conservative wants the Keystone Pipeline, would you say, essentially. The Keystone Pipeline cannot be built without eminent domain. That’s what you’re talking about.
Without eminent domain, you wouldn’t have 25 feet of the Keystone Pipeline.
Eminent domain, you need eminent domain. I’m not in love with it, but you need it. You wouldn’t have roads, you wouldn’t have anything without eminent domain.
So, when people criticize me on that, and once people understand what it is. A lot of people say, oh, eminent domain, they don’t know what it is. But without that power, you wouldn’t have the kind of things that you need to survive as a society and as a country.
Here Trump shows that he is either totally unaware of what eminent domain entails or he’s a duplicitous f*** who thinks you are stupid.
There is no argument at all about eminent domain. The existence of this privilege of the state to take private property under limited circumstances was assumed with the ratification of the Constitution because the Fifth Amendment provides that:
nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
The conservative objection comes in when you talk about private real estate interests entering into an alliance with a governmental entity to take private property for private use in the hope that some macro-benefit will accrue to everyone. This is the essence of Kelo vs. City of New London, where the Supreme Court decided that the City of New London could evict current homeowners and take their property for redevelopment in hopes of attracting more affluent residents. As Chief Justice Rehnquist said in his 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.
And, as anyone could have predicted, the redevelopment succeeded beyond all expectations. This is what it looks like today:
Trump is not only in favor of eminent domain for building schools, roads, etc. He is in favor of using his clout with elected officials to take your property for a fraction of its value so Trump can turn a dime. Back in 1994, Trump entered into a deal with Bridgeport, CT, to condemn land containing several businesses under eminent domain and then convey that property for Trump to develop. And there is the celebrated case covered by National Review:
Donald Trump’s covetous nature is not in dispute, but what many may forget is that he’s no great respecter of the admonition not to steal, either: The man has a track record of using the government as a hired thug to take other people’s property.
A decade and a half ago, it was fresh on everyone’s mind that Donald Trump is one of the leading users of this form of state-sanctioned thievery. It was all over the news. In perhaps the most-remembered example, John Stossel got the toupéed one to sputter about how, if he wasn’t allowed to steal an elderly widow’s house to expand an Atlantic City casino, the government would get less tax money, and seniors like her would get less “this and that.”
…The woman, Vera Coking, had owned property near the Trump Plaza Hotel for three decades, and didn’t want to move. Trump thought the land was better suited for use as a park, a parking lot, and a waiting area for limousines. He tried to negotiate, at one point offering Coking $1 million for the land. But she wasn’t budging. So New Jersey’s Casino Reinvestment Development Authority filed a lawsuit, instructing Coking to leave within 90 days and offering compensation of only $251,000.
As Trump said about Kelo:
“I happen to agree with it 100 percent,” he told Fox News’s Neil Cavuto of the Kelo decision.
What Trump is advocating is not eminent domain. He’s advocating the worst sort of crony capitalism, the Third World type of capitalism, where the powerful get what they want and the rest of us get nothing.