"Expanding the Use of Eminent Domain by the Federal Government."
September 20, 2006
River Cities' Reader
Like an opportunistic politician, President George W. Bush in June celebrated the one-year anniversary of the now-infamous Supreme Court eminent-domain case known as Kelo v. New London by issuing an executive order called "Protecting the Property Rights of the American People."
Protecting the property rights of whom? The fact that no one in the property-rights movement had any idea it was coming or, for that matter, requested it, should be cause for suspicion. After reading it, suspicion is confirmed.
Although in speeches before the nation, President Bush espouses private property as one of the necessary tenets for democracy in the Middle East and around the world, his actions here at home are quite different. He continues to advocate for and allow its destruction in America.
Knowing his conservative property-owner base was wavering, Bush's political handlers seized an opportunity to make them feel good by issuing a nonsense executive order supposed to manipulate the masses into believing he disavows Kelo and supports private property.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Like so many states now addressing the Supreme Court decision through legislation, Bush appears to be condemning eminent domain, but in reality, he's condoning its use by incorporating many of the current abuses and then expanding the governmental fiat.
Section 3 of the executive order sets out specific exclusions or purposes under which private property can be taken by the federal government. They include "Public ownership or exclusive use of the property by the public, such as for a public ... roadway, park, forest, governmental office building, or military reservation; (b) projects designated for public, common carrier, public transportation, or public utility use, including those for which a fee is assessed; (c) conveying the property to a nongovernmental entity; (d) preventing or mitigating a harmful use of land that constitutes a threat to public health, safety, or the environment."
To translate, the executive order specifically states that eminent domain can be used for: building toll roads such as the NAFTA Superhighway, a project in which a foreign corporation will construct a multi-lane highway through the middle of our nation and collect toll fees for 50 years, with the Texas portion called the Trans Texas Corridor set to start construction in 2007; expanding wilderness areas disguised as parks and forests; establishing environmental buffer zones used to expand boundaries around forts and take more private land; mitigating or paying extortion to the government for developing your own land because they say it harms endangered species; and conveying all the above to the Nature Conservancies of the world for "environmental" purposes.
It doesn't sound like President Bush intends to protect American citizens' property; rather, he's building an empire by expanding the federal government's power and landmass.
The Fifth Amendment to our Constitution lists none of the above purposes for taking private property. In fact, the executive order encourages the expansion of powers of the government while diminishing the rights of the individual. Our Constitution was specifically created to protect the rights of the individual by limiting the powers of the government.
This executive order uses cleverly twisted words to make it appear as though it is protecting the private property of all Americans. But, in reality, it is supporting every conceivable rationale for condemnation that can be used by the government to take private property from the individual and hold it in trust for every American - hence, "Protecting the Property Rights of the American People."
The executive order should have been called "Expanding the Use of Eminent Domain by the Federal Government." It is a slick political maneuver to make the masses think the government is here to help us, while all along this executive order is meant to provide cover to those federal agencies, bureaucrats, and nongovernmental organizations all going about their business of taking more private land out of private hands.
One mother recently called asking for help. She is faced with losing her home through condemnation to an expanding park. The day she called, she had just spoken to her son, who had completed his first day on patrol in Iraq wearing a bulletproof vest. His question to her was whether he would have a home to return to when he completes his duty fighting for his country.
Maybe history will repeat itself. The Bush property-rights doctrine expressed in this executive order, which condones seizing our property for nearly any purpose, might prove to be the last straw that ignites a second revolution against a tyrannical and all-powerful government similar to what happened 230 years ago against King George III.
It will take courageous people who recognize truth from rhetoric and are willing to challenge this expansion of power - power taken from every person in America.
How proud Adams, Franklin, Jefferson, Madison, Washington, and our other Founding Fathers must be of our 43rd president.
Dan Byfield is president of the American Land Foundation, a not-for-profit organization based in Texas that helps landowners protect their private-property rights.
© 2006 River Cities' Reader: