Do we really own our homes?
Weir Thinking About It
In light of the recent Supreme Court Kelo decision that allows municipalities to force property owners from their homes to make way for businesses that pay more tax revenue, it’s appropriate to ask, do we ever really own anything?
Think about it. We live in the land of the free and the home of the brave, but we also live under a system of capitalism where money trumps morality, ethics, and the right to be free from government oppression. We’ve all heard the maxim about death and taxes being the only things we can never escape.
With the latest advancements in science, one day we may be able to escape the former, but it’s a pretty good guess that the latter will remain for eternity. For most people, after paying a mortgage for 20 or 30 years, the thought of actually owning their home is exciting because it provides a feeling of security. They realize that they had been paying all those years for a piece of property that was owned by the bank, but at least they knew the bill would one day be paid.
The concept of ‘ownership’ was once thought to mean that you no longer have to pay for the item and no one can take it away from you. If that were true, then, after you celebrate getting the loan paid, you’d think the home was yours, free and clear. Nope! You still have to pay the monthly tax bill. If you don’t, the government will take it away and sell it to recoup any money owed. The property tax can never be paid off, consequently, you can never truly own the property.
Nevertheless, people have conditioned themselves to such an arrangement and prepare to live with it as part of the rules of organized society. In the past they could justify the tax burden because at least they could expect to continue living in that all—important symbol of the American dream. Not anymore!
In the never ending, rapacious quest for additional revenue, government has decided that we can’t even keep our homes after raising a family within its walls, accumulating a lifetime of memories in its comfortable embrace, paying off the mortgage and submitting to property taxes in perpetuity. At least not if Big Brother says they could make more money by evicting us, bulldozing our homes, and replacing them with higher—taxed shopping centers.
Government’s authority to condemn land for public use traditionally has been used to eliminate slums or build highways, schools and other public works. But last week’s 5—4 ruling found that local officials can use their “eminent domain” power to condemn homes in a working—class neighborhood for private development in hopes of boosting tax revenue and improving the local economy.
The decision centered around the city of New London, Connecticut, where pharmaceutical giant, Pfizer Corp. planned to build a $270 million global research facility. In order to do so, developers decided to fracture the lives of any and all homeowners who stood in their way and build related facilities.
Using monetary muscle, well connected developers cajoled the city into condemning the homes, proving once again that compassion won’t make it to the finish line as long as greed is in the race. The homeowners filed a suit that ended up in the high court, the last refuge for the powerless.
Their prayers were chewed up and spit out by 5 black robed plutocrats who could never begin to understand the plight of those whose lives were eviscerated by this decision. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, writing for the dissenting minority, said the court had overstepped its authority, allowing private property to be taken and used. The 5 justices who allowed the land grab have said, in essence, that it was done for a greater good.
When laws are made to benefit the wealthy, the whole system of law becomes suspect. Anything can be made legal if you find enough people without principles who are willing to fatten their bank accounts. The uprooted homeowners stood on principle, refusing to accept the so—called ‘fair market value’ for their homes. How can there be a fair market value on anything if the owner doesn’t want to sell? This high court decision puts a subjective value on every piece of property in America. If your city or town decides to evict you in order to build a restaurant on your property, you may as well start packing; the American dream just became a nightmare.
Public greed trumps private property.
Bob Weir is a former detective sergeant in the New York City Police Department. He is the editor of The News Connection in Highland Village, Texas. BobWeir777@aol.com