Our Latin isn’t good enough to translate the age-old phrase Habemus Papam, from the papal to the presidential context, but we sure do have one – a new President, that is. Poor guy. There he was, big as life, deploying his evident intelligence and rhetorical talents to kick poor ol’ John McCain’s butt, when — Boom! — the financial world came apart, and is continuing to do so, with the Dow Jones dropping by threehundred-something points, even as the new kid was being sworn in. We wonder if there wasn’t a moment during which Barack Obama flirted with the idea of calling McCain and asking him to take the presidency off his hands, before the presidential gold coach turned into a plain ol’ pumpkin.
Once the cheering stops and the inaugural balls are over it’s time to face reality, dismal as it may appear to be. This is true to some extent in all presidential successions, but this time it’s different. The problem is that, as it becomes more and more apparent, the last few decades in America have involved a great, big party with no adult supervision. Money was flowing like borscht, the livin’ was high, and the trendy suburban mansion had many rooms, to say nothing of a whopping mortgage. No one seemed overly concerned with the idea that if you borrow money, sooner or later you have to pay it back. Well, folks, it’s now “later,” and it’s time for some grownups to step in, tell the partying kids to cut it out, to clean up the empty beer cans, and to get ready to go to work next morning — assuming they still have a job to go to.
So what does all that have to do with eminent domain? Good question. For openers, we still don’t know what President Obama’s views are regarding eminent domain. Is he a Kelo fan? A critic? Or does he even think about it in the press of other presidential business that threatens to engulf his administration? This is important stuff because as sure as God made little green apples, one component of the government’s effort to stimulate the economy will be an increased level of construction of public works, and that requires land acquisition, usually by eminent domain. The House Appropriations Committee estimates expenditures on the order of $825 billion to be spent largely on roads, highways, harbors and airports, as well as school buildings and sewage treatment plants.
During the election campaign, we tried to ascertain candidate Obama’s view on the subject of eminent domain abuse, with a singular lack of success. The available information – if that is what it was – only showed the familiar, vague, maybe-this-and-maybe-that, something-for-everybody response one has come to expect from politicians. See our post, Where Does Obama Stand on the Misuse of Eminent Domain?, July 20, 2008.
What now? Stay tuned.
UPDATE. It didn’t take long to get a glimpse of what’s in store for us. The Los Angeles Times reports (Evan Halper and Richard Simon, Economic Stimulus Package Has a Potential Windfall for California Government, L.A. Times, Jan. 23, 2009) that when the feds pony up the $11 billion they plan to give California for “healthcare and education,” that money will actually disappear into the Sacramento black hole a.k.a. the dreaded $40 billion state budget deficit, covering only about a quarter of it. So much for healthcare, education and fiscal responsibility in state governance.