Donald Trump

My Trump Problem

The good, the bad, and the ugly


Sometimes I like Donald Trump. He makes me laugh when he mocks reporters' stupid questions.

Sometimes he's smart. When Maryland's lefty governor said a tax on rich people would "raise revenue," Trump told me why it wouldn't. The taxpayers would just flee: "I know these people! They're international people! Whether they live here or in a place like Switzerland, it doesn't really matter to them!"

Perfect TV sound bite. And accurate. Maryland's tax on the rich brought in less revenue.

When Trump makes billions by giving people things they want in voluntary exchanges, via casinos or real estate or the chance to watch him "fire" people on TV shows, I applaud him. Free trade is mutually beneficial. Everybody wins.

That's why it's appalling when Trump calls trade agreements a "disaster" and says he'd "punish" Mexico with higher tariffs (tariffs really punish Americans).

And it's appalling when Trump uses connections with government to take things from others. I confronted him about that once.

In Atlantic City, an elderly woman named Vera Coking owned a home near Trump's casino. Trump wanted to take down her house so he could expand his casino parking lot.

People had offered to buy Vera's house, but she said no. In America, property rights mean you get to tell people, "You can't use my things without my permission."

But Trump wouldn't take no for an answer. He got some New Jersey politicians to grant him the right to take Vera's house. Politicians can do that under a law called "eminent domain." Trump recently called eminent domain "wonderful!"

Eminent domain can be wonderful if it's put to important public use, say, claiming land for highways, railroads or a pipeline. But Trump got New Jersey pols to use it so he'd have a better space for limousines to park.

Also, under eminent domain, the state is supposed to pay the property owner "just compensation." But Vera had turned down a million-dollar offer. Instead of raising the bid, Trump got politicians to force Vera to sell for even less.

Trump would have to pay just $251,000, a fourth what she'd been offered.

That made Trump a manipulative bully. So I told him that.

"In the old days, developers came in with thugs with clubs. Now you use lawyers!"

"Excuse me! Other people maybe use thugs today. I don't!" was Trump's angry answer. "For you to use the word 'bully,' John, is very unfair. … It's a pretty sick assumption, and I think it's pretty jaded for you to make it."

Vintage Trump.

He is right. I'm pretty jaded. Watching big shots violate people's property rights tends to do that.

Fortunately, after a long legal battle, an appeals court ruled that Trump could not take Vera's property. That worked best for everyone since it turned out that Trump didn't need a bigger parking lot. Trump and New Jersey pols hadn't predicted the future. His casino, like others in Atlantic City, went bankrupt.

Bankruptcy happens in business all the time, and only investors lose. But when business "partners" with government, innocent people get trampled.

Trump also tried to use his "get politicians to grab someone's land" scheme in Bridgeport, Connecticut, where he promised a "world-class" development that never happened.

This is "a powerful, politically influential person using his power to steal, essentially, somebody else's private property for his own private profit," says Tim Sandefur of the Pacific Legal Foundation.

But Trump said that his development might bring the city extra tax money, making it "public" use.

"By that logic," says Sandefur, "you can use the power of eminent domain to kick all poor people out of your city… The whole purpose of protections against eminent domain in our Constitution, in fact, the very purpose of a Constitution, is to protect people who don't have political influence and can't persuade politicians to do their bidding."

I wish Trump understood that.  He isn't the only one whose ego is huge. So is government's, always thinking it knows best.

Let property owners decide, not the bullies.


NEXT: Rand Paul Grows a Pair, Fear of Government Sparks Gun Purchases, Mizzou Student Arrested for Yik Yak Threat: A.M. Links

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  1. People keep flogging the Vera/Trump story, but lets be honest and “reason” here for a bit. No one owns real property in America anymore. Being a libertarian Im sure you know all about Allodial Title. There is no such thing anymore in the USA. Trump followed the laws of the land. Plain and simple. Was it right? Should laws be changed? Sure, sure. No prob with all of that. Just follow the laws and if people dont like it, change it.

    1. Or twist the meaning of words so things like “public use” start to mean “maybe someday higher tax revenues if things work out just right.”

      Hard to change a law when the spirit is already being violated by the very people they are designed to restrict.

    2. “Being a libertarian Im sure you know all about Allodial Title. There is no such thing anymore in the USA.”

      Untrue. There are states that admit of ownership in allodium. Nevada, for instance. I don’t recall any others, but my declarative memory tells me there’s at least one other. At the same time, I believe it may not hold up to constitutional review. Either way, it’s an outrage that the state is permitted to exist as sovereign property owner and the best a lowly peon can hope for is a favorable tenancy arrangement. Furthermore, it has no rational basis. The state can not acquire the power to own property if the citizens of that state do not have this power, as all powers of the state must derive ultimately from the people. What a fucking joke.

    3. If the eminent domain issue is your only problem with Trump Mr Stossel, I think you have found the IDEAL candidate to be president.

      I do wish Trump would tell Jeb Bush and John Kasich that there IS a very practical way to get the illegal immigrants to leave the country. All you have to do is fine any employer who has an illegal immigrant working for him $250,000 per illegal and the employer will fire that person and 75% of them will leave voluntarily. The remaining illegals are obviously the criminals among them.

      1. Remember “tranches” from the financial meltdown that “W” caused? The reason I disagree with Nick Gillespie et al when they use the straw man We-can’t-deport-12million argument is because we have another option:
        1st tranch: Felons. Gone.
        2nd tranch: misdemeanants. Violent ones gone; others get a few more strikes.
        3rd tranch: welfare recipients: Bye y’all
        4th tranch: Random. Yeah, folks, that’s our right as a sovereign nation. We’ll do 10% randomly just to remind you we’re a nation of laws, one of which (illegally crossing the border) you broke.
        5th tranch: I don’t know; have a referendum.
        Using these priorities, we deport 2 million and watch how the other 10 stay on their best behavior.
        Better than amnesty.
        And, sad to say, neither Reason nor Gillespie have the intellectual honesty to call what they’re pushing Amnesty.

    4. Just came back from a medieval interlude reading up on allodial title (thanks for the prod, dynamo4you) and have to say damn. Despite our revolution in the extraordinary 18th century, we Americans still essentially hold everyone’s real property “of the Crown”, except the Crown is now federal, state, and local governments.

  2. I can accept use of Eminent Domain for actual public use purposes (bridges, roads, schools), but if/when Govt uses ED to provide someone’s land to a developer I truly object and feel the Supreme Court made a massive misreading of our Constitution. However, as we must live within that mistake, then I feel the current owner should be treated as equally as the development buyer.
    For instance, if the city is changing the building or zoning codes to accommodate a new or changed environment for the developer, then this “increases the value” of the taken land. The “Owner should share in that IMPROVED value change” after all their years of taxes helped keep the city operating to that point in time, hence they’ve earned the right to participate in the increase when assessing the value they will receive! If the land being taken is a business or farm, then the owner should receive enough payment to reconstruct that income ability in a nearby location!
    Lastly, if the Developer fails to use the property to achieve the proposed city benefits, then the land should revert back to the original owner.

    1. I recall a case in which the state stole a tiny sliver of land from a business in order to widen the highway, what most folks consider a legitimate purpose. They gave him market value for that wee partial lot. As it was, however, this minuscule scrap of land was the fucking entry route into a truck repair business. Due to the lay of the land, there was no way to recover from its taking, no other way to make it possible for large trucks to enter and depart from the shop. Maybe they gave fair market value, but under the circumstances the taking of this sliver of land was equivalent to cancelling the entire business location.

    2. Why grant an exception to property rights for bridges, roads and schools? Schools ought to be a private business catering to parents. Bridges could easily be private projects with the bridge builder collecting the tolls. Roads might be tougher for a private owner to build and manage, but not impossible.

  3. “Eminent domain can be wonderful if it’s put to important public use, say, claiming land for highways, railroads or a pipeline.”

    Listen to you Stossel! Pipelines, because God knows those put-upon oil companies need land grabs sanctioned by the government in order to make even more money. So much for libertarian principles, eh?

    1. Actually, John Stossel has been one of the more consistently principled libertarians of recent times. He is also generally insightful in his observations.

      1. Well he failed on ED.

        1. No. No, he really didn’t. I think you just hate oil companies.

        2. Heheh…you failed with your ED!

      2. I agree with you and am a Yuuge Stossel fan. Which is why I saddened by today’s cheap shot. The Donald did not take the old lady’s land. The political goons he buys and sells — and who (except for Dr. Mumbles Carson) are running against him took her land.
        The Donald and I (and you) are entitled — and have fiduciary obligation if we head companies like The Donald does — to use every legal tax write-off, bankruptcy shelter and ED bludgeon at our disposal.
        So hey Stossel, blame the goons, don’t shoot the messenger.

        1. I don’t know but it seems to me that just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. By your logic, should some crazy circumstance make it ok, as far as the law is concerned, for someone like the Donald to shoot someone in the head to take land…it might be legal to do so but is it right and should he??

          Just my two cents.

    2. Jackland — Not all of us ride a horse like you. Some of us NEED petrol to fuel our vehicles.

    3. I like that you ignore the federal and local government seizing dojos, farmland, and private homes for random projects, but jump onto the libertarian side when the government sanctions oil companies seizes private property – because it conveniently serves your agenda.

      You and Tony do that for a living here. You cherry pick facts, attack strawmen, and frame a narrative in crooked way so libertarians can appear as “hypocrites”.

      “Why do you guys stand for limited government but have no problem with tax funded police and the army”

  4. In yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, Mary O’Grady wrote a piece that devastated Trump’s position on foreign trade. Good read.

  5. My Stossel problem:

    He has a very selective definition of eminent domain, one that allows his cronies to take advantage.

    He should know that ED is intended to be for public USE, not public purpose. That is why construction of highways, which is done with taxpayer dollars, falls under ED. The public USES those highways.

    Pipelines? How does the public USE pipelines? There might be a public PURPOSE to those pipelines, but that’s not enough. The only one who USES a pipeline is an oil company, a private interest just as Trump is. It’s why James Madison was careful.

    So tell us Stossel about your support for Kelo. That too was public purpose. Just like your precious oil companies.

    1. What i get out of this is that you have a somewhat obsessive hatred of oil companies.

    2. Did Stossel advocate for the oil company taking over private lands to build pipelines? Links?

      The public doesn’t use the pipeline. But they use the fuel that runs through them. A pipeline is a delivery system. If the homeowners agree to a payout, then there’s nothing crooked about the government using ED to build pipelines on private or public property.

      If I were to borrow your logic, the army couldn’t build emergency bases anywhere during wartime because the public wouldn’t be allowed to “use” them.

      We’re all against government forcibly taking land away from people who don’t want their land taken. You’re talking to yourself about “public” and “private” use of public domain that doesn’t concern us. If a private company (with an aid of government) offered me a 3 million dollars for my home to build a casino, I may take it. Whether it benefits the public or private interests is a moot point.

      1. eminent domain

  6. Sometimes I like John Stossel. He has taught me a lot about how big government is like the big bully who can use force to get what he wants. I’ve grown to hate the government as much is anybody but I do love the constitution. Especially the first amendment. It provides freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of peaceful assembly. These are the three most important freedoms that exist in my opinion, and I believe they are why Stossel makes a mistake in he’s article. Stossel says it’s appalling when Trump calls trade agreements a disaster and calls for tariffs. Stossel says that foolish because tariffs really punish Americans. I believe he has missed some fundamental points. I have not heard Trump call for tariffs on imports from countries that provide their citizens with freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of assembly. Citizens of China or Mexico absolutely do not have those freedoms. Let see what happens, John, if you go to China or Mexico and talk bad about their leaders the way we talk about ours here on a daily basis. I know Walmart uses strong arm tactics against employees who attempt to organize here in the US, but let’s see what happens to you if you try organizing employees in China. When we have free trade with countries that don’t provide their people with these basic freedoms, our workers have to compete with the labor rates of those non-free people.

    1. “When we have free trade with countries that don’t provide their people with these basic freedoms, our workers have to compete with the labor rates of those non-free people.”

      Tough shit. That’s what a free nation does: allow its people to trade with whomever does not threaten the people of that nation.

    2. It provides freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of peaceful assembly

      False. Free speech is your right by virtue of being a sentient human. The First Amendment merely restricts Congress from infringing upon said right.

      1. DING DING DING!

        This, I wish more people understood that. The state does not PROVIDE any rights. If someone has to PROVIDE a right, it is not really a right, but a privilege. (Said another way, positive rights are not rights at all.)

      2. Minor quibble, but that’s not true. Many are born into circumstances where they don’t have freedom of speech irrespective of their sentience.

        It’s true that in the US these rights are protected rather than provided, but it still takes that foundational document for these rights to exist. Thus, they are not innate to our being sentient humans.

        1. Agreed. At the end of the day the only rights any man has are those he can defend. Rights are merely a human contract we choose to uphold among ourselves. Even the right to life can be snatched from you, not just by some bandit in the night but by the government depending on where you live.

  7. For gosh sake, we fought the bloodies war in our history over this issue. We Americans don’t think we should stick our nose in the internal affairs of other countries, but we darn well feel we have the right to set trade policies with them. And if we want tariffs on imports from countries with non-free people, we will vote in the candidate that will implement them. The voters in this country voted for Abraham Lincoln because they didn’t like having to compete with slavery. It drove everyone’s wages down, except the slave owners. In our modern world it drives everyone’s wages down, except the owners of business that manufacture in those countries. What really gets my goat is it was the Democrats, that are supposedly the party of labor, that have made most of these free trade agreements. When Stossel says tariffs punish Americans, it’s only true of tariffs on goods from counties of free people, and thus a competitive playing field. I’m all for Trump when he wants to negotiate separate trade deals with each individual country, and the less freedoms the people have in a country, the higher the tariff should be on their goods.

    1. ” the less freedoms the people have in a country, the higher the tariff should be on their goods.”

      Fuck off slaver.

      1. This. Because economic censure has worked to well elsewhere!

  8. So the greedy woman turned down $1 million for a home – Trump realized that she wasn’t interested in selling at any price no matter how inflated – so he used the law as best he could to force her out – can’t blame him for that – what choice did he have? Give up the entire development because of some jerk who was trying to squeeze him.

    I don’t like eminent domain at all – mainly because it is mostly used by governments to take property from individuals who are then compensated at less than fair market value – leaving them unable to relocate to someplace equal or better than the property taken from them.

    But in this case, Trump offered the woman 5x what the property was actually worth – and she turned it down. That’s on her. Not him.

    1. Why is she required to sell her property to a private developer? Just because Trump had a project doesn’t mean he has a right to buy her property.

    2. The fact that Donald Trump wanted a piece of property does not in any way oblige the lawful owner to sell it to him or anyone else at any price. That’s what owning property means. You can use it or dispose of it as you see fit.

    3. No it is not “on her.”

      If The Donald bought property that was rendered worthless by the presence of a “holdout” owner occupying critical access he should have factored that into the price. If he offered her $20 million my hunch is she’d no longer hold out. That’s Adam Smith, no?

      But The Donald is SMART. He “overpaid” based on his knowledge the worthless politicians he buys and sells would act as his personal goon squad.

      He was right.

      John Stossel’s mistake is to mistake The Donald for one of his goons.

      The reason I like The Donald is other than Ben “Mumbles” Carson (except when he steps out of his Mr. Limpet persona to become a hammer/knife-wielding badass — so cool) all the others are political goons, worst being sancimonious Santorum and equally earnest (and vomitatious interventionist) Rubio.

    4. So now someone is greedy if they won’t sell something.
      If she was greedy she would have accepted the $1Million after driving the price up.

  9. “can’t blame him for that”

    Yes he can be blamed for that.

    “what choice did he have? Give up the entire development because of some jerk who was trying to squeeze him.”

    Pretty much.

    Trump is still a crony thief POS whose main expertise is getting into bankruptcy.

    1. I don’t think you really understand corporate bankruptcies. Frequently, people like Trump will come in and buy a company that is circling the drain, cheap. Then use bankruptcy laws to force renegotiation of terms on their liabilities as part of the restructure of the company. Then improve company value through the reorganized company. To him, bankruptcy laws are just a business tool. It’s not like schlub who runs up $30k in credit cards, panics, and bails on the debt.

      1. Liberals don’t understand this. They harp about this business or that business going “bankrupt” all the time without any comprehension of what that actually entails.

        1. Yeah. it’s like the way they attacked Romney over his company Bain Capital. Crying about how they fired lots of workers. When the reality was that they bought companies that were o the verge of closing completely and managed to turn 86% of them around. Which really means that every person not terminated was a job saved.

  10. Why does everyone criticize “developers” for things like Kelo or Trump’s for his efforts to expand his parking lot, when it is not they who take the legal action to take the property?
    Only a government entity can seize property by eminent domain. If the particular government does so, it is their fault for succumbing to the pressures of businesses, who are just trying to use existing laws, to their advantage.
    Did the government of New London, Conn, get ousted in the next election, post Kelo?
    I find it fascinating that the government entities, who are the real ones to blame, from ED actions to failure to keep pension trust funds solvent, are never held to account, yet the ones, who the government is either acceding to, or double-crossing, are expected to take a hit.
    Amazing what some will forget/ignore, if a few goodies are thrown their way.

  11. Did John get kicked off of Town Hall? Whenever he writes an article praising immigration or knocking a grassroots favorite, I used to love sifting through the furious comments there.

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    1. Hey Reason editors. Seriously guys, how much effort would it take to remove these shills’ annoying posts?

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  13. Got to disagree with you, John. I think the home mortgage deduction is bad economics. Do I take it? Bet your ass. A company has a fiduciary duty to its shareholders to use every legal tool the law (improvidently) provides. Your blaming that company (or ownership, even The Donald) is like blaming me for taking my mortgage deduction. No?

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    1. Hey Reason editors. Seriously guys, how much effort would it take to remove these shills’ annoying posts?

  15. The old greedbag miscalculated and lost $700k. She owns property in a land where goons from the political class can run over her on behalf of their benefactors.
    The Donald calculated correctly.
    Which means we cannot have the old lady making deals with China. She is not SMART enough.
    Seriously. Any flaw in this? Simple logic, no?
    So why is Stossel blaming The Donald for using tools the political goons put at his LEGAL disposal?

    1. How do you know she gave a shit about the money at all? Some people, especially old people, like their home and want to keep it. No matter what. I had an aunt like that.

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  18. A perfect column. Exactly my feeling.

  19. Will Trump become America’s Boris Yeltsin?

  20. Jesus, if you’re on fentanyl, that REALLY explains your posting style/point of view. I had fentanyl for an operation a while back – apparently, i had a hilarious conversation with the post-op nurse about all the blood coming out of my face, none of which i can remember, and then came home and slept for 19 hours.

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  21. Shilling for open borders again, I see. So it’s just a coincidence that as immigration has picked up, ordinary Americans have found it harder to get jobs — and harder still to get raises. Immigration benefits the immigrants, and it benefits employers (you might look up the concept of supply and demand sometime, and then figure out what increasing labor supply at a time of stagnant labor demand will mean for workers), which is why business loves it so much. But ordinary Americans mostly don’t benefit from it at present.

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