December 26, 2005

Kelo Update: Suzette Kelo Interview

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 4:42 pm

Melanie Kilpatrick did a nice job of humanizing the woman who stood up and said “Stop!” in New London (bolds are mine):

….. Ms. Kelo came home to New London in 1997 after a divorce and bought the house on East Street, less than a mile from where she had grown up. The 1893 cottage was so ramshackle that “I actually had to cut brush away to get to the front door because it was so overgrown.” “I bought it in July,” she says, “and started fixing it up. . . . Everything in the house is new, really . . . from the cement in the basement to the shingles on the roof.”

Today the house is a homey hodgepodge of antiques, family photos and framed samplers cross-stitched by Ms. Kelo. The chairs around the kitchen table were crafted by Hitchcock, a venerable Connecticut furniture maker, and bought for a song. “Honey, I’m a bargain shopper,” she boasts. The exterior is painted pale pink–the color of the sky at dusk in the view from the front porch, which overlooks the spot where the Thames River meets the Atlantic and the Long Island Sound. On an outside wall, not far from where a Christmas wreath hangs, is a sign that reads: “Not for Sale.” Those three words are her manifesto.

Ms. Kelo’s picturesque home on East Street is like thousands of clapboard New England cottages found in towns up and down the Atlantic coast–with one distinguishing feature: It stands in the middle of nowhere, on a treeless block that has been razed and cleared. Most of Ms. Kelo’s neighbors moved out years ago, after receiving their condemnation notices. “As soon as [the development corporation] acquired a property, they’d come in here and tear it down. So when you’d go to court it would be a moot point because there would be nothing left to fight for.”

Also gone are the street signs. The development corporation “wanted to strip the neighborhood of its identity,” she says, her voice rising in outrage. So “they renamed our streets ‘blocks.’ This is supposedly Block 4A . . . to make it seem like nobody lives here.” There were 90 houses in Fort Trumbull in 1997. There are about a dozen left today.

Even without street signs, Ms. Kelo has no trouble getting her mail. Ever since the Supreme Court ruled against her, she’s heard from people all around the country. “They call ya, they write ya,” says Ms. Kelo. “Absolutely. [I've got letters] addressed to ‘Susette Kelo, Somewhere Near Pfizer’s'; ‘Susette Kelo, Fort Trumbull’; ‘Susette Kelo, Eminent Domain, New London, Conn.’” Within days of the Supreme Court decision, she says, “the whole country rallied, which really was the best part” of this whole ordeal.

Will Ms. Kelo get to keep her home on East Street? Scott Bullock, her lawyer at the Institute for Justice, the public-interest law firm that has represented her and six other Fort Trumbull plaintiffs from the start, thinks the politics work in her favor. When the development corporation sent her an eviction notice in September, the public outcry was so great that Gov. Jodi Rell ordered it rescinded. Ms. Kelo says she’s content if the condos go up around her. “I never was against the development,” she says. “We simply want to stay. You know. Build your condominiums.”

And the past? “Well, jeez. What have I learned? I’m from the government and I’m here to help you?” No way, her look makes clear. “That the government is not here to help you. That you can fight city hall. . . . This really isn’t about me anymore. It’s about every American across the country. Of course, there’s . . . always going to be somebody else with more money who’s going to able to come into [a neighborhood] and create jobs or taxes and take out someone like me–or you.”


Selected Previous Property Rights Posts:

A Tsunami of Waste: Dollars Squandered, Accountability Blown Off

Filed under: Consumer Outrage,Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 1:39 pm

Following up on this previous post as if on command, Drudge has linked to a story on the inefficiency inherent in what currently passes as international aid:

Overheads take up to 1/3 of tsunami funds

NEW YORK, Dec. 23 (UPI) — Up to about a third of the $590 million U.N. fund spent for the Indian Ocean tsunami relief may have gone to pay for overhead.

The Financial Times says its two-month investigation showed the money appears to have been spent on administration, staff and related costs. The $590 million was part of the United Nation’s $1.1 billion disaster flash appeal.

The newspaper also found several U.N. agencies continue to refuse to disclose details of their relief expenditure in spite of earlier pledges of transparency by senior officials.

Access to original The Financial Times stories on tsunami aid is only for subscribers, but the titles of the pieces involved are revealing enough:
- “Costs Eat Into Funds Raised throught Disaster Appeal”
- “Lack of co-ordination hits housing hardest”
- “Little clarity on how aid gets spent”

Paragraph 8 at The Better Business Bureau’s “Wise Giving Alliance Standards for Charity Accountability” page states that a charity should “Spend at least 65% of its total expenses on program activities.” Technically, the tsunami relief effort slides under this standard (if we are to believe that no more than one-third of funds are going to overhead). But because of scale, an enterprise of this size should be able to achieve its goals with a much lower level of fund-raising (FR) and administrative (ADM) costs. Examples of American charities that keep their costs much lowere including the following (scroll down to near the end of each report):
- American Red Cross — FR – 5%, ADM – 3%
- Salvation Army — FR – 5%, ADM – 12%
- Save the Children — FR – 6%, ADM – 4%

Until “senior officials” involved in tsunami relief release their financial records, we can only imagine where the money is disappearing to.

And by the way, do those “senior officials” reneging on their promises of financial transparency expect former presidents and ceremonial tsunami relief envoys Clinton and Bush to be silent on this? Perhaps that, and more: Mr. Clinton just wrote a “one year later” piece for the International Herald Tribune, where he oh-so-predictably concluded with a plea for even more of what isn’t working: “a Global Emergency Fund to provide humanitarian relief workers and affected governments with sufficient resources to begin life-saving work within 72 hours of any crisis.” Just what we need: another unaccountable UN slush fund, and more of what demonstrably did not work a year ago.

As Mark Steyn wrote back in January:

Yet, even though Mr. Egeland’s (UN) office has a permanent bureaucracy dedicated solely to humanitarian relief work, a week after the disaster it didn’t seem to have actually done anything other than fly in some experts to assess the situation. Reporters on the ground have noted the lack of activity in Colombo and Sumatra. But the U.S. government already had ships and troops and water and medicine on the way.

Moving to the longer-term relief effort — Perhaps if the private charities had been allowed to do their job without the intervention of UN-sponsored “help” during the past year, Mr. Clinton would not need to be writing a column about all the work that still needs to be done.

The two ex-presidents should be publicly demanding the transparency that was originally pledged, and threaten to resign from their mostly ceremonial posts if it isn’t forthcoming.

UPDATE: Riding Sun (HT Instapundit) read The Financial Times print edition, and notes: “The FT says that charities and relief organizations usually spend no more than 10% of donations on overhead. The U.N. tripled that.”

Previous Post: The Wall Street Journal on American Charity

Passage of the Day: The Wall Street Journal on American Charity

Filed under: Economy,Quotes, Etc. of the Day,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 12:30 pm

Follow-up post: A Tsunami of Waste: Dollars Squandered, Accountability Blown Off

I’m glad someone circled back to the comments made a year ago by an internationalist ingrate to make these points (link requires subscription) before 2005 ended:

Sweet Charity

Americans are “stingy.” This was the accusation hurled at the U.S. almost exactly one year ago today by Jan England, United Nations Undersecretary for Humanitarian Affairs, immediately after the Asian tsunami disaster.

Even by U.N. standards, it was a particularly absurd anti-American slur — although it no doubt expresses the view of many foreign elites, who have come to believe that government is the only true source of goodness and charity. In the weeks and months that followed the tsunami, American citizens dug deep into their wallets, donating some $1.78 billion to the relief effort in Asia — dwarfing the contributions of other developed nations. Since October Americans have also contributed $78 million to assist the casualties of the Pakistan earthquake.

And lest there be any doubt that the Good Samaritan ethic is alive and well in America, consider the latest totals of charitable giving to help the New Orleans victims of Hurricane Katrina. The Center for Philanthropy at Indiana University announced last week that the total value of private donations in response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita has reached $3.12 billion, thus “setting what is believed to be a record for a single disaster and recovery effort.” This tsunami of aid dollars was donated in just three and a half months.

More astounding still is that this Gulf Coast aid is only a little more than 1/100th of what Americans donate to charities and churches every year. The quarter trillion dollars a year that Americans provide to sustain the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, the American Cancer Society, their local churches, universities and such is greater than the entire GDP of most countries. Bill and Melinda Gates have given more dollars to fight AIDS and malaria in Africa than have many nations. And all of this comes on top of the $1 trillion in taxes that Americans pay each year to support government income-transfer and benefit programs.

This generosity in money and volunteerism has been a hallmark of American society since its earliest days.

….. What impels Americans to engage in such kindness to strangers? We suspect that Americans give to private charities because they recognize that these initiatives work best. Bobby Jindal, the Congressman from New Orleans whose own home was badly damaged by flood waters, tells us that “by far the most effective relief efforts have come from private charitable aid organizations. FEMA and other state/local government agencies set up bureaucracies and red tape, while private businesses and charities moved in swiftly to alleviate the human suffering on the ground.

….. the Tax Foundation has provided compelling evidence that over the past 50 years — as tax rates on the highest earners have fluctuated from a high of 90% to a low of 28% — American giving has hardly deviated from 2% of personal income. In the 1980s, as tax-rate reductions reduced the value of the charitable tax deduction by about half, the level of charitable giving nearly doubled. This suggests that charitable giving would continue to flourish under a flat-rate tax system with no deduction.

Which brings us back to the charge that Americans are Scrooges in providing international aid. The World Bank recently lectured the U.S. government to double its level of foreign aid. Never mind that the U.S. is now spending tens of billions of dollars in what is nothing if not a massive humanitarian mission to restore civil society and democracy to Iraq and Afghanistan. And never mind the humanitarian aid provided by the U.S. military in Pakistan and after the tsunami.

But yes, it’s true, that when it comes to funding self-serving bureaucracies that don’t produce results — such as much of the U.N. and most other multi-government foreign-aid schemes — Americans are skeptics. For good reason. Study after study has documented that there is no correlation between the amount of foreign assistance a nation receives and its subsequent rate of economic development. Think Africa, which has received hundreds of billions of dollars in aid to little positive effect. This suggests that the optimal amount of U.S. government development aid may be zero.

But at the same time, when it comes to private Good Samaritan undertakings that do alleviate poverty and despair, Americans are second to none, giving three to four times the amount of “official” foreign aid, according to Ian Vasquez of the Cato Institute’s Global Liberty Project. That’s not stingy. It’s smart.

Positivity: Brothers Reunited after Four Decades

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 7:09 am

He knew of them, but they didn’t know anything about him. And check all the companies that helped them reunite: