Rep. Mike Turner introduces Constitutional amendment to prevent government ownership of corporations

Backed by top GOP leaders including House Speaker John Boehner, Republican Rep. Mike Turner is introducing a constitutional amendment to ban the federal government from owning corporations in whole or part following aggressive intervention by the Treasury Department during the financial crisis.

The proposal, like all constitutional amendments, faces major hurdles to becoming law.

But, part of a flurry by constitutional activity by congressional Republicans, the proposal could signify a new reluctance in Congress to grant the Treasury Department broad powers to intervene in private businesses like it did with the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) bailouts.

Turner voted against TARP, which he thought would give Treasury only the authority to purchase “toxic assets.” But he watched with increasing alarm as the Obama administration used the law to take over entire companies, including General Motors, where his father worked for 42 years.

“My father’s a General Motors retiree and lost his health care as a result of General Motors’ bankruptcy and as a result of the decisions that were made down in Sec. [Timothy] Geitner’s office,” Turner said in an interview.

Turner’s constitutional amendment “would stop a bailout where the end result is that the federal government owns a private company. The federal government would still be able in financial crisis situations to step in and provide loans, loan guarantees. But I think it’s particularly troublesome to Americans that the federal government could end up owning private industry,” he said.

Turner said the actions of the government during the financial crisis were an affront to the American capitalist system.

“Owning private enterprise is really something that goes against the heart of our American values,” Turner said.

He also pointed to potential problems that arise when the federal government directly owns part or all of a corporation.

“What happens when the federal government owns companies that do business with the federal government? There are clear conflicts of interest there,” he said.

The amendment text says, “The United States shall not own, subscribe to, or otherwise have any interest in the stock or equity of any company, association or corporation: Provided, That the foregoing prohibition shall not apply to any investments through any pension funds.”

For a proposed amendment to become a part of the Constitution, the House and Senate must pass the amendment with 2/3 majorities and 3/4 of state legislatures must ratify it.

Though facing significant hurdles, Turner already has the support of key GOP lawmakers in the House, including Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Spencer Bachus and the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures, Pat Tiberi.

No Democrats have signed onto the proposal.

  • loudog

    All US railroads were nationalized during WWI until 1920
    Tennessee Electric Power Co was nationalized to create the TVA
    The Resolution Trust Corporation seized hundreds of failed Reagan era S&L’s
    Private airport security was nationalized to create Bush’s TSA

    I guess we would no longer be able to follow precedent anymore, not even during emergencies.

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  • philm1

    Boy, this story has started some bizarre conversasions!


    • philm1

      No, not my link. This constitutional ammendment story.

  • gringott

    Exactly. Do it.

  • ladylove

    sounds like a plan to me.

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  • casualcat

    So if I got this right … you are all in favor of slavery, removal of a womens rights to vote not to mention the various amendments as none of them were mentioned in the original document?
    Though I do agree that govt should stay out of owning a business. We really do not need the windfall of selling stocks at a profit, and we certainly do not need the jobs that a failed corporation would lose. Much better to let the company fail then reopen somewhere overseas, so they can bring new jobs and new economics to someone much more appreciative.

    • Rational_Texan

      LOL, no. What gives you that idea?

      It’s not that the Constitution is so infallible that it shouldn’t be changed. There is constitutional authority to modify the constitution. However, I imagine many who have already commented are in favor of APPROPRIATELY modifying the constitution via the amendment process.

      Remember, the Constitution is your friend, protecting you from abuses of power.

    • gringott

      What? That scam stock sale by GM? Are you completely ignorant of reality?
      Stalin had everybody employed, no jobs went overseas. Hitler too. Are you advocating for that type system? If the government owning businesses was ok, why didn’t it from the start? Just wondering. Enjoy mom’s basement. It could get cold once your system is in place.

    • thephranc

      Why are you so intellectually dishonest that you needed to use strawmen?

  • CK4RP

    I double checked, just to make sure, and could not find any constitutional authority for the government to own corporations in the first place. Sheesh!!!

    • Miguel Saavadera

      You are positively correct ~ but the left believes the Constitution (like Darwin) has evolved … since they can not understand ‘intent, or the very English words written there which have through Judaical maleficence grown that Constitution into anything they ‘want it to mean.’

      Our founders believed that the Constitution was based upon the laws of nature (Newton) [something that Justice Kagen doesn’t even understand]~ and that foundation would be understood, and clearly acted upon by our Representatives.

    • Rational_Texan

      Reminds me of the debate between the founders about the necessity for a bill of rights.

    • gooners

      Did you find any constitutional authority for the government to buy land, or are we going to have to give the Louisiana Territory back to France?

      • Rational_Texan

        You got me there. I’m not sure what constitutional authority Jefferson thought he was using when he purchased the Louisiana Territory.

        • gooners

          He knew very well that he wasn’t using any power explicitly stated in the constitution. He put aside his ideology to do something very important for the country.

          • CK4RP

            I don’t know the answer to that. Would appreciate more info about that transaction. Maybe it had to do with where the money came from (which I also don’t know) or something like that via a Constitutional loophole?

            That being said, it still seems ridiculous that the business climate in the U.S. has declined to the point that we need an amendment to keep the fed govt out of what should be a free market.

      • russ311

        Good point, but though the question of constitutionality was fervently debated at the time, the ultimate justification for the Jeffersonians was that it was in the interest of national security to keep the territory out of the hands of Spain and to remove France from the continent. Further, because it was done through Treaty of 1803, which treaty making is a constitutionally mandated Executive responsibility, the Congress relaxed it’s resistance to the idea and overwhelmingly agreed to the treaty costs and the costs of immediately militarizing the entire territory, again in the constitutional context of national security. Sorry for any possible clumsiness in this thumbnail description.

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