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Main Street, not Wall Street, should fix crumbling U.S. infrastructure

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It's why some private equity firms and banks on Wall Street are raising massive funds to buy these assets that have typically been owned and managed by the government.

In recent years, new infrastructure funds have been established in North America with capital commitments of $40 to $45 billion. These private funds have sprouted up like weeds, structured for short-term profits and sky-high fees – usually up to a 2 percent management fee plus up to 20 percent of the profits.

It would be a monumental mistake to turn the future of America's infrastructure over to the same crowd that brought us the subprime crisis, an economy loaded down with debt, and recession.

We should know better by now than to create a scenario where bridges and highways are sliced and diced like subprime loans into financially engineered "collateralized infrastructure obligations."

America needs a large source of stable, long-term capital to build the system of buildings, roads, and power supplies needed to sustain the country. We need a source of capital that values infrastructure because it provides a reasonable rate of return, strengthens the overall economy, and doesn't burden users with excessive fees.

Enter that source of capital:

Public pension funds, which are responsible for the retirement benefits of more than 18 million Americans, have more than $3 trillion in assets, and a long-term investment approach consistent with the stable returns that infrastructure assets generate.

Pension funds could buy and build infrastructure, putting the profits to work for the retirement of workers, not for the benefit of Wall Street CEOs.

This is how it works: Pension funds pool their assets and invest directly in projects to build new roads and bridges in multiple states, bypassing the Wall Street firms that want to siphon off profits. The steadyily increasing streams of revenue that come from tolls and other sources would deliver stable, long-term returns to working Americans, while creating well-paying construction and service jobs connected to each project.

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