Rohatyn: Education should be top priority for US infrastructure

The famous investment banker credited with saving New York City from bankruptcy in the 1970s is now an advocate for greater federal spending on infrastructure, including public school buildings, which he called ‘a disgrace’ during a Sunday television program on CNN.

Public school facilities should top the US’ list of priorities as it goes about rebuilding its infrastructure, according to a prominent investment banker-turned-infrastructure advocate.

Felix Rohatyn

Felix Rohatyn, the famous investment banker credited with saving New York City from bankruptcy in the 1970s, made the remark on CNN’s foreign affairs program GPS on Sunday, in response to a question about what projects he would support building now.

“I would actually start with public school buildings, because our public schools are a disgrace,” Rohatyn answered.

“I don't see how you can take a child and put him in a building that is decrepit and is leaking in the roof, and think that we can teach him a great deal,” he added.

Rohatyn recently authored a book about how the US government financed its infrastructure and what it must do to rebuild it now. The book, Bold Endeavors, supports a strong role for the federal in financing infrastructure using a well-capitalised infrastructure bank.

Rohatyn reiterated his support for an infrastructure bank but expressed some doubt over whether President Obama is still making satisfactory progress toward making it a reality.

“I thought we were . . . and last summer, President Obama, in fact, supported the notion of infrastructure and of an infrastructure bank,” Rohatyn said.

He also advocated that the US should not worry about financing infrastructure assets using deficit spending, or borrowed money that exceeds the government’s current revenue receipts.

“Whoever you talk to says, ‘well, we can’t afford this because of the deficit.’ And you say, ‘but no.’ You know, there’s no deficit, here. This is a capital asset,” Rohatyn said.