Wall Street, Washington talk nice -- for a change

Wall Street's "Charging Bull" statue

Kai Ryssdal: So long as we're talking about government spending and cans being kicked down the road, here's something: Infrastructure. We need it. Repairs to what's there, and new stuff, as well.

So it's good news that no punches were thrown between hedge fund managers and Treasury officials meeting to talk about a national infrastructure bank. A lot of people say spending on big projects like that is a key to economic growth. The challenge being how to bring private capital to big public works when there's no extra government money to be had.

Our New York bureau chief Heidi Moore reports.


Heidi Moore: As an adviser to New York's retirement funds, Joyce Miller saw the pitfalls of trying to invest pension money in public works. Government and finance didn't always mix.

Joyce Miller: The two worlds not only don't speak to each other or communicate well, but they don't even begin to use the same vocabulary.

But now they're trying to speak the same language. Miller joined fellow bankers, hedge funds and pension funds at a meeting with Treasury officials. They discussed how Wall Street can help the government launch a national infrastructure bank.

It's the first time such a diverse group of financiers shared their opinions with the Obama administration about the proposed bank. The idea is to get Wall Street to lend money side-by-side with the government for big public projects.

Michael Likosky: There's a growing group of investors that wants to get involved in financing the building of new things: new roads, new bridges, new power plants, new wind farms.

That was Michael Likosky. He teaches at NYU and helped organize the meeting.

Wall Street has tried to invest in public works before, but it's always run into difficulties when politics interfered. Projects didn't get approved; the money lay idle.

Likosky: If you rush ahead and let the politics solve themselves later, then the deals fall apart.

There's a lot of broken infrastructure in America that could use help. At least one Wall Street banker at yesterday's meeting says what he wants to see is not more financing for the projects, but someone to approve them.

In New York, I'm Heidi Moore for Marketplace.

About the author

Heidi N. Moore is The Guardian's U.S. finance and economics editor. She was formerly the New York bureau chief and Wall Street correspondent for Marketplace.

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