Let the Rich Build Bridges. No, Real Bridges

Ok maybe this is a stretch, but how about if just a portion of the 400 richest Americans chipped in and donated to build us new bridges, highways and subway tunnels?

In a WSJ story yesterday, Charles Landow and Courtney Lobel put forth exactly this idea, declaring that since there is a rich tradition of wealthy people donating wings to hospitals and buildings on college campuses, why not extend this to much needed public works?

Of course, they could name said bridges and tunnels after themselves…just like Steve Schwartzman, (who earned a cool BILLION a year a few years ago) did when he gaves $100 million to the NYC public library. That would be the new name for the main branch…the Schwartzman branch. We really need help with our bridges, say civil engineers, so why not the Schwartzman Memorial Bridge over the Connecticut River?

In Ottoman era Turkey, the society was faced with some of the same needs as us, and more than 35,000 private foundations, called Vakif, stepped up with the dough. They helped build water systems, schools, hospitals and bridges. The tradition continues today, the foundations build them and then they transfer the assets over to the government.

The authors suggest that allowing the very rich to help build our public works would be a good idea in this time when anti-Wall Street sentiment is on the rise. It will take some of the sting out of being a member of the top 1 percen