The “Green New Deal” endorsed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D.-N.Y., and more than 40 other House members has been criticized as imposing a too-heavy burden on the rich and upper-middle-class taxpayers who will have to pay for it. However, taxing the rich is not what the Green New Deal resolution proposes. It says funding would come primarily from certain public agencies, including the U.S. Federal Reserve and “a new public bank or system of regional and specialized public banks.”
Funding through the Federal Reserve may be controversial, but establishing a national public infrastructure and development bank should be a no-brainer. The real question is why we don’t already have one, as do China, Germany and other countries that are running circles around us in infrastructure development. Many European, Asian and Latin American countries have their own national development banks, as well as belong to bilateral or multinational development institutions that are jointly owned by multiple governments. Unlike the U.S. Federal Reserve, which considers itself “independent” of government, national development banks are wholly owned by their governments and carry out public development policies.
China not only has its own China Infrastructure Bank but has established the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which counts many Asian and Middle Eastern countries in its membership, including Australia, New Zealand and Saudi Arabia. Both banks are helping to fund China’s trillion-dollar “One Belt One Road” infrastructure initiative. China is so far ahead of the United States in building infrastructure that Dan Slane, a former adviser on President Donald Trump’s transition team, has warned, “If we don’t get our act together very soon, we should all be brushing up on our Mandarin.”
The leader in renewable energy, however, is Germany, called “the world’s first major renewable energy economy.” Germany has a public sector development bank called KfW (Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau or “Reconstruction Credit Institute”), which is even larger than the World Bank. Along with Germany’s nonprofit Sparkassen banks, KfW has largely funded the country’s green energy revolution.