The January/February Lawrence Summers Memorial Award* goes to President Barack Obama, for naming Lawrence Summers as head of his National Economic Council, where he will serve as the President’s top economic adviser. There’s no doubt that Summers has relevant experience (as Treasury Secretary under Bill Clinton), and he is widely characterized as “brilliant.” But in addition to promoting market fundamentalist ideas through the comment Multinational Monitor recognizes with this regular award, he was one of the architects of the financial deregulation that led to the current financial and economic crisis. Hopefully, he aims to do penance.

*In a 1991 internal memorandum, then-World Bank economist Lawrence Summers argued for the transfer of waste and dirty industries from industrialized to developing countries. “Just between you and me, shouldn’t the World Bank be encouraging more migration of the dirty industries to the LDCs (lesser developed countries)?” wrote Summers, who went on to serve as Treasury Secretary during the Clinton administration and is the outgoing president of Harvard University. “I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that. … I’ve always thought that underpopulated countries in Africa are vastly under polluted; their air quality is vastly inefficiently low [sic] compared to Los Angeles or Mexico City.” Summers later said the memo was meant to be ironic.

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