Let them eat waste

By | March 12, 2012

In 1991 Summers became the chief economist at the World Bank, where he oversaw the implementation of  structural adjustment and indiscriminate economic liberalization programs that lead to the impoverishment of working people in Latin America, Africa and elsewhere around the globe. These policies induced poor countries to reduce spending on social programs like health and education and shift spending to debt repayment, which has lowered the living standards for masses of people living in these countries.  http://www.globalissues.org/article/3/structural-adjustment-a-major-cause-of-poverty

In a 1991 internal World Bank memorandum, 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, president of Harvard University and then head of President Obama’s National Economic Council. “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. [Original memo reprinted here]

Satirizing this infamous memo, Multinational Monitor magazine created the “Lawrence Summers Memorial Award” which was given to companies and individuals that “take extraordinary leaps to justify unethical practices.”  Multinational Monitor awarded President Obama the Lawrence Summers Memorial Award for naming Summers as his 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.”  http://www.multinationalmonitor.org/mm2009/012009/front.html

According to the NGO, The Development Gap: “Consistent with the memo’s argument in favor of toxic dumping, Mr. Summers and his fellow Band economists have argued, in the form of structural adjustment programs in some 75 countries, unregulated economic activity regardless of its devastating social and environmental impact and the economic and political polarization it has wrought. While Mr. Summers has disavowed his comments proposing toxic waste dumping in the Third World, he as yet to denounce the trickle-down economic policies of the Bank that have even more dire consequences.  http://www.developmentgap.org/americas/US/testimony_submitted_to_the_senate_committee_on_finance_on_the_nomination_of_lawrence_summers.pdf