MAKE ME AN OFFER
You're probably wondering, "hey...what's he selling?" Well, I'm fielding offers on...how can I put this...me. According to a recent analysis of data compiled by the EPA and other agencies, an American life isn't worth the powder to blow it to hell. Most of us know that insurance companies and airlines assign a benchmark value to a human life, and use that number to calculate business decisions. For insurance companies, surprisingly, there are rather ethereal factors that are considered. How much a person may have contributed to society, how much that person was loved and/or needed by family and friends. Of course, earning capacity and other more pragmatic elements are considered as well. For the airlines, the calculations become noticeably more callous. Kind of a one-size-fits-all approach. No surprise there. The Environmental Protection Agency, folks that, quite frankly, I never knew were preparing a price sticker for me, are the Supreme-Calculators, and consider a myriad of factors. Also, and I never knew this either, their "price" for you and I weighs heavily on federal policy regarding matters of regulation of air quality, food quality and just about everything else you can think of. So, what are "we" worth these days?
A "statistical human life", their term, is worth $6.9 million in today's dollars. This is nearly a million dollars less than five years ago. And you thought that mini-van depreciated rapidly. At first glance, it seems like another nonsensical government statistic, but it actually has at least the potential to have palpable repercussions. When crafting regulations, agencies and businesses put a value on human life and then weigh cost vs. the life-saving benefit of a proposed rule. The less a life is worth, the more lax a regulation can be, if we need one at all. The Associated Press gives this example: A hypothetical regulation that costs $18 billion to enforce but will prevent 2,500 deaths. At $7.8 million per person(the old figure), the lifesaving benefits outweigh the costs. But at $6.9 million per person, the rule costs more than the lives it saves.
So the next time your flying commercially don't be surprised if your seat cushion no longer floats or if your oxygen mask plays music instead of keeping you alive during a rapid decompression. Also, again not surprisingly, some people are accusing the Bush administration of purposefully devaluing our bodies to allow them to slacken regulations for all kinds of corporations, businesses and agencies. According to Dan Esty who is now director of the Yale Center for Environmental Law but was formerly a senior EPA policy official in the administration of President George Bush, Sr., "it's hard to imagine that it has other than a political motivation." Could it be? Ask S. William Becker, executive director of the National Clean Air Agencies, and he'll tell you "it appears as though they're cooking the books in regards to the value of human life." The EPA stands by it's figures saying they are only following what the science told them. Personally, I would not be surprised if there were an effort to devalue us all, and truthfully, we may well be worth less than we were a generation ago, although I don't know about five years ago. Still, it wouldn't be President Bush to be mad at, but the corrupt game of "payoff politics" that has become an accepted facet of our government. Indeed, the last guy I can remember to expose any corruption in Washington, D.C. was John McCain. First with Jack Abramoff, then with the Boeing bid scandal which resulted in two Boeing executives that are in jail as we speak, for being complicit in stealing the money of taxpayers. So, without the corruption, the businesses wouldn't have the sway over the federal agencies that make the rules by which they have to abide, and the rest of us could "devalue" gracefully the way nature intended.
The EPA states that they also consider what people are willing to pay to avoid certain risks, and how much extra employers pay for workers to take additional risks. In my case, I would hope they would consider a few other things. I have been garaged most winters and have very little salt damage.
Though I have high miles, they are highway miles...well, o.k., not all highway miles. My seat cushions have been re-stuffed and I have a strut that rattles. I don't see at night as well as I used to. Subtract $100 thousand. I might also ask that my advice be considered when you get around to pricing out my friends. With one or two exceptions, I have already assigned a value to them, and although it is far below what I calculated for myself, I think they are generally fair figures, and in some cases I would recommend that you even consider a trade for a boat or motorcycle. I see people on TV that I would assign a negative figure for. I know this sounds crass, but if most of us who work every day, pay our bills and raise our families are only worth $6.9 million, then I'm quite sure there are people that we may have to "pay to take away". And one last thing, if you ever receive a piece of mail inviting you to participate in an "EPA Human Yard Sale", be sure to get there early, otherwise, all the really good deals will be gone.