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Bush Policy Places Lesser Value on Lives of Elderly

  • May 30th, 2003

A Bush administration policy measures the economic impact of pollution controls and other environmental regulations by assuming that the life of each person over age 70 should be valued less than the life of a younger person, according to an article in The New York Times. Under the policy, dubbed the "senior death discount," the price of the life of someone younger than age 70 is put at $3.7 million, while that of a person over age 70 is valued at only $2.3 million'”37 percent less.

Environmentalists say the administration is using the policy as a rationale to weaken environmental regulations by reducing the perceived benefits. For example, under the traditional method of valuing each life equally, one air pollution regulation was shown to have benefits of $77 billion. If the "senior death discount" method and other more conservative assumptions were used, the same regulation could be shown to provide only $8 billion in benefits.

There appears to be disagreement within the Bush administration about whether or not the policy is still in force. Christie Whitman, who is stepping down as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, said her agency had never applied the policy in its decision making and never would.

"The senior discount factor has been stopped," Mrs. Whitman said. "It has been discontinued. E.P.A. will not, I repeat, not, use an age-adjusted analysis in decision making."

However, John D. Graham, the regulations administrator at the Office of Management and Budget who has been the champion of the policy, insisted that the overall approach was valid and would be a factor in decision making at the E.P.A. and elsewhere. Mrs. Whitman acknowledged that Dr. Graham''s method would still accompany her agency''s studies, including those on President Bush''s "Clear Skies" proposal.

To read the full article in the New York Times, go to: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/05/08/politics/08REGS.html (Free registration required and article may be only temporarily available.)

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Last Modified: 05/30/2003

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