The Bush administration has decided what an American life is worth and, guess what – it’s less than it was before.
Thus does the Bush legacy continue: the dollar, your house, our international standing and dignity...you name it and it has been diminished by what will be known in the history books as the Bush Disaster. After all that, why not the value of life itself? I mean, have you felt at anywhere near 100% while living through this crap for the last seven-and-a-half years?
Of course, the "value of a statistical life" as determined by the Environmental "Protection" Agency (there will be a ceremony to remove the quotation marks on January 20, 2009), like everything else in the politically compromised Bush bureaucracy, has little to do with real life and much to do with the manipulation of information to reach specific big-business goals before the Bush gravy train leaves the station. By valuing each individual life at $7.22 million rather than the former obviously inflated figure of $8.04 million in order to measure the cost-effectiveness of measures that, well, might prevent the killing of humans, the industry flacks in the severely-compromised EPA are able to squeeze an extra $820,000 of leeway to avoid expensive regulations that might save those unfortunate enough to be considered too invaluable to save.
It seems to me some have suffered – at least – public relations difficulty by playing the same not-worth-it analysis when it comes to human life. The Ford Motor Company famously placed a $200,000 value on a human life in 1968 when it came time to calculate whether it was worth it for the company to keep a rolling bomb called the Pinto on the streets (Ford’s answer: yes, it was worth it, and, oh, sorry about your dad.) Maybe the Bush figure is just $200K adjusted for inflation.
Actually, given how the Bushies have treated life as so damn cheap anyway, I thought the EPA figure was a bit high. How does that figure work into our continuing tragedy in Iraq? Let’s see...$7.22M x 4,125 dead soldiers = $29,782,500,000. Holy shit. Does that get added to the national debt, too, now, or what? I think the $7.22M figure is just to make the Bush people look generous and good – they sure didn’t treat all those poor people in New Orleans like they were worth more than a plugged nickel after Katrina.
The only human organisms which they even pretend to give any value at all to are fetuses, potential life that must take precedence over all other considerations, including (especially) those of the fully-grown adult mother. Maybe this is one way to fire up the religious zealot wing of the EPA (every agency now has one) and get them to actually protect the environment. Who cares about the ten thousand post-born threatened by some pollution or other – a hundred or some of them may be carrying the Sacred Fertilized Egg. Screw the adults, but save the Potential Children!
Who knows how the EPA came up with this particular figure (my guess: it was one of ten numbers stuffed in a hat), but you’d think it would be some kind of average. Otherwise, there would have to be some sliding scale, depending on whether the EPA administrators are fond of the settlers in one area or other. If I were to engage in this kind of morbid god-playing (I wouldn’t), I would value my son, family, friends, clients and the Milwaukee Brewers (minus a couple of late-inning relievers) a lot higher than your average man-on-the-street, while still holding them in fairly high regard ($20M at a bare minimum). On the other hand, if there was an environmental regulation somewhere in North Carolina that kept only racist/homophobic pig Jesse Helms alive for an extra ten years, I could have lived without that rule – or at least not enforce it. I understand the Naval Observatory and other undisclosed locations darkened by Dick Cheney over the years have some environmental hazards here and there (if they didn't before, they do now), but there’s no use letting those go – Cheney has an unfortunate knack for getting young people to do his dying for him.
Of course, by law, the EPA cannot play the same kinds of games with the other endangered species they are supposed to protect – not that the current regime wouldn’t like to. The spotted owl, the snail darter...neither would get you more than a buck-two-eighty on the open market, and they can’t even vote. But, unlike humans, they are (for now anyway) priceless in the neglectful-by-design eye of the Bush EPA.
But humans...let’s see how this works: let's say a regulation would save 100 lives ($722M worth-o-people), but industry claims it would cost a couple billion or so to comply. Sorry, suckers. You’ll eat chalk (or whatever) until you choke...or end up in the hospital, and don’t come crying to us for your damn medical bills.
This is economic Darwinism at its finest and government at its worst. Those at risk fall at the mercy of the cost of cleaning up the poisons left by others. Perhaps some of the deluded creationists are hoping that humans would use one of the adaptations in Darwin’s evolution, which is for endangered organisms to simply move out of harm’s way. Can’t afford a U-Haul? Tough. "If they would rather die, they had better do it and decrease the surplus population," said Dickens’ Scrooge in one of his more prescient, Cheney-esque moments. It’s called personal responsibility, pal, now go get some. Maybe the government can hand out $40 coupons for a trailer, like those things they are handing out so poor peoples' TVs work after February (as they say, stay tuned for that damn mess next year).
There is a limited amount of time for still-president Bush and his greed-headed acolytes to play these kinds of games with people’s lives. Everything they do now is just an example of what we should not even try later. Like every other agency, the EPA will have to be cleaned, fumigated and re-built from the ground up after the Bushies are gone. And the first thing to go should be the actuarial tables with the careful calculations of what a human life is worth when it comes to environmental protection or anything else.