What's your life worth? About a $1 million less than it used to be

What’s your life worth? About a $1 million less than it used to be

How much is your life worth?

About $6.9 million, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Impressive? Well, before you get too excited, you should know that five years ago the EPA figured the average U.S. citizen was worth about $8 million over the course of his life.

Hey, things are getting tough all over.

Earlier this month, an Associated Press reporter noticed the million-dollar drop while reviewing government cost-benefit figures.

Here’s how it works: Government bureaucrats estimate the value of our lives so they’ll have cold, hard numbers to crunch when weighing cost vs. benefits involved in proposed regulations.

So, for instance, if the EPA is considering a regulation to curb air pollution, the reg will probably be shot down if enforcement of the reg costs more than the dollar amount on the lives that will be affected. And when the EPA value of our lives drops by a million greenbacks, then you can be sure that many proposed environmental regs will probably never see the light of day.

Sneaky, huh?

But does the new figure reflect reality, or is it politically motivated to sidestep environmental safeguards?

S. William Becker, the executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies told the AP, “It appears that they’re cooking the books in regards to the value of life.” And Dan Esty, an EPA official under the first President Bush, agrees: “It’s hard to imagine that it has other than a political motivation.”

But who knows? EPA officials might wake up tomorrow feeling magnanimous and bump up our dollar value. In 2002 the agency placed the value of people over 70 at nearly 40 percent less than the value of people under 70. When that assessment was met with a negative response, EPA officials decided that people over 70 were worth the same as younger citizens after all.

That’s the beauty of working for a regulatory agency – you get to make up your own reality, which can be mixed’n’matched according to political whim.

“AP IMPACT: An American Life Worth Less Today” Seth Borenstein, The Associated Press, 7/10/08, ap.google.com