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Valuing life

John Judis recalls how regulations were assessed in the Bush years:

Bush stopped weighing the costs and benefits of deregulation and issued an executive order allowing OIRA to intercede before agencies made their initial proposals, thereby providing industry lobbyists with a back door to block regulations. OIRA also instructed agencies to discount the value of future lives in constructing cost-benefit analyses by 7 percent a year, so that 100 lives in 50 years would only be worth 3.39 current lives. (Such logic can be used by conservatives to argue that the present cost of regulating greenhouse gases outweighs the future benefits of stopping climate change.) In addition, Bush put a political appointee in each of the regulatory agencies whose job was to make sure they were following OIRA’s dictates. From July 2001 to March 2002, Bush’s OIRA killed 20 regulations, more than Clinton’s OIRA had killed in eight years.

And yet, the Bush administration, like all politicians everywhere, talked in terms of governing for our children, and their children, and their children.

By Ezra Klein  |  February 16, 2010; 8:08 AM ET
 
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Comments

And yet, despite all these (and other) atrocities committed by the Bush admin, Obama has not found one single person/act worth prosecuting.

The real atrocity is how incompetent Obama and the Dems have been in using their golden opportunity to restore governance.

Posted by: Lomillialor | February 16, 2010 8:21 AM | Report abuse

I don't disagree with Lomillialor. The party of good government has capitulated to the party of no government and is poised to hand the reins of power back to the very nihilists who have led us to this point. The Reagan Narrative has never been stronger -- just listen to our President, who has never missed an opportunity to fulsomely praise the Gipper.

Posted by: scarlota | February 16, 2010 8:45 AM | Report abuse

"I believe in making the world safe for our children, but not our children's children, because I don't think children should be having sex."

-Jack Handy

Posted by: drjimcooper | February 16, 2010 9:18 AM | Report abuse

I believe it is standard practice to discount future benefits (and costs for that matter). Otherwise cost/benefit analyses would largely suggest that we be slaves to our decendants.

That said, the discount rate might have been a bit high, but maybe not. If we're discounting the dollar value of a life, and the analysis assumes that the dollar value of a life grows over time with wage and price growth, then perhaps a 7% discount rate isn't that outlandish. Can't really say without more information.

Posted by: justin84 | February 16, 2010 9:44 AM | Report abuse

What does 'our' mean to a Republican? Yeah, I know, don't even need to ask.

Posted by: leoklein | February 16, 2010 10:14 AM | Report abuse

The chronology and other "facts" seem a bit off to me. See, e.g.:

1. http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/rewrite/circulars/a094/a094.html
and

2. http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/Circulars_a004_a-4/

Posted by: ostap666 | February 16, 2010 12:56 PM | Report abuse

I actually think the discount rate makes a lot of sense (and so does Sunstein, Obama's Regulatory Czar). Whether or not 7% is too high might be debated, but if we are doing cost benefit analysis to determine policy, then we need to take into account that spending money for something now is not the same as spending money now for something later. For example, suppose you can spend 5 million to save one life this year or 5 million to save one life 50 years from now. There are lots of reasons to think you should spend the money to save the most immediate life, including that if you took the 5 million for the life 50 years from now and invested it at 7% interest,then in 50 years you could spend almost 1.4 billion saving lives.

Posted by: Levijohn | February 16, 2010 4:01 PM | Report abuse

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