Respect Your Elders
U.S. EPA Administrator Christie Whitman announced yesterday that the Bush administration put the “citizen” back in “senior citizen” by ending its practice of devaluing the lives of older people when calculating the costs and benefits of environmental regulations. Nicknamed the “senior discount,” the highly controversial computational method involved valuing the lives of those older than 65 at 37 percent less than the lives of younger people. Unsurprisingly, news of the practice enraged older citizens and environmentalists alike — a major factor in axing the policy, according to Whitman, who said the EPA had never actually used it to make policy decisions. “I’m not in the business of putting a price on life — young or old,” she said. The EPA plans to replace the senior discount with the “life-expectancy method,” which estimates years of life gained or lost due to a policy change. That method still amounts to factoring in the age of the people affected; in the past, the EPA had looked only at the estimated number of lives extended or cut short, not by how long.