Friday, August 1, 2008

Bush Administration Destroys $5.9 Quadrillion in Value of American Lives

Video: Zaproot 47, July 2008

EPA Devalues Average American Life
In May, the US EPA re-calculated the 'value of a statistical life' as $6.9 million (US). This is a $900,000 (US) change in value since the last EPA calculation ($7.8 million) done in 2003. This -11% change in the value of an average American life is calculated by seeing the differences companies pay workers for jobs which have varying degrees of danger. It is used to determine whether projects which mitigate danger are worthwhile -- if the cost per statistical life saved is more than the value of a statistical life, the project is not economically viable, and contrariwise.

-11% for 5 years of George W. Bush doesn't really seem too bad, I supposed. That's only about -2%/year. 2%/year growth requires 36 years to double, so I figured -2% will require 36 years to halve. That's not so bad, because surely in the next 28 years we'll get at least one progressive President to fix the problems.

Then I took another look at the numbers.

You're probably aware that the US dollar has lost some value in the last few years. As a resident of Canada, I assure you that I'm aware of it. How does that effect this -11% number?

Badly, very badly

Let's view this 'value of a statistical life' in terms that relate to real-world quantities. We'll calculate the value of all American lives and then see the differences between the 2003 value and the 2008 value.

On July 1, 2003, there were 290,447,644 Americans. On July 1, 2007 (the latest date the US Census Bureau has easily available, so we'll use that and ignore any change in population since then), there were 301,621,157 Americans.

Ounces of Gold
In 2003, the price of gold peaked at about $425/oz. In 2008, the lower end of the range gold has traded at is about $900/oz.

Barrels of Oil
In 2003, a barrel of oil traded for an average of $28. In the first half of 2008, about $98.

The Differences
At $7.8 million per, the value of American lives in 2003 was $2,265,492 billion, or 5331 billion ounces of gold, or 81,816 billion barrels of oil.

At $6.9 million per, the value of American lives in 2008 is $2,081,186 billion, or 2312 billion ounces of gold, or 21,241 billion barrels of oil.

Those are changes of -$184,306 billion, -3018 billion ounces of gold, or -60,575 billion barrels of oil. Alternately, that's a change of -8%, -57%, or -74% in value of American lives in US dollars, ounces of gold, or barrels of oil.

Value Destroyed by the Bush Administration in 5 Years?
Not quite priceless, but close enough. The value of 60,575 billion barrels of oil at the average price of oil over the first half of 2008?

$5,935,168,991,100,000 or $5.9 quadrillion

That is 1900 times the 2009 US Federal Budget.