Lieberman Supports Amendment Outlawing Senior Discount

WASHINGTON – Governmental Affairs Committee Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., Monday issued the following statement in support of an amendment to the Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill by Senator Dick Durbin, D-Ill. The amendment would disallow use of funds to support the so-called “senior discount” used by federal agencies to gage the costs and benefits of environmental regulation based on the age of those protected. In a May 20, 2003, letter, Lieberman asked OIRA Director Dr. John Graham to renounce the repugnant “senior discount” policy, which assigned a discounted value to Americans over 70 in analyzing proposals to control pollution.

“Mr. President. I rise to support this important amendment, to put a halt to the Bush Administration’s disrespectful and disturbing treatment of the lives of America’s seniors in setting environmental policy. It is unconscionable that the Administration continues to push agencies to evaluate pollution-control proposals on the basis of the age of the individuals who are protected. Judging people as less worth protecting based on their age – and to do so for the benefit of polluters – is preposterous and wrong. “Despite statements by Administration officials aimed to quiet protest over the ‘senior death discount’ factor – a factor used by the Environmental Protection Agency in recent regulatory cost-benefit analyses that literally devalues the lives of Americans 70 and older – the Administration continues to push agencies to apply economic techniques for evaluating pollution-control proposals on the basis of the life expectancies of the individuals protected, slanting the analysis against the elderly who, of course, have fewer years left. “This effort by the Administration reinforces the broader bias against the environment inherent in economic cost-benefit analysis, which can give short shrift to unquantifiable values of human health and a strong ecology, while overestimating the economic costs to polluters. By lowering the calculated economic benefit of protecting the elderly, these techniques will understate the apparent benefits of environmental protection, because the old are among the most vulnerable to respiratory and other diseases caused by pollution. The intended result is to block tougher environmental protections. “Selling out America’s grandparents at a discount for the benefit of polluters is discriminatory and wrong. I am pleased to support this amendment to put a halt to this repugnant practice.” -30-