Donald Trump’s desire to relaunch the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic raises a debate about the value of life
The contrast could not be more marked. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said that if costly measures to contain the coronavirus they save a life, they might as well be worth it. President Donald trump thinks differently: the costs of stagnating the economy They outweigh the benefits and remind Americans that 35,000 people die each year from seasonal influenza.
Although it may seem crude, the federal government has actually worked out extensive calculations by imposing regulations, called “the value of a statistical life,” that put a price on human life. That formula has been applied to consider whether seat belts, airbags, or environmental regulations are needed, but never in a broad public health context.
The answer to that question has gained urgency as, in recent days, Trump has clung to the notion that the cure for the pandemic should be no worse than the disease, arguing that “more people are going to die if we allow this to continue.” ” and the economy it remains stagnant. He has targeted a return to something akin to normalcy in economy for Easter Sunday, April 12.
Critics say it presents the country with a false option at a time when deaths and infections from the virus are on the rise.
“We will not accept a premise that human life is disposable,” said Cuomo, whose state has had far more COVID-19 infections and deaths than any other state. “And we will not put a dollar sign on human life.”
For decades, the federal government has calculated how policies intended to protect American health could impact economy. From the Ronald Reagan administration, federal agencies must conduct analyzes of any proposed regulation that is expected to have an impact of $ 100 million or more on the economy.
After asking Americans to practice social distancing for 15 days, including working at home and closing bars and restaurants to try to stop the spread of the disease, Trump changed his mind.
“Our country was not founded to be closed,” Trump complained, vowing not to allow “the cure to be worse than the problem.”
However, Democrats say Trump prioritizes economy about the health and safety of Americans.
“I would like to say let’s get back to work next Friday,” former Vice President and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said. “That would be wonderful, but it cannot be arbitrary.”
In the recent past, the government has also put a price on American life after some of the man-made calamities, including the 9/11 attacks and the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.
Kenneth Feinberg, who administered the funds for the victims that emerged from those events, said that the formula used in the country’s courts was simple: How much would the victim have earned throughout his life had it not been for the tragedy that took life? On top of that, there was some compensation for suffering and emotional stress, he added.
But when it comes to the current pandemic, Feinberg said calculating impact is not that simple.
In the case of the crisis of coronavirusSome economists and policy experts say the pandemic still represents too many unknowns to apply that kind of coldly calculated cost-benefit analysis that has been used to assess the impact of policies like federal highway or air quality standards.