Thursday, May 23, 2013

Government Judges Self, Decides It's Worthwhile

In a new government report put out by the GAO, various government agencies have convinced a bunch of accountants that the work they do are worth many times what they cost. And of course, somebody whose title is Executive Director, Center for Environmental Health repeats it uncritically at the Huffington Post.

A new U.S. government report shows that the benefits of government regulations substantially outweigh the costs. Looking at all federal regulators, the report found that health and environmental protections created by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are the most cost effective of any federal department.

How successful are EPA rules? The report found that for every dollar we spend on environmental and health protections, we get back ten dollars in health, environmental, and economic benefits that add up to make all of our lives richer.

By far the largest factor making up this EPA success is from rules the agency has created to reduce health threats from air pollution. Over ten years, the report shows, we've seen about a half a trillion dollars of benefits by reducing air pollution. The health benefits of reducing air pollution are easy to see, but the economic benefits are less obvious. But consider, for example, pollution from coal-fired power plants. Air pollution from coal is associated with respiratory disease, heart attacks, infections and other serious illnesses. Preventing pollution results in healthier, more productive communities, with people who are making and spending money rather than being sick and dying.
Of course, this is based on a linear extrapolation of results from every high concentrations to very low concentrations; an extrapolation that no one believes, but no knows how to avoid. I'm sure the whole report is full of such simplifying assumptions.

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