Monday, July 14, 2008

Just one of the guys

“Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capability to build the world’s first bionic man. Steve Austin will be that man.”

Those powerful words captivated me as a youngster as I perched in front of the TV to watch Lee Majors portray “The Six Million Dollar Man.” I still have a themed board game somewhere.

Somewhere along the line, the fictional scientists in the show got together and decided that rebuilding Steve Austin would cost $6 million, but how might their estimate stack up today?

If you’ve been following reports about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency placing statistical value on human life, then you’ll know that $6 million is not enough to buy you a nuclear-powered bionic man in 2008. It would barely pay for a middle-aged school teacher from Rhode Island.

EPA officials have placed the value on a single human life at $6.9 million – something they do when calculating the environmental impacts of policies and regulations.

But just five years ago, the EPA’s value on human life was $7.8 million per person. We’re all of a sudden $900,000 – or 13 percent – cheaper now than we were five years ago. If the value drops any more, we’ll all be $6 million people but without the bionic eye or the super strength.

While politicians and others continue to pontificate about the recent drop in value, all I know is that Steve Austin doesn’t seem so special anymore. He’s just one of the guys.