Is it time to push Cass Sunstein over the cliff?

Ethel C. Fenig
They laughed when Sarah Palin (R) mentioned death panels. 

You've seen the Democratic commercial of a man pushing a terrified wheelchair bound grandma off a cliff.  In real life the head driver and chief  pusher is Professor Cass Sunstein. 

So now Cass Sunstein isn't laughing.  Because he is one of the chief proponents of death panels.  Of course he didn't call them that but nevertheless Palin accurately picked up his intention.  The former University of Chicago law professor (and doesn't that sound familiar?) and now Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, (yes,  this is a real position, not a fabrication of George Orwell) has disavowed them; has made light of his early academic research. 

"I'm a lot older now than the author with my name was, and I'm not sure what I think about what that young man wrote," Sunstein, 56, told the House panel. "Things written as an academic are not a legitimate part of what we do as a government official. So I am not focusing on sentences that a young Cass Sunstein wrote years ago. So the answer is no."

Uh, Professor Sunstein, "things written as an academic," often funded by the government, are often exactly "a legitimate part of what we do as a government official;" the basis of programs for government officials.  So no, you can't ooze out of your past evil drivel so easily.  You wrote  that paper "Lives, Life-Years, and Willingness to Pay" a mere eight years ago in 2003 when you were a not so young pup of 48, inhabiting the ivory towers of the University of Chicago located on the academic island of Hyde Park, so safely removed from the realities of Chicago and the real world.  No, you can't dismiss your responsibility for this.

Read what the 48 year old academic now turned government official wrote about older folks; they're worth less (one or two words depending on their age and infirmities).

Lives, Life-Years, and Willingness to Pay

"Many analysts, however, have suggested that the government should rely instead on the 'value of a statistical life year' (VSLY), in a way that would likely result in significantly lower benefits calculations for elderly people, and significantly higher benefits calculations for children," the 2003 paper said.

"I urge that the government should indeed focus on statistical life-years rather than statistical lives. A program that saves young people produces more welfare than one that saves old people," it added.

(snip)

"Older people are treated worse for one reason, they are older. This is not an injustice.

(snip)

A program that saves young people produces more welfare than one that saves old people. Nor does a focus on life-years run afoul of ethical limits on cost-benefit analysis. It is relevant in this connection that every old person was once young, and that if all goes well, young people will eventually be old," Sunstein added.

"In fact, a focus on statistical lives is a more plausibly a form of illicit discrimination than a focus on life-years, because the idea of statistical lives treats the years of older people as worth far more than the years of younger people," the 2003 paper continued.

"The hard question involves not whether to undertake this shift, but how to monetize life-years, and here willingness to pay (WTP), despite its many problems, is generally the place to begin. Discussion is also devoted to the uses and limits of the willingness to pay criterion in regulatory policy, with reference to the underlying welfare goal and to the nature of moral and distributional constraints on cost-benefit balancing," it added.

The 2003 paper goes on to say, "Under the life-years approach, older people are treated worse for only one reason: They are older. This is not an injustice. Every old person was young once, and every young person will be old too (if given the chance). In fact an important form of reciprocity is built into the life-years approach. If regulatory policy is based on life-years, every person will, in a sense, be both benefited and burdened, and in exactly the same way. Indeed, every person will be both a beneficiary and a victim of the relevant discrimination. People--the same people--will be benefited when they are younger and burdened when they are older."

Cass Sunstein, over the cliff you go. 

hat tip: www.lucianne.com

They laughed when Sarah Palin (R) mentioned death panels. 

You've seen the Democratic commercial of a man pushing a terrified wheelchair bound grandma off a cliff.  In real life the head driver and chief  pusher is Professor Cass Sunstein. 

So now Cass Sunstein isn't laughing.  Because he is one of the chief proponents of death panels.  Of course he didn't call them that but nevertheless Palin accurately picked up his intention.  The former University of Chicago law professor (and doesn't that sound familiar?) and now Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, (yes,  this is a real position, not a fabrication of George Orwell) has disavowed them; has made light of his early academic research. 

"I'm a lot older now than the author with my name was, and I'm not sure what I think about what that young man wrote," Sunstein, 56, told the House panel. "Things written as an academic are not a legitimate part of what we do as a government official. So I am not focusing on sentences that a young Cass Sunstein wrote years ago. So the answer is no."

Uh, Professor Sunstein, "things written as an academic," often funded by the government, are often exactly "a legitimate part of what we do as a government official;" the basis of programs for government officials.  So no, you can't ooze out of your past evil drivel so easily.  You wrote  that paper "Lives, Life-Years, and Willingness to Pay" a mere eight years ago in 2003 when you were a not so young pup of 48, inhabiting the ivory towers of the University of Chicago located on the academic island of Hyde Park, so safely removed from the realities of Chicago and the real world.  No, you can't dismiss your responsibility for this.

Read what the 48 year old academic now turned government official wrote about older folks; they're worth less (one or two words depending on their age and infirmities).

Lives, Life-Years, and Willingness to Pay

"Many analysts, however, have suggested that the government should rely instead on the 'value of a statistical life year' (VSLY), in a way that would likely result in significantly lower benefits calculations for elderly people, and significantly higher benefits calculations for children," the 2003 paper said.

"I urge that the government should indeed focus on statistical life-years rather than statistical lives. A program that saves young people produces more welfare than one that saves old people," it added.

(snip)

"Older people are treated worse for one reason, they are older. This is not an injustice.

(snip)

A program that saves young people produces more welfare than one that saves old people. Nor does a focus on life-years run afoul of ethical limits on cost-benefit analysis. It is relevant in this connection that every old person was once young, and that if all goes well, young people will eventually be old," Sunstein added.

"In fact, a focus on statistical lives is a more plausibly a form of illicit discrimination than a focus on life-years, because the idea of statistical lives treats the years of older people as worth far more than the years of younger people," the 2003 paper continued.

"The hard question involves not whether to undertake this shift, but how to monetize life-years, and here willingness to pay (WTP), despite its many problems, is generally the place to begin. Discussion is also devoted to the uses and limits of the willingness to pay criterion in regulatory policy, with reference to the underlying welfare goal and to the nature of moral and distributional constraints on cost-benefit balancing," it added.

The 2003 paper goes on to say, "Under the life-years approach, older people are treated worse for only one reason: They are older. This is not an injustice. Every old person was young once, and every young person will be old too (if given the chance). In fact an important form of reciprocity is built into the life-years approach. If regulatory policy is based on life-years, every person will, in a sense, be both benefited and burdened, and in exactly the same way. Indeed, every person will be both a beneficiary and a victim of the relevant discrimination. People--the same people--will be benefited when they are younger and burdened when they are older."

Cass Sunstein, over the cliff you go. 

hat tip: www.lucianne.com