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Posted: 3/15/2002 10:11:57 PM EDT
Link Posted: 3/15/2002 10:26:08 PM EDT
So the rest of you (if you care!) don't have to deal with the Popups. Don't make people jump through the hoops! HOW MUCH IS ONE LIFE WORTH? Wed Mar 13, 9:01 PM ET By Ted Rall The Finances of Death After 9-11 by Ted Rall NEW YORK-This is America, land of the free, the home of the not-always-so-brave. Theoretically, the First Amendment permits us to talk about anything we want, but God help you if you actually try to use the thing. Since September 11th, the list of "permissible topics and opinions" has been shrinking faster than a typical 401(k). Last week an editorial cartoon I drew about "terror widows" became the subject of intense national controversy when an advocacy group for the relatives of 9-11 victims launched an e-mail campaign to get the piece removed from the New York Times and Washington Post websites. Both newspapers caved in to the pressure, adding victims compensation to the list of things we're no longer supposed to question. The federal government is poised to cut roughly $6 billion worth of checks to the spouses and children of 9-11 victims. That's a lot of money-our money. Are we no longer allowed to talk about how the government spends our taxes? My cartoon reflected a growing sense that groups have gone from asking for much needed help to taking excessive advantage of Americans' generosity in the wake of overwhelming tragedy. When Families of September 11, Inc. treasurer Stephen Push went on TV to demand an increase in the $1.6 million allotted for each victim, he was deluged with angry e-mails. "If $1.6 million isn't enough you should rot in hell," he quoted one. "You're disgusting trying to profit from your loved one's death," said another. But Push's efforts worked. According to fund administrator Kenneth Feinberg, the average award has been increased to $1.85 million. "The government fund is not `aid,' says Push. "It is compensation to which the families are entitled." How the Fund Works Congress approved the fund as a supplement to the $15 billion bailout of the airline industry. Only survivors who agree not to sue the airlines are eligible. Each victim is worth an average of $1.85 million, tax-free. Amounts vary enormously, based on such actuarial factors as how much the dead person earned and how long they were expected to continue working. The minimum payment is $250,000, which means that some will receive significantly more than $1.85 million.
Link Posted: 3/15/2002 10:26:45 PM EDT
Remember, the $1.85 million figure is per victim, not per relative, which means it will be divvied up among relatives-spouses and children, mainly. In addition, victims groups hasten to point out, life insurance payouts will be subtracted from the total. For example, Beverly Eckert received $1.4 million from her husband's life insurer. Because this exceeds the figure alloted her by the fund, she will receive no fund payment. Eckert argues that she's being penalized because her husband responsibly provided for her in the event of his death. Nonetheless, she ends up with $1.4 million, equal to nearly 15 years of her husband's $96,000-a-year salary. And, in addition to the government payout, all the widows and widowers remain eligible to collect workman's comp, the Social Security (news - web sites) death benefit and employer pensions. Is It Too Much? In the weeks after September 11th, millions of dollars poured into the coffers of 9-11-related charities. The reaction of Americans to the first major terrorist attack on U.S. soil was very emotional-since the 9-11 victims were killed in an attack on the nation, the feeling seemed to be, their fellow citizens should make sure their families are well taken care of. It didn't take long for relatives of those killed in previous terror attacks, including those in Oklahoma City and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, to complain that they had received little or no compensation for their suffering. One immediately wonders what the families of the U.S. servicemen killed fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan (news - web sites) will receive. It's unlikely their relatives won't get anything close to $1.85 million; nor will those whose loved ones succumbed to anthrax. Attaching a dollar value to the life of a parent or spouse makes many Americans uncomfortable. Why, some ask, should 9-11 survivors be compensated differently from those whose spouses die from cancer, car accidents or even suicide? Death is death. Why does the fact that terrorism was involved make the loss different for survivors? Even if you approve of the theory of victim compensation, the 9-11 fund seems both excessive and skewed to most benefit those who need help least. The average 9-11 victim was 40 years old, which means he or she had an expectation of 25 years of further wage-earning before a typical retirement at age 65. The $1.85 million compensation represents $74,000 for each of those 25 un-lived years-which is at least double the income of the average American, even in the high-cost New York City metro area.
Link Posted: 3/15/2002 10:27:16 PM EDT
Problems with the Fund The list of victims of 9-11 offers an economic microcosm of our society. Some were wealthy investment bankers; others were bike messengers and illegal immigrants scraping by in the kitchen at the Windows on the World restaurant. Is it right that the awards be based on each victim's individual earning potential? What about the person in a modest-paying job who had big as-yet-unrealized potential? Should the requirements of "maintaining a lifestyle" be a factor? If so, then the survivors of rich people need more money than the survivors of the poor, in order to keep up with their high mortgage payments and other expenses. Thousands of Americans wrote me to express their disgust with efforts of the 9-11 organizations to get more money. Many expressed the opinion that poorer families should get more, not less, than richer ones. The fund provides the opposite. For most citizens, the death of a spouse would result in little more than a standard $10,000 employer-funded life insurance payout. Most people believe that 9-11 victims' families should receive enough to get back on their feet-not a penny more. "I donated to the victims," wrote one, "but now I wish I hadn't. Nobody told us that these people would become millionaires." The crux of the trouble is the fund's raison d'être: discouraging lawsuits against the airlines. Although there's no evidence that the particular airlines involved in 9-11 were more negligent than their competitors, there were plenty of warnings before 2001 that the industry as a whole was woefully inadequate from a security standpoint. And it's entirely possible that jurors would issue multi-million-dollar awards to plaintiffs in hundreds of cases if they came to trial. In order to provide an adequate incentive not to sue, the fund had to offer multi-million-dollar payouts. Nevertheless, the fund won't completely prevent airline lawsuits. People who receive big life insurance payments, for example, won't qualify for the fund, and will receive enough money to pay for years of litigation. Others may qualify, yet choose to sue instead in the hope of a bigger payment from an airline than that offered by the fund. Perhaps that's best: if, after all, the airlines really screwed up on security, they deserve to take a beating in court. A New Social Contract? At the root of the hubbub over victim compensation is the fact that America falls woefully short when it comes to helping people when they're down and out. When someone you love dies in a train derailment, apartment fire or a violent crime, you need both emotional and financial assistance. The vast majority of people, unfortunately, find themselves alone with their grief and money problems. Perhaps that's why they can't help but feel somewhat jealous of the World Trade Center victims. It's not that those who lost someone on 9-11 don't need help-they obviously do-it's that they're the only people getting any. (Ted Rall's new book, a graphic travelogue about his recent coverage of the Afghan war titled "To Afghanistan and Back," will be published in April.)
Link Posted: 3/15/2002 11:08:15 PM EDT
Good Grief!
Link Posted: 3/15/2002 11:23:09 PM EDT
Link Posted: 3/16/2002 12:59:57 PM EDT
I think its all bullshit as well. Tragedy strikes families everyday, everywhere. Nobody does shit to help most all of them. I am the oldest in a large family. My dad died just as suddenly and unexpectedly when I was 13. We didn't get shit from anyone and didn't expect it. I ended up going into the Marines at 17, used GI Bill to go to college and eventually Med School on my own(110K debt). Plenty of people out there with similar stories. I applaud them all. I think its great to help these people out but what about all the others? And why do they need millions of dollars to compensate for their loss? Not to mention the fact that I'm tired of listening to their whine while they stand there with both hands out. Further, the charitable organizations of this country are turning this into an opportunity to line their own pockets while fleecing the generous of this nation and screwing the families of victims of the WTC attack. I shouldn't be surprised, I guess. Just one more example of human nature at its worst.
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