The Relief Report ®

A newsletter covering regulatory reform efforts in Washington and across America, published by The National Center for Public Policy Research

20 F Street NW, Suite 700 Washington, D.C. 20001
(202) 507-6398 * Fax (301) 498-1301

Issue #77 * July 11, 2000 * David A. Ridenour, Editor


Bobby Unser Opines: Saving Your Own Life Shouldn't Be A Crime

Black Network Demands Social Security Reform and Supports Private Investment of Payroll Taxes


Saving Your Own Life Shouldn't Be A Crime

Imagine you are visiting one of our national forests when, without warning, you are caught in a blizzard.

All visibility is gone. You have no idea which direction is east and which is west, which is north and which is south. You become hopelessly lost.

There are no signs of civilization anywhere - no buildings, no roads, no telephone or power lines.

You are completely alone.

The temperature is so bitterly cold that you know the odds are against you surviving the night.

But, somehow, you do manage to survive the night and make it to safety.

But your ordeal is not over.

Your reward for surviving this terrible experience is to be slapped with a fine. The crime? Federal bureaucrats believe that - while you were trying to save your own life - you may have inadvertently crossed onto land they believe should be reserved only for wildlife.

Couldn't happen in America? It can happen. I know because it happened to me.

My troubles began in December 1996 when I went snowmobiling with a friend in the Rio Grande National Forest in New Mexico.

When the blizzard descended upon us, we were surprised as weather forecasters hadn't predicted it. We certainly couldn't have been prepared for winds of 50-60 miles per hour that reduced visibility to almost nothing.

Soon after the blizzard hit, my friend,
inexperienced in the operation of a snowmobile, got stuck in the snow and had to get on the back of mine.

Our situation really turned desperate, however, when my snowmobile broke down. That meant we had to make it out of the blizzard on foot.

With night falling and the temperature dropping, I knew we would have to find shelter if we were to survive. I knew it would probably drop to 30 degrees below zero with high winds. After all, we were about 11,000 feet in the high mountains. That night, we stayed in a snow cave we dug ourselves.

The next day, we began walking in search of help. After 18 hours and 18 miles of trudging through the snow, we located a barn where we called for help. Both my friend and I had to be hospitalized for exposure.

But my ordeal wasn't over. Soon after I left the hospital, the U.S. Forest Service charged me with illegally taking my snowmobile into a federally-designated wilderness area and threatened me with a $5,000 fine.

I was stunned. My friend and I were literally driving in circles desperately trying to save our lives. The last thing on our minds was whether or not we had entered a wilderness area.

The sad thing is, this kind of nonsense goes on all the time in the name of protecting the environment.

A good case in point is the experience of Paul and Emma Berger.

In 1993, armed U.S. Fish and Wildlife
agents showed up on the Bergers' doorstep after informants claimed that the couple had used pesticides to kill bald eagles.

No evidence was found that they had done so. But that didn't matter.

Agents forced their way into the Bergers' house even though they had no search warrant for the house.

Adding insult to injury, the agents had a CNN camera crew with them. As the Bergers endured the humiliation of being treated like common criminals with cameras rolling, Fish and Wildlife agents did on-camera interviews attacking the couple's integrity.

Then there's the case of Belva Coblanz. Nearly blind, this 83-year-old woman simply wants to sell the house she has lived in for the past 40 years so she can move to California to be near her daughter. But local officials have decided that Belva can't sell her property because they ruled there is a protected wetland on the site. They won't allow the land to be developed even though they allowed a city councilman who owned land right next to hers to sell his land for a housing development.

These stories are just two of 100 stories featured in the National Directory of Environmental and Regulatory Victims that was just released by Washington, D.C.-based National Center for Public Policy Research. It's a must read for anyone wanting to learn what's wrong with environmental regulations today.

The reason we want a clean environment and abundant wildlife is to make our lives better. Too many government bureaucrats have forgotten this. It's up to the American people to remind them.

-by Bobby Unser, three-time winner of the Indianapolis 500.

Editor's Note: To download the 2000 edition of the National Directory of Environmental and Regulatory Victims, go to


Black Network Demands Social Security Reform

Bipartisan Support for Private Investment of Payroll Taxes Applauded

When 48% of young Americans believe they will see a UFO but only 28% believe they will see a Social Security check when they retire, reforming America's retirement security plan must be a top national priority. Members of the African-American leadership network Project 21 are pleased with the bipartisan progress now underway toward privatizing Social Security and making it fair for black Americans.

As the baby boom generation ages, the increasing strain on Social Security may plunge the government plan into bankruptcy and strand countless older Americans. A recent Federal Reserve study found 56% of households are notputting away enough for a comfortable retirement. Three-quarters of poor families with incomes of $25,000 a year or less also indicate they are not prepared for retirement. Social Security will probably only return a one to three percent on the investment young Americans are putting into it - a rate worse than an average bank account.

Black Americans are the most at risk under the current Social Security regime. A recent survey found only 28% of black households have enough saved for even the most minimal retirement comfort. Furthermore, since black men have a lower average life expectancy than the rest of the population, they are less likely to get back what they have paid into Social Security. Because benefits are not transferable, their families will receive nothing when a black male head of household dies.

Social Security reform is now receiving strong bipartisan support, and may become a major issue in this fall's presidential election. Presumed Republican presidential candidate Governor George W. Bush of Texas announced a proposal this week to let workers invest a portion of their payroll taxes rather than having the government make all the choices. The proposal would keep current benefits intact for those now receiving Social Security and not raise payroll taxes. Bush is the first nominee to suggest privatizing Social Security since Barry Goldwater in 1964.

In the Senate, Democratic senator Bob Kerry of Nebraska and Republican Judd Gregg of New Hampshire introduced legislation to allow workers to invest two percent of their payroll taxes in privately controlled investment plans. Other key Democrats supporting this legislation are Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York, John Breaux of Louisiana and Chuck Robb of Virginia. Presumed Democratic presidential nominee Vice President Al Gore, however, opposes reforming Social Security.

"Working Americans earning $35,000 a year will be taxed more than $350,000 by the federal government by the time they retire. They will receive an average of only $1,200 a month or less in Social Security benefits - a certain fate of old-age poverty. It is insulting to be told we should not be allowed to voluntarily control a portion of our own retirement investment when the government's return is only a few percent over 30 to 40 years. I can take the investment advice of a five-year-old finger-painter and do better on a long-term investment that the government has done on Social Security," said Project 21 associate Mike Green. "It seems that some people are content to allow the government to control and oppress as long as someone with an important title frightens them into thinking freedom is a bad thing - a tactic similar to how the slavemasters used to keep slaves from leaving the plantations of the old south."

-by David Almasi

Editorial correspondence to The Relief Report should be directed to: The National Center for Public Policy Research * 20 F Street NW, Suite 700 * Washington, D.C. 20001 * (202) 507-6398 * Fax (301) 498-1301 * E-mail * Web Copyright 2000, The National Center for Public Policy Research. Coverage of meetings, activities or statements in the Relief Report does not imply endorsement by The National Center for Public Policy Research. Reprints of material in the Relief Report permitted provided source is credited. To receive all National Center newsletters free by e-mail, visit or send an e-mail to: mailing

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