Walter E. Williams

Most Americans accept the continuing attack on tobacco companies and smokers, but how do they feel about the massive government deception? In 1998, 46 state attorneys general and major tobacco companies signed the Master Settlement Agreement. The major tobacco companies agreed, among other things, to give states $240 billion over 25 years to provide for smoking cessation programs and cover the health costs associated with using their product. In return state attorneys general promised tobacco companies that they wouldn't sue them and would use their lawmaking power to protect the major tobacco companies from competition from small tobacco companies. Of the $80 billion extorted so far, states have spent about 30 percent on health, not all tobacco-related, and less than 6 percent on smoking cessation programs. Instead, state legislatures spent the bulk of their tobacco money for items such as museum building, tax relief, rainy-day funds and other expenditures having nothing to do with tobacco or health.

The U.S. Congress' deception was, and continues to be, a major player in our financial meltdown. In congressional hearings, before the meltdown, on the soundness of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Rep. Maxine Waters said, "Through nearly a dozen hearings, we were frankly trying to fix something that wasn't broke. Mr. Chairman, we do not have a crisis at Freddie Mac, and particularly at Fannie Mae, under the outstanding leadership of Franklin Raines." Rep. Barney Frank, the ranking Democrat on the Financial Services Committee, said, "These two entities -- Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac -- are not facing any kind of financial crisis. The more people exaggerate these problems, the more pressure there is on these companies, the less we will see in terms of affordable housing." Other congressmen gave similar assurances. Unfortunately for our nation, the forces pushing for "affordable" housing won the day and saddled us with today's unprecedented financial disaster. How stupid is it of us to ask those who brought us "affordable" housing to now turn their attention to bringing us "affordable" health care?

Congressional deception about government finances means today's children will face a financial disaster that will make today's mess seem like a walk in the park. What's called the public debt stands at $11 trillion and growing. That pales in comparison to the federal government's unfunded liability -- obligations that are not covered by an asset of equal or greater value.


Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
 
TOWNHALL DAILY: Be the first to read Walter Williams' column. Sign up today and receive Townhall.com daily lineup delivered each morning to your inbox.