"Government agencies and pressure groups campaigning for more taxpayer money can create a fictitious “history” almost overnight. First, they make some claim about how something has been recognized since (whenever), and before you know it, journalists are uncritically repeating it, and it is plastered all over the Internet.
Recently I’ve seen a burst of allegations that the U.S. government assumed a treaty obligation in 1787 to provide reservation Indians with free health care. If you Google “health care treaty Indian 1787,” you will find a long list of sources – including supposedly objective news stories – making that assertion.
Here’s a sample from Montana’s Lee newspapers: “A treaty dating to 1787 requires the government to provide tribal members living on reservations with free health care.”
Now when presented with such a claim, a journalist’s crap-o-meter should start sounding like a fire alarm, because the claim is so inherently improbable.
First, the reservation system as we know it didn’t exist in 1787.
Second, the cash-strapped Confederation Congress would not have had the resources to meet such a commitment. (Remember that shortage of funds was one reason Congress called the constitutional convention.)
Third, a treaty is a bilateral document – even if the Confederation Congress had committed itself to provide health care to the Delaware tribe, for example, it wouldn’t follow that the government had committed itself to provide health care to all Indians for all time."
Get the Story:
Rob Natelson: Free Health Care, Treaties and a Fictitious History
(Tenth Amendment Center 7/9)