New York’s Beltway Buffoons

The Senators and Representatives whom New York sends to Washington certainly seem to be a powerful bunch, turning up in a bright sheen of makeup on the Sunday-morning TV programs, holding forth on Israeli statehood and the intricacies of First Amendment law. And they sure make news when it comes to attending or not attending a parade. But the ugly truth is that when it comes to the needs of their constituents, most of New York’s men and women in Washington are asleep at the wheel.

A recent study, sponsored by Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan and conducted by professors at Harvard University, found that New Yorkers get considerably less bang for their Federal tax buck than residents of most other states. As The New York Times recently reported, for every average New Yorker who paid $5,676 in Federal taxes in the 1998 fiscal year, the state received only $4,840 in Federal money. Which means an average of $846 per New York family is being swallowed up somewhere inside the Beltway instead of being converted to new schools, roads and everything else funded by Washington. Meanwhile, in several Southern states, residents get more money back from the Feds than they pay in taxes, because Southern legislators have built power bases inside those boring committees that just happen to control Federal spending. Our elected officials are too busy trying to crawl into Tim Russert’s lap to do what should be their No. 1 priority, namely, protecting the state’s self-interest in matters of finance and infrastructure.

Simply put, our Congressional delegation is a squabbling, dysfunctional brood. The great legislators of the past, such as William Green, Samuel Stratton and Joe Addabo, always made sure New York got its share of Federal pork. At the very worst, the New York-Washington money balance should be a wash. And when one considers how many international business people, artists and tourists come to America solely to experience New York City, the tax imbalance is even more absurd.

But it would take a few dedicated public servants to fix things. And surely you don’t expect New York’s delegation to turn down a parade or dinner party, do you?

John McCain, Party Crasher

Every four years, when the nation embarks on a Presidential campaign, New York takes its place on the national stage as the capital of corrupt politics. While other states allow for competitive Presidential primaries, New York’s election laws actually serve as a barrier to democracy.

New York is about to be embarrassed again. Senator John McCain of Arizona has emerged as the leading challenger to Gov. George W. Bush of Texas. Mr. McCain is giving the political scion a run for his money (and given how much money Mr. Bush has, that’s no small accomplishment) in New Hampshire. But, wouldn’t you know, New York’s Republican establishment is building a cozy little bunker in which its chosen candidate, Mr. Bush, may take refuge if he is defeated up in the Granite State. His allies in New York are certain to do all they can to keep Mr. McCain off the ballot in the March 7 primary.

The party establishment will use the state’s election laws to keep insurgents off the ballot. Mr. McCain has to collect as many as 890 signatures in each of the state’s 31 Congressional districts, and must have a statewide total of at least 5,000 signatures. Given how easy it is to have a signature thrown out, candidates are advised to collect at least double the number. The Republican Party used election law loopholes against Bob Dole in 1988, when George Bush was the organization’s choice. Compare New York to California and Connecticut, which automatically grant ballot status to major candidates.

Mr. McCain hopes to be on the ballot in about half of New York’s Congressional districts. That would be a disgrace, and that’s a best-case scenario. The candidate also says, with reason, that he wants to sue to get on the ballot, which would shine yet more unflattering light on New York’s primitive methods. Gov. George Pataki ought to call on Republicans to pledge they will not challenge Mr. McCain’s petitions. Only then will New York have something it hasn’t had in a while: a truly democratic Republican Presidential primary.

The Skinny on Models

It’s an accepted bit of pop-psychology lore that the exceedingly thin models pictured in fashion magazines do terrible damage to a young woman’s sense of bodily self-esteem. The same way that investigators always seem to expect to find pornography stashed in the homes of depraved criminals, society sees the fashion magazine business as complicit in the prevalence of eating disorders among America’s female youth. But a new study, reported in the American Psychological Association’s Monitor , indicates that overexposure to Kate Moss and other rail-thin beauty icons won’t push a girl into dangerous dieting or hating her own body, unless she has a pre-existing body image problem from childhood.

In a study led by Eric Stice, professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, 200 girls ages 13 to 17 were divided into two groups. One group received a 15-month subscription to Seventeen magazine, the other did not. The researchers found that girls who experienced masochistic emotions after looking at the highly paid ectomorphs were the same girls who had earlier reported a low body image and a lack of emotional support from friends and family. The tendency toward dieting, depression or bulimia was already present.

Sixty percent of the young women did not seem to be affected by having Seventeen on their night table. Family, friends and boyfriends have a much greater impact. “Feedback from these sources about body size is more personal,” said Mr. Stice. In fact, it may be the words in the magazines which are truly dangerous. Forty-one percent of the girls said that fashion magazines were their No. 1 source of information about dieting and health.