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Before the colors fade on the 24 years' worth of reports that Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan did on how much New York got back in projects, programs and assistance from Washington in return for its tax dollars:

The New York Democrat proved, I think, that federal aid was not necessarily a good deal for New York, a state that has been as quick as any to embrace every new federal program that came up the Hudson River.

Moynihan's numbers ought to influence part of the debate over President Bush's $1.6 trillion proposed tax cut.

The senator's numbers showed that for a quarter of a century, whether the president or Congress wanted to expand or contract the government, New Yorkers wound up on the short end of the stick.

They never got back what they invested in centralized, national government. The last report said New Yorkers sent $16 billion more to Washington than they got back.

This was New York's deficit of payments to Washington. The money went elsewhere -- to the South for defense installations, and peanut and sugar subsidies; to Maryland for health research. And a lot went to Arizona, home of Republican Sen. John McCain, for water projects.

The Bush tax bill would definitely lower New York's deficit balance of payments, according to Herman "Dutch" Leonard, professor at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.

Leonard's team at Harvard did the last couple of Moynihan's deficit studies. Mind you, Leonard does not endorse Bush's tax proposal. But he does say that the across-the-board tax cut would have dramatic influence on the amount of money that New Yorkers sent to Washington and how much income they kept home.

That's because New Yorkers' incomes are so much higher than they are in most other states. Bush's plan gives the wealthiest 1 percent of the nation's taxpayers about 40 percent of the tax cut. And Manhattan and Long Island are loaded with members of that fortunate 1 percent of the richest Americans.

Leonard said the debate over taxes cannot be isolated to that single aspect of the deficit of payments.

After all, New York State also has a disproportionate share of the nation's poor. But for all of the federal aid programs aiding the poor, dating from the Great Depression, the state's income from Uncle Sam never pulled even with its outgo.

Moynihan in the past two years specifically questioned the merit of New Yorkers backing big new or expanded federal programs. It just makes the hole New York is in that much deeper, he said.

Two New York senators of Moynihan's own party, Charles E. Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton, are resisting Bush's tax plan. Both have large government programs they want.

Schumer has a proposed college tuition tax cut that would cost billions, for example. Clinton wants reserves for "infrastructure" improvements and expanded education programs.

The controversy over the return of White House furniture, and the origin of gifts the Clintons were reported to have received at the end of the president's term, shows signs of overtaking Sen. Clinton's message.

A week ago, she was in Rochester for a meeting with leaders of the Upstate Alliance for Innovation, a group of leaders that includes Buffalo Mayor Anthony Masiello and officials of the University at Buffalo.

This is part of Clinton's effort to follow through on campaign promises she made to help improve upstate's economy.

However, the pack of New York City and national reporters following Clinton pummelled her with questions about divans, dishes and necklaces. The message about upstate never got out.

The controversy coincided with a decision made by the senator not to make a speech at the mammoth Washington Press Foundation Benefit last Tuesday. Clinton had been billed as a headliner for the event. Instead she sat in the front row and grimaced at cracks made from the dais about the Clintons' White House exit.

To counter criticisms for the dowdy attire she had been seen in recently, Clinton wore to the event a stunning black dress, and a stunning matched set of earrings and necklace. Her press office declined to tell us what the jewelry was made of, and wondered whether we were investigating her.

Buffalo architect Robert Traynham Coles had a message for students celebrating the 90th anniversary of Howard University's School of Architecture last Friday. Coles recalled how a teacher at Buffalo's Technical High School in the 1940s told him to scrap his hopes of becoming an architect.

"There are no opportunities for Negroes in that area," Coles recalled the teacher saying. "Why don't you go to the post office, become a social worker or a minister?"

Coles went on to get architecture degrees in Minnesota and at Harvard and MIT, became a chancellor of the board of fellows of the American Institute of Architects and has taught at a number of universities.

His message to the students:

"Don't ever tell someone it can't be done."

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