Sunday, November 05, 2006

The rich are different

When it comes to The New Yorker I'm like a dog with a knuckle bone -- I worry it for fear of missing a juicy morsel until my people have to take it away. I was about to throw out the October 30 issue when my eye fell on an item titled "Gift Horse," with a charming drawing. Rebecca Mead reports that Miss Georgina Bloomberg, the mayor's younger daughter, is an avid equestrian who has organized a charity called The Rider's Closet, which provides previously-owned riding habits to the underprivileged. I didn't know this was such a problem, but this is why I love the magazine. It's educational. The habits are distributed to colleges with riding programs and the like, where parents no doubt welcome any financial relief. My wicked imagination keeps conjuring pictures of homeless people in $200 jodphurs, but I'm getting therapy.

The whole family is dedicated to public service. Georgina's father has contributed staggering amounts of his own money to stem-cell research and anti-smoking programs; it's because of him that the cigarette-addicted are forced to smoke in the cold and rain, and the rest of us are forced to hold our breath as we hurry past office buildings in the daytime and restaurant and bars at night. His latest public health initiative would require restaurants to replace trans-fats with healthier products like canola oil. (Don't look at me, I thought canola was an Italian pastry.) It's well known, or at least constantly repeated, that Americans are the fattest people on earth, and changing the oil in the friolator is supposed to address this.

Sorry, I'm not buying it. The problem is a lot more systemic than how the fast food gets fried. It's not that working- and middle-class people don't care about their health or don't know about nutrition, or even that they skip going to the gym. Increasingly, they just lack the money to buy organic produce and lean meats, and even more, the time to shop for them, prepare them, sit down and eat them. The family dinner is vanishing faster than the family farm. Parents work long hours to make ends meet, kids rush from tennis lessons to soccer practice to parking themselves in front of a computer or TV screen, and at every stage dinner is replaced by grazing on chips, pizza, burgers and fried chicken-like objects. Want healthier Americans? For starters, raise the minimum wage, provide national health insurance and guarantee the availability of affordable housing. Simple, right? Thank you.

Wait... Bloomberg. Bloomberg. Michael Bloomberg? Is this the same Michael Bloomberg who made a deal to put a Snapple machine in every public school? So the kids can wash down their Ritalin with sugary caffeine? I'm getting a mixed message here.


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