Barbara Lifton

Report: Barbara Lifton town hall in Newfield, Part 3

Third in a series

Part 1 on taxes is here

Part 2 on the economy and economic policy is here.

Governor Cuomo said, “You can never solve a problem if you refuse to acknowledge it.”  After listening to Assemblywoman Lifton, at her town meeting, she obviously is not heeding his words.

New York State’s Budget:

Governor Cuomo wants to shift the way budget cuts are viewed.  He says a cut is how much spending changed between the latest enacted budget and the new one, not how much the anticipated increase was cut. 

Assemblywoman Lifton speaks only of the cuts to the anticipated budget and not the actual increase or decrease.  She said that they (the legislature?) have cut $19 billion in the past few years and the Governor’s budget cuts an additional $9 billion.  Based on her numbers, over the past 3 years the anticipated increase was $31 billion; that’s an anticipated increase of 25%!  “They” cut $19 billion, so she wants credit for a $19 billion decrease and ignores the $12 billion increase!  This is a failure to acknowledge the problem.  (Of course, she thinks letting taxes go up when the current tax schedule expires on December 31st won’t be a tax increase, either.)

She goes on, at length, about individual cuts to departments in the Governor’s budget.  Of course, she never mentions the actual changes (which may not even be cuts) – only the anticipated cuts.

Report: Barbara Lifton town hall in Newfield, Part 2

Second in a series

Part 1 on taxes is here.

Governor Cuomo said, “You can never solve a problem if you refuse to acknowledge it”.  After listening to Assemblywoman Lifton, at her town meeting, she obviously is not heeding his words.

The economy:

Those who sat through Assemblywoman Lifton’s town hall meeting in Newfield would have to say that she does not acknowledge a problem with the New York economy.  Oh, she gives lip service to the unemployed.  But when asked to what she attributes the economic crisis and loss of jobs in upstate NY, she says, “It’s the recession”.  She does not seem to believe there is a crisis deeper than the recession in Upstate New York.

Governor Cuomo says that NYS is, “Functionally bankrupt."  Assemblywoman Lifton quotes studies that show what a positive business atmosphere there is in New York.        

Economic policy:

Assemblywoman Lifton speaks lovingly of Franklin Roosevelt, his steps during the Depression and her recent readings in economic history.  But has she ever heard of the 1920-21 Depression, which lasted about 1 ½ years?

1920 had the worst single year drop in the U.S. economy in its entire economic history.  But by the summer of 1921, the economy started improving dramatically.  What had the government done?  President Harding cut the federal budget and the Federal Reserve raised interest rates.  (Take that, Keynsian economists!)

Her model is the Great Depression, which lasted well over a decade, and she ignores the model that lasted 1 ½ years, since it was, “An inconvenient truth.”

By the way, Ms. Lifton speaks of her latest readings on Herbert Hoover as President of the U.S.  Perhaps she should read about his work as Secretary of Commerce during the 1920-21 Depression.  Hoover was preparing massive federal intervention in 1921, but the economy got better before he could intervene! Whew!  Cut that one close!

Report: Barbara Lifton town hall in Newfield, 2-22-11

First in a series:

Governor Cuomo said, “You can never solve a problem if you refuse to acknowledge it”.  After listening to Assemblywoman Lifton, at her town meeting, she obviously is not heeding his words.


Here are some recent news and quotes on taxes, from Democrats!

In a recent visit to the Ithaca Brewing Company, Senator Schumer said, “By cutting taxes for these small businesses, we can help grow the economy and put more New Yorkers back to work in stable, good-paying jobs.”

Senator Gillibrand has a proposal to expand, simplify and make permanent a research and development TAX CREDIT.  (A tax cut by another name.)

Governor Cuomo has said, “New York has no future as the tax capital of the nation.”  

Assemblywoman Lifton isn’t listening to her fellow Democrats.  She believes that high taxes help drive the economy, not hinder it.  She said that we need to keep on supporting the private sector by keeping the public sector intact.  Huh? Intact?  No changes?  Who in the private sector believes an intact public sector is supportive? This goes beyond failing to acknowledge a problem and joins Alice in Wonderland.

Assemblywoman Lifton also believes that the wealthy do not make decisions based on taxes.  She was asked about the hedge fund manager issue last summer; (the legislature wanted to tax hedge fund managers and then backed off when there was a danger of many hedge funds moving operations to Connecticut).  She believes that the legislature “blinked” and that the hedge funds would not have moved. (In essence, the rest of the liberal-dominated Assembly was wrong.) She then discusses the federal capital gains tax as if it was an issue with the hedge funds managers, while the real issue was double taxation by both states of those hedge fund managers living in Connecticut.

Assemblywoman Lifton decries the tax breaks for the wealthy, using a publication from the Center for Working Families. Check out their web site,; it’s not exactly a paragon of unbiased thinking.  

Ms. Lifton quotes their calculations of how much these tax breaks are costing.  Is it logical to believe that, if the highest taxed state increased its current rate by 50%, at least some and maybe most of the wealthy would not migrate out? (Think Tom Golisano, etc.)

State taxes are not an issue to Ms. Lifton.  She believes the problem is only local property taxes and she mentions how taxpayers react more strongly to their property tax bills than to their state tax bills.  Let’s compare apples to apples; how would taxpayers react if they did not have state taxes deducted from every paycheck and they had to come up with their entire state tax bill at one time – as they do with property taxes.  

She also ignores the total tax burden of fees, surcharges, permits and corporate taxes (which are actually paid by the consumer).

The current tax law on the wealthy will expire on December 31st and taxes on the wealthy will increase. Assemblywoman Lifton does not believe this is a tax increase.


The powerful New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) are spending a million bucks to run this ad.  Their strawman villian is a stereotypical greedy "fat cat" who is supposedly stealing the education of children, one of whom scolds "you need a time-out."

The "millionaires tax" the union is promoting applies to anyone earning $200,000 per year and up, including the partnerships, LLCs and corporations that report their business income on a personal tax form.  These are the entrepreneurs and small businesses that create jobs and keep young upstate New York families from moving away. 
With the attack on the "millionaires," the New York union hopes to deflect a Wisconsin-style clawback of their unsustainable pension and benefit packages.  Ironically, if they are successful, they will only be decreasing the demand for their services, as the entrepreneurs and younger upstate families who pay taxes and fill the schools leave for better economic climes.  Their position is lose-lose for New York.
Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton was echoing the teacher position in her town hall yesterday, insisting that people won't move away as taxes are increased.  I think she needs a time-out.

The Big Guy goes to DC...

...and NYS should be watching to see how it's done.

See Pundit & Pundette on Chris Christie's visit to Washington today (and see the first comment for my take on Christie—no, I didn't write it but I could have).

In view of the entirely predictable stories like the ones on today's front page of the Journal, and Barbara Lifton's town meetings scheduled for next week on the proposed state budget, enjoy and learn from what's commonly referred to as "Chris Christie porn." There's much more Christie porn out there, but this one will whet your appetite:

And on a related note: "Madison schools closed Wednesday due to district-wide teacher sickout"

UPDATE: More on today's Wisconsin story here. And a series of videos re: the Michigan public schools here. (via Ace)

Lifton Chairs Assembly Steering Committee

[NYS Assembly Speaker Sheldon] Silver appointed Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton, D-Ithaca, to a leadership post, chair of the majority steering committee. The steering committee, which has about 25 Assembly members, studies complex policy issues for the Democratic conference and makes legislative recommendations. Lifton was vice chair last year.


Kulaks and gulags

kulak n. A prosperous landed peasant in czarist Russia, characterized by the Communists during the October Revolution as an exploiter.

gulag n. 1.A network of forced labor camps in the former Soviet Union. 2. A forced labor camp or prison, especially for political dissidents.

From the Ithaca Journal:

Despite lobbying, Cuomo shuns higher taxes for the rich


ALBANY -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo continues to reject attempts by education groups and unions to shift the state's tax burden to the rich, saying that doing so would further hurt the state's business competitiveness.

The issue is creating a growing divide between the Democratic governor and the more fiscally liberal members of the state Legislature, who on Tuesday called on Cuomo to maintain higher income-tax rates for people making more than $200,000 a year. They also want him to move to a more progressive property-tax system based on household income not home value.


"When government resists deep cuts, when we appropriately tax the wealthiest New Yorkers and keep on public employees and keep on supporting the private sector by keeping government intact, (emphases mine) we actually see a better and stronger recovery," urged Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton, D-Ithaca.

If Assemblywoman Lifton in fact said this (and that seems likely since it sounds like the sort of thing I've heard her say with my own ears), her entire remark is absurd on its face. But let's look more closely at the parts in bold.

That last bit, about "supporting the private sector by keeping government intact," is just a wee bit bass-ackwards.  No, dear, especially at the state level where the government cannot print its own currency, the private sector props up the government, not the other way around.  

And then there's the ever-popular-amongst-progressives meme, "when we appropriately tax the wealthiest New Yorkers" (of which I am not one, not even close, according to their definition).  From a document in the Library of Congress, via Legal Insurrection (A volost' was a territorial/administrative unit consisting of a few villages and surrounding land. Think "county.")



Comrades!  The revolt by the five kulak volost's must be suppressed

without mercy.  The interest of the entire revolution demands this,

because we have now before us our final decisive battle "with the

kulaks."  We need to set an example.

      1) You need to hang (hang without fail, so that the public       

         sees) at least 100 notorious kulaks, the rich, and the            


      2) Publish their names.

      3) Take away all of their grain.

      4) Execute the hostages - in accordance with yesterday's          


      This needs to be accomplished in such a way, that people for

hundreds of miles around will see, tremble, know and scream out:

let's choke and strangle those blood-sucking kulaks.

      Telegraph us acknowledging receipt and execution of this.

                                               Yours, Lenin

P.S.  Use your toughest people for this.

Now, am I suggesting that Barbara Lifton is on a par with Vladimir Lenin and has designs on well-to-do New Yorkers' necks? Of course not. But I'd bet good money that well-meaning people in 1875 thought that Marx had really nailed it with "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need" (not that even Marx's Communist Manifesto in 1848 was so original. The Jamestown colony in 1607 and the Plymouth Plantation in 1621, for instance, tried this very thing—spectacularly unsuccessfully). Those 1875 progressives probably never anticipated that, by 1918, a disciple of Marx would have carried Marx's philosophy to such neck-stretching extremes.

But words matter. Context matters. History matters. And while I doubt that Barbara Lifton and her like-minded fellow travelers give this much thought to the absurd nonsense they spout, they should.  Already (and I know I'm mixing time periods here) the NYS kulaks are escaping from the gulag, moving to states that place a lower tax burden on their citizens. And ultimately, this sort of progressive thinking never ends well.


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