Archives for January 4, 2013

Elections Have Consequences: Lower Macungie Zoning Politics Edition

Something I find frustrating is people complaining about “polarization” when they really mean “political disagreement.” You could really sub in the latter every time somebody says polarization in this article on the latest Lower Macungie Zoning Board controversy.

Lots of centrist types whose political views were formed during the era of scrambled parties in the 60’s and 70’s seem to think political disagreement itself is a problem, and that snuffing out disagreement is more important than actually passing good public policies. I couldn’t disagree more.

Political disagreement isn’t a problem – it’s how political institutions manage or mismanage that disagreement that creates problems.

The situation Patrick Lester describes in Lower Macungie just makes it sound like it’s time to have an election. Lots of people disagree with the current politicians on the Board of Commissioners about various issues, and the Board members obviously disagree with their critics.

Ryan Conrad and Larry Schneider both take the wrong view of the situation:

Schneider said the commissioners were sending a “powerful” message that “we don’t want you to be in a position of power and responsibility especially when you don’t think or function the way that we want you to” […]

Commissioner Ryan Conrad, whose current term expires at the end of this year, took exception to the comments, saying the appointment was being turned into a “political football.”

It’s disheartening to hear these attacks and the politicization of this issue,” Conrad said. “Let’s not dramatize the situation. Let’s show each other some mutual respect. This, with all due respect, is what’s causing polarization.”

Conrad is wrong because zoning is obviously very much a political issue. The political bent of zoning policy in the Township is decided by the Zoning Board members, and the Zoning Board members are appointed by the Commissioners. Therefore, Commissioners decide on the political direction of zoning policy through the appointment power.

Schneider’s statement implies that there’s something wrong with the Commissioners replacing him because they disagree with his political views on zoning. But actually there is nothing wrong with that. Commissioners have the political appointment power, and they have a responsibility to appoint people whose views they think are good for the Township – that is, people whose political views they agree with.

What this means though is that if you don’t like the current direction of zoning politics, then you need to replace Ryan Conrad and the rest of the incumbent politicians  with Ron Beitler and other FPLMT-backed candidates in the 2013 elections.

When Will the Republicans Apologize for Austerity

The IMF says they were wrong, and that they underestimated how much of a drag on growth austerity policies (tax increases and spending cuts) would be.

So when will we get an apology from the Republicans for insisting on deficit reduction the past 4 years?

The International Monetary Fund’s top economist today acknowledged that the fund blew its forecasts for Greece and other European economies because it did not fully understand how government austerity efforts would undermine economic growth. That it comes under the byline of fund economic counselor and research director Olivier Blanchard is significant. Fund research is always published with the caveat that it represents the views of the researcher, not the institution itself. But this paper comes from the top, and attempts to put to rest an issue that has been at the center of debate about how fast countries should move in their efforts to tame large debts and deficits.

Damaged Boehner

It’s hard to imagine a weaker Speaker of the House than John Boehner, but the reelection vote yesterday takes him down another peg. Boehner already couldn’t deliver his caucus on multiple key votes of the 2011-12 session, and this will make it even harder to keep them together.

Micah Cohen:

But Mr. Boehner received 220 votes out of 232 Republicans in the House, not counting Mr. Boehner himself. (The prospective speaker traditionally does not vote, or votes “present,” although former Speaker Nancy Pelosi voted for herself in the 110th and 111th Congress). Mr. Boehner received the votes of 95 percent of his caucus. Is that really that humiliating?

Judged against recent history, at least, the answer is yes. Mr. Boehner’s 95 percent support level might not seem that terrible, but the vote for speaker has historically been a fait accompli. The 12 defections Mr. Boehner suffered are more than in any other speaker’s election in over two decades. Our database shows all votes for speaker since 1991 and Mr. Boehner is just the third speaker since then to face more than one defection. And since the 102nd Congress was sworn at the beginning of 1991, no representative elected speaker has received a smaller share of his or her party’s vote.