Wednesday, June 08, 2005

In Response to Kevin Shaw

You might not know it, but I'm really no different than James Dobson, the arch-conservative founder of Focus on the Family. At least that's what one Kevin Shaw seems to think. Readers outside Pennsylvania may not care much about what follows, but it does illustrate how ridiculous some partisan bloggers can be.

Pennsylvania recently passed Act 72, a property tax relief measure that is complicated and flawed in many ways (e.g., school boards had to decide whether to opt into the Act 72 program; if they did, their power to raise income taxes in the future would be severely restricted). Anyway, our governor (Ed Rendell, a Democrat) was a big advocate of the measure, which includes the limited legalization of gambling (i.e., slot machines), the revenue from which would go to local school districts to help offset the reduction in property taxes. But the vast majority of school districts have voted not to participate in the program.

Anyway you slice it, this is a political loss for Rendell. He had barnstormed across the commonwealth using the bully-pulpit to convince local politicians to support Act 72. Kevin Shaw, incidentally, doesn't really disagree. In his blog on the PA for Democracy website, he says Rendell is "understandably embarrassed and upset because he failed to deliver on a campaign promise. If I worked my butt off to deliver on a promise and circumstances conspired against me, I be upset, too." Shaw also calls Act 72 "crap."

Now, in a Philadelphia Inquirer story on the political ramifications of Rendell's defeat, I was quoted, as a professor at Franklin and Marhsall College, as saying, "When you look at all the boards who voted this down, one after another, it's hard to believe it won't somehow come out of his hide." I also said, "It's hard not to identify the governor with this bill or its defeat."

Shaw cites those two statements and then says,

Are we talking about Franklin and Marshall College at Lancaster, PA, United Church of Christ, Evangelical-Reformed? Why didn't you [the reporter] just call the Heritage Foundation or James Dobson? I'll wait to see Mr. Medvic's research and statistics before I put any stock in his opinion.

Shaw doesn't have to put any stock in my opinion. But he really ought to be fair when he quotes me in order to compare me to a right-wing theocrat like Dobson. Here's rest of the Inquirer article where I'm mentioned...

Medvic said Rendell might not be entirely to blame for the defeat, saying bold plans to reshape a state are often met with resistance when they are complicated and difficult to understand, like Act 72.

"Local politicians voting on this had no idea what the consequences might be five years from now," he said. "When people can't predict the outcome of a plan, they tend to follow the status quo."

Not so controversial, is it? Rendell campaigned hard for Act 72, so having failed he'll pay some price (perhaps not a very big one); on the other hand, it was complicated legislation and school board members probably preferred to stay with the devil they knew - namely, the current property tax system. And here I thought I was being a neutral analyst!


At 10:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

He doesn't even call you "Dr. Medvic."

At 10:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, Dr. Medvic. My intention was not to slander you but rather to question the journalistic methods of Mr. Sullivan. He apparently had a point to make and used your words to try to justify it.

I agree with you completely, your words are not overly disagreeable, and probably true to some extent, but without some polling data or other substantiation, they are just an opinion that will not pass peer review.

In combination with Mr. Smuckler's comments (also, by the way, pure speculation on his part) Mr. Sullivan saw fit to draw conclusions and choose language that has left many local officials feeling angry that the governor is going to try to blame them if he's not re-elected.

BTW, I didn't address you as "Doctor" in the post because Mr. Sullivan failed to identify you as such. :)

Also, sorry for the Dobson thing. Just the thought of Christianists in politics unsettles me.

--Kevin Shaw

At 10:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, and I have to add, Act 72 is crap.

Regressive transfer of tax burden from property owners to wage earners.

Uncertain disbursements from the program, making budgeting impossible.

Additional expenses to school districts to comply.

Forcing school districts to choose between keeping staff but without health benefits or let them go altogether. (The single reason for the tax increase in my district this year is the 80% increase in health insurance premiums for teachers and staff. Required, by the way, by state law.)

I could go on, but it's late.

At 6:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's morning!

I also owe the UCC an apology. It did my heart good to visit their website this morning and find they appear to be an inclusive, justice-oriented sect of Christianity, and not Christianists, at all.

Unfortunately, the Dobsons and Falwells and Robertsons of the world have made me defensive and suspicious of the motivations of Christians.


At 6:08 PM, Anonymous Bob Gray said...

For the record, Franklin & Marshall is not affiliated with the United Church of Christ or any other denomination and has not been since 1969.

You will find this on the F&M website:

"1969: College ends its formal affiliation with the United Church of Christ and becomes a secular school."

At 1:25 PM, Anonymous JLB said...

Mr. Shaw,
I have not witnessed that much backpedaling in quite a while. If you keep going in that direction you'll be co-host of the O'Reilly Factor soon.

I'm not sure what to think about people who publish scathing remarks and then apologize for having done so. It sort of "unsettles me".

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