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Author Topic: 2011-2012 topic paper- corporate tax reform  (Read 14414 times)
Malgor
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« on: April 24, 2011, 04:31:18 PM »

I think i'm the first one in.  I knew being alone on easter would pay off! 

This paper is about the necessity of broadening the corporate tax base through corporate tax reform.

malgor

* corporate tax reform topic paper.doc (185.5 KB - downloaded 1478 times.)
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Trigaux
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« Reply #1 on: April 25, 2011, 03:58:54 PM »

After a survey of my team, a majority expressed reservations, and several members expressed downright frustration and horror at the prospect of debating the tax code. The results were clear--if tax reform is the topic, students will walk away from the activity. This will especially affect novice and JV debaters who are key to the sustainability of the activity. While there will always be a cadre of hard core debaters who will jump into whatever boring research is put in front of them, the larger community will shrink around them. While most of the members of this forum are coaches, not debaters, I encourage you to actually ask your teams before considering this proposal. You may find that you won't have much of a team if this is chosen.
While considerations like aff neg balance, research quality, timeliness, etc. must be considered, also include a sense of topic accessibility for the non-econ major. 
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antonucci23
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« Reply #2 on: April 25, 2011, 04:17:38 PM »

I agree with the conclusion: ask the debaters.

I'm skeptical of the premise, though.  Intercollegiate policy debate exists, in part, to teach wonky details.  We fail our students collectively if we avoid topics which seems complicated.  Yes, it's hard.  Learn.

Also, "X topic directly affects participation number" rhetoric (in either direction) is generally overblown and difficult to substantiate.  I think that the number of students who want to do something super-nerdy and lawyerish on a weekend doesn't vary much with specific topic or even agent.
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BlackEaglejs
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« Reply #3 on: April 25, 2011, 05:31:18 PM »

While I agree that as policy debaters and coaches that we shouldn't shy away from difficult topics that require a lot of in-depth research and require us to seriously dig into what all these tax codes mean, I still have some reservations over this topic. First, I'm used to a lot of technical material with particularly dense reading (I was premed and political science in undergrad), so I don't typically let such things deter me. But I have serious difficulty understanding how this topic works - after multiple readings, I'm still confused as to what "revenue neutral" versus "revenue positive" tax reform means. How would affirmatives choose which loopholes in the tax code they close, or do they close all of them? Lastly, I'm a little confused about how we get to competitiveness and free trade. If the effective corporate tax rate is already so low, why aren't companies flocking to the United States to set up shop? Is it a perceptual thing over the government setting the rates so high? Or are other countries' effective tax rates even lower than ours?

Zoheb Nensey
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Malgor
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« Reply #4 on: April 26, 2011, 10:55:34 AM »

trigaux-

it's hard to respond to the "my casual survey of a squad indicates your topic will destroy debate" chain of thought.  In some ways, your post gets to the core of the problem in the status quo.  MNCs and government lobbyists want the corporate tax code to be as complicated as possible to prevent the public from engaging in debates over tax policy.  It's a great way to institute a massive transfer of wealth from the middle and lower class to the upper .01 percent of the population and not have anyone talk about it in policy circles.  I don't think your kids will really quit because I have confidence in your ability to explain to them why it's important to understand what happens when the public is swindled out of billions in tax revenue.  one section of the paper is about how the tax code encourages companies to finance their corporations with massive amounts of debt, and invest it in other debts, one of the key culprits in the 08 crash.

Aside from that, the concepts outlined in the paper aren't overly complex, though it doesn't sound like the debaters surveyed read the paper.  Everything we debate is complex, but we use policy papers and law reviews that break these complex ideas down for us. 

Zoheb-

revenue neutral means you broaden the tax base by closing loopholes, then you use that money to lower the corporate tax rate.  it's revenue neutral because it doesn't directly lower the deficit.  it uses the money gained to lower taxes.

revenue positive means you just close the loophole and keep the tax rate high.  it's revenue positive because the government has more money to spend than it did before.  these tax policies are used to run budget deficit/inequality/social spending advantages.

as far as how the aff closes loopholes in the tax code, those are laid out in the major policy proposals section of the paper.  i outlined book-tax conformity, debt vs equity, tax deferrals, and sovereign wealth funds as areas.  each of those areas contains a few affs.  'close loopholes' is just a simpler way of saying 'broaden the tax base' which is the main goal of the topic paper-to require the aff to get more companies paying taxes.

to give an example, in the debt v equity section there are two mainstream affs outlined.  One would end the deduction on debt interest payments (so companies can no longer get bigger tax breaks by having bigger debts).  The other would be to add a deduction for investments made with equity.  This doesn't actually increase the tax base, so depending on how the rez is worded it might be a counterplan, the net benefit being the 'investment da' (ending the deduction on interest payments means companies can't afford to leverage no investments with debt when they need to, deters investment and hurts growth).

any other questions just ask.  i think the topic paper proves that this issue is not overly technical and impossible to understand.  the same think tanks, law reviews, and newspapers we always rely on for topic evidence write about corporate tax reform, and they don't do it in some foreign language.
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Paul Elliott Johnson
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« Reply #5 on: April 26, 2011, 01:27:58 PM »

I rather liked this topic paper, and I hope it gets some serious consideration. I do think the neg ground to counterplan out of a lot the social service advantages while playing some shell games does make the advantage debate a good deal more narrow that anticipated, and also that while competitiveness is big, most of its impacts related to tech development (warming, disease, etc.) are about technologies that many other nations could develop, so we're back to the much narrower hegemony debate.

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tcram
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« Reply #6 on: April 26, 2011, 02:41:37 PM »

Three questions for Malgor or anyone else familiar with the literature:

1) Where is the literature primarily housed?  I get that think-tanks will play a huge role, but has the scholarly/book research caught up with the debate?  Feel free to use other topics as a benchmark.

2) Do a lot of these aff's have a good solvency deficit against advantage CPs or offsetting revenue from other sources, etc?  Essentially, are there good 'some people say do this, but we're totally boned if we don't deal with corporate taxes' cards?

3) Obviously it is a political lightening rod and I think the debate will be good on the elections disad, but are there credible link-turn options for the agenda disad? Especially if elections follows the traditional trajectory of being pretty spotty/bad as a strategy until Fall of 2012?  Not that this needs to be a primary consideration for choosing a topic, but I think it should be asked.

Bonus #4) On the question of terms to possibly include, which approach has more merit/problems?: A) leaving things like revenue direction out and making it a probabilistic solvency question or B) adding those terms and possibly creating a PIC debate that would close loop-holes but exclude any revenue-neutral or positive requirements of the plan?  I think that I would prefer B but wonder if there is a sufficient lit-based debate on the differences between those mechanisms? 
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Malgor
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« Reply #7 on: April 26, 2011, 05:29:52 PM »

1)  I'm sure you'll notice most of the cards in the topic paper are from law reviews and other peer reviewed sources.  I didn't research any books, but the corporate tax policies outlined have been around since the last tax major corporate tax reform, which was in 1986.  Some of them were created when the Bush tax cuts passed in 03.  Scholarly work is abundant and I'm sure there are plenty of books as well.

2) Advantage cps-it really depends on the aff (as always).  I think you are talking about CPs to just fund whatever social spending cuts the aff staves off; there are a few ways the aff can approach this.  Broadly, the aff will have access to other advantage areas that cp doesn't solve (consistency/efficiency of tax code, offshoring, trade distortions, economic inequality).  Specifically, assuming the aff is talking about budget deficits, the neg can't just fund social services and claim to decrease deficits.  

Presumably (this is the shell game I believe PJ refers to), the negative will specify a program they cut to make up for the revenue the aff generates with their tax reform.  First, I think this is a higher burden for the negative than many think.  Tax reform means the revenue is permanent, and also related to growth (when the economy goes up companies make more money, paying more taxes).  The spending cut would have to prove it can sustain at the same levels and with the same consistency as the tax increase.  Second, since the spending cut would have to be something that is 'guaranteed funding' over many years, it greatly limits the parts of the budget the neg can use for this cp.  Third, any deficit or social spending advantage area will be directly tied to the debate about economic inequality.  These counterplans would have a hard time solving these arguments because rather than increasing revenue, they are decreasing spending, which is still the concept of transferring money between programs that the middle/lower class pay for.

Next is the net benefit to these cps.  It can't be the other program they cut bc the aff can permute that.  I think it's fair to say it can't be politics, either, because even if the neg can win there's no PC lost with their cp (because the program they cut is unpopular), the part of the aff they are solving is politically contentious.  So, I assume the net benefit would just be the tax loopholes are good, which all the advantage arguments mentioned above answer.  

I'd also like to point out that the above two paragraphs are probably more confusing than anything you'll read on the tax topic.

3)  yes, affs will be able to generate 'no links' and 'link turns' against the politics disad, because rare is the topic where you can't.  I'll get into a bit more detail.   Members of the far left want revenue positive reform-get rid of the loopholes and use the money to pay down the deficit and prevent social spending cuts.  Members in the moderate left (Obama) definitely want the loopholes closed, and would like to use that money to lower the corporate tax rate.  Members of the moderate right want the tax rates down-the loopholes they care about but not as much as everyone else.  Members of the far want the rates down and most of the loopholes closed.  Of course there is some divergence in each of those groups like always.  But the point is there are big chunks of the topic that are popular with various members, so your typical politics debate about who has more influence on what agenda items and who is needed to pass them will be robust.

4) Bonus Answer- as for A, i don't quite think it just becomes a probabilistic solvency question, but the answer is still strongly B.  You describe two PICs- out of revenue neutral, or revenue positive.

So if the aff is revenue neutral, they close loopholes but lower taxes.  If the neg lowers taxes but doesn't close loopholes, they are revenue negative.  It basically means they are defending a cp to take 100s of billions of dollars out of government funding every single year.  there is evidence that says lowering the rate while keeping all the deferrals in place would bleed the gov dry.  The other cp, to close the loopholes but leave tax rates high means the aff can leverage their offshoring/competitiveness arguments against the neg.  "you increase tax revenue, but with no loopholes AND this super high tax rate, no one will invest in america etc etc"

If the aff is revenue positive, they expand the tax base and use the money to pay down the deficit/fund the budget. CP options are more limited here (as far as your PIC goes).  You can't really pic out of the part where the aff uses the money to pay down the deficit etc, because the aff doesn't fiat that, it's just something they lead to.  I'm sure there are ways around this for the neg.  I'll think on it more.  Thanks for the questions-it's great to get a lot of these issues figured out.

Long post.  I plan on writing a post soon about how awesome the cp debates on tax reform are-much better than some of the other topics IMO.
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gabemurillo
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« Reply #8 on: April 27, 2011, 03:36:39 PM »

Trigaux -

Having just read the corporate tax reform paper I have to say there is nothing inherent within this topic, and specifically this paper, that excludes JV and Novice debate. I knew little to nothing about corporate tax policy and still found this paper to be interesting, timely and easy to digest. I'm not writing this as an endorsement of this topic over others (I've still got a couple more papers to read) but I worry about the general argument of "this is boring" or "this is too complex" blocking the potential for this topic.

One major point of contention I have to the "general team poll" is that this seems to negate the job of a coach (especially a coach with a large JV and/or novice squad). When I approach the younger members of my team with the topic I view it as my job to sell the topic to them. I can imagine the wording of most of the topics we've had over the last years being an immediate "turn off" to less experienced debaters, but this is why the coach of said teams should correctly frame the topic to their students. I could make an argument that starting a discussion with JV / Novice students about the ins and outs of h1-b visas versus eb-5 visas would have probably turned a bunch of kids off of debate, so instead I started by talking about the different reasons someone might apply for a visa, and moved from this more accessible topic slowly towards a more nuanced discussion of the topic, advantage areas, potential affirmatives etc. This strategy not only gave our students an acceptable grasp on what they were debating, but also got them excited about what otherwise might have been viewed as a boring topic. 

I also think it is short sighted to say that this topic will be boring to non-economics majors. After hearing the news that major corporations are not paying taxes, in combination with the knowledge of the state of social services across the country, it seems like anyone can get into a topic which allows us to close that gap. And the potential for affirmatives to still be attractive to businesses means that a large chunk of the political spectrum in debate should be pleased or at least interested to learn more about this issue. Yes there are some parts of the topic that might be new or difficult to understand, but isn't that the point of picking new topics?

I sincerely hope that the scare tactic of "our whole team will quit" is not used as a legitimate argument against this topic. Instead we should focus on the topics ability to produce predictable, fair and diverse debates for an entire season. If those things are accomplished I trust in my fellow coaches ability to sell a topic to younger debaters.

all the best
gabe   
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Zeke
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« Reply #9 on: April 27, 2011, 05:49:54 PM »

After reading the paper, I've become really interested in this controversy area. I notice your paper mentions it, but I think it under examines the ability for affirmatives to be critical while still instrumentally upholding the resolution. This is not a negative to the topic, in my opinion, but rather a boon. A lot of teams that do not typically uphold the resolution could discuss the inequality issues in America, like you mentioned, and have very specific evidence that instrumentally implementing the plan is the key internal link for issues like racism and classism.

Any resolution that strongly supports instrumental, critical affirmatives is better than one that does not in my book. Of course, some would disagree with me, but it's just my opinion.
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Malgor
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« Reply #10 on: April 27, 2011, 06:36:06 PM »

i did not dedicate enough time to critical arguments, i admit.

If the assumption that people who prefer to run Ks are also generally on the left end of the political spectrum, this topic should speak to them directly.  It is a cornerstone policy issue for progressives, and economic inequality is the heart of progressive philosophy.  The people most effected by this are those at lower-middle and lower level of the income range. 

There are a lot of good k affs, including a standard progressive aff about the value of promoting economic equality in society.  I also think the mechanism gives the aff some good K answers to the standard neoliberlism/cap Ks.

Of all the mechanisms presented so far, i think prison reform and tax reform are the two that are most consistent with typical critical views on politics.

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Malgor
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« Reply #11 on: April 28, 2011, 11:26:02 AM »

in an effort to make the components and limits of corporate tax reform clear, i'm posting some more cards explaining some of the main stream affs.  this law review dealt with affs under the 'tax deferral' section of the topic paper.  Some of them are explained well, including footnotes that cite common negative authors.

each of these affs has a case debate about how they effect investment and corporate growth.  Issues like worldwide and territorial systems are also explained in this evidence.  i think these cards show that there is ample ground on both sides for these topic affs.


* explanation of deferral affs.doc (54 KB - downloaded 453 times.)
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Zeke
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« Reply #12 on: April 29, 2011, 12:01:17 PM »

Quick question: would a team that runs a revenue positive aff that only closes loopholes be able to run it as a CP against a revenue neutral aff that cuts taxes and closes loopholes and just have a huge case throwdown? Because that seems like a fun debate to me. Plus, if the neg runs a K, they can make the argument that it doesn't link to their own CP, depending on the K.
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Malgor
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« Reply #13 on: April 29, 2011, 01:36:07 PM »

yes, since the revenue neutral aff has two components

1) close loopholes

2) lower tax rate


the cp to just do 1) but not 2) is competitive, and the debate would be about whether or not tax cuts are stimulatory for long term tax revenue and economic growth.
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gabemurillo
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« Reply #14 on: April 29, 2011, 06:37:30 PM »

When I tell people that I really like this topic I keep getting the same response: "that topic is boring". When pressed very few people can substantiate either this claim or many other criticisms of this topic. I wonder if peoples lack of debate or questions about this topic is based solely on the perceived "inaccessibility" of this topic. I personally think this response is inaccurate and insufficient for picking a topic. A couple thoughts (I apologize to Malcolm in advance if any of the below comments misrepresent the topic please feel free to correct any mistakes I've made)

This topic is not boring! I wonder how much of peoples reaction is founded on the framing of the topic area. "Corporate Tax Reform" can be a turn off if one doesn't engage the topic paper. Maybe if people thought of the topic in different terms it might deal with this problem. Two suggestions -

A) "Leftist" debaters should think of this topic as the Screw Corporations topic. Seriously there are corporations that are making absurd amounts of money and paying little to no taxes. This is such an obvious and overt example of the larger system of social and economic inequality. On the aff you will be able to force these corporations to pay taxes, and argue the social benefits of this action. There are a lot of reasons this type of aff would be very interesting to run and research.

B) "Traditional" debaters should view this topic as the Promote American Business topic. This topic offers the option for the aff to close loop holes in tax code while also decreasing the overall tax rate for businesses. This allows affs to read arguments about the importance of maintaining American businesses and the economy. Sure we have had topics with competitiveness arguments but this topic allows for distinct internal links to these arguments. It also allows for more robust and timely argument about the economy. There are also good answers to annoying to deal with generics (IE agent counterplans) that plague the other topics

This topic seems like a win for a wider argumentative spectrum then most other topics available. This balance is important for sustainable debates for a majority of teams over the course of the year.  

One concern I've heard is that there are portions of this topic that are technically very difficult to digest, I think the following things respond to this concern
 
A) The agricultural subsidies topic also had the potential to become overly technical (evaluating levels of ag support, the different types of ag support, how they are applied to different situations etc) but I never found these issues to block or hurt the debates that were happening on that topic.

B) This is a reason we should debate this topic. It seems like there is a generally consensus that as a community we don't know very much about corporate tax policy. To me this increases the educational value of this topic. Corporations are using the publics general disdain or ignorance about tax policy to really stick it to us. If the arguments about topic education that relate to our ability to become effective decision makers in a variety of policy areas are true, then why shouldn't our confusion about tax code be one of the major benefits of debating this topic?

I really hope that people don't disregard this topic based on a gut check feeling about the concept of taxes. I would love to see more debate and discussion on this forum about the substance of the topic. Malcolm has done an excellent job in answering and preempting peoples potential concerns with the substance of this topic, and I say lets keep asking questions!

all the best
gabe      
« Last Edit: April 29, 2011, 07:33:26 PM by gabemurillo » Logged
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